Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Halloween Month: Prelude

I. Love. Halloween.

I'm not sure why, because for years after I was too old to (justifiably) trick or treat any more, I couldn't have cared less about the holiday.  I might give out candy to kids, and I would be polite and compliment their costumes, but I never did Halloween parties.  I think I only ever bobbed for an apple once in my life.  I'm not even a huge fan of scary things.

Well, let me amend that statement.  I like psychologically scary things. I like being on the edge of my seat, my breath caught in my throat, not sure if I what I just heard was something the character on screen heard, if only I heard it, or if I just imagined it myself.

A movie whose only purpose is to take a mixture of red food coloring and corn syrup and pour it all over the place while finding more and more creative ways to induce gory, screaming moments from previously healthy young people is not my cup of tea.  Jacob's Ladder is a great movie.  The Hostel movies were not.

But I digress.

These days, I find myself getting more excited for Halloween than almost any other holiday.  I constantly look to see what's new in decorations, costumes, pumpkin carving patterns, everything.  I ponder costuming months in advance.

So, in honor of this build up to such a great holiday, I'm focusing each day of this month to something  Halloween-themed.  Sure, it might be a loose connection, but the connection will be there.

So, tomorrow expect my first post as we dig in to Halloween month and uncover something Hollywood is determined to make us believe are scary:  puppets.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Erik Gets Pretentious: Ten Words People Really Need To Stop Using Incorrectly

Anybody who knows me knows that I can get rather...obnoxious, we'll say, about how people use certain words.  For instance, I tend to always grit my teeth when I hear people say "I'm going to lay down," when they clearly mean "lie down."

Though I guess they could be planning on spreading feathers everywhere.
It drives me nuts that "flammable" and "inflammable" mean the same thing, that nobody remembers the correct usage of "whom," and that the semicolon appears to have suffered a painful death in today's writings.

So, here I'm going to share ten examples of words I really, really wish people would use as they're defined, not how the masses tend to "think" they should be used.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

John Oliver Is Why I Can't Try To Do Nice Things

So, I was going to try to do a lengthy article about beauty pageants.  I was going to discuss their history, their traditions, and whether or not they have any meaning in today's world.

And then John Oliver did it better than I ever could in fifteen and a half minutes.

Damn it.

So, uh, yeah.  All that.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Doctor Who: Season One

I am extremely late to the Who party.  I know a lot of people who can rattle off every character who appears, every alien race, every time period, every wacky gadget the Doctor has ever used, and considering the show has started its eighth season, I'm fully willing to admit that my starting now puts me really, really far behind.

But hey, I think we've established before that on a lot of things, I'm usually the last one to the party.

So, without further self-flagellation, let's discuss my opinion of the first season of Doctor Who.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review: The Bank Job

I think I've mentioned before how much I hate the phrase "based on a true story."  However, I cannot for the life of me find where I've discussed it before.  The phrase has all the significance and meaning of the phrase "I'm sorry if you took offense" or "your call is important to us."  Simply being "based" on a true story could be "we gathered every detail we could and stuck as true to the story as possible while filling in holes with what experts believe happened" or simply "eh, in both stories there's a guy with brown hair."

As much as I loved Robin Williams, I have to admit that the liberties taken with the movies he's starred in has always bugged me, but I think the phrase "based on a true story" lost all meaning for me when it started being applied to Hollywood horror films involving possessions and ghosts.  It turns out the MPAA doesn't regulate the use of the phrase "based on a true story," so anybody can use it wherever they want.

"Based on a true story."
So on that note, let's discuss The Bank Job.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cutthroat Kitchen

I am a huge Alton Brown fan.  Good Eats was the television show that really lit that spark inside me that loved to cook, and without him being able to break down the science of cooking in a way that not only showed me technique but also explained how, why, and (in a few cases) where things were happening.  When his show went off the air, I was rather depressed.  Thank heavens for reruns.  Also thank heavens for Iron Chef America, where I still get samplings of his encyclopedic knowledge base of food and how cooking works.

However, when I heard that he was going to be hosting a new game show on the Food Network...I wasn't sure.  I remembered an Ask Me Anything of his where he didn't seem too fond of cooking competitions with gimmicks, and while I do love programs like Chopped, it was starting to feel a bit silly.  Cupcake competitions, dessert competitions with bizarre ingredients, and all sorts of other shows were popping up.

But I started to learn more about it, and I became interested.  Well, slightly interested.  I was willing to give it a shot because, well, Alton Brown was hosting it.  Surely the smartest man Food Network ever hired wouldn't lead me wrong.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon

I'm a child of the 80's.  I was born in 1980, and while I might have more clear memories of the 90's, I do remember a lot from my first decade.  Mostly, I remember the television shows and movies that came from that time, and a lot of them were absolutely crazy.

I mean, who could possibly forget Dinosaucers, a television program about dinosaurs from space who fought other, evil dinosaurs from space and everybody was conveniently color-coded?

Or there was Bravestarr, an epic space cowboy adventure?

Now, there have been a lot of homages to the 80's in one way or another, but if I had to pick the thing that best embodies the zaniest stuff from the 80's without actually being something from the 80's, the prize might just go to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hulk Vs. Thor

Now, see, Hulk Vs. Wolverine, this is how you do a short, contained story.  There's a clear beginning, middle, and end, and characters manage to get some depth added to them without turning the whole thing into one long narrative.  This is how you have entertaining action mixed with real drama.  This...is  is what you could have been.  This is much, much better.

So, having completely summarized my opinion in the opening paragraph for those of you with short attention spans, I'll now break it down a bit more and explain why Hulk Vs. Thor is the superior of the two films.  And the reasons go more extensively than "The Enchantress.  Mrowr."

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hulk Vs. Wolverine

Over the weekend, amid my regular weekend duties of sorting huge stacks of cash and throwing away Faberge eggs that no longer hold my interest, I figured it was time to get through a few DVDs I had lying around.  One such disc was the "Hulk Vs." blu-ray, containing short animated movies featuring the jade giant's run-ins with Wolverine and the forces of Weapon X in one, and Thor and the rest of Asgard in the other.

Since the two stories were extremely different, I figured it would be best to review each one separately and discuss what worked and what didn't work individually, instead of trying to do it in one.  Areas where one story faltered were extremely strong in the other, and viceversa.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Plants Vs. Zombies

Up until a couple of years ago, I had never heard of a "tower defense" game.  Once I did know, they held pretty much no interest for me.

"Set up things to stop invaders from reaching your base?  Can I create inventive traps, change the landscape, or otherwise try to apply my own style to the game?  No?  Meh."

Little did I know that things would change over time.  Tower defense games would become their own niche in the market, covering everything from medieval fantasy to science fiction to gangsters to, well, zombies.  But how do you make a zombie game interesting so it isn't just people with shotguns trying to not get overwhelmed?

...okay, go on...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Professor Layton And The Eternal Diva

I can sometimes have a hard time suspending my disbelief.  If a movie or television series seems to play by a certain set of rules for a good amount of its time and then introduces something completely random and new that violates what has come before, I find myself pulled out of the experience and spending more time trying to figure out what's going on than enjoying what's going on.  Other times, a film or television series can rely on a concept that just isn't very well thought out or presented, and it's hard to suspend that disbelief from the very beginning, leaving you in an experience that feels more ridiculous than amazed.

For example, Skyfall was a great film.  However, a whole lot of it sure seemed to be based on the fact that the bad guy's plan was going to go perfectly, including knowing just when James Bond would be in position to drop a subway train on him.

As another example, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest was a....movie.  However, once you realize that Davey Jones hid his heart on land, but he's only allowed to walk on land once every decade, it suddenly makes you realize that what you're watching is a hastily cobbled together film with little to no interest in making any sense.  Then the whole thing falls apart.

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, on the other hand, involves exploding cruise ships, giant mechanical robots powered by a pipe organ that plays every single instrument together, mind controlled wolves and sharks, and the idea that with a magic formula, someone can live forever.

And I loved every minute of it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Anectdote

This past Labor Day, I joined my family on a trip up to Boothbay Harbor.  Yes, we knew it would be busy on Labor Day weekend, but it was significantly less busy on the last day of vacation than it would be any other day of that weekend.  My mother prepared a picnic lunch, we loaded the family dog up in the back of the car, and headed out.

My family has always liked Boothbay Harbor a lot.  Yes, it's touristy, and things you can find dirt cheap online are marked up ridiculously high in a lot of stores.  I mean, seriously, a book I saw in one place for sixty-five dollars is only twelve on Amazon.  Man.

My sister has always loved Enchantments, the extremely new age fairy/magic/wicca/pot/random stuff store.  My mother used to really enjoy a yarn shop there, but since it closed she's also discovered a cute little olive oil and vinegar store.  My father, I know for a fact, loves being near the ocean.  My family used to own a boat, and my father and I actually got licensed as pilots for sailboats years ago.

I'd need a refresher course these days, but I remember a lot.

Then there was the moment we were leaving town, which I've spent a great deal of time reflecting on and really feel the need to express disappointment towards a city that, to that point, had been extremely enjoyable and full of pleasant people, both native and tourists.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Monsters

Describing the movie Monsters as a "monster movie" is like trying to describe Drive as Fast And The Furious only with Ryan Gosling instead of Vin Diesel.  Monsters, as a movie, has more in common to me with Lost In Translation as it does Godzilla or Cloverfield.

While yes, there are moments of action and intensity, it's really not what the movie's about at all.  In fact, you spend most of the movie not even really sure what the "monsters" in Monsters look like.  You know they're big, you know they're intimidating, and you know that they're dangerous enough that the entire northern half of Mexico is now quarantined as the "Infected Zone" and that travel through is pretty much forbidden.  The United States has built a gigantic wall to keep the strange creatures out (one that would not look out of place keeping the Mongols out of China, only taller), while Mexico struggles with fences and regular air strikes whenever one becomes visible, as well as regularly spraying toxic chemicals into the jungles.

But again, it's not really a monster movie so much as it's a story about people trying to get from one side of a dangerous area to another, and seeing how everything changes when something comes along that doesn't fit with how we've constructed the world to be over the past thousand years.  If blue whales suddenly grew legs and started walking around in cities, how would we react?