27 July 2009

Six Feet Under


So, I’ve gone from my longest watch straight to my proportionately shortest watch. This show has five seasons at 12 or 13 hour-long episodes each, and I’ve stayed up late and angered my parents by sitting around in my room in order to finish it in about nine days. I watched Breaking Bad’s first season  in pretty much a single seating, but that was just seven episodes. No big deal. The reason for that was that it was a fantastic show, and it holds true for this one as well.

Six Feet Under revolves around a family-owned funeral home somewhere in California. That is, it centers on the family and their relationships with each other and their friends/enemies/loves/etc. In fact, all of these traits are often present in the same person. Everyone in the show is flawed to varying degrees, which sometimes made it difficult for me to like them depending on the flaw. I guess a show this close to my pessimistic view of reality just makes me mad.

Of course, there are good times along with the bad, which makes it watchable. The actors is superb, the writing is great, and it doesn’t rely on cliff-hangers nearly as much as most other dramas I’ve seen. A pretty cool trick they use extensively is the dream sequence, which almost always includes a conversation with a deceased loved-one. It’ usually made obvious that it’s not some mystical communication with the dead; rather, it’s all in the mind of the dreamer and a product of their emotional state. These mind-ghosts are a great way to get inside the heads of the characters without crappy voiceovers or whatever. Sometimes they’re funny and sometimes they’re pretty horrifying, but they always get their point across.

Every character in the show can be analyzed to hell. If I had the inclination I could probably write essays on them for quite some time, but I definitely don’t. The common theme for them is a seemingly self-imposed spiral to destruction. Everyone makes bad decisions over and over. Usually everything looks great for a little while and then just goes to crap. Cue the next disaster cycle. Repeat until the sappy montage at the end of the series. It was good to have a positive resolution.

It was a good watch, and I’m glad I watched it. Now I’ll be quite happy to find something light-hearted to enjoy.

18 July 2009



This one might take the cake as the show that took me the longest to watch (aside from those that I watched while they were still airing). I think I started it about a year ago, although the majority of that time was spent not watching it. The first and second seasons really didn’t make me want to keep going. That’s the thing with this series; unlike Buffy, which for me had a pretty much constant hook, this show started out mostly bland and later turned into a completely awesome piece of entertainment.

As has been observed by people more observant than I, Joss Whedon works best with a big cast of core characters. The show started out with just three, and then stuck with four for quite a while. It was really boring. By the end this number had pretty much doubled, although it changed pretty frequently. There were also more fringe characters who stepped in once in a while.

Of course, even with the big cast the show didn’t really step up until season 4, when it finally transitioned from an almost purely episodic feature to a cohesive storyline for most of the season. Watching episodes back to back is a lot more fun this way; I tend to think it would be even cooler week by week, with all the anticipation from cliffhangers and whatnot.

The final season is really where everything shone the brightest. There was another epic storyline (several really, they all just worked together) that made continuing the marathon Angel sessions fun, a bunch of sultry babes, and lots of really good acting and dialogue. Joss was able to contribute much more to the show since he had no other projects at the time, and it shows.

It’s really a shame the show was canceled; apparently it happened due to Joss’ impatience with WB’s bureaucratic BS. He called them up for an early renewal, putting them on the spot, which prompted them to get all pissy and moronic. No more Angel on the screen.

Thankfully (sort of) the stories for both Buffy and Angel are being continued in comic form. I’ve checked out some of them and have been very confused, but I figure I’ll give them another shot soon. I like comics.

16 July 2009

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition


A few years ago a friend of mine introduced me to The Curse of Monkey Island, the third game in the Monkey Island series of adventure games by LucasArts. It looked really fun, so I got a hold of the game and  have since played through it several times. A bit later I played the first game, The Secret of Monkey Island. It was very dated, as it was one of the first games LucasArts developed using their SCUMM engine; lots of chunky pixels and minimal sound. It was still quite fun, if maybe a little more difficult than number three.

Now, 19 years after the release of the cornerstone of this popular series, the classic has been given a new face. It’s still very much the same game, although the size in bytes has increased by a few factors of 10; new crisp artwork and sound overlays the original animation code to keep the feel of the game while making it seem much more current. The voices are the same as those in The Curse, which I’m pretty happy about.

The only difference in gameplay is the omission of the actions and inventory screens from normal play. In the original, they were always present, making interacting with the puzzles pretty easy, barring somewhat confusing pixels. Now you have to hit keys to bring up the two panes, although the actions can be accessed individually using keystrokes. Still, there is at least one point in the game that switching to the old interface (an awesome thing to be able to do) is pretty much necessary in order to solve a puzzle, since the new inventory screen always closes whenever you use an action on an item, no matter what. It’s a little annoying, but it makes room for the beautiful new art.

Even after playing it before, I still had to consult a walkthrough once in a while to get through it. Some of the solutions are just too clever for my feeble mind to conjure. Anyway, massive props to LucasArts for refreshing this classic. Go pick it up on the Steam platform  for a mere 10 smackers.

05 July 2009

Public Enemies


So. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. Can’t go very wrong there, can you? Not really.

This is a good movie. It is not a great movie. There’s a good amount of tasty gun fighting and some rather odd romance, and Depp is a great character actor as usual. Bale plays his part well, although it’s something of a lame part most of the time. The story is based on truth as far as I know, so that’s pretty neat.

However. The thing most people seem to be focusing on, including myself, is the use of new digital cameras in the filming. It is extremely noticeable. The frame-rate is much higher (at least it seemed so) than usual, so everything looked very real. You’d think this would be a good thing, and it’s probably what the cinematographers were going for; but it takes something away from the movie. It loses some of the fluidity that motion-blur brings to the big screen. This, coupled with a lot of the increasingly popular shaky-cam technique gave the movie an almost soap-opera look. A few sudden transitions and a bit of nasty sound editing also detracted from the experience.

Again, it’s a good movie. It probably would have been better if it weren’t one of the first films to use this new technology and had the resources to make it look good.

I’m looking forward to seeing Depp in the new Gilliam movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, including the late-great Heath Ledger in his final role.



Trine is a beautiful side-scrolling physics-based fantasy platformer puzzle game. Yeah, that’s a lot of adjectives, but that’s what it is. It feels a lot like Little Big Planet, although I can’t be sure since I’ve never played it. Being physics-based it has a lot of the same elements. Lots of see-saws and water-wheels all over the place. Another big part of the game is the significance of “Tri” in the name, which of course means three. You switch through three characters throughout the game, each with a separate and necessary skill-set. The one I used the most was the Thief, whose grappling hook helps a lot in getting around, and whose bow can eventually become a very powerful weapon. The next most useful character is the Wizard, who can move a lot of objects around with telekinesis and can also conjure up three different kinds of objects for getting around or kicking skeleton-ass. Finally, the Knight is your basic tank, although he dies pretty easily.

There are of course a variety of magical items scattered throughout the maps, and there is a rudimentary leveling system too. The game is pretty short so you don’t level that much, but each advance in levels brings some pretty cool new abilities and improvements. Getting to the items is often the most fun part of the game, as that’s where the trickiest puzzles come into play. You often need to use the Thief and the Wizard equally to solve them.

The only part I didn’t really enjoy was the finale, as it was one of those nasty rising-lava bits. Not a fan. Lots of dying. Still, it was a very fun and engrossing game over all. Thumbs up.