Review Grab Bag (9/12/11)

Another new feature here at FGWG… it’s the Review Grab Bag…  Basically what we have here is a spot for me to say something about the odds and ends I watch, play, read, whatever, that I don’t really feel strongly enough about to warrant a large scale review of their own.  Like all Grab Bags and boxes of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.  If it can be reviewed, it’s fair game… good, great, bad or steaming pile of shit.

I’d also love for the Review Grab Bag to become a spot for guest reviewers.  The rules are simple:

  1. Have an opinion on a thing.
  2. Write a paragraph or two about it, and e-mail it to me at hamwallet@gmail.com.
  3. ????
  4. Profit.*
This week in the grab bag we have 4 movies.
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Charlotte Says…

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Hi.

                     

Bike Lanes

Bike lanes anger me. I know, it’s hard to imagine me being angry about anything… but bike lanes definitely do it for me. Especially now that the world is in an energy crisis of catastrophic proportions, and my municipal government seems to think bike lanes will answer all the world’s fucking problems. But, of course, I can understand their logic. Suddenly, somehow, altering the flow of traffic in already heavily travelled areas will clearly turn oil into a clean burning renewable resource.

Pictured: All Your Problems Fucking Solved.
No. No way in hell.

Before you start crying to me about how cars are ruining the Earth, and we all need to recycle everything before we start living in the world of Soylent Green, I need you to understand something: I get that the theory is that with more bike lanes more people will use bikes, and that would mean less people would use cars. I get that the future is now. I get that we need to seize the day. I get that every little bit helps. I also get something that, in my opinion, is much more important to realize… at least when it comes to fucking with heavy traffic areas–and slowing down traffic flow–just to put in bike lanes. And what I get is this: Everyone who is going to ride a bike anywhere is already fucking doing it.

At this moment, there are now enough bike lanes in place on my trip to work that I could use them for all but one short block of travelling. I’m not going to. My wife’s not going to. Trying to rationalize paying road crews to paint new lanes and/or widen existing streets by saying more people will leave their cars at home is a flying crock of monkey shit.

But what about safety, you ask? How can you put a price on that? I’ll tell you how. It’s easy. Actual bike lanes are no fucking safer than unmarked ones, non-existent ones, or the fucking sidewalk. I say this because ever since I saw the first goddamn bike lane pop up in this shit town of mine, I’ve been watching. Every day… every single fucking day this summer… I’ve seen one or more of the following:

  • Assholes riding on the wrong side of the road.
  • Assholes riding without a helmet.
  • Assholes riding on the white fucking line that makes up the bike lane.
  • Assholes riding just outside the fucking bike lane.
  • Assholes completely ignoring traffic lights.
  • And one glorious asshole who was riding outside the bike lane, on the wrong side of the road, in the middle of traffic, into an oncoming traffic lane that had a green light.

Even the most safety conscious looking people, wearing helmets, pads, vests, and all sorts of shiny flashy shit, have been driving on the wrong side of the road, and/or ignoring general rules of traffic. You know, those tough calls that none of us know, like “What do you do at a red light?” and “Can I cross this intersection diagonally, because suddenly I think I’m a pedestrian now? I know the intersection isn’t even marked as a diagonal crosswalk, but it’s still cool, right?”

Safety is Job #1.Unless the light is red.

I’m mostly pissed about the whole thing because a road I frequent was formerly 4 lanes, 2 each way, until recently.  You were able to pass any slow idiot, school bus, or car turning left with the greatest of ease.  There was more than enough room in these wide lanes to have accommodated bikes.

Obviously, for the 30 or so years the road had been this way, it must have worked too well.  This summer they decided to add bike lanes, one on each side.  Now instead of 4 lanes, there’s 2 and a half.  One in each direction, and one of those genius dual left turn lanes.  Let me tell you… the people in this area are just not smart enough drivers to figure out a dual left turn lane.  There’s been some form of accident every week since they changed the lanes.

Also, now that school’s back in, you can get stuck behind a school bus stopping every quarter mile, and have absolutely no course to legally pass them.  Most people travelling this road travel it for 15 to 30 minutes with no traffic…  If they were to get stuck behind a school bus, and are headed out to the end of the road, their commute will double.  If the dumbasses I share this road with get frustrated at that traffic, something terrible is going to happen, I’m sure.

I’m not normally one to advocate stupid government red tape (except in the case of Machete Licenses), but I do think that the g-men should step in here.  I need to write a test to get a shiny piece of plastic so that I can drive my vehicle that could get someone killed in between the pretty painted lines they made for me… Why the fuck is it okay for some kid, or dumbfuck adult for that matter, to drive down their pretty painted lines on a vehicle that could get them killed without a shiny piece of plastic test of their own?  And it should cost an arm an a leg to get, too.  All the fees could go to the roadwork, and maybe the police force, so that they could afford to police the (as far as I’ve observed) near 100% rate of infractions per bicyclist in this fucking shitburg.

I’m sure all of you out there living in areas with millions of people, who deal regularly with the idea of taking 2 hours to drive a quarter mile, are laughing at me.  Well… you probably need to push bike lanes.  There’s, like, 6 million of you fucking idiots in a close area and you’re each driving a car.  If you throw together this “city” the 2 towns and 2 villages that make up my “Greater Metropolitan Area”… we might break 200k people.  We don’t need your fancy environmental solutions.  We still have fucking trees.  Although we do have a bunch of people bawling their fucking eyes out because we have one less tree now.  But that’s a different story…

Coming Soon: Give Trees A Chance.

Re-Watching Dead: Days Gone Bye



One Down…

Mel and I just finished watching the pilot episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. You might remember it from last fall, when it was one of the most successful and talked about new shows of the season. I think it was her 3rd viewing, and my 5th. It was also her first viewing since reading the trades. I’ve read all 14 that have been released, but Mel’s dragged her feet on reading volume 14. We’re working our way through the series again in preparation and excitement for the start of Season 2, on Oct. 16.

Read what we thought of the show’s first episode, “Days Gone Bye”, after the jump…

Fair warning:  This shit is going to get spoilery.  If you haven’t watched the whole first season, or read at least the first trade of the comic books, you may not want to read any further.  And did I just use the term “after the jump”?  Ugh…  Someone slap me.  Don’t ever let me do that again.

Things We Agree On:

This show opens with a bang.  Right from the get-go, the series is telling you, “Look, folks… this shit is serious, and we’re not fucking around.  If you think you’re getting funny zombies, go watch Dead-Alive again.”  One of my major concerns when I heard they were adapting TWD for TV was whether or not they’d have the balls to do what needs to be done.  I’m pretty sure shooting a little girl in the head answers that question pretty fucking quick.

This ain’t Sesame Street.

From there we jump into the opening credits.  Mel is always particularly impressed by them.  They do a great job of setting the tone.  I agree.  It feels very eerie.  True Blood and Gane of Thrones might be the only better credit reels going these days.

Once the credits wrap we come to our first gripe of the season…  The conversation between Shane and Rick in their squad car takes too fucking long.  At least it does the first time you watch it.  After seeing the whole series play out (and reading the comics) this scene becomes much more interesting than the first time you watch it.  It lays a groundwork for the characters that is much needed.  It also shows several ways that this story is going to be different from the comic.  The only problem is it does it too slowly.  Shane’s asshole diatribe isn’t quite interesting enough, and the scene really slows the pacing of the show down to a new viewer.  The same pacing problem appears in other spots throughout the episode, but never quite as bad, and once it really picks up again after Rick and Morgan leave the police station it never really lets up.

On the road again…
Just can’t wait to get back on the road again…

Speaking of after the police station…  I’m pretty sure there are several critics of directors like Zack Snyder that would love to show them the scene where Rick heads back to the zombie he found near the bicycle, or the hospital sequence.  They are fantastic examples of how you can use a comic as a storyboard, and let your audience see each comic frame, without using bullet time effects, or otherwise stopping time. (The Zombiephiles has a neat article showing some side by side character comparisons.)  Of course, the visual effects, zombie make up and acting are all fantastic.  You can clearly see that everyone involved in this show really cares about making it as great as they can.

Another great aspect is how this episode somehow manages to simultaneously stick to the storyline of the source material, but play with it slightly to create some surprises even for the people who have read the comics.  Every change made in this episode, particularly Rick and Lori’s rocky marriage and Shane and Lori clearly having more than just a grief-stricken one night stand,  are all great, and really add to the tensions that should be coming later on.

Things We Didn’t Agree On:

Mel thought that, for the amount of time Morgan spent saying how attracted to sound the zombies are, and how much he beats himself up for firing his gun in the street, neither He nor Rick really seem to give that much of a shit about it.  They both seem to take any and every opportunity to fire off a round into everything they can.  This really bothered her, given that she not that long ago read Abraham’s (a character that comes much later in the comics) tirade on stationary camps and gunfire.  It didn’t bother me that much… I guess I don’t mind it because early Rick is a dumbfuck when it comes to zombie common sense.  And as far as Morgan goes, I kinda thought that TVs Morgan has given up by the time he starts his sniping spree.

Mel also really enjoyed re-watching the end of the episode.  She said that even though she knew how it was going to turn out, it was still really tense.  I don’t really feel the tension of the scene anymore… but I do still think Rick putting the gun to his head and noticing the hole in the tank is awesome.  One of the best moments in the show, really.  That whole scene is one of those new additions that really work for both the fans of the comics and the newcomers, I think.

Random Rants:


I remember a lot of people who didn’t know any better shouting “Ripoff” when the show was first airing, over the fact that Rick wakes up alone in the hospital.  Supposedly the scenes were written independently around the same time, like some kind of crazy zombie Calculus.  I say, “Who gives a fuck?”.  The idea of it goes back much further than 28DL.  The Quiet Earth has an world ending scene involving a guy waking up to a deserted world too.  Not to mention all the various forms “The Last Man on Earth” has taken on screen.  Seeing a Ripoff Card played so quickly, and so poorly researched, drives me up the fucking wall.

Final Thoughts:

Even after 5 viewings, this episode of the show is still strong enough to make both Mel and I excited to watch more of it.  Great acting, great effects, great story and some of the best direction ever on the small screen.  The Walking Dead‘s first episode is definitely some of the best stuff ever shown on television.

I’d give it two thumbs up,
but the other one rotted off.

Bejeweled Blitz (Xbox Live Arcade)

Bejeweled Blitz is a puzzle game from PopCap games. You probably already know this game. If you know a woman over 30 who’s on Facebook… you’ve probably seen her spam your newsfeed with her latest and greatest Bejeweled High Score. Outside of Tetris and Angry Birds, it’s probably the next most successful casual video game to ever exist.

The reason for this is because it’s like shiny, flashy crack… with explosion sounds. If you ever owned an NES or Gameboy in the 90s… you played Tetris. Remember how addictive that shit was? You’d probably be playing it right now if your mom hadn’t stashed the Gameboy in a box and put it in the attic when you went away to school. Now realize that puzzle game designers have had another 20 years to perfect exactly what makes Tetris so addictive.

This is the new shit. It’s streamlined. It’s more accessible. The scores are higher. It’s fucking shiny. If you’re any good at it at all… it’s faster paced.  And worst of all… it doesn’t take long to play.  Rounds are one minute.   That’s it.  Just one minute and you’re done. Except… you’re not done at all. You could have one more round before you go back and do whatever stupid shit you’ve been avoiding…

Just one little round. That’s all. No one will ever know… Just one little round.

Buying the Cow Anyway…

Relatively recently the price of Bejeweled Blitz on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) dropped in half. It used to be 800 Microsoft Points ($10 US to the un-Xboxed masses out there.) They dropped it to 400 MSP (or $5 US). Woah, wait. That’s not all. When I acted, they had it on for an additional 50% off. Stop opening up calc.exe. and put your fucking iPhone away. I’ll do the math here for you. That’s 200 MSP/$2.50 US.  I enjoy getting deals, achievements and video games I snatched this one up, but I’m still puzzled as to why the flying fuck I bought it.

Seriously. It makes no sense. The game is available for absolutely fucking free on Facebook. This isn’t something I learned after the fact. I bought the game knowing this. I’ve even played it on Facebook probably 5 times since buying the game.

I’d love to throw out some honourable bullshit and say that I did this because it’s important to support video game developers and vote with your dollars and such.  That’s all true, but when it comes to me actually shelling out my own cash on something that I can get (without even “stealing” it off the internet) for free… Normally I’d be first in line to say “Fuck the Devs.”

Maybe it was because I had some extra MSP on my account.  Maybe it was because I wanted another couple hundred Gamerscore.  Maybe I thought my wife might play it with me.  I will probably go to my grave, and this will be one of life’s great mysteries.  That’s it.

Here’s the complete list:

  • How did they build the pyramids?
  • Where did the Mayans go?
  • The Caramilk Secret
  • Who took the cookie from the cookie jar?
  • Why was Highlander 2:  The Quickening ever made?
  • Why the flying fuck did I buy Bejeweled Blitz?

I suppose I should probably actually review it…

Maybe later. I think I can probably squeeze in one more round.

Re-Watching Dead

“Admit it. You only came back to Atlanta for the hat.”

With the second season of AMC’s amazing The Walking Dead starting in just over a month, it’s finally time for Mel and I to sit back, relax and pace ourselves through a month of revisiting post-Zombie Apocalypse Georgia.

Look to your left… Now look to your right.
Come graduation day, one of you will no longer be with us.


Sure, The Walking Dead‘s short but sweet first season may have wrapped up a while ago.  Mel and I watched it, re-watched it, and I’ve watched it yet again since. But that was months ago.

As I recall… the series is fantastic in its own right. It’s true that die hard fans of the comic, like myself, have often been a bit disappointed in some of the turns that the series has taken; but I remember these twists and turns working (for the most part). Before Season 2 starts I also intend to re-read (at least) the first 3 trade paperbacks of the comic.

Watch this spot in the future, as I intend to post our different feelings on each episode as we revisit the misadventures of Rick Grimes yet again.

In the meantime… here’s a trailer for Season 2 that played at this year’s Comic-Con.

Conan The Barbarian (1982)

I Missed the Boat.


Conan The Barbarian was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s higher profile early roles. One of the first where they even let him use his own voice. It follows the story of a boy whose family gets killed by marauders. He gets sold into slavery and obviously, becomes a killing machine. Netflix Canada recently added this gem to their streaming service up here in the Great White North.  (I wonder whatever could have that idea?)  I saw this sitting there in the recently added section and realized that it was probably now, or never.
You see… I missed the Conan boat.  Repeatedly.  I was too young to watch it in ’83.  By the time our family owned a VCR, our local video store had already sold its copy for someone’s “Home Video Library”.  When I went to college, no one on the floor ever got drunk or stoned enough to suggest Conan The Barbarian.  If any of us did… we probably would’ve just watched Army of Darkness or Black Belt Jones again, anyway.

Oh, Conan… The times we could have had.


Regardless, when I heard about the Conan movie, I didn’t really give a shit. Shortly after that, I saw this trailer:

So… that really made me want to see the new Conan. But being a Fat Guy With Glasses, I couldn’t very well allow myself to see the high-profile remake without watching the goddamn original. So, despite all the men in my family practically chomping at the bit to go… we still haven’t seen it, because I’m an asshole.

Do You Want to Live Forever?

Why didn’t I watch this in the 80s? Or at University? I would have fucking loved this movie had I watched it then. The action sequences are simultaneously some of the best and worst in action movie history. The dramatic acting switches from bad to awful to shockingly great at the drop of a hat.

I know this image looks incredibly awkward, but this scene is seriously powerful.

But since I’m not a kid, nor did I watch this in a cramped dorm room with 20 other people, I ended up having to really watch it. When this movie is good, it’s fucking brilliant. Great cinematography, great action, great acting. But when it’s not… it’s utter shit. Terribly slow pacing (arguably even for 1980s standards), awful action, awful acting.

Say “It’s not a tumah” again! I dahble dare you mathu fakkah!

What is Best in Movie?

There is some excellent cinematography in this film. The outdoor scenery is gorgeous, for a ravaged wasteland, anyway. There are about half a dozen truly great moments in this movie. The first comes almost instantly. Hearing Mako as the narrator was absolutely epic. It excited me for what was to come. The moments after the opening action scene are amazing. And the final two action scenes were also fantastic. It’s really too bad it drags so much in the middle. In the 80s the good would have far outweighed the bad. At Uni, I would have had a blast lambasting the bad.  Either of those would have been good enough for me. If only I could trow open a portal in time.

3/5

Community

Season 3 of NBC’s Community starts Sept. 22/11.


I’m ridiculously excited to be able to watch more of the crazy antics of Greendale Community College.  The show has done nothing but get better and better as it has continued.  It is easily the funniest show on TV at the moment.

Here’s a sneak peek of what Sept. 22 might have in store for us:


John Goodman is a fan-fucking-tastic addition to the cast.  I have a feeling he’ll really tie the show together.

Seems to me the cast and crew will be having as much fun as ever this year.  I’m incredibly interested to see where they go with the show this year.  They’ve done so much, and yet, I’m sure there’s still so much more they can do.

Also… Here’s a picture I found of the show’s characters if they were Marvel’s Avengers. It was drawn by Chris Schweizer, and posted at his blog.

PIERCE SMASH!

Fat Dad With Glasses: Influence

With great power comes great responsibility.

So now that my darling little rugrat is approaching a year and a half old, she’s getting smart. She’s also starting to show interest in things on TV. She’s noticing how we’ll play certain ways with certain toys. Because I’m slow, and not very bright, I’m just starting to realize how unimaginably quick she is to notice things, remember things and repeat things. This means it’s high time to start exposing her to awesomeness in all its forms.

She hasn’t got a chance.

Over the past few months, with a little help from Mom & Dad, she’s started to develop several different favourites. Her favourite animals at the moment are raccoons, horses, frogs and bunnies. She absolutely loves reading any books. She now loves the classic cast of Sesame Street (Pre-Elmo, that is. Elmo can go tickle himself, for all I care.) She also likes Yo Gabba Gabba.

But thanks to yours truly, she’s also in love with stuff that is fucking awesome. One of her favourite toys is a Hulk action figure. When she picks it up, she shouts “HULK! RRRAAAARRRGHHHHH!” Her favourite cartoons are ’67’s Spider-man and She-Ra: Princess of Power. She practically loses her shit when their theme songs start. I tried getting her to watch He-Man and the Masters of the Universe first, but she had nothing to do with it. Maybe once she’s more interested in She-Ra’s origins… Also, on that sheet up there, she likes to point out Yoda. Why? ‘Cause he’s Yoda. Duh. Kids fucking love Yoda.

And now she’s awake.

You’re not seriously posting this are you, Dad?

Dante’s Inferno (Xbox 360)

Burn, Baby, Burn:

Reviewing 18 month old games is fun and relevant! Just this Saturday I wrapped up a Zealot (Normal difficulty) playthrough of Dante’s Inferno.  It’s an early 2010 release from Visceral Games and EA.  Loosely (probably very loosely) inspired by The Divine Comedy, the player controls Dante, the Templar Knight, as he descends his way into Hell after killing Death and stealing his scythe, so that he can free the soul of Beatrice, the woman, he loves from Lucifer’s clutches.

It also features a metric crapton of creepiness, gore and nudity.

Pictured: Strategically Placed Hand.

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