Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: Weird December

The Theme Idea Lasted Only So Long...
Somewhere on my computer, or perhaps in the ether of this universe is the unfinished post of my first attempt to write my December summary.  I had partially written the first two movies in epic battle format.  Alas, the post is gone and I'm ready to start over.  The month started out with a theme, I watched two Christmas movies.  Then, well, everything got weird.  So, this month is the final month of my 2012 King of the Hill challenge.  Starting tomorrow, I'll begin the epic show down between the top monthly contenders to determine which movie is ultimate movie of 2012.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Home Alone v Rare Exports:  A Christmas Tale
Kevin (Macaulay Culkin)  is a kid who must stand up to be an unlikely hero to protect his home from burglars who would destroy Christmas.  Pietari (Onni Tommila) is a kid who must stand up to be an unlikely hero to protect his home from Santa Clause who would destroy Christmas.  And that is where the comparisons between the two movies come to an end.

Home Alone is a bit of a classic these days.  It is about a boy, Kevin, who is left behind by his family on Christmas vacation.  Kevin, thinks that this is from a wish he made and enjoys the life of living on his own.  Unfortunately for him, he discovers that there are two burglars who are trying to rob his home.  He is the last line of defense and must overcome his fears to fight back.  Despite the fact that this movie is remembered as a wacky, slapstick comedy, the battle between the burglars and Kevin doesn't even begin until the last thirty minutes of the movie.  Most of the movie is about Kevin, his family, and his adventures alone.  After having rewatched this movie from 1990, I was surprised to find how well written it was.  The movie even has a deeper moral story, which was a bit touching.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is a horror flick.  From what I can tell, it is based around the folk-lore creature known as Krampus.  In this movie, a group of Americans are digging up an old burial ground looking for the body of Santa Clause.  As it happens, Santa Clause is not the nice man everyone thinks he is.    He, in fact, abducts naughty children and torments and tortures them for being such monsters.

As much as I'd love to give a Finnish language movie the title, Home Alone is just a better film.  It is, if you can believe this, less campy.  The story is also stronger.  I'd still recommend catching Rare Exports:  A Christmas Tale.

Winner:  Home Alone

Whip It v Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Whip It is not a Christmas movie.  It is a movie about a high school girl who sneaks off behind her parents back and joins a Roller Derby league.  Bliss (Ellen Page) comes from a home where her father hides his football watching, her mother hides her smoking, and Bliss is expected to do pageants because her mother tells her to.  When she discovers the brutal sport of Roller Derby, she signs up and joins the team.  The movie is a phenomenal story about family, growing up, and finding who you are.

If you do not know what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are, I feel sorry for you.  Stop, look them up, watch a few episodes.  This movie was the first live action film staring the four turtles, Splinter, and April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) as the fight the mysterious Footclan.  The film is a classic in my eyes and I actually have the entire movie, line-for-line, memorized.

Though I would love to award THIS movie to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I must recognize the fact that Whip It is a better movie on just about every front.  It has an amazing story, a wonderful cast of characters, and will most definitely survive the test of time.

Winner:  Whip It

Home Alone v Whip It
Interesting enough, both of these movies are about the power of family and the struggles that families face.  And while it is difficult to compare these two movies together, it is Whip It that has the stronger showing.  Home Alone is a comedy and while the movie is definitely a great film, you have to forgive some of the absurdity of the film.  With Whip It, you don't need to overlook the absurd and can let yourself fall into the movie.

Winner:  Whip It

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: November Part 2

Historical Linchpins
It wouldn't be me, if I wasn't late on my movie updates.  It would also help if I made these posts go live instead of letting them sit in draft format on blogger.  Oh well, it is better to be late than to not show up at all. November was a slow movie month.  I only saw one other movie this month and, with all likelihood, won't see more than two or three movies during December.  My budget is very tight and my time is very limited.  Still, I managed to keep the November theme of history as I compare a time traveling movie with a historical story of one of America's greatest presidents.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Back to the Future v Lincoln

History is a fascinating subject.  Back to the Future plays with the concept of the linchpin and how one small change can result in an entire timeline changing.  Lincoln, on the other hand, is a detailed look at the historical details surrounding around one of the toughest fights from one of America's most famous and perhaps most influential presidents of the United States.

The movie is an all star cast with super star director, Stephen Spielberg.  The movie focuses not on the civil war, but the efforts of Lincoln (Daniel Day-Lewis) to pass the 13th Amendment of the Constitution through the House of Representatives.  The movie shows the great lengths that Lincoln took to pass this Amendment, not because it would end the war, but because it was the right thing to do.  Though I am no historical scholar, I can say that there are a great number of people who to this day swear that Lincoln's motivation for the 13th Amendment was to punish the Confederate states and end the war.  In Lincoln, this doubt is put to rest.  Whether or not it is historically accurate is another story entirely and not one that I am in a position to debate.

Lincoln is a refreshing look at a story of a president that is often overlooked.  Lincoln is mostly known for his leading the United States against the rebellion with the Confederate States.  He is known for his life and his death at Ford's Theater.  But the other work of his is mostly unknown.  And this makes Lincoln a nice introduction into the long list of movies of this historical era.

Is Lincoln a better movie than Back to the Future?  That's another one of those close calls that is hard to tell. Lincoln is filled with a top not cast and has phenomenal directing.  Back to the Future is twenty-seven years old and still perfect.  Lincoln has not had a chance to stand the test of time.  Lincoln could contain inaccuracies and exaggerations.  While it is a phenomenal movie it will need time before it can stand on it's own.  And even then, in twenty-seven years, I doubt that it will have the strength to stand the way Back to the Future does.

Winner:  Back to the Future

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Alpha Game Review: Towns

Ghosts of heroes that starved on a wall they made
Towns is a game from the pages of the city building management genre.  The game is developed by a company that I believe calls themselves SMP, though confirming this has been difficult.  And perhaps this might be a bit of a warning of the undeveloped nature of the game.  Towns is a game that is in Alpha and I'm not going to lie and pretend that this isn't obvious.  There are definitely interface issues, bugs, and AI annoyances in this game.  If you are looking for something finely polished, you should skip on Towns for the time being.

Towns is, as far as I can tell, an open-ended game.  That is, there is no objectives to complete in order to win the game.  You start with a group of eleven colonists on a single size map.  Depending on the type of map, you'll be in a grassy plain, a desert, a snowfield, or a mixed environment.  From here, so long as you are keeping your villagers alive, you can go any direction that you want with the game.  Of course with most open-ended games, the initial set of directions you take will be limited by the resources available.

As far as game concept is concerned, Towns delivers.  Without drawing any comparison to other games, this game is easily classified as unique.  The closest level of comparison to a video game that I can come up with is a cross between ActRaiser from the SNES and the resource gathering mechanics of Minecraft.  In the game, you do not directly control any of the colonists and this can be an endless source of frustration as well as a blessing.  Instead, you issue plans for the villagers and determine how many resources should be gathered or made at all times in your stock supplies.  You could designate a section of land to be tilled, order a section of a mountain mined, or issue orders to cut down trees.  The colonists, in their own time and own pace, will complete those orders.  You can also set your auto settings for, say, harvesting 6 wheat.  Whenever there is less than six wheat in your inventory, a colonist will harvest wheat if they aren't busy doing something else.

Flour!  Makes a great floor decoration!
This interface brings me to the first significant annoyance with this game.  The game is rather clunky with it's controls and the steep learning curve can be an immediate deterrent.  If I want to build stairs, I have to remind myself that stairs falls under "furniture" in the right menu.  If I want to create storage barrels, I can only do so under the "storage" section of the left menu.  Additionally, some things cannot be set for automatic work which can be annoying.  In one example, I was creating a fancy red stone section of wall for an accent to my building.  This requires "Red Color" which is made from red flowers.  I can set the game to automatically produce X red color if it isn't in my supplies.  However, I cannot set the game to automatically gather red flowers.  I have to manually order gathering of my red flowers.  This is a minor concern, my major concern with these limitations comes from wheat.  I can set the number of pieces of bread to be made by villagers and I can set how much wheat to be harvested.  However, I cannot set how much flour to be tilled. What happens is that the colonists will harvest wheat up to the limit, till the wheat into flour, and harvest more wheat.  In one of my earlier games, I had 20 bread and 10 wheat in storage and had over 190 pieces of flour.  The only way to shut this off was to shut of wheat harvesting, which required I paid closer attention to food supplies.

For every map, there is at least one or two resources on that map that can get you killed if you aren't careful.  On my stream, I was playing a Let's Play on the snow map.  The second I setup a stockpile for raw materials, I lost two members of my town.  As it happens, snow piles are a component for making Buckets of Water which can be used for making both a type of food and for making snow blocks.  Snow piles occur naturally in the game and so two of my towns folk ran off to collect them which put them into combat with a Yeti.  This can happen with other resources such as collecting uncooked meat from animals that die naturally on the map and bones from anything that drops bones.  You can manually shut off collecting those resources in your stockpiles which can prevent these deaths, but then mean the resource goes uncollected until you have the means to combat the natural enemies on the surface of the map.

The game's AI bugs were recently announced to be something addressed in a future update and, as an Alpha game I've come to expect these sort of issues with the game.  I still enjoy the game despite having to play a bit more careful to prevent my town members from dying.  Good luck finding both iron and coal early in the game.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reinventing Myself

The mirror in my room

You are reading this for one of three reasons. You stumbled upon this blog by accident. You were referred to this blog. Or you follow this blog. There is a very good chance you may know a bit more about the background behind this post. With all events in life, there are always two or more sides. I made the decision to not discuss certain aspects publicly. While I'd love very much for comments, I will delete anything identifying parties involved and I will delete information that goes against this respect. If you are looking for my perspective on past events, you will mostly be disappointed. That said, I cannot post what I want to post without making reference to certain events that took place. That's the closest I'm going to get.

The reason why I'm doing this, publicly, for the first time, is because I'm ready. I've not been ready for a very long time. This goes beyond the time I climbed into my car and took off to Kentucky. This goes back for at least a year, possibly longer. I've not had the ability or the strength to stand up and say what I needed to say. I couldn't say it to myself, let alone to others. There is power in speaking out loud, even if no one is listening. So, this is my voice, giving what I have been thinking strength.

The Things You Leave Behind
In September of this year, I packed up the most important possessions I had the room to pack, climbed into my car, and drove from New York to Kentucky. I left behind my wife, two cats that I will never see again, and so many possessions that I simply didn't have the room to take. The items I left behind had financial value or, more importantly, nostalgic value. Those items, I'm to understand, have been tossed into a dumpster and are gone. For me, I'm very visually based with nostalgia. As I have no sense of smell, I often need to see something to spark a memory. And so many of these memories are gone forever from my life. I left behind people that were good friends or I thought they were good friends. Some of them, decided to terminate their friendship for my departure, others did not. I can still reach out to them. I can still talk to them. But they live a good distance away.

I called my departure, “Pulling an AJ” after a friend of mine who has done this before. Starting over is not an easy process. In fact, the entire event has been hell on earth. One of my friends, one of the few in a circle of friends that disconnected entirely from me pointed out that I'd left one “helluva mess” behind me. And be that what it may, there is absolutely no one living on this planet that knows what kind of a mess I've been dealing with but me. Because, at the end of the day, when everyone is in bed, or everyone has gone home, there is only one person left. That is me. I am the only thing that I cannot truly leave behind.

There are a few people who understand the full scope of the “helluva mess” that I have been in and I still am standing in the middle of. But, again, only I can see the full picture and carry the burden of that full picture on my shoulders. You might see that the sneakers I wear are worn, but you would not know that they are over three years old and the only pair of sneakers to my name. You wouldn't feel the lack of padding in them. Nor would you be aware that I am now down to five pairs of socks without holes in them. Only my roommates are aware of the fact that I moved with no jackets and that the only jacket I have now was a gift of charity. You would not know that my source of income has dropped by a third and that even though I asked my dad for help with gas money, I have not seen a full tank in my vehicle since the day I arrived here. That I have a maxed out credit card on the verge of defaulting and one credit card that is in default. Nor would anyone have the slightest idea the battles I have had to fight in my own head. I have been in utter hell, and I cannot begin to believe that anyone would understand what I have gone through.

Thanksgiving Day was a tipping point for me. Though I had a wonderful observed Thanksgiving Day earlier in the week and a plate of food waiting for me after work, the day was destroyed for me. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is the one day of the year in which you and loved ones can observe the many things to be thankful for. And while I have many things to be thankful for, it was the first time in thirty-three years that I could not celebrate it. I was alone. I will not break that down and explain how I was alone, because that would take too much time in an already very lengthy blog post. I had people available to reach out to, yes, but I was alone. And, I think I'm glad, because I finally got past that barrier I needed to get past and embrace my new self. And since that day, the demons in my head are almost entirely gone.

I Am My Own Worst Enemy
For the longest time in my life, I thought that I needed to be wanted. What I actually wanted was to be needed. Now, neither are true. Loneliness was my greatest fear and yet I lived in that feeling. I've been lonely for a very, very long time. I would go out of my way to do things that would bring me attention. Not all of them were good things. My behavior was self-destructive. And worst, it fostered a co-dependence that was destroying who I was.

I've never learned what it's like to be alone. You can alone and be just fine. I'm not fully there, but I'm in that general area. Trust me when I say, lately has been very hard to not feel alone. I live with two very wonderful people, but they have lives. They get sick. They go to work. They can't be there for me all the time when I need it. The same is true with all of my friends. There are times when it is just me and only me. And I need to be happy with that level of company. And, yes, I am now able to be happy with that company.

There is a limit though, to being alone. And finding this limit is part of my next barrier for my other part of myself, the one I cannot seem to move past, is my sin, Pride. I've started to move past my pride, but this is not an easy task. I've got a very long road ahead of me too. Pride has not only been getting me into trouble, but it has also been doing myself mental, and in some cases, physical harm. The issue is that having gone from a state of pure co-dependence to a state of independence, I cannot find the boundary. And so my pride has been that filter. I live in a house where it is okay to be angry and expression emotions. Yet, I stifle it. There are matters that have come up and have hurt me, or are hurting me, that I have not raised. And I cannot tell clearly if it is the demons I'm fighting, my pride, or if I'm just being independent. I don't want to be angsty. I want to be strong!

Pride is a tricky little bugger to work on. I know that I have to work on acknowledging and identifying my needs so that I can work on expressing them. And, as I'll discuss later, I've come a long way on that front. But, I still need to work on certain aspects. I need physical contact. It is an emotional need that makes me feel alive. It makes me feel wanted. It gives me strength. I was at a group recently and after it ended, everyone was doing their goodbyes and hugging. Me, I shrank away and pulled back. It was all because of my pride in trying to be strong on my own. And worse than that, I've been told that in my very home, is someone who gives the best hugs in the world. I have not asked him for one. Nor have I had ANY physical contact with him since day 1. And yet, I truly love him. And yes, he will likely read this and even knowing that, I cannot bring myself to ask him to hug me.

So yes, I have overcome much, and I still have much more to overcome. And yet, looking at what I have to overcome, I can see that the enemy I'm facing, myself, is not as fearsome as it once was. I have learned to face my loneliness, so tackling my pride can't be too difficult. And, as you'll see, this is the road ahead.

Wants and Needs
Shortly after I came here, I was told that I should focus on what I want and need. It took me a long time to get started on that. Wants are dangerous. There are things I want, that I will never have. There are things I want that I will likely never have. And there are things that I think I want, but probably really don't. Needs are simpler, but can often be confused for wants.

About three weeks into my move, I had noticed on my roommate's computer a sticky note with ten things to remind himself. He didn't hide it, it was on his desktop. I knew that I needed something along those lines for myself. I expanded upon the idea and have a list of core wants, a list of material wants, and recently added in a list of things I want to do.

The material wants range from silly things, to certain types of clothing, to specific things I've stumbled upon and can't afford to get yet. The range from super expensive (a $3000 professional mermaid tail) to an inexpensive craft project (a glowing jar lamp). This helps me keep focused on my financial directions with the little money I have for myself. If I have the things I want written down, when I have money to spare, I can apply it the things I truly want. To support myself, I've also started a project for creating a focus board. This board sections off for space on my current writing project (this is part of my core wants), one active crafting project, the current saving goal, and one miscellaneous project at a time. Visually, I can identify my goals and keep myself focused on them.

My core wants are a bit more personal and a bit more abstract. They outline things I want out of life. #1 is “to be me”. Others reflect upon the pride discussion above where #5 identifies, “The ability to experience all emotions, good or bad, and not be ashamed of them.” The core wants sort of serve as a daily affirmation. I read them from time to time and remind myself why I'm doing this. It is helping, much like when you say a goal out loud.

The latest addition of “Things I Want to Do” are basically things that I'm planning on doing or want to figure out how to do, but are extensive. Not quite a resolution, but not a material want either. The top of this list should come as no surprise to people who know me. I want to go to Finland. The list is relatively short so far, as I just started it.

I should note that this list is not private. However, I'm not going to sit and advertise it online.

A Bit About Who I Am Today
So here I am, giving the entire internet a status update about myself. Maybe this will be read by one person. Maybe by none. Maybe it will get a million hits. In all of this talk, I've talked about finding myself and identifying who I am. Merging a bit of Core Want #4 and Core Want #6, I'm going to talk a little bit about how I am. Not everything, because damn, a guy needs SOME privacy.

I'm a thirty-three year old bigender male that lives in Kentucky. I work a crappy seasonal job to keep my health up and to give me something to blow of steam while I heal. I have two wonderful families. One lives in Maine and the other in Kentucky. I have two best friends that have an entire core rule dedicated to them, even if it is unrequited at this time. I'm intentionally cryptic, to which someone will surely tell me is not cryptic, just me being obtuse. I love to write. I love fairies and fairy tales. I'm into the EGL style of clothing to a level that would scare you if you had any idea what I was talking about. And, if I could turn into a mermaid at will, I'd be in heaven.

My current writing project is Dissolution. My current craft project is making the vision board thingy. My current savings project is split 50/50 between getting an SR9 and a gaming computer. My miscellaneous project is a secondary writing project I keep slipping back into working on.

I've said a lot, much of it has been unclear. I've spent all night mentally composing this and an hour-and-a-half writing it up. I'm not going to proof read this until after I've slept. This and the previous line will disappear once I've edited it. The point to all of this, I've reached a stepping stone in my life. My past self is starting to look grey and fuzzy. My future self is looking more clear on the horizon.

If you read this, I love you. If you read it all, I thank you. Comments are not only welcome, but greatly encouraged. I need a hug (and maybe even a kiss). Good night.

And most importantly:
I look forward to starting the next leg of my journey.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: November Part 1

Remember Remember the 12th of November
Last night, my roommate and I sat down for a mini-marathon of Back to the Future movies.  Monday is one of the better nights on television for shows, so we were not able to get through all three movies.  We did at least manage to sit through the first two films.  This movie trilogy have always been a favorite of mine and it's time to a good old fashioned review of these two classic 80's films and determine the current King of the Hill winner for November.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Back to the Future v Back to the Future II
I would love nothing more than to consider the three Back to the Future films one giant movie and end it at that.  While the second movie does end on a cliff hanger, they definitely are each their own movie and need to be treated this way.

Back to the Future was the movie that started it all.  Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) and Doctor Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) are close friends with a former relationship to each other that is not established on camera.  Doc Brown, after thirty years of work, has invented a time machine in the body of a Delorean.  While fueled, the Delorean needs to only hit 88 miles per hour before it sends the occupant in time to the designated location.

In the first movie, Marty accidentally goes back in time to the day Doc Brown comes up with his invention.  Stranded, he has to enlist the help of Doc Brown from the past timeline to return home.  The mission is relatively simple, Marty needs to drive the DeLorean into a wire at the second it is hit by lightning so that the power can be used to travel back to the future.  However, the timeline is messed up when Marty accidentally prevents his parents from falling in love.  Before he can return home, he needs to fix the timeline.

In the sequel, Marty and Doc Brown go to the future to prevent Marty's son from getting sentenced to jail which starts a ripple effect of horrific purposes.  While in the future, Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) travels back in time to 1955 to give his younger self a sports almanac.  This almanac allows Biff to win countless fortunes by gambling in sports.  In this new dystopian future, only Doc Brown and Marty McFly remember life before Biff became a wealthy megalomaniac.  They travel back in time to 1955 to prevent Biff from using the sports almanac.

While both movies are great in their own right, there is no doubt that the first Back to the Future wins out as the better film.  The first film is filled with all kinds of small Easter eggs.  If you know where to look, you can find small timeline changes that even long-time fans of the film might have missed.  For example, I'm not sure I ever noticed before that Twin Pines Mall becomes Lone Pine Mall after Marty destroys one of the pine trees.  Back to the Future is also a treasure trove for discussions with friends.

There is also one, very damaging continuity error in the second film.  According to the very words of Doc Brown, Biff Tannen of the future should not have been able to return to the same future that Doc Brown and Marty were in.  That timeline ceased to exist the second Biff brought back the sports almanac.  So, while the second movie did make me want a hover board and a flying car, it doesn't have the epic nature of the first film.

Winner:  Back to the Future

Monday, November 12, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: Spooky October

The Mostly Spooky Entry
October is the month when all of the horror stories arrive in movie theaters.  To sort of fit the theme, I've been dedicated this month to catch up on some horror stories.  I've managed to make my way through three-and-a-half so far.  Of course, just because I'm dedicated to horror films and the like, doesn't mean that I'm going to exclude other genres from the month.  Hopefully that will help explain the oddball in today's review.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

The Girl Next Door (2007) v Paranormal Activity
Holy fuck!  This movie is one of the most messed up things I have ever seen.  The story is centered on the neighbor of a older woman with a family of boys.  Two young girls move into the neighbor's home as their aunt is the only living relative.  David Moran (Daniel Manache) takes a liking to the girl, but quickly discovers that her life is not going well.  The movie is a human torture porn fest as the girl is put through some of the most disturbing acts of human cruelty possible.  When this movie had finally ended, I was left feeling hating all humanity.

First off, I'm not spoiling this for people.  If you've seen it, you'll recognize that there are a few "mistakes" in my review.  It's the easiest way to review the movie without spoiling it.  Paranormal Activity is a found camera footage film about a strange entity that haunts the home.  Found Footage is a movie recording method that is very, very difficult to pull off.  You have to be able to tell a story with either limiting it to logical reasons to have a camera present, or find ways to safely work the camera to critical scenes without destroying the viewer's disbelief.  For me, Paranormal Activity didn't do the best job with this.  The fact that the husband in the movie is a douchebag makes it easier to explain why he would take cameras with him while fighting with his wife.  However, this was not sufficient enough for every scene in the film.  One of the biggest credits I can give the movie is tension.  The movie starts slowly and begins to increase the tension more and more until the very end of the film when all hell is breaking loose.

It's a difficult call, but I'm awarding the victory to Paranormal Activity.  I can forgive the suspension of disbelief.  What I can't do is look past one particular act of torture in The Girl Next Door.  It wasn't horror, it was disturbing.

Winner:  Paranormal Activity

Paranormal Activity v Paranormal Activity 2
Paranormal Activity 2 takes place parallel to Paranormal Activity in timeline.  The movie departs from Paranormal Activity in several ways.  The tension is not a slow rise like the first film.  You will encounter more supernatural events as the movie progresses.  It is hard to get into this movie and what makes it great without spoiling this or the previous movie.  Suffice it to say, the reasons for the cameras in this film seem more natural.  And while I don't agree with the behaviors of the people in the film at all times (I would have moved out very quickly into the process), the movie is very entertaining.  I found the second film much more satisfying than the first.

Winner:  Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 v The King and I
The King and I is not a horror film.  It is the only movie this month that I watched that didn't have horrific elements to it.  The King and I is a movie based on the musical of the same name.  It is about the King of Siam, Mongkut, who asks for a British lady to be the governess to help raise his children.  Anna, is the lady that is sent to raise these children.  The King and I is an interesting story that goes into the clash of two very different cultures.  It is filled with lots of vibrant colors, beautiful images, and wonderful music.  I really enjoyed watching the film.

Does Paranormal Activity 2 measure up to The King and I?  Yes and no.  The King and I is a phenomenal movie and it deserves to be seen for what it is.  However, it is not a movie that should be compared to Paranormal Activity 2.  One is a found footage horror flick and the other is a musical about a historical event that may or may not be accurate.  So, on an account of my theme for the month, I'm forced to rule in favor of Paranormal Activity 2.

Paranormal Activity 2 v The House of a 1000 Corpses
The House of a 1000 Corpses is a horror film that I have heard a lot about.  I've been told it is one of the scariest movies ever made.  I've watched it and I didn't find it that scary.  Don't get me wrong, the Rod Zombie film is worthy of the attention of horror fans.  The movie has some pretty fucked up moments and it is a horror film.  It is disturbing.  It is demented.  It wasn't scary to me.  Why?  Because I couldn't connect with any of the characters in the film.  Without my ability to connect to the characters, I couldn't feel the horror they were experiencing.

Winner:  Paranormal Activity 2

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: September End

A Big Long... Showdown
50/50 has taken down three movies so far, but can it take down another six movies?  September has been a busy month.  I've been through a major life change and a lot more movies than usual.  These movies include all three Austin Power movies, rewatching a movie with one of my favorite actresses, and rewatching a classic sci-fi flick.  Each of these movies has to be reviewed as I am about to enter the last quarter of the year.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Cal (Steve Carell) is a middle aged man at dinner with his wife, Emily (Julianne Moore), declares that she wants a divorce.  Cal mopes around in a bar until a player, Jacob (Ryan Gosling), takes him under his wing to teach him how to pick up women.  The story is a comedy about love and the many forms it takes and the things people will do to find love, keep, and prove their love.  The movie is hilarious with several twists that was able to keep my surprised and entertained until the very end.  Crazy, Stupid, Love explores the different aspects of love just as 50/50 explores different aspects of cancer.  Though I loved 50/50, the enjoyment for Crazy, Stupid, Love was greater and I have to award this movie the winner.

Winner:  Crazy, Stupid, Love

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Mike Myers plays both the protagonist and antagonist in this film that makes fun of the classic James Bond franchise.  The movie is ripe full of comedy, foul humor, slapstick anecdotes and low budget/horrible filming. I remember seeing this movie before and finding the film hilarious.  Unfortunately, the first Austin Powers film has not aged very well.  In the end, I found that most of the shine that made the first film of the trilogy great had lost its original appeal.  The movie was a refreshing walking down nostalgia road, but little more.

Winner:  Crazy, Stupid, Love

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
Mike Myers is back in this movie playing three different characters.  The differences from the first to the second movie is immediately obvious as it contains better effects, better filming, and a better story.  Most of the classic Austin Power jokes I recalled actually come from the second film in the trilogy.  Scott Evil (Seth Green) has a better role.  Mini-Me and Fat Bastard make their appearance, and the funniest sketch of all makes it's appearance.  Unlike the first movie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me has aged well and was delightfully entertaining.  It doesn't have the same style of humor of Crazy, Stupid, Love, but it's the only genre parody film to date that I can watch and be genuinely entertained.  Plus, some of the gags of this movie are still used in new movies today, making it well worth the praise.

Winner:  Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me

Austin Powers:  Goldmember
Mike Myers is back once again.  This time, he is playing not one, not two, not even three, but four different parts in this film.  Just like the absurdity of the Mike Myers playing four characters in the movie, the movie plot is back to being completely absurd.  The movie recycles a lot of the same jokes from the previous movie and, while done well, compared to the second movie it isn't as entertaining.  Additionally, while I appreciate the humor and skill of Mike Myers, having him play nearly half of the cast is really annoying and detracts seriously from the quality of the film.  In the end, I find myself unable to rate Austin Powers: Goldmember higher than its predecessor.

Winner:  Austin Powers:  The Spy Who Shagged Me

Super is a dark comedy about Frank Darrbo (Rainn Wilson) and his quest to get back his wife, Sarah (Liv Taylor).  After his wife is taken in and under the influence of a local drug lord (Kevin Bacon), Frank takes on the person The Crimson Bolt as he fights crime and stop the evil in the local city.  He is soon joined by a new sidekick, Boltie (Ellen Page).  The movie is very dark and extremely violent.  It raises some very interesting points regarding justice and one's contribution to society.  The movie is one of my favorites and has Ellen Page, a personal favorite.

Winner:  Super

Logan's Run
Logan's Run stars Logan 5 (Michael York), a sandman, whose job is to track down runners and terminate them for not going to Carrousel for a chance at renewal.  Logan is given a special assignment that cuts short three years of his life, forcing him to run in order to find out how runners are escaping.  Along the way he meets Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter).  The movie is classic sci-fi film released in 1976.  For a movie 36 years old, it has aged well.  Despite aging well, the movie's outdated special effects have left Logan's Run with a campy feel to it.  Though I very much love the movie Logan's Run, I find Super is a better film overall.

September's Winner:  Super

Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: September Part 1

A King of the Hill 4 Movie Face-Off
It is time for another movie post as I clear out the queue of movies I've watched for the month.  This blog post is going to be a showdown the first four movies of the month, run mini-tournament style.  I'll do the next round in the next couple of days offering another for movies to go against this entry's winner.  But for today, we'll see the movies 50/50Jumping the BroomNim's Island, and Premium Rush face off.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

50/50Jumping the Broom
50/50 is the story of Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his dealing with cancer.  Adam's cancer is particularly nasty and has a 50/50 survival rate.  The movie details his life from just before discovering the illness up until the cancer situation is resolved.  I've intentionally worded this to avoid spoiling the outcome, as it adds to the tension of the movie.  In the movie, we get to see the many, many faces of cancer.  You see how it impacts both Adam and the friends and family around him.

Jumping the Broom is the story of Sabrina (Paula Patton) and Jason (Laz Alonso), two love birds from very different worlds and their adventure into marriage.  I both liked and disliked aspects of this movie.  First off, the movie is a mostly black cast.  This is intended as the very title references the culture tradition of when blacks were unable to marry and performed unions by jumping over a broom.  Adding to this is intention is the single white character serving the "token white girl" of the film.  The story, while good, is filled with a great deal of tropes and cliches.  I personally felt that the character of Jason was able to get off easy for his inexcusable behaviors.

Winner:  Though I would recommend both movies, 50/50 is the clear winner.

Nim's Island v Premium Rush
Nim's Island is a sort of three-in-one story that covers the adventures of Nim (Abigail Breslin), her father (Gerald Butler), and author Alexandra Rover (Jodie Foster).  Nim is a girl who lives with her father on an island that is kept secret from the world in order to preserve it.  After a storm leaves her father stranded and unable to return home, Nim contacts Alexandra Rover.  The author hasn't left her home in years and decides to leave to help Nim.  The adventure is a whimsical story filled with talking animals, silly antics, and a lot of creative imagination.  It is a cute film and I had little to complain about.

Premium Rush is an adrenaline packed film about bicycle courier, Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), trying to survive as a crooked police officer is hot on his trail to stop a package from being delivered.  The movie is action packed, filled with some intense chase scenes.    The movie has a very diverse cast which definitely added to the film.  The story is simple and straight forward.  In most films, this would detract from the picture, but for Premium Rush, it works well.  The only real complaint I have with the movie are the "predictions" Wilee has with upcoming dangerous intersections.  One particular scene had each prediction more absurd than the last.  Outside of this detail, there are no real complaints to be found.

Winner:  Nim's Island wins.  Again, I would recommend both movies.

Nim's Island v 50/50
This is a very hard choice.  One is a very serious look into cancer, the other is a lighter film that addresses the different forms of courage.  In the end, I'd have to give 50/50 the pick.

Winner:  50/50

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: Closest Battle Ever

Changeling v The War of the Worlds (+1 More)
Two very good films go head to head for the first movie showdown for the month of August.  Angelina Jolie plays a distraught mother whose son disappears and mysteriously returns.  Tom Cruise plays a distant father who must protect his children from an invasion from another planet.    One movie is based on a true story, the other is based on a classic novel.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

In fairy tales, a Changeling is the replacement left in the bed when fairies steal away the child.  Changeling is not a fairy tale.  It is not a story based on a true story.  It is a true story.  I'm very skeptical of movies that claim to be based on a true story, or a true story.  It didn't take me long to forget this claim.  The movie grabbed me with a very dark, disturbing story.  Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single mother in 1928 LA.  One evening, while she is at work, her son disappears.  Five months go by and the police bring her a boy, claiming they have found her son, only the boy isn't her son.  I will not say anything to spoil the movie, only to say this movie continues to get incredibly dark.  What makes this movie so fascinating and powerful is that it is true.  Looking into the story behind Christine Collins, you learn that not only was the movie very true to the original story, but it played down certain aspects to make it less dark.

But was Changeling enough of a film to take down the 2005 version of War of the Worlds.  War of the Worlds is one of my all time favorite stories.  Honestly, I've given this a lot of thought and the call on this is very close.  In the end, War of the Worlds wins.  The movie is a great adaptation of the classic story with minimal changes (and then, mostly to modernize).  Changeling, while an equally great story, just doesn't have the ability to make me want to watch it a second time.

Winner:  War of the Worlds

Finally, I have watched one additional movie in August.  The third movie of the month that I caught was My Life in Ruins.  While this was a cute flick, it really didn't move me enough to really stand up anywhere close to War of the Worlds.

August Winner:  War of the Worlds

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Antidepressants Kinda Don't Suck

Many of you know from earlier posts that I have depression.  What a lot of you don't know, is that I've had this most of my life.  I have very early moments of depression that I've talked with very few people.  I used to get sad and upset for no reason.  I remember once.  This depression is something I've always lived with and sometimes forgotten was there.

This year, the depression has been back, nastier and more vicious than ever before.  The last time I had depression this bad, I was sixteen.  I remember the absolutely worst case of depression.  I made a mask out of duct tape and sealed my face completely shut to the point I couldn't breathe.  I had some trick handcuffs I'd picked up from winning tickets at the fair and slipped them on, behind my back, around a clothing rod in the closet.  My intent wasn't to take my life, it was to play a dangerous game and "escape" before I passed out.  As it turns out, if you exhale with enough force, you can blow duct tape off of your face.

My depression lately hasn't been giving me a desire to commit suicide.  I've had really bad thoughts, however.  Thoughts like, "If I got into a horrific accident, life would get a lot simpler."  I don't like those thoughts and finally got my ass in gear.  I tried to get a psychiatrist at first.  The referral instead was to a licensed social worker.  Though helpful, I knew I needed medical help as well.  I arranged an urgent medical appointment with my Primary Care Physician.  I explained my case and what I was after.  The doctor didn't agree fully with what I wanted, but did agree that I needed medication.  I was prescribed Effexor XR.

This was seven days ago.  Since that time, I have learned two very important lessons.  I have learned that medication can help.  I also learned that the internet, as vast and informative as it is, does not have any decent accounts for what to expect when you take Effexor XR.  I tried to find out what to expect and when. I wanted to know what this crazy ride was going to be like.  Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found.  So, instead, I'm going to start accounting my trip down on the medication drug trip.

Effexor XR Your First Seven Days
Day 0:  The first thing you need to know is that everyone is different.  I cannot attest to what your personal experience will be like.  You could be allergic to the medication.  Other medications can interact with your medication.  Your body chemistry may be different.  So what you are getting is an account of my trip, and hopefully you'll share some of my experiences.  If your doctor is like my doctor, your first week will be half-dose to get your body ready for the medication experience.

Day 1:  The first day is a day in which you going to feel like a fucking bus ran you over.  Your body has absolutely no experience with the medication.  For me, it took about three hours before I felt anything from the medication.  When it kicked in, it felt like a hazy had settled into my head.  It was sort of like coffee withdrawal, but it wasn't quite the same.  The hazy feeling never fully went away, but it did lesson.  By the time I early evening, I was very groggy.  I couldn't focus on anything and could barely stay awake.  I went to bed very early (about three hours earlier than typical).

Day 2:  I woke up in the middle of the night, likely unrelated to the medication.  When I did get up for my normal hour of wake, I didn't feel as hazy as the day before.  By the time 10:00 AM had rolled around, the haze was there and was still less significant.  I was still having focus issues, but it wasn't as bad as it had been the day before.  At one point during the day, I had a depressive thought and much to my surprise, I was able to swat it away as if it was nothing.

In the afternoon, my focus continued to be just "okay".  I was very ditzy and forgetful.  But as the day progressed, I felt this energy in the back of my head.  I couldn't quite figure out what to make the energy or do anything with it.  As the day progressed, I found myself feeling more social.  Still, in the evening the drowsiness kicked it up a notch and I found myself going to bed early.

Day 3:   On this day, I realized I was having more dreams than normal.  They weren't strange, I just recalled having them which is not normal for me.  I found myself more productive than usual and was able to write two blog posts without any real issue.  I was restless during the day and found it hard to focus on things.  During the day I was more alert than typical.  I realized I was actually smiling at one point.

Day 4:  My concentration was only okay in the morning.  I felt depressed around noon and had trouble keeping it out of my head.  I was able to focus on stuff and get a lot of things done.  At one point, I felt a desire to clean the fridge and actually went through with doing the entire fridge.  It was a project I had wanted to do for a while and just hadn't felt the energy to do it.   However, this was the extent of the energy and creative endeavors were hard to accomplish.  I was tired from about 7 PM on.

Day 5:  This day was horrible and perhaps worse than before I took the medication.  I had occasional moments of strength, but the entire day was a constant wave of moments of up and down.  I was drowsy for most of the day.  I was have trouble processing emotions.  I was finding myself easily able to be picked up mood wise, only to crash again.  I recorded one down slump being about three hours in the afternoon and followed by a moment of good, positive energy for three hours at night.  Again, I went to bed early.

Day 6:  This day was better than previous day, but hardly an improvement.  I did realize this day that something that should have generated lots of anxiety, did not generate any anxiety.  I was having more moments of being alert and awake.  The moments lasted longer than any of the previous five days and I was able to do a lot of projects I had been putting off like cleaning out my car.  I crashed for an hour in the afternoon around 1:00 until 2:30.  I also got a very nasty headache in the evening.  It was also the first evening I didn't have the drowsy symptoms.

Day 7:  This brings me to today.  Today was the first day I went all day without a crash.  I had trouble focusing first thing in the morning, despite being alert, but I got a lot of stuff done at work.  I mean, an EPIC amount of work done.  After work, I had a lot of energy available.  It's still hard to tap into that energy, but I was able to.  I was also able to break through some of the focus issues today.  I didn't feel drowsy at all today until 7:45 PM.

So that brings me up to this moment.  I'm about to head to bed, and I feel like I've had a very good day.  I'll update my continues progress as it happens.  For now, I hope those of you reading this starting Effexor have an idea of the ups and the downs you can expect as your body adjusts to the medication.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Movie Standings Post

There are 7 months behind me and 5 months to go.  As I approach the end of the year, I need to think more and more about the final showdown in my 2012 King of the Hill movie Challenge.  That also includes discussing current movie standards and figuring out what system I'm going to use to determine the best movie of the year.

My plan is to use a single elimination seeded bracket.  This will make me do eleven comparisons between the twelve best movies from each month.

Seeds are determined by the total number of movies that the winner of the month directly went up against and defeated.  In cases of ties, the seed will be ranked in chronological order based on the date I watched it.

This is the current seeding standing for all movies of the year.

4 Wins: Brave (June)
3 Wins: Hanna (January)
3 Wins: The Dark Knight Rises (July)
2 Wins: Tucker and Dave v. Evil (February)
1 Win: Hunger Games (March)
1 Win: The Little Princess (April)
0 Wins: The Avengers (May)

2012 King of the Hill: July Wrap Up

The Dark Knight Takes On Two More
July came to an end twelve days ago and I need to cover the last few movies I saw in July.  The Dark Knight Rises proved to be quite the movie.  But can it stand up against a racist Clint Eastwood and America's First Avenger?  July proved to be a month of many movies.  As I move into the month of August, it looks like the number of movies I am watching has dropped significantly.  It's time for the July wrap up of 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Gran Torino v The Dark Knight Rises
In all fairness to Gran Torino, there was a problem with the DVD.  A chunk of one scene and the whole of another would not play.  I did later find the script for the movie and read the missing scene.  Gran Torino is a movie about the story of Walt (Clint Eastwood) following the death of his wife.  He lives in his well tended home in a neighborhood slowly being taken over by Korean families.  Walt has an openly racist attitude to his neighbors and, well, everyone else. As the story progresses, he begins to bond with his neighbors, particularly Tao (Bee Vang).

If you ignore the fact that Clint Eastwood plays the same freaking character in every movie, this was a good film.  I loved the story.  I love the character development.  I loved the banter between Walt and, well, everyone he interacted with.  I found myself wondering up to the very end what was going to happen.  When the ending finally came, it felt me leaving satisfied.  There were a few things I'd have liked to see differently.  I think the movie could have done without Walt's granddaughter.  It seems like her point to the film was to setup a scene at the end and could have been worked out differently.

Compared to The Dark Knight Rises, the movie simply doesn't stand.  Both films had great stories, but The Dark Knight Rises left a feeling in the end that has stayed with me even weeks later.  Gran Torino, also admittedly left me feeling uncomfortable at times.  Walt is extremely racist.  The racist jokes and their delivery were hilarious, which only left me feeling bad.  I personally feel that racist jokes, even if appropriate for the story being told, should be left behind as much as possible.  I don't believe in sugar coating history, but at the same time it is something that can be cut down on and/or underplayed in our media.

Winner:  The Dark Knight Rises

Captain America v The Dark Knight Rises
Captain America is the origin story of Captain America.  Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a short, little guy who is always getting knocked around, but refuses to let himself be kept down.  Eventually, his desire to be a true hero is recognized and he joins a super soldier program.  The program is sabotaged in the middle of the operation, destroying all equipment and leaving him as the only super soldier.  For some reason, the government refuses to use him as a soldier.  Instead he has him do stage acting to raise money for the military and to entertain troops.

The prison break scene is the only really phenomenal part to the film.  Steve Rogers learns that his friend was one of the troops reported missing and presumed to be held captive.  He goes on his own to try and free the prisoners.  He succeeds and proves that he is a capable soldier.  After this, the movie goes into a series of fighting montage scenes were he and his crew begin shutting down factories and laboratories in Axis controlled territory.  I have never liked montages.  But in this case, the montages seemed to skim over the greater story.  Steve Rogers may have the heart of a hero and the strength of a hero, but learning to be a soldier and work in combat is an area of growth I'd have liked to see.  All this montage did was served to rush the story to it's conclusion where Captain America must make a sacrifice.  I'll stop describing here in the off chance you haven't seen both Captain America and The Avengers.

In summary, Captain America is a rushed movie to give the audience an origin story of Steve Rogers before the release of The Avengers.  This rush job is obvious and left me highly disappointed.

Winner:  The Dark Knight Rises

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day Z: Day 0

Author's Note:  The following is a work of fiction.  These events are based on my gameplay of the Arma II mod: Day Z.  Day Z is a game in alpha development where you must survive against infinite zombies and players who will shoot you for a can of beans.  I'm writing these for writing practice as well as free entertainment for anyone interested in reading my story.

Survivor Viljo - Day 0
It was a miracle that I survived long enough to make it to Chernarus. The outbreak on the USS Stockdale happened fast. Most of the crew knew of the zed rumors.  No one expected an outbreak on the ship. The ship was overrun in under an hour.  Those of us with any sense of survival knew that the only escape required we leave the ship.
Forty of us made it onto an LCAC.  The USS Stockdale was too far out at sea for the LCAC to make it to the shore.  Our mission objective at this point was to get us as close as possible and drift the rest of the way.  The plan went smooth initially.  Land could be seen from our location.  What our scope also revealed was the zed.  Adrift, the survivors of the USS Stockdale discussed our next step.
Fate intervened.  A fishing boat approached us from Skalisty Island.  A few of the crew tried to wave them down for aid, but many of us were skeptical.  We had little firepower on our vessel due to the nature of our retreat.  If they were hostile, we were in trouble.
They were.
The open fired, mowing down several of our crew.  Planning was out of the window as survival became our only option.  In order to survive, we had to brave the watery depths.  Those of us still alive, scattered after shots were fired.  I have no idea how survived.
I washed up on the shore not far from Drakon. The glint of steel from Elekrozavodsk, Electro as I took to calling it, could be seen from my beach location. I had little gear and if I was going to survive, I needed to find something fast. I could have followed the coast to the east, but decided the closer city was my better choice. There’d be more, but more loot to find.
I’d like to say I did well at first heading into Elekro. It didn’t take too much running around to figure out what it took to shake of the zed. It wasn’t a perfect system, but I avoided getting eaten alive. I hadn’t been in the city for long before I got very lucky. I found myself an AK47 off of a dead Russian solider. He only had a few clips, not much, but enough to make me feel comfortable.
I huddled until dark in a corner of an abandoned building before setting out in the dark to find more supplies. I was hungry and badly in need of food. I found a few scraps here and there as well as some medical supplies and some emergency flares. I really wanted to light them up, but I did not want to attract zed.
In the end, I was glad I went out at night for supplies. It didn’t work out the best in the world for me. I hit a residence and a hotel. Saw a local survivor run by, never got a good look at him. Kept my AK47 ready in case he came after me. No one appeared. After a long wait, I ventured back out, found some more supplies in a church and then made a run for a nearby firehouse.
This time, my luck failed me. I was noticed by a couple of zombies. I ducked past the gate, ducked inside the firehouse and turned. My AK47 served me better than its previous owner and downed my pursuers. Unfortunately, this alerted the attention of a few more nearby zombies. I had expended more ammo that I had wanted, but I was alive.
I closed up the firehouse and began scavenging for supplies. I had a good stock of bandages now, lots of flares, and quite a few drinks. What I really needed was food, and I wasn’t finding any of that inside. It was getting late, and between my swim and my run, I needed a place to hide out for the night. I was overtaxed and had a lapse of judgment. I climbed my way up a tower in the firehouse to look at the city of Elektro for a place to retreat to for the night.
As I peered out a window to get a glimpse of the surrounding area, a sniper shot me.

Gameplay Note:  My first character lasted about thirty minutes.  I ran to a town, triggered some zombies, ran away and managed to lose them.  From that point forward, I knew this first character was dead.  I played conservatively at first to learn how to avoid zombies and then experimented to see what does and doesn't alert zombies.  One of my experiments failed.  As I do my play through, I will note all character deaths as they happen.  The above is my second character.

Friday, July 20, 2012

2012 King of the Hill: I'm Batman!


The Dark Knight Rises Above The Grey
Yes, you heard that right.  I announced the winner in the freaking title.  This movie rocked.  It was two hours and forty five minutes of pure awesome.  The story is very busy and there are a lot of details that were cut to keep this movie from being a week in film length.  The gaps are obvious, but the transitions are handled respectfully.  The movie jumps eight years from the second film and has an almost three month jump in the middle of it.  You miss pieces of that-  wait, hold that thought.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

There we go.  Now where was I?  Oh yeah, spoilers.  Spoilers.  And more spoilers.  The Dark Knight Rises is the final installment of the latest Batman releases.  And it provides you with a very satisfying conclusion.  There are spoilers further down in this review for both this movie and The Avengers.  Honestly, I could talk about many points about this film, there is a lot to discuss, but instead of getting into the finer details, I'm going to talk about a tweet I made.

The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers
I made tweet after seeing the movie about The Dark Knight Rises does something that The Avengers did not do right.  Before I get into this deeply, you need to know that I firmly believe Iron Man is Marvel's Batman.  Both are millionaires without super powers that rely on their use of inventions to fight crime.  Through complete coincidence, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers both have a nuclear device as part of the plot.

In The Avengers, a nuclear missile is fired at Stark Tower to destroy the aliens and shut down the portal.  Iron Man responds to this by navigating the missile into the portal and ultimately defeats the aliens.  The weapon is incidental, adding a bit of tension and providing a last minute tool that can be used as a weapon to win.  Iron Man's choice to fly the weapon into the portal is a bit of character development.  Though the development is nice, the act is weakened by the fact the weapon is a last minute, external addition to the conflict that conveniently used to resolves the conflict.

In The Dark Knight Rises, the bomb is part of the plot from the very first scene though you don't realize it until half-way into the film.  It is the reason the government (and any other DC Super Heroes) aren't involved in the events in Gotham City.  It is the reason why the citizens of Gotham can't leave the city.  It is the reason why everyone has to work through blood, sweat, and tears to stop Bane.  After everything else has failed, the ONLY option is for Batman to remove the bomb from the city.  It isn't development either.  We know that Batman has given everything  for this city but his life.  It is inevitable that this is what must be done.  No one tries to talk him out of it.  It is understood.  And in this act, the Bruce Wayne Batman is no more.  A permanent, necessary sacrifice.

So, in The Avengers, Iron Man is given a convenient threat used for character development and conflict resolution.  In The Dark Knight Rises a similar threat exists, but throughout and the conclusion is not development, but the resignation that we the viewers must accept.

The Dark Knight Rises and DC Comics
In the same tweet mentioned above, I also said that The Dark Knight Rises did something that DC Comics could not do.  Actually, the truth of the matter, The Dark Knight Rises does multiple things better.  First of all, it passes the mantle.  If (and this is a pretty big if) Warner Brothers plans to do a Justice League movie properly, they can bring in a new Batman.  Even if they decide to not do the Justice League, they still have an opportunity to do more Batman with a new man behind the cape.  And, at the same time, they can end with the third movie and it ends, perfectly.  DC, however, cannot seem to bring themselves to end the Bruce Wayne reign of Batman.  Sure, he has had people wear the cape before.  Sure, Bruce Wayne has retired.  However, between the reboots, the new universes, and the inability to end a legend, Bruce Wayne is always back and behind the mask.

That's not the ONLY thing that The Dark Knight Rises did better.  The Dark Knight Rises actually surprised me when Bane detonated the explosives.  I jumped up in my seat as I watched the bridges explode and collapse.  You see, I actually have read the No Man's Land arc of Batman.  In No Man's Land, an earthquake severs Gotham from the rest of the world.  The city turns to chaos and the government declares it  a wasteland, unable to be saved.  In the story, Batman is gone from the city for three months as he, as Bruce Wayne, tries to get the government involved.  The city is without Batman for all that time and only underground police work is providing any sense of hope.

Yet, at the same time, the movie also managed to cover the events of Knightfall.  Knightfall is, well, basically the story of Batman getting his back broken by Bane.  It isn't a paraplegic break, but enough to disable him for a good portion of the movie.  If that's not enough, the movie actually managed to secretly slip in ANOTHER classic bat villain.  But, unless you are really sharp, you probably won't know it's coming until it is revealed.

The point here is that Christopher Nolen took TWO classic Batman stories, merge them together, make them better, and slip in another classic villain in such a way that it isn't painful.  And, then they end the legacy of Bruce Wayne all at the same time.  If that isn't impressive, I don't know what is.

2012 King of the Hill: July Clean-Up

I thought it would have won...
Another Battle Royale
I just got back from The Dark Knight Rises and this movie needs a detailed review.  To get there, I need to clean out my ENTIRE July list of movies.  Yes, that's right, it is time for another speed review.  Nine films, four rounds, and all of it will be absolute chaos as I knock down the list to one film to go head-to-head with The Dark Knight Rises.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Round 1:  Bolt The Grey v Hugo

Bolt was the first movie that I watched this month and it was a good flick.  Bolt is an animated film about a stunt dog that thinks he has super powers.  After accidentally getting shipped to the other side of the country, he joins forces with a cat and a hamster to make his way back to his owner.  The movie was a great film, a bit emotional at times, and had a very satisfying ending.

The Grey is a must see film.  It is a powerful film that delves deep into the male psyche.  Liam Neeson plays a sharpshooter in Alaska.  His job is to protect the oil workers from wolves.  When the plane they are on crashes in Alaskan wilderness, he leads a group of survivors across the harsh wilderness before the wolves claim them.  The survivors are society's undesirables.  Yet, as the story progresses, you feel and connect with each of them.  The movie is a story of survival from yourself as much as surviving the world around you and impacted me to my very core.  My only complaint was my disappointment with the ending, but I understand it.

Huge sucked.  I hated it.  'Nuff Said.

Winner:  The Grey

Round 2:  True Grit v We Bought a Zoo v Sherlock Holmes

True Grit is a Coen Brother's western about a young girl played by Hailee Steinfeld.  She is seeking revenge for the death of her father.  She hires a US Marshal played by Jeff Bridges.  The US Marshall is less than satisfying for her needs.  The film is a dark story of the fall from innocence and the less that glorious truth behind western justice.  True Grit was a great film and I enjoyed it enough to call it my favorite Coen Brother's film.

We Bought a Zoo is a cute movie about a father of two trying to start a new life after the death of his wife.  The story is cute, heart warming, and more importantly, entertaining.  It is one of the better films out there about grieving for a loved one.  It isn't the best film in the world, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Sherlock Holmes was a movie I was afraid to watch and glad I finally did.  I'm a big fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.  If there is one thing that this movie proved, it is that the marketing department of big movie houses suck.  The trailer for this film, made the movie like it would have no grounded connection to Conan Doyle's work.  The trailer was a lie.  This film hit the real Sherlock Holmes perfectly.  It was great film and I'm glad I finally got around to watching it.

Winner:  Sherlock Holmes

Round 3:  Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist v A Beautiful Mind v The Fall

This is a simple round because I hated two of these three films.  Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist wasn't a great film.  The term "hipster" definitely applies to this film.  Still, it was a cute film that was amusing and I liked watching it.

A Beautiful Mind is about a genius with schizophrenia.  The movie is unnecessarily long and is more focused on the life of John Nash (Russell Crowe).  The movie spends most of the screen time focusing on John Nash's life and struggle of social awkwardness and less about his issues with schizophrenia.  Actually unexplained by the film, those strange behaviors of John Nash are symptoms of his illness.  This movie, basically uses a unique story of a real person with schizophrenia to make a good story.

There is one good lesson to be taken from The Fall.  Alice was the one who pointed this out, and I think that it is worth mentioning.  Stories don't just belong to the creator; they belong to the audience as well.  This movie is basically about an asshole who manipulates a young girl so that he can attempt to commit suicide.  I did not like the movie at all.

Winner:  Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Final Round:  The Grey v Sherlock Holmes v Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

The Grey and Sherlock Holmes both easily blow Nick and Norah out of the water.  The Grey and Sherlock Holmes are both good films.  They both had great stories.  Deciding which of these two films has been a struggle.  Though I greatly appreciate seeing a high quality Sherlock Holmes film, I cannot overlook the amazing work that is The Grey.  The Grey is an original story with an atypical ending and it leaves you feeling drained, but in a powerful way.  The movie was too good to be bested by the world's best detective.

Winner:  The Grey

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 King of the Hill - June Madness

Battle Royale
So far, I have watched nine movies this month.  In order:  How to Marry a Millionaire, Brother's Grimm, Burlesque, Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, Iron Lady, Salt, Brave, and In Time.  Nine movies is a LOT of ground to cover and in order to make this faster, I'm going to lighting round four match-ups of two or three movies and drop the list down to four movies to compare.  Those final four will get a more in depth review.  This also means that after this post, I will finally be caught up on blog posts.  [Applause]

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

Match 1: How to Marry a Millionaire v Brother's Grimm
In other words: Marilyn Monroe versus a pile of dog crap.  Winner:  How to Marry a Millionaire

Match 2: Burlesque v Prometheus
The one good actor could not save Burlesque.  Winner: Prometheus

Match 3: Snow White and the Huntsman v Iron Lady
There was so much bad with Snow White and the Huntsman, I almost posted a rant.   Winner:  Iron Lady

Match 4: Salt v Brave v In Time
Salt easily obliterates In Time in story and acting.  Despite the fact I saw a portion of Salt being filmed, Brave defeats Salt without question.  Winner:  Brave

Four movies remain:  How to Marry a Millionaire, Prometheus, Iron Lady, and Brave.

Match 5:  How to Marry a Millionaire v Prometheus
How to Marry a Millionaire is a comedy production of three ladies trying to find success by getting married to a millionaire.  Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall rent an expensive apartment for one year and survive by selling off the room's possessions while they attempt to locate and snag millionaires.  The movie in many ways resembles a Shakespearean comedy and is highly entertaining.  If one thins is certain, Monroe films stand the test of time.

Prometheus is an action packed flick, set before the events of the classic movie Alien.  It focuses heavily on philosophy and leaves the audience with nearly as many questions at the end as the audience had at the start of the film.  The movie was fascinating, the actions was interesting, and the plot was somewhat entertaining.  The movie however left a lot to be desired.

Winner:  How to Marry a Millionaire

Match 6:  Iron Lady and Brave
Do yourself a favor and rent Iron Lady.  Meryl Streep does a phenomenal job in this movie depicting the life of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.  The movie is a bit disjointed as elderly Margaret Thatcher remembers bits and pieces of her her life as she adjusts to her growing mental health issues.  The story unveils the trials the Iron Lady went through to get her start in politics and hold herself in power.  It is a good film and I greatly enjoyed watching it.

And then there is Brave.  Brave is Pixar's latest film about a Scottish princess who is facing a forced marriage between the first born from one of three clans.  Merida has other things in mind for herself and tries to change her fate against the wishes of her mother, Elinor.  The movie is absolute, positively, fucking amazing.  The story is both unpredictable and formulaic.  I was able to make some predictions as to where the movie would go, but I did not see it all coming.  Remaining completely spoiler free, this movie tackles what it means to be Brave on MULTIPLE levels and brings to the box office one of the strongest female characters I have ever seen.  While Merida can shoot a bow at the same level of Katniss of The Hunger Games, it is not that part of herself that makes her strong.  Go see this immediately.

Winner: Brave

Match 7:  How to Marry a Millionaire v Brave
How to Marry a Millionaire is a good film and has proven that it can stand the test of time.  It has three characters all very unique and interesting.  And here comes the "but" you are undoubtedly expecting... But, How to Marry a Millionaire has nothing on the movie Brave.  Brave is a surprisingly very strong film that I think deserves the chance to try and win out for the movie of the year.  Will it?  I honestly don't know, but we are about to find out if it can do the job.

Ultimate Winner:  Brave

Ultimate Loser:  Brother's Grimm.  Holy crap that movie sucked ass.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2012 King of the Hill - May Catch-Up Post

The Avengers Stands Alone
Normally, for the King of the Hill Challenge, I would compare two movies together to see how they stand up. The only problem with this is that in May, I only watched The Avengers. The movie wins, no debate here, but just declaring it a win, isn't really much of a blog post. So, I'm going to weigh in on the movie by talking about the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. And there WILL be spoilers of the very ending of the film, sorry.

For those who do not know, the 2012 King of the Hill Movie Challenge is my system for determining the best movie of year that I saw. One movie from each month will be selected and, at the end of the year, I will do a tournament style showdown where they will take each other on until the final movie has been selected. Bracket placement will be determined by the number of movies the monthly movie faced and won.

The Good
There was a lot of Good in this movie. The story was great. The acting was excellent. The dialogue was witty and fun. The fight scenes were spectacular. It is really hard to pick out and focus on the good, because there was a lot of good to go along. It was a movie that I actually went and saw twice, in the theater, something that is rare for me to do. So yeah, it had a lot of good qualities. But, it wasn't a perfect movie either and I'll discuss that next. Just know that I liked this film.

The Bad
There isn't too much that was bad about this film. My first time watching the film, I actually had little complaints. The second time I watched it, I wasn't as entertained. Most of what made this movie good was either the action sequences, or this witty, humorous moments that aren't quite as good the second time around. Also, the selective ignorance was a bit more apparent on the second watching.

The biggest example I have of this is in the initial appearance of Loki. Loki appears through the Tesseract with this epic helmet and spear. Orders are shouted for him to put down the spear. Loki begins attacking. Loki pins Hawkeye against a wall and speaks his first line. Hawkeye reacts, but not in the way I would expect. If an alien appeared in front of me, began attacking anyone and then spoke to me, I'd be surprised that he spoke English. Yet, we find that that the idea that the Hulk could have a consciousness is unfathomable.  The movie picks and chooses what it wishes to gloss over.  There are other examples, but for me, this was the most obvious.

The Ugly
The Avengers is a movie about a team of super heroes. There is one scene, however, that really upsets me. On the flying aircraft carrier, the ship is attacked and Black Widow and Bruce Banner fall to another level. Bruce begins to change into The Hulk and the reaction of Black Widow is one of complete horror. This reaction was unsettling and it didn't get better at any point in time during the second watching of the movie.

The movie at no point in time holds back the threats. There are a lot of deaths. An entire base is destroyed in the opening. There is a threat of the world being invaded by aliens that seem to be willing to kill everything. Yet, despite all of this, one character demonstrates true horror. Black Widow, the only female Avenger. Not Tony Stark when he's piloting the nuclear missile to what he believes will be his death. Not Thor when he is trapped in a cage plunging to what Loki ponders might cause his death. Not Captain America, broken and battered as the aliens overwhelm the streets. Not, Hawkeye when he reaches his last couple of arrows. Only Black Widow experiences that fear. And I find it completely and totally unnecessary. Instead of her fighting for her freedom, as a determined hero, she is caught with panic. And, when she escapes, she goes fetal for a time. And that just really damaged the movie for me in a bad way.

Winner: The Avengers (duh)