I've been extremely stingy of late, as I'm saving up for a pretty huge purchase that should happen soon. Yet this morning I plunked down $110 on two video games, neither of which I thought I'd buy at all. Why would I do such a thing?
Well, I saw that Tropico 5 came out for the Xbox One. I'm a pretty big Tropico fan. I've played them on the PC and on a console, and surprisingly, Tropico is more fun on a controller than a keyboard. Unlike most strategy simulations, Tropico doesn't require a bunch of buttons. It's simple fun. Each version doesn't add much on the previous, yet I have a blast playing the game for a few hours every couple of weeks or so. I'll play this one here and there for the next couple of years, and then I'll buy the next Tropico or maybe even wait for version 7. The $50 price point was right on target. Any higher and I would have waited.
I also broke down and purchased Overwatch. I had to do it. I thought the game would not be a good fit for me. It's cartoony and chaotic. But the reviews were absolutely stellar--9's and 10's, which is incredibly hard to accomplish with modern day first-person shooters. I watched a bunch of Youtube reviews, and people are saying that this is a game that they'll easily sink 100-200 hours into and that the cast of the various heroes, each with their own abilities, creates fascinating and innovating gameplay. If for no other reason, I think Blizzard needs to be rewarded for pushing the genre forward.
I've still have a monster amount of hours to pour into Witcher 3 and Fallout 4. I'm still playing Minecraft often, and probably will be for the rest of my life. I still play Star Wars: Battlefront but am frustrated with DICE's level cap. And Titanfall 2 doesn't come out until October (if we're lucky). I'm done with the COD's, so I thought I'd give Overwatch a chance. It's $60, but I trust Blizzard to deliver. I went through the tutorial this morning and it was really fun.
I'm going to be extraordinarily busy during June and July, but both Tropico 5 and Overwatch should be games that I can jump on for an hour here or an hour there. In the heat of August thru October, I'll have plenty of games to play inside when the heat outside will be torturous.
$110. Hoping for at least 100 hours of gameplay for that price. I think $1/hr is a great deal. Halo 5 came up short for me by that measure. Battlefront and Fallout 4 easily passed it. If Overwatch lives up to the hype, it should be a great deal.
I've been highly critical of Season 6 of Game of Thrones because it's been so grossly disjointed and at times the direction feels off. However, Episode 5 is one of the very best episodes of the whole series.
Before we get to the pivotal ending moment, let me talk about a few other things. First and foremost, the direction is excellent in this episode. This is the first GOT episode directed by veteran TV director Jack Bender, and man does he do a fantastic job. From the small scenes, such as Sansa taking on Littlefinger, to the grand scenes, such as Bran walking through the army of the undead, the compositions, blocking, and cuts, all work well.
I won't get into every scene, but there were a lot of very strong emotional moments in this episode. Jorah revealing his greyscale and his love for Daenerys. Yara seeking claim to the throne of the Iron Islands. The Red Priestess messing with Varys. Sansa, with Brienne at her back, telling Littlefinger about her hurt. Arya, reacting to the play about her family, and then questioning why she must kill her target.
This is all very powerful stuff. One terrific scene after another. Strong emotional moment after moment. It doesn't get much better than this.
But, of course, this episode will always be remembered for what happened to Hodor. The reveal with Bran standing before a young Hodor, as the Three-Eyed Raven is turned to dust, and the chase that follows through the cave--it's one of the best scenes of one of the best shows ever made. The series so needed this moment, and it delivered beyond what we thought it could.
So I'm happy. Game of Thrones is back, and oh is it good.
There's a fascinating article at theverge.com entitled "Does 'Unfilmable' Really Mean Anything Anymore?" The author, @TashaRobinson, makes a fascinating claim: Cormac McCarthy fans say that Blood Meridian is unfilmable, but they know their claim is untrue. In fact, they don't want the movie to be made because they're afraid that it'll never live up to the greatness of the book.
Tasha then goes on to state other projects that were once thought to be unfilmable, such as Blue is the Warmest Color and Game of Thrones. She claims that there are very few books which are truly unfilmable today, and goes on to state Lolita and House of Leaves as examples.
This is a fascinating argument to me. There's a lot of truth to it. Tasha states that most of us would be frightened by the casting of The Judge because it would be hard to find someone who would live up to that role. I agree with her that it would be hard but not impossible to cast that iconic character. She implies the tone would be hard to capture and that the visual medium would be different, but not necessarily a letdown. Perhaps that's true as well.
I'm torn on this because I see both sides of the issue.
Yes, we're afraid to have this movie made. In our minds, it is near impossible to be as good as the book. If it's butchered, it will butcher our hearts. We can truly be hurt if it goes South, and we're afraid it will affect the legacy of the book. I'll admit all of that.
However, Tasha gets some things wrong in her assessment. For starters, whereas Lolita is truly unfilmable, it's not because of child pornography laws. A movie adaptation of Lolita wouldn't be hampered severely by lack of explicit sex scenes. Lolita is unfilmable because the beauty of the story is within the wicked thoughts inside of Humbert Humbert's head, and even with v/o, this could never be effectively translated onto the screen (the two adaptations failed horribly at this).
In the same vein, the absolute brutal nature of Blood Meridian wouldn't translate well without unspeakable violence committed on the screen. This would make it nearly impossible to reap significant box office returns. No studio is going to give someone $100M or $150M to make this Western (a genre that almost always does poorly in the international markets) and allow an NC-17 rating. Remember, the remake of Lolita, which was only an R rating, had an enormously difficult time securing a distributor. It was released in the U.S. on Showtime before getting a very limited theatrical release and bombing at the box office everywhere.
So, yes. I do agree with some of the thoughts in this article. We are afraid to see someone try to adapt Blood Meridian. It would just be too hard to pull off. It could never live up to our expectations.
But, part of this is because in the current marketplace for films, realistically speaking, the story is 'unfilmable.' That might change in the future, but as it stands today, I see no way that this could be pulled off to the satisfaction of most Cormac McCarthy fans, fear or no fear.
A disjointed mess.
The Tyrion scenes no longer have impact or interest.
The Daenerys scenes no longer have impact or interest.
The Cersei scenes only have interest because of the incredible acting. Same goes for Theon Greyjoy.
Even the Ramsay scene doesn't have great impact, because there's no dynamic range with his character. It's just absolute brutality all the time.
The fire scene was the cheesiest scene yet in the series. Horrible direction.
Overall, this has to be the weakest episode of the weakest season.
I wish I could come up with something positive to say about this season, but I can't. The greatest of all series is derailing so quickly it's blowing my mind.
In the last few weeks, I've greatly reduced the amount of Star Wars: Battlefront that I've been playing. Instead of playing almost every day, at least for a little bit, I now find myself playing every few days. It's the damn level-cap that's made the game less interesting. Though it's still very fun, not being rewarded heavily for the time put in does put a damper on things.
I stopped playing Fallout 4 several weeks ago. I've worked through most of the map and am just putting it away for awhile.
I have been playing Minecraft before I go to bed most nights. I never get bored of digging and building. I'm sure ten years from now I'll write a post about how much I still love Minecraft.
What I've jumped back to is the best game from last year: The Witcher 3. I hadn't really played it since November, and hopping back on it was like sitting in a comfy chair you haven't been in for awhile. You fit right in.
When I left off, I was only on level 20, though I had made my way through most of the main map. I still have a ton of quests to do, however. The first expansion pack is meant for level 32 and above so I've still got a way to go before attempting that. CD Projekt RED put out a bunch of free downloadable quests too. I'm sure with the expansion packs, I still have a hundred or more hours left with this game.
What makes The Witcher 3 such a fantastic game is its characters and its narratives. Of course, being based off a series of books helps in this matter. Many of my favorite games of all time (i.e. Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, Red Dead Redemption) have strong characters and narratives.
So what will be the killer game of 2016? I'm guessing Titanfall 2. But will there be a release that will have a strong narrative like The Witcher 3? One can only hope so. Otherwise, 2016 certainly will be a bit of a letdown. Thank God that CD Projekt RED is still working on expansion material for their masterpiece. Rockstar, even though you slayed it a couple of years ago with GTA V, you're up next.
I'm starting to have real concerns about the remaining seasons of Game of Thrones. Here's why:
As I've said in the past, George R.R. Martin brought a breath of fresh air to the high-medieval fantasy genre by doing a couple of things particularly well. First off, he better related it to real life than did many a writer. In Westeros, we see believable, wicked adult behavior. We learn long family histories. We learn about the region's economy. The characters are in another world, yet we could easily believe that they could exist in our world and time.
Secondly, to maintain this believability, Martin reigned in the scope of magic. We don't see grand wizards shooting lightning off of their staffs. We don't see teleportation spells or fireballs shooting around. There are dragons, but they're not all over the place. Martin brought a certain restraint to the genre, including a very slow, deliberate pace.
**** SPOILERS BELOW ****
What I don't like about Season 6 is the pace has picked up far too fast. Instead of learning about Jon Snow's past with little clues here and there, we're being bombarded with stuff that is just reinforcing the R+L=J theory in far too fast and blunt of a style. The way we're learning about it (with the Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven flashbacks) is just too convenient a mechanism to reveal this important stuff. The famous R.R. Martin subtlety is gone.
Having Jon Snow return from the dead is also breaking the believability factor, especially the way they did it. If Melisandre can just bring him back every time he's cut down, that weakens the tension considerably. It would have been better if he had been raised as a White Walker and then had to overcome his inherent undead evilness with his pure heart.
I didn't love the first episode of the current season. Episodes two and three were much better for me. But I just have to wonder how this would have turned out if Martin had finished writing the series first. We don't know what happens in The Winds of Winter and the other upcoming novels. I believe, however, that the pacing created by Martin in the future books will be much more deliberate than the pacing created by Benioff and Weiss.
All that being said, I can't wait for Sunday night to tune in and see what happens. I'm micro-picking, and Game of Thrones remains my favorite series on television. But damn, it's losing just a little bit of its charm.
I've been using many different writing programs throughout the years. For screenwriting, I started with Final Draft, moved to Movie Magic, back to Final Draft, and then went with Scripped.com (which I loved), until it one day died and lost everyone's scripts (I had most of my stuff backed up on a flash drive). Now I use WriterDuet.com, which is decent. I received a discount on a lifetime membership there for being a life-time member of the failed Scripped.com. One thing that WriterDuet doesn't do is allow you to write a novel. Bad WriterDuet.
During my MFA, for short story and novel writing, I alternated between Word and Google Docs. Unfortunately, neither are that good for writing online. (Message to Microsoft & Google: Please work on this. Thanks!) I later switched to Scrivener, which has a learning cliff, but is terrific once you get past that.
Lately, I've been looking for a second place to write non-screenplay stuff. I'll stick with Scrivener for my primary novel, and will use it to format novels that are complete. But I want something secondary to be able to hop on and work on poems, short stories, or a second novel, that is something much simpler than Scrivener, and something that is online.
I've been testing out Novlr.org. It's still in its infancy phase. It definitely doesn't have enough customizable options yet (including a small enough font size). But it is quick, easy, and has a great, comfortable look to it. It keeps track of your writing stats, and a writing goals feature is supposedly coming soon. One thing I like is a background setting that allows you to switch between day, evening, and night, depending on how dark you want your background. I prefer a darker background since it's easier on the eyes.
I see potential problems with Novlr, though. For one, it's expensive. There's a two-week free trial, which is nice. Then it's $10/month or $100 per year, which is very steep considering the lack of features. They currently have a short-term sale of $150/lifetime, but I got bit by a similar deal with Scripped.com. So it's a matter of bleeding out with a high monthly expense or taking a risk that it'll be around for awhile and buying into a long-term deal. I'm afraid that with the high monthly price, there won't be enough users sticking around to make it profitable.
I've liked it so far, though. I'll give it a couple more days of a test run before making a decision. If it were half the price, I'd have a lot more confidence that it would be around a couple of years from now.
Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West, published in 1985, is an absolutely brutal and beautiful novel written by Cormac McCarthy, perhaps our greatest living author. Since then, there have been many ramblings here and there about a film adaptation being in the works. The latest such was to star Russell Crowe, and was to be directed by James Franco. Today, The Hollywood Reporter stated that the deal has fallen apart because of rights issues.
Part of me wants to see a Blood Meridian film and part of me doesn't want it ever be attempted. The Coen brothers did a fantastic job with their 2007 version of No Country For Old Men, and were deservedly awarded Academy Awards for Best Directing, Best Adapted Screenplay, and for Best Picture. However, the 2009 version of The Road, directed by John Hillcoat, although a decent movie, was not nearly as good as the book, which remains one of the best I've ever read.
So that's the scary thing about adapting Cormac McCarthy. You're starting with material of the absolute top-tier quality, and if you don't do it right, it's going to be a monumental disappointment. Blood Meridian is something unique, though, even when compared to a dire tale like The Road.
You cannot possibly do Blood Meridian justice with an R rating. It would have to be one of the most violent films ever made. I'm talking absolutely horrific levels of awful brutality. If you tone that down, you've lost a huge part of what makes the story so special.
Violence--extreme levels of violence--is the main character of Blood Meridian. If you tone that character down, it's no longer what Cormac wanted it to be. Hence, to do it right, you'd have to make an American Western (and they rarely pull much of any overseas box office) with an NC-17 rating. The press surrounding the finished product would certainly be negative. It seems like a hard financial bet at best.
So I'm perfectly fine if Blood Meridian never gets adapted to the big screen. But if it does, I'm hoping and praying it's done right, and that seems like something that's highly unlikely given the gut-wrenching nature of the subject matter.
First the non-spoiler stuff:
Very weird. This episode was directed by the same director (Jeremy Podeswa) as the previous one (The Red Woman), but it has much better direction throughout. It looked and felt fantastic from beginning to end. Game of Thrones is back!
Now onto the very heavy *****SPOILERS******, including how the series ends which we now know a big part of with relative certainty:
The R+L=J theory now seems to be the correct theory. In fact, not only is Jon Snow a Targaryen and the son of Ned's sister Lyanna (who died in childbirth, and who Bran sees in this episode in a flashback), it now appears that Meera Reed might be his twin sister. In fact, since Tyrion is so comfortable around dragons, he might be a Targaryen as well. I wouldn't be surprised.
I'm not happy with this even though it's been the most prevalent theory for some time. I really wanted Jon Snow to be resurrected as a White Walker, not by Melisandre. I wanted his mother to be someone north of the wall. But, I'm happy with the episode as a whole. I thought it was terrific. The tone was suspenseful throughout. The acting was brilliant. The effects (the giant slamming the man for example) were awesome (except for some of the dragon shots). The final Jon Snow shot was well done.
I'm just a little disappointed with how the long-term story arc is going, but then again I'm guessing I'm in the minority. I wanted Jon Snow to be the ice that extinguishes the fire which I thought was the blood that was spilled fighting over the Iron Throne. I guess as it turns out, the fire is the dragon fire, and Jon will ascend to the throne as a Targaryen/Stark.
Brilliant episode, and one that has given us more answers than any previous one up to this point.
On May 5th, 1941, Citizen Kane premiered at The Palace in New York City. I'm not sure how many times I've seen the film, but I'm pretty sure it's at least ten times. My guess is that fans of popcorn action flicks would probably be bored by it, but for those who are fascinated by great characters arcs, I have not seen a film with an arc that is more intriguing.
Someday, I might get around to writing down all the things that I love about Citizen Kane. But for now, I want to share the fantastic closing paragraph from the original NY Times Review (May 2nd, 1941):
We would, indeed, like to say as many nice things as possible about everything else in this film—about the excellent direction of Mr. Welles, about the sure and penetrating performances of literally every member of the cast and about the stunning manner in which the music of Bernard Herrmann has been used. Space, unfortunately, is short. All we can say, in conclusion, is that you shouldn't miss this film. It is cynical, ironic, sometimes oppressive and as realistic as a slap. But it has more vitality than fifteen other films we could name. And, although it may not give a thoroughly clear answer, at least it brings to mind one deeply moral thought: For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?