There are two upcoming releases I want so badly to be great, that I'm nervous that either one will be.
1. Titanfall 2
The reviews should hit in a few days, with the release coming on Friday. Why am I nervous about it?
The original Titanfall, created by Respawn, was simply the best first-person multiplayer shooter I've ever played. It made me not to want to play Call of Duty anymore (and I've been playing COD since COD 1). Though I've enjoyed Battlefront and Overwatch greatly, and I'm starting to like Battlefield 1 as I learn to play it, none of these games are as supremely polished and fun to play as Titanfall. Not even close.
I just assumed that Zampella & crew would not possibly mess up Titanfall 2. They obviously had a much greater budget. They didn't have to change the game all that much. A few enhancements would have been great. But then that 'pre-Alpha Tech Test' came out, and the collective gaming community starting wondering if this thing was going to be a huge debacle.
I can live playing these other recent FPSer's if Titanfall 2 turns out to be a dud. But I will not be happy about it. I would love nothing better than to be putting a few hundred hours into Titanfall 2 during the next few years. However, if those reviews aren't solid, I won't even buy the game. A few months ago, that was unthinkable, so I'm nervous.
2. Hardwired...to Self-Destruct
I've been a Metallica fan since the '80's. The Master of Puppets album is my favorite piece of art, ever, by a country mile. However, post-And Justice For All, which followed Puppets, my favorite band has shown pieces of brilliance on each album, but none have compared in whole to their first four releases.
I liked the last two albums more than most people. Many had a problem with the tinny drum sound on St. Anger and the drop C tuning. I think the album, like Hetfield has said, is misunderstood. It was so much better than their previous three. And their last album, Death Magnetic, was another step in the right direction. In fact, there're a couple of songs on it that feel like they could fit on Master. So, after so many years of disappointment, I feel the band is trending in the right direction. Hope is a great thing to have.
However, they're taking so long to make albums now. They seem to be on the road for years at a time. Their first four albums—their masterpieces—were made in a six-year stretch. And now it's been eight years since the release of their last album. So you have to be nervous, because it feels like if they had enough time, they could return to the pinnacle of metal that they once were at, but you don't know if time will run out before they get there.
The first releases of off the new album, Lords of Summer, Hardwired, and Moth Into Flame, are all excellent in my book. They're not Master of Puppets excellent, but they sure as hell are better than most of the songs the band has put out since Justice. This new album has the potential to be fantastic from start to finish. But, Metallica has let me down before. I've waited so long for this album, I'm nervous as hell. The November 18th release date can't come soon enough.
My selfish self just hopes I'm not let down. It doesn't get better than Respawn or Metallica. Please, be as great as you're capable of being, and give us product that is worthy of the gods.
I recently returned to Los Angeles from a vacation in rural Upper Michigan, where I grew up. Obviously, these are two largely different worlds with different cultures. Having lived in Southern California for so many years has made me largely forget some of the differences between the places.
For example, Los Angelenos tend to take good weather for granted. You don't need to make alternative plans in case it rains. You don't need to check the weather forecast to decide if you need to reschedule something. You just go out and do what you need to do. You don't have to force yourself to go outside if the weather is good because a clear sky is a rare thing.
In Los Angeles, I rarely get sick. If a bug is going around at work, and I start feeling ill, I'll take a sick day or two, and it almost always puts the sickness at bay before it gains a strong foothold. Back in Michigan, when it gets cold and wet, people tend to stay inside, and you hear coughs the likes of which you almost never hear in Los Angeles. It's almost impossible to avoid sick people in cold climates.
I tend to go to sleep around 2am here in Los Angeles. This is 5am in Michigan, about the time people start getting up. This makes it incredibly hard for me to sleep while I'm there. I tend to get around one or two hours of sleep a night. Mix in with this a house with sick people in it, and it's hard not to catch something. I, fortunately, dodged the bullet this time around, but it really got me thinking about how differently people have to think and act in cold and warm climates. I must have a much greater chance of getting sick in two weeks while visiting in Michigan, than I do spending the other fifty weeks of the year in California.
Naturally, this makes me think about writing. I grew up in rural Michigan, yet because I rarely visit when it's cold, I sort of forgot how much harder it is to dodge sicknesses there than it is to in a climate where people don't have to stay indoors. Having gone to an outdoor wedding while in Michigan, I was reminded that in most places there has to be bad-weather contingency plans for major events. I can't remember the last time I even thought about the weather in Southern California affecting something that I wanted to do.
And that made me wonder if living in a unique area in the world actually works against fiction writers.
Obviously, many great writers have written beautifully about Paris without having been there. I think, however, it would greatly benefit any writer, if they have the opportunity, to travel to a place they're writing extensively about. There are so many different aspects to various regions of the world—some major, some minor—but knowing even the smaller stuff could really add some wonderful color to one's writing.
I never seem to have enough time, nor money, to do much traveling. I have to change that in the future, because traveling and experiencing can only lead to better writing.
I'm on vacation in Upper Michigan, and in my spare time I've been preparing my novel, "The Wicked Trees," for a paperback release via Amazon's CreateSpace. Some of it has gone smoothly (the CreateSpace end), some not at all (the Scrivener formatting).
For all that is great about Scrivener, it's such a nightmare to learn that it's enough to make one go mad. Its functionality is what drives writers to use it, but I find it incredibly hard to learn how to use any of it. The manual is a gargantuan nightmare. There are many how-to videos that people have graciously put up on Youtube, but everyone doesn't use it the same way, and many show older versions of the software.
It also still seems buggy to me. For instance, I could not get the program to consistently capitalize the first couple words of every chapter. It would work for about two-thirds of the chapters, and in no seemingly particular order. I just couldn't figure out how to get it work consistently, so I gave up on that part.
After many, many hours, I was finally able to compile a workable PDF. I'm not going to give up on Scrivener at all. Once you learn it, it is wonderful. But I don't understand why it can't be made more user-friendly. I feel if it doesn't become easier to learn and use over time, people will begin migrating to other options.
CreateSpace, however, was surprisingly easy to figure out. As long as you have a correctly formatted PDF, uploading it, and preparing it for sale is a relative breeze. My only complaint is that the cover-creator is still a bit rudimentary. However, you can easily upload your own cover. I finished my formatting last night, and the digital proof was ready for me to review by morning. When I get back to SoCal, I'll order a physical proof copy. Can't wait to see how it looks.
Amazon has obviously done wonderful things for independent writers. They deserve a lot of credit for doing so. I don't want to bash Scrivener too much. It is a Godsend compared to Word. Once you get through the horrific process of learning it, you'll love what it can do. I'm pretty sure that the post-writing part of novel #2 takes up a fraction of the time of going through it for novel #1.
If Amazon wanted to dominate the market, however, they'd purchase Scrivener, make it more user-friendly, put it all online, and connect it to CreateSpace. That would really seal the deal for most authors, and could make the world of writing a much more wonderful place to be.
Read and absorb this wonderful poem:
Pop queen, amphetamine
The screams crashed into silence
Doused in the gasoline
The high times going timeless
Death of the innocence
The pathway starts to spiral
All for publicity
Destruction going viral
The delusion absolution
Fame is the murderer
Seduce you into ruin
Guarantee your name, you go and kill yourself
The vultures feast around you still
Overdose on shame and insecurity
If one won't do, that fistful will
Black hearse the limousine
A grave filled with seduction
Fame does the murdering
She builds up for destruction
So light it up
Ah, light it up
Another hit erases all the pain
Ah, no excuse
You're falling, but you think you're flying high
Sold your soul
Built the higher wall
Now you're thrown away
Same rise and fall
Who cares at all?
Seduced by fame
A moth into the flame
Addicted to the
Those are the lyrics to the latest Metallica release "Moth in a Flame." It's strong narratives like this that make otherwise good music great, at least for me. Check out the video:
The new Netflix documentary on the murder of Meredith Kercher is a solid, if not too brief look into the murder and subsequent media frenzy involving the accused Amanda Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito. I never paid close attention to the whole ordeal when it was happening, as the media seemed far too concerned with superficialities and not enough with the facts, and this documentary confirms my suspicions.
The film focuses primarily on interviews with Amanda, Raffaele, Nick Pisa (who was a British journalist covering the event), and the Italian Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, as it brings us through the timeline. We get a good sense of how confusing the events were that happened that night, as the potential participants changed their stories, most likely as a result of harsh harassment by the Italian investigators. We also get a sense of how the whole ordeal was played to the media in a way to make it into an international news feeding frenzy.
The most disturbing revealment, to me, is how fame-hungry Mignini was, and how bizarre his conclusions were. For instance, because the body had been discovered with a blanket on it, he deduced that the killer must have been a woman, because no man would have put a blanket over a corpse. The fact that the Italian government allowed this disturbed man to be a prosecutor is frightening.
Netflix's documentary doesn't give us concrete answers, but it does give enough solid information to make rather informed opinions. Though I would have liked to have seen a three-part series, which would have been able to spend a little more time with the evidence, the trials, and with interviewing more people, this film is a good recap of events, and one that successfully shows us the desperation that Amanda went through, and still goes through to this day.
If you want to relive the trial, the media frenzy, and get a sense of how power is abused in some places on the Earth, I'd suggest checking it out.
My rating: 7/10.
I finally finished Season 2 of Bloodline, and like Season 1, it was excellent. This is one of the best written and acted series in TV history.
However, the same issue that made Season 1 a hard view for so many modern TV watchers afflicts Season 2 as well. It's something that I love about the series, but I'm pretty sure it causes the viewership to be low. It comes down to pace.
Bloodline is one of the slowest paced TV series that we've ever seen. It's a deep, painful, adult drama that is centered on the Rayburn family who lives in the Florida Keys. Their secrets sip out very slowly, but when they do, they set up the needed dramatic tension within which the highly talented actors can shine. The first few episodes can be a somewhat of a drag, but they're setting up heavy drama later on—drama that pays off in spades.
When Netflix announced that Season 3 would be the end of Bloodline, it felt like my heart was ripped out. It's strongly rumored that the reduction in Florida film credits caused the cancellation. I hope Sony finds another place to land the show, but I doubt it's going to happen. And that is awful, because Bloodline, although not for everyone, is a series that seems custom made for me.
If I have any complaints about Season 2, it's that the first episodes are a bit clunky. John Leguizamo takes a couple of episodes to completely fit into his role. Jacinda Barrett is fine, but has no chance while acting highly dramatic scenes against Kyle Chandler, who is absolutely superb.
Season 2 does something fantastic, which I think most people won't catch. It has no clear antagonist throughout, which is part of the reason why the early episodes play a little slow. By the end, it has multiple people who you love to hate, though it's still unclear which is the main antagonist. It's pure awesomeness. The writers pulled off something very special, and I don't think they're getting enough credit for it.
If you have an attention span greater than that of a puppy, I highly recommend Bloodline. It's such a pleasure to watch such a fine crafted, well-written, and well-acted drama. The cinematography and blocking are beautiful as well. I can't wait to see what they pull off in Season 3.
My rating: 9.6/10
I've watched all 464 minutes of the five-part, much-acclaimed ESPN series by Ezra Edelman. It's a quality, painful look, not only at O.J., the crime, the trial, and all within, but also at the long, complex racial history of Los Angeles, and how O.J. and Nicole fit within that history.
It's the length and depth that makes this documentary so wonderful to watch. Most of the main players are interviewed at length. The details that we've long forgotten, and many that we never knew about, keep coming at us at a pace fast enough to never allow us not to be glued to the screen. The different, strong, viewpoints, as passionate as ever, twenty-one years after the verdict, hook us back into the story and the drama that went down throughout.
But a word to the wary: this documentary will upset many of you, unlike anything you've ever seen. You will see how the defense team played unconscionably dirty tricks. You will hear and see the history of how O.J. beat the hell out of Nicole on so many occasions. You will see gruesome crime scene photos. You will hear a juror state outright that the majority of jurors thought their verdict to be payback for Rodney King because "We protect our own," and how she thinks she might vote differently had the trial happened today.
In other words, it's ugly. But it's a well-crafted ugliness that teaches us so much beyond that which is O.J. and a knife.
If you can stomach the horrible nature of the content, I'd highly recommend it. Though it might get a bit too preachy at times, especially early on, it's a very satisfying watch at the end of it all.
My rating: 9/10
In preparation, just in case the Titanfall II reviews aren't sub-8.0, I've been playing a round or two of the original game every other day or so. Having not played it much for almost a year, I fell right back into it, and instantly remembered why it's my favorite first-person-shooter of all time (the Bioshocks remain my favorite narratives).
All of the components of the original Titanfall are so well calibrated, that it's a pure joy to play. The speeds and power levels of the Pilots & Titans—perfect. The amount of NPCs, and their strengths—so good. The complexity added with the tremendous variety of burn-cards, all of which players can keep and use, or sell, depending on which ones work better for them—terrific. And the gorgeous maps, with their ample size, both horizontally and vertically, so well designed for the type of combat in the game—such well-crafted staging is a rarity in gaming.
There was only one huge drawback, one that afflicts far too many games: a hard level cap. Get to that level 50, and players start dropping off the game in droves. It killed off the Titanfall player base just as it does with every other first-person-shooter that it afflicts.
Oh, I so hope that beyond all odds, the pre-Alpha tech test was a bunch of garbage compared to what Respawn is going to release in a month. Just in case that slight possibility actually happens, I'm going to continue to sharpen up my Titan and Pilot skills. Besides the waiting around for enough players to fill a lobby, it's an absolute blast.
It was about nine years ago that Bioshock was released on the Xbox. It was developed by Irrational Games, and its co-founder Ken Levine. It played like the best classic dystopian novel you've ever read, and was an experience unlike I'd ever had. In 2010, Bioshock 2, developed by 2K Games, was released to very good reviews, but remains an underrated chapter in my opinion. Then in 2013, Irrational released Bioshock Infinite, which won Game Of The Year in 42 publications, and remains my favorite video game of all time.
A couple of days ago, 2K released Bioshock: The Collection, a remastered version of the trilogy and their expansions. I've been playing it for about an hour every night when I get home from work, and all I can say is that it's an amazing experience.
Never has the underwater city of Rapture looked so beautiful. Knowing the story, but having forgotten the details, playing through the remaster is a chance to absorb all of the amazing visuals and game designs that blew by so quickly during the first run through. It's a whole different experience, like reading a dense classic for the second time, being able to catch all the nuance that was impossible to absorb on the first read. And it's oh, so good. In the realm of videogaming, it just doesn't get any better. And as narratives go, of all types, the Bioshock story ranks up among the greatest.
The original Bioshock has a 96 rating on Metacritic. Bioshock Infinite, a far-too-low 94. Even with all of the perfect tens and multiple awards, I can't state how strongly I feel this series is underrated.
If you haven't played through the Bioshocks, please get the Collection. And if you have, consider buying the Collection for the wonderful replay experience. Making those games almost broke Ken Levine as a human being. But what he and his team accomplished is simply some of the best fiction that has ever been created.
Just about every community of a certain size has its share of talented local artists. Certain cities have their artistic distinctions. Frisco is the place for painters & sculptors. NYC is the destination for stage actors. Austin & Nashville are the places to go to become country music stars. But it's Los Angeles that is the center of the American art world as a whole. Whether you're an actor, writer, painter, musician, or any other type of artist, Los Angeles calls you to come and hone your craft so you can share it with the world.
Yet the art world is a funny place. The most talented rarely rise to the top. This city is littered with thousands of extremely talented writers, actors, and every other type of artists, who will never be able to make a living off of their art. It's a brutally competitive scene, which winners are often the best at marketing themselves, and oftentimes, the luckiest.
Unfortunately, it's becoming harder to stay in Los Angeles for the years it takes most people to become exceptional at their craft. In the past, broke artists could live cheaply in massive old apartment complexes scattered throughout the city. Those days are long gone, and it puts even more pressure on artists, because their plausible window of success becomes evermore compressed.
I'm going to start taking the time to occasionally showcase some of the more talented people that I know that are in need of some promotion. Today, I'm going to mention a singer/songwriter that goes by the name Matty O. His first album Gullible's Travels is available on iTunes. He's an alternative/rock type of guy that is putting out some good stuff. Take a listen below to a track called Yuletide Lament, a Christmas song about Los Angeles that I think is rather exceptional. If you like it, please support him by purchasing his album.
I feel that far too many potentially great artists aren't getting the time needed to polish their craft to the point they're capable of reaching. I believe the best way to support them is to go to their local performances, purchase some of their early stuff. Help keep them sustained so they can grow to the point of maturation. It's a way to benefit more than the artists. It's a way to benefit the world.
I hadn't planned on going to see Kubo and the Two Strings, but there was a call to arms on Reddit about the film, since it was flopping pretty hard at the box office, and so many felt it deserved to do better. The reviews by the Redditors made it a must-go for me (along with the 96% RT rating).
Kubo is a charming, odd, heartwarming, adventurous tale of a young boy in search of his true family history. It doesn't shy away from being dark. In fact, it's pretty frightening for a kid's story. Its humor is reserved compared to most animated films (though it does have its moments). Its cast is not broad, and that's a good thing, because the few characters that have a lot of screen-time are well developed. The plot kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
But where Kubo really shines is in two particular places:
The first is its absolutely stunning stop-animation visuals. I don't remember seeing an animated film that looked so gorgeous, in every frame. It's enough to take your breath away. Most compositions are fantastic. The blocking of the characters, especially in the fight scenes, is terrific. But the quality of the animation, from the forests and sunsets, to the monstrous waves rocking the ship, is mind-blowingly awesome.
The second place where Kubo shines is in the morals upon which the story plays out. This film has heart, mountains of it, unlike few films you have seen. It, like Toy Story 3, is enough to make a grown man cry.
I only have one minor complaint. I think Charlize Theron was miscast, but it's nowhere near a deal-breaker.
If Kubo and the Two Strings is still playing on a big screen near you, go see it! If you can't catch in the theatre, make sure you see it on the biggest, sharpest screen you can. It's an absolute classic. And keep that Kleenex next to you, to wipe those tears away.
My rating: 9.7/10
The new Madden has been out a couple of weeks, and I've finally played enough to give some brief thoughts. The last Madden I purchased was 15, and since there's no college football game any longer, I have to stick with the NFL. There are rarely any major improvements year-on-year, so I feel comfortable skipping a year or two between purchases. (I'm praying that the college game returns soon).
I like most of the changes that have been made the last couple of years. Here are some of them:
Some of the stuff I don't like:
Due to lack of competition, Madden has been far too sluggish with positive change. I think the lower-than-should-be sales have finally convinced EA to put some money into the development of the series. We're finally seeing some of the positive change that should have happened years ago. Let's hope they keep it up.
My rating: 8.4/10
I've been rather preoccupied throughout the summer with a move, one that has taken much longer than I'd anticipated. As a result, I've been suffering greatly from Netflix Anxiety.
Netflix has been such a game-changer in the world of television--it's not only redefining the way we absorb narratives, it's redefining our lives in other ways as well.
The second season of Narcos was just released. I can't watch it yet, because I'm only about halfway through the current seasons of House of Cards & Bloodline. I've only started the second season of Daredevil. I have yet to start the current season of Orange is the New Black. And on top of it, Stranger Things came out of nowhere, and everyone seemingly loved it.
Netflix Anxiety comes from the fear that you'll start getting more than one season behind on the top shows. If that happens on broadcast TV, who cares? You're not missing much. But with Netflix, you'll start forgetting quality plot lines. Worse yet, you'll be out of the conversations everyone is having. There's legitimate pressure to keep up, and it's hard to do as they keep releasing new high-quality series.
This doesn't even take into account all the other quality shows on cable networks. Yes, Game of Thrones is the one show that you must watch as it airs, but there are other extremely good series as well. I have yet to even start the second season of Fargo.
I take a few months off to find a new place, buy a new place, do a move, and fix up the new place. Next thing you know, I'm dozens upon dozens of hours behind, with the next season of House of Cards is facing me down, only a few months away. How in the world does one keep up?
Having too much of a good thing is usually a wonderful problem to have. The issue, however, is that free time is finite. Netflix is eating up far too much of that time, and there's not one show that I'm watching that I'm willing to put on pause.
It's going to be a busy end of the year. I'm hoping to be in much better Netflix shape by 2017.
With the mountainous amount of quality TV available on Netflix, HBO, AMC, & FX, I keep putting off watching any Amazon original shows even though I've heard many good things about some of them. I had to watch the pilot for The Last Tycoon, however. I tend to dislike modern film industry-themed narratives, but make it a good period piece, and I'm in.
The Last Tycoon was the novel that F. Scott Fitzgerald was working on when he died. It was loosely based on the life of Irving G. Thalberg, the Universal & MGM wunderkind who defined what a Hollywood super-producer should be. The novel was unfinished and unpolished upon Fitzgerald's death, and I was not going to read something in a not-meant-to-be-read condition from such an iconic author. However, when it was announced that Sony was making it into a series to be aired on HBO, I was excited. It fell apart at HBO, like so many projects do, but Amazon swooped in to pick it up. I'm glad they did.
Amazon has pilot-offs, where pilots go against each other in competition, and then the winner gets picked up. The Last Tycoon pilot won the previous competition, so it's going into production now. They're leaving the pilot up for us to watch to get a taste of what's coming.
It's well-produced. The casting is solid. Kelsey Grammer and Lilly Collins might be the biggest named stars, but seasoned actor Matt Bomer more than holds his own. The sets are terrific and effectively put one back into 1930's Hollywood. Amazon is certainly spending some money on some of their shows.
Most of the ratings for the pilot were in the 8.5/B+ range. I think that's pretty accurate. Since I love that era so much, I'd probably even rate it a bit higher. It did what a pilot should do: efficiently set up the characters and setting, put up some obstacles, and leave us hanging so we want more.
I'm not sure when the full first season will be released. I'm guessing not for awhile. But if you're looking for a good, old school, 1930's Hollywood story, definitely check out the pilot on your Amazon Prime.
I finally got around to watching Richard Linklater's groundbreaking film that follows the life of a family over the course of twelve years (using the same actors throughout). The film has a 98% RottenTomatoes score and a 100% on Metacritic. It simply doesn't get any better than that.
During the 165 minute journey, Linklater casually tells the story of a young boy growing up within a broken family in different parts of Texas. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play the parents as superbly as we would expect them too. The boy, whose journey we are experiencing, is also played extremely well by Ellar Coltrane, who through the course of all the years, becomes an excellent actor right before our eyes.
There is plenty of drama, as different father figures come and go, and as the adults make various decisions which turn out to not be the best. They, along with the kids, realistically mature throughout the narrative as they pass through different stages of life, and just as in our lives, their decisions start getting better.
This is fundamentally a story about the boy, Mason, who has far too many adults pushing him to commit to a direction throughout his childhood, when he has no idea upon which path he should take. At an early age, he learns how chaotic life can be, and he learns how hard it is to choose the correct answers when they seem so fuzzy at times. As adulthood is pushed on him by his parents, we feel the weight and pressure of the over-parenting.
The story itself is wonderful. It's easily relatable which is what Linklater does best. He delivers moments where we're thinking "Oh, we've been there. Yes. We. Have."
What's frustrating is that this excellent film could have been a masterpiece if it weren't for some very suboptimal execution mechanisms. One of the most annoying is how Linklater continually uses dialogue far too blatantly to dictate to the audience how much time has lapsed. If Mason walks into his birthday party, someone has to ask him his age right off the bat to alert the audience where we are in the timeline. It's distracting, completely unneeded throughout, and felt forced every single time.
The film also lacks subtlety in many scenes that would have been played more effectively had they been cut down. Ethan Hawke was well established early on as a father who tried too hard--that pushed his children to believe his views too much. Then it's reinforced again, and again, and again. One particular scene that would have played out much better was one where Mason sits in the minivan with his father and his new wife, and it's revealed that the father had sold his old sports car to pay for the minivan. The scene then drags on with Mason getting upset because it had been promised to him when he was a young kid, and with his dad blathering about how cars are bad investments. The point is that the dad had gotten to the point in life where he had to sell his dream sports car because his priorities had changed. That would have been enough to shock Mason into seeing his dad differently. All the rest was excess that just dragged an already too-long movie further than it needed to go.
Some scenes are handled brilliantly, however. Mason talks to his dad in an empty balcony of a club, while a band tunes up on the stage below. After some needed small talk to establish the scene, Mason asks his dad what it (life) is all about. His dad reveals that even at his point in life, he has no idea, and nobody else does either. It's a great moment between father and son, and shows a very specific couple of points in life that they had each grown to. Linklater's handling of the scene was superb.
I love how Linklater ended the story. It was laid back in his usual style, yet it was profound as well, and a fitting conclusion to Mason's arc of childhood. As the credits roll, one has to just sit back and think about what all has been absorbed. It's a heavy moment.
I think Linklater deserves an enormous amount of credit for daring to get this film made. IFC Films also deserves credit for taking a chance on such a long-term project. Hats off to the actors as well. This movie is truly groundbreaking, something that is rare in the current era of film.
Though I had some problems with it, I did fall quickly into the story and truly did want to see where the characters were going. A few unwanted annoyances did kick me out at times, but each time I was able to fall right back in. It's hard to complain about such a huge undertaking that was crafted so well for just a few million dollars. Richard Linklater has done some remarkable work. I think he's proud to have this project on his mantle.
My Rating: 8.7/10
My gaming time took a major hit the last few weeks as a result of my moving combined with the Olympics being on. I've finally got everything going and have been starting to get in some quality time. Here's what I've been playing:
1. Overwatch - Been getting into more of the characters. This is a great game if you only have 20 minutes or so to play a couple of rounds.
2. The Witcher 3 - Been roaming around The Skellige Isles.
3. Minecraft - Only playing for a couple of hours a week, but I'm sure it'll pick up here and there.
I've ordered Madden NFL 17 because the reviews have been the highest in years, and because it's been a couple of years since I've bought a Madden Game. Man, do I miss the NCAA Football series. Praying that'll come back. 17 is set to unlock tonight, so I'll be able to dive into it after work.
1. Bloons TD 5 - best money you'll ever spend for your phone. I play a few rounds or so every day.
2. Table Tennis Touch - purchased this recently, and it's a gem.
3. Magnetic Balls Bubble Shoot - Best bubble shooter I've played.
4. Candy Crush - I'm fading now that I'm in the level 800's.
I'm still crushed by the Titanfall pre-Alpha tech test. I'll be glued to the gaming sites to see what's happening with Respawn. Man, do I hope they somehow pull this off, but hope is fading so fast...
Sometimes, after artists have had incredibly successful runs, you put too much faith in them, and then they end up breaking your heart when they inevitably let you down. I still remember the day in August of '91, when I rushed home after purchasing Metallica's Black Album, and became more enraged after every song I listened to. It was such an incredible slap-in-the-face to the band's hardcore fans who thought they'd never sell out. Well, it's real life, and they did. And to true metal fans, the result was garbage.
I also remember September of 2007, when I started playing the beta for Infinity Ward's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the day it was released. It was easy to see that this was a huge step forward in the development of first-person shooters. Then came Modern Warfare 1 & 2, both tremendous games. Soon thereafter, came the firing of Vince Zampella and Jason West from Infinity Ward. They decided to start their own studio: Respawn Entertainment. In 2014 they released Titanfall, which exceeded the unbelievably high expectations I had for the team. It quickly became my favorite FPS of all time, and was the genre's most innovative game in years. It took Activision two cycles to copy the game mechanics of Titanfall within their Call of Duty series.
Needless to say, my hopes for Titanfall 2 where as high as Mt. Everest. A few days ago, I told a friend "There is no way this game will not be great." Well, now I have my doubts.
For some completely incomprehensible reason, Respawn, instead of releasing a Beta, released a "pre-Alpha tech test," just weeks before the game's release date. Why on Earth would someone do that? What good can come of such a thing?
Well, while I worked yesterday, I watched Redditors release one comment after another on the tech test. The comments slowly trickled in, and they were brutal:
No Titan timers!
No Burn Cards!
Titans are too slow to get into!
People don't move!
There are barely any Titans!
The maps are horrible!
What happened to Attrition?
This gameplay isn't fun!
I'm canceling my preorder!
Please, Respawn, delay the release, and fix this thing!
Then the articles started coming out, confirming how bad things were. I got home late last night, set the tech test to download, and went to bed. I woke up at 8am, and gave it a try.
I played a couple of hours throughout the morning, and I can confirm, it is absolutely no fun, whatsoever.
We have no idea what Titanfall 2 will be like once released. What I think we can safely say is releasing this version, at this time, was an unbelievably horrible idea.
First off, if you're using the Source Engine--something that is older than sin, don't release a test that doesn't look sharp. It's just going to lead to criticism for the eight weeks up to the game's release. People were already criticizing you for not using a modern game engine.
Secondly--why would you release something that isn't fun at all? Everything that made Titanfall so great has been stripped away. Every, single, thing. If you're going to release something that's pre-Alpha, do it six months before the release so you don't scare the living daylights out of people. Release a tight Beta going into the final stretch.
Third. If you strip all the intriguing strategic aspects out of the game in this test release, such as burn cards, let people know that they'll be there in the final product. If they're not, you've just killed the game for a huge chunk of players.
This version is a knife blade to the gut of Titanfall fans. It will do the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. Instead of creating positive buzz, it's forcing people to question whether or not they're even going to buy the game.
I am the biggest Titanfall fan in the world. Nobody loved that game more than me. But I've been burned before. Even the best creators drop horrible bombs now and then. I'm not sure what the hell Zampella is thinking. Even if the game comes out with 9.0 and 9.5 reviews, the release of this tech test will sour sales. To make matters worse, DICE, which is coming off of the much-loved Star Wars: Battlefront, is releasing Battlefield 1 a week before Titanfall 2. We all have seen the amazing footage from B1. Millions of people are going to be laying down their $65 on DICE before the reviews for Titanfall 2 even come out.
What an epic disaster. I'm not confident that Respawn survives this, unless the game is an absolute gem and they're just doing this to lower expectations going into the final stretch.
All I know is if those reviews aren't incredibly high, the biggest Titanfall fan in the world is going to go with DICE's product. And that's a crying shame.
I found a pretty cool (and I think useful) website called thetruesize.com. It allows users to accurately compare the sizes of states and countries (which are obviously massively distorted on globes).
I think this can help us as writers because it gives us a sense of how large things are compared to places we know. It's difficult to get a sense of how big Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, or Bangladesh are, without having lived there. Fortunately, with this site, we can get a clue.
For example, Spain is slightly smaller than Texas (which doesn't seem accurate in my mind):
The Netherlands is much, much smaller than the state of Utah (how can that be?):
It turns out that Brazil is really, really big:
And Bangladesh, with its 172 million people, is half the size of New Mexico, with its population of just over 2 million:
I think this tool can not only help us with travel times, but it can give us a better sense of population densities as well. I'm definitely adding it to my writing research folder.
I've talked about Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian on this blog before, not only for my love of the novel, but because there have been several attempts to adapt it into a film (most recently by James Franco)--something that many in the industry feel is an impossibility to do well, given the novel's immense violent nature. In fact, Ridley Scott, who once tried to get the project off the ground, famously said that "It would have been rated double-X."
A few years ago, William Monahan (who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Departed), was given the chance to adapt the novel. I've long wanted to read his draft, and thanks to a nice redditor, was finally able to get my hands on it.
Monahan's first act was written extraordinarily well. I fell into the story as quickly as I did the first time I read the novel. Although no one could match McCarthy's vivid description of mid-1800's Texas, Mexico, and California, Monahan does a serviceable job to say the least, especially with the limited amount of space he had to work with. The Kid's travels down to Texas, the Glanton gang's move into Mexico, the initial battles with the Apaches--it's done well.
Then the Judge is established, and it's clear where Monahan diverges from the book--to the detriment of the story. The master-craftsman McCarthy brilliantly layered the Judge within the multitude of members of the Glanton Gang, The character is slowly established, and it's not until deep into the novel that we realize his true significance, not only to this story, but to the world as a whole.
Monahan was restricted by time, so he hacked out most of the other character's dialogue. He gave the Judge much more prominent of a place in the story--right from his establishment. This ruins the whole character, and frankly, does immense damage to the story as well.
However, with the exception of this unfortunate fact, the Monahan script is relatively strong, specifically in the first act, and first-half of the second. The end of the second act and the entire third act do need some work. But, this is a very workable script, much to my amazement.
Monahan changes the ending (one of the greatest endings in fictional history, in my opinion), and absolutely crashes and burns with it. One has to wonder what the hell he was thinking. It's bizarre that he would even attempt to alter such a brilliant end to an amazing story. But he does. Probably an ego thing, but when you're adapting arguably the world's greatest living writer, don't fuck up the ending. Is that too much to ask?
I think with a bunch of work, which would definitely include the removal of (perhaps) 70% of the Judge's dialogue, and with the beefing up of some of the side characters (such as Toadvine and the Delawares), this script could be made to work to the level of our high expectations attached to McCarthy adaptations. Above all, that ridiculously bad ending would have to be changed back to McCarthy's original intention. (The greatest scene in the whole book is removed for some reason).
So, overall, I was impressed with Monahan's attempt. This is truly a near-impossible project. He took a hard shot, and it ended up being decent. In fact, the first third of the screenplay is pretty incredible. As it stands, however, I'd hate to see this script shot. The magic of who the Judge character is would have to be added back in, and that addition would certainly be made through substantial subtraction.
I absolutely love watching the Olympics, both the Summer & Winter Games. It's not just about the actual events--it's about the narratives. We learn so much about these athletes, and the trials and tribulations they went through to reach the grandest stage. Then we watch them succeed or fail, against the world's strongest competition. It's a true delight to witness.
Every cycle, there're new real-life heroes, the likes of which rival our greatest fictional characters. They get cemented in our long Olympic lore, not only for us to remember, but for future generations to honor as well.
I thought the opening ceremonies last night in Rio were pretty good. I was not a big fan of the London opening ceremonies, but obviously, Beijing's were spectacular. My favorite of all time were the Salt Lake City Winter Games opening ceremonies. From the girl in red with the lantern, to watching the US Hockey team light the soaring cauldron--it was fantastic throughout.
I really hope that Los Angeles wins the competition to host the 2024 Summer Games. I'd love to see many of the events, and unlike some, I'm willing to put up with the couple of weeks of horrible traffic. I'd also like to see a Winter Olympics at some point as well. It's something that's definitely on my bucket list.
Having the whole world get together in peace to compete in sporting events is absolutely wonderful. And every cycle it gets better as we're able to see more events with the expansion of tv channels and internet coverage. It's especially fun when it's in our hemisphere, and we're able to see a lot of live events.
There are some things that the world gets right, and the Olympic Games is definitely one of them.
What a busy end of July I had. I did manage to get moved from my apartment in the East San Fernando Valley to my new condo in the West SFV. It was 105F most days, and it wasn't a fun move, so I'm very glad that it's done.
I'm making slow progress on the stacks of boxes that inhibit my movement around my new place. I finally got my internet connected today, almost five days later than expected. Here's the fun story behind that:
I set up my Time Warner cable myself, over the internet. I brought my own cable modem to my new place, and couldn't get any connection. After calling the Time Warner rep, and after much confusion, we finally figured out that I was off by a digit when entering the new address. We then find out that a technician has to come to my place. A couple of days later, the tech comes, can't get a signal, so he traces the line, and it ends up going to a dish on the roof and not the cable junction box. He can't run the new line because the Co-Op has only contracted service through a different company. A couple of days later (today), the new tech comes, and I finally get my internet connection working. Excited, I set up my Xbox and come to discover that I can't find the power cord to the external drive (which I have most my games on). I know it's in a box somewhere, but Lord knows which one.
So that's the fun stuff of moving. Though I did get most of the painting done before the move, I still have some left to do and some trim work as well. Needless to say, I'll be busy for a few weeks.
I'm hoping to get back to writing soon. It's been too long. I'm going to have to start rereading my new novel from page one. But since I'm about halfway through the first draft, it'll be fun. I'm hoping my wi-fi router will reach all the way to the pool. If not, I might have to buy a more powerful one.
Yesterday I did go down to the pool to read. It was nice. I went for two 45 minute swims, one during the day, one at night. Hopefully, the exercise will help get my mind in shape as well.
I'm guessing that in a couple of weeks, I'll be writing daily, and having time to watch some of that wonderful TV that's out there. It's been a busy, hot summer, but I'm loving my new environment, and believe it will help me be more productive. One can only hope.
Jon David Rosten, author of
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