Tuesday, June 30, 2015

An Open Letter To Andy Grammer

From The Sinkhole Bar & Grill
Danny Thompson, Manager

Dear Mr. Grammer,

I would have written to you sooner but it took me this long to be able to find a means of contacting you.  I'm not sure if you personally remember the events that occurred in my establishment last Tuesday, but I'm sure that between TMZ, the tabloids, and the explosions on Twitter and Facebook, you've been able to piece it together.

Just in case, though, I thought I'd offer my assistance in helping you piece together the events of that evening.

Monday, June 29, 2015


For a long time, anime drove me bonkers.

I loved it, and I watched a lot of it, but there were certain things that I kept seeing all the time that just made puzzled, confused, and...well, honestly, it made me fascinated by the cultural aspects of a nation that would shape their entertainment this way when it was clearly so different from American entertainment.

For instance, I could go on and on and on about how only teenagers are able to save the world.  Whether it's being the best pilots of giant mechanical armor suits, the best magic-wielders, the best soldiers, or just the best at, well, anything, Japan seems to flourish in its animation by having it feature teenagers that the audience connects with.

That isn't to say that American studios don't do the same thing.  Harry Potter is a pretty good example of "hey, this kid could be YOU, he's so bland!"  Lots of cartoons for kids feature either children or teenagers as the stars, whether they're turtles fighting ninjas or just someone with two wacky magic-casting fairy godparents.

But look at some of the biggest names in movies these days.  Iron Man, Batman, Superman, Captain America, these aren't kids.  Robin was originally introduced to the Batman mythos because someone at some point realized it's easier for children to connect with "a kid who really loves Batman" than "Batman."

I'm getting drastically off-topic, but this is one of the many tropes that I didn't expect this series to not just avoid, but stomp on in full view of the audience.

It's easily one of my favorite things I've seen this year.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An Open Letter To Meghan Trainor

To Ms. Trainor,

First off, I wanted to thank you for attending the couples counseling session we set up between you and your (now) former boyfriend.  I always strongly encourage couples to do everything they can to work through issues, and the fact that you both were willing to show up indicated you both still had hopes that this relationship could fix what you felt was wrong.

However, after you both had your turns talking to each other and to me about what you feel is missing, I feel like there were a few points that need to be made.  I've made notes in this letter following phrases and sentences I wrote down after you said them, because in my years as a couples therapist, I've found that it's only in extreme cases is the fault entirely on one side.  I'm also writing one of these letters to your ex, because I feel that to not try to help both of you after this break-up would be not fulfilling my job as your counselor, and I don't want this experience to hinder either of you from finding the relationship that's right.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Batman: Arkham Origins

A funny thing happened while I was playing Batman: Arkham Origins.  Set five years before the original Batman: Arkham Asylum game, we see a young, fresh-faced massively bitter Bruce Wayne still enjoying the "Batman is a myth" aspect of being a costumed do-gooder who only goes out at night, while the cops are determined to stop the rise in crime committed by people in colorful outfits as well as take in this crazed mercenary dressed like Dracula but understanding the whole "transforms into a bat, not dresses like one" thing.

You have the same game play as in previous games, with a few little touches here and there.  Batman's more of a rookie, so he doesn't have quite the same massive skill set, though he's still busting out double take downs when he couldn't do it in the original game.

But here's the funny thing.

Halfway through the game, I stopped having fun.

And I think I could pretty much just leave the review there and call it a night, but I think I need to explain why I stopped having fun.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Big Hit

After suffering through the disappointment that was Requiem For The Phantom I wanted to sit back and watch something fun.  Something that had likable characters, an interesting plot with some fun twists, and great character interaction.  I wanted interesting set pieces, goofy action, and sexy femme fatales who could hold their own with the boys.  I wanted loud guns, fast cars, and dangerous stunts.

So with all that in mind, I went to a movie that I had fond memories of watching once on TV, and if I can have fond memories of watching a movie after it's been on TBS,

So I sat down and watched The Big Hit.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom

Just recently I declared my undying and tolerant love for a DVD-based game that is to meaningful story progression and realistic characters what Uwe Boll is to accepting disappointment like a reasonable human being.  But regardless, that game has a special place in my heart, as does the short mini-series that came out in Japan years ago also called Phantom of Inferno.

Now, because I enjoy it when things I like get recognized and get to grow in popularity and scope (but only to a limit) I was excited when I learned that they were making a full-length series based on the game called Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom.

Nobody ever accused Japan of reasonable naming practices.

However, I got caught up in a lot of other things, and didn't really have a chance to sit down and watch it until just recently.  Did I have an opinion about it?  Have you ever read this blog before?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is one of those movies you always mean to see one day but just never get around to it.  Nominated for best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, and best actress (setting the record for youngest actress to ever be nominated), it won dozens of other awards from film organizations around the world.  It doesn't have huge action sequences, there's little in the way of CGI (aside from a few notable exceptions), and the cast aren't household names, but you always figured "hey, if I saw it on TV, I might stop and watch it."

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie everybody should see, if just because I've found myself thinking about it regularly since viewing it three days ago.  I find myself trying to talk to myself about metaphors involving giant beasts, and where poverty ends and self-sufficiency begins.  Where does pride screech to a halt and madness take over?  How can there be people who look just like people I see every day who speak a language I (almost) completely understand, but their ideas about how the world works are so foreign to my own despite the fact that we live in the same country?

All this coming from a movie about a small girl, her father, and a huge storm.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bold Eagles

So I got this message on Facebook:

Personal request. Please watch the animated film "Bold Eagles"- available on Netflix- and tell me what you think. Evy picked it out this evening, and I can honestly say it is one if the most disturbing films I've ever seen. You'll know what I mean once you watch it. If you can make it through to the end, that is...

Sadly, I don't have Netflix.  Oh, well.  But wait, I do have Hulu.  Could it be that this movie is on both streaming services at once?

...well, long story made short, yes.  It is.

So let's give it a watch.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Phantom of Inferno

Years ago, I was in a Suncoast Motion Picture Company store (remember those?) and I stumbled upon a DVD.  I was neck deep in my fixation with animation from Japan, and I saw mention of a game company that made, essentially, "visual novels" where you could make decisions in a game, and then see where the story went.

I knew that such games existed, and for the most part, they were all pretty terrible.  There were a few great ones, though.  But considering I knew that Japan was pretty crazy for interactive stories (even if most of them were little more than "choose your own porn adventure") but this looked different.  For one thing, it had people holding guns on the cover.

Plus, it was in the clearance bin.  I pretty much threw some money at the register and took this new prize home.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sword Art Online

It is a sad fact of life that video games portrayed in other media will always beat the video games we actually have in real life.

The graphics are always better, the interactivity is always better, the stories are always better, and the gimmicks are always better.

For example, I'm still waiting for a copy of Brainscan to appear on store shelves.  And why couldn't the Power Glove be as awesome as the movies made it seem?  Why didn't we ever get a playable version of Sugar Rush?  WHY?

But these days, it's about augmented reality and virtual reality, seeing just how close we can get to actually experiencing the game.   I just reviewed Ready Player One in my last post, which involves a virtual reality gaming experience that the entire world embraces, now we're looking at a another hugely popular video game world that comes with a twist.

Namely, a Japanese anime that addresses the idea that someone rigs up a whole bunch of virtual reality consoles so that if you die in the game, you die in real life.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ready Player One

Not too long ago, I decided I needed to get more books into my pop culture diet, be them the standard "ink on wood pulp" style, the "1s and 0s on an electronic device" method, or the "someone reads it to you" method.  After all, the way you become a better writer is to see how other people effectively use their own words and sentence structure to get across their own ideas.

In the spirit of getting deeper into more modern works, I decided to start with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, a game about nostalgia, video games, and a massive hunt for a lost treasure.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dear Luke, We Need To Talk. Darth

I've lately discovered the podcast version of NPR radio show Wits, hosted by John Moe.  It's a radio show that's part game show, part skit show, part swirling mass of randomness, and part music show.  Guests have included Aimee Mann, Neil Gaiman, David Cross, George Takei, and many other humorists and musicians I like.

However, I found he also wrote a book titled Dear Luke, We Need To Talk.  Darth.  A common feature of the radio show is "pop song correspondences" where he writes letters or tells a story from someone connected to a song you might not be aware about.  Perhaps you wanted to hear the side of the manager of the Hotel California, or the contractor trying to install an actual stairway to heaven in a house.

This book is like that, but it reaches across all of pop culture, presenting ideas you haven't necessarily thought of before, but might change how you view things forever.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors

You know what kinds of video games just don't really do well?

Okay, besides those, wise guy.

Mystery games.  For a very brief time in the 90's, I remember when there was a small surge in interactive storytelling involving murder mysteries or large crimes.  You'd start to play, and the game would randomly assign who the perpetrator was to a character, and reorganize the clues and dialogue accordingly.  You'd have to investigate, but since most games trying this were on CDs and cheap attempts at video capture were all the rage, you wound up with games like Ripper where you had Christopher Walken screaming at you and Karen Allen acting nowhere near as awesome as she does in Indiana Jones movies.

Plus, once you pick up on what changed in the story, it's usually pretty easy to figure out who the bad guy is.

More modern games have tried to do larger stories with a mystery reaching through, but once you play those games once, there's little replay value in doing it all over again.  Examples of this are Heavy Rain and L.A. Noire.

So when I found a Nintendo DS game called Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors (or 999 for short), I was intrigued.  A mystery with multiple endings based off the choices you make, and while I was hesitant about the game just randomly changing who the bad guy was based off of stuff I picked (looking at you, Ripper), I figured that it was an obscure Japanese game, there must be some hook to it.

Twenty minutes in, I was hooked.