Thursday, June 30, 2011


This was a brilliant movie. The story was incredibly clever and meticulously plotted and thought out. The acting by a cast of complete unknowns was absolutely first rate. The dialogue was as intelligent as you'll find in any movie, written by a man who clearly knows a lot about engineering, mathematics, and physics. This movie was completely original, brilliantly conceived, and meticulously constructed. It's just too bad it wasn't very good.

Well, I didn't think it was very good, anyway, although a lot of people will disagree with that opinion since it has become something of a cult film. Although a cult film, by definition, is one that is still mostly unpopular, often for valid reasons. Most people will probably be put off by the labyrinthine story that challenges the audience to think and follow along very carefully. Me, I just didn't like it because it was boring and ultimately pointless. I didn't really like this characters, I didn't find their work interesting, and I never really bought into the concept that there was any real moral dilemmas at stake, even though the characters all acted dramatically and thought very important issues were being discussed.

It's well worth checking out, however, if you are into hard science fiction or just want to see a completely new take on a story about the invention of a time machine, since the device in this movie is one of the best I've ever seen in the genre. It just doesn't have a very interesting plot, and the entire thing is filmed in such a cold, removed way that I never really found it interesting and engaging. I liked it enough to watch the entire film, however, even though I never really liked it nor even enjoyed what was going on most of the time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Xbox 360 Demo Roundup

I haven't done this in a while, so I figured I'd give my brief thoughts on all of the demos I've downloaded on Xbox Live over the past few months or so. In order of how they appear in my Xbox games library:

Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes
If you're an old school gamer or just into retro titles, download this game. It's in the style of an old Atari game like Pitfall, with slightly updating graphics, but not by much. It's charming, funny, and literally the hardest game I've ever played. It's insanely difficult, which is why they start you out with 99 lives! Check it out. Good fun.

Apehlion 2
An indie game in the style of a Japanese RPG, only with mediocre graphics, awkward control, and boring battles. If you love RPGs, check it out, but I didn't think it was all that great. Good music though.

Arkedo Series - 01 Jump!
Weird title, fun game. Another Indie title done in the style of an old school Atari/NES game. This one is a puzzle type platformer kind of like the original Mario Bros. It's well done and worth checking out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Seven Second Review: The Fast and the Furious

I'm trying out a new segment here at the blog. Some people have told me that my reviews are too long, so I figured I'd try out a time limit. Here is my first attempt at a "Seven Second Review." Let me know what you think.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Top Ten Episodes of Tales From the Crypt (Video)

This took forever to put together, but check it out because I think it's pretty good. It's a list of my top ten favorite episodes of one of my all time favorite TV shows, HBO's classic Tales From the Crypt:

In Memoriam: Gene Colan (1926-2011)

Gene Colan, one of the greatest artists in the history of comic books, has passed away at the age of 84. The man, and his work, will be missed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Battle Los Angeles

This movie has the plot of a videogame, and was about as entertaining as it would be to watch somebody else play it. A neat premise involving a somewhat realistic view of an alien invasion filmed like a war movie could have risen above the threadbare plot and cliched story points, but unfortunately the script was mediocre and the directing was flat, leaving little to recommend it other than a few good acting performances and some not too bad action sequences.

And... that's all I have to say about Battle Los Angeles, other than that I can't say I was too disappointed since everybody agreed that it was terrible, but even then it wasn't worth the one dollar rental fee from the Redbox machine. Skip it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Memoriam: Ryan Dunn (1977-2010)

This isn't quite up there with the death of Princess Diana or anything, and it's likely nobody will ever ask me in twenty years if I remember where I was when Ryan Dunn died, but even still... I liked the guy. I don't mean I liked him personally, since I never met him, although I can't imagine any franchise that is more honest about its stars than Jackass was. People watched Jackass to see a bunch of dumb guys getting hurt, but people started to love Jackass (and kept it going strong for over a decade) because the performers were so lovable and charming, and maybe none more than Dunn. People who have never watched Jackass don't understand that. They think Jackass is just a bunch of idiots doing stupid, dangerous things. Jackass is actually a bunch of funny, lovable idiots doing stupid, dangerous things.

I mean, anybody can stick a matchbox car up their ass and then go to the doctor to get an x-ray, but few people could pull it off with the class and good humor of Mr. Dunn.

Anyway, I liked the guy, and I was sorry to learn that he died in a car crash. I'm sure he'd be sorry that he died that way too, but I'm sure he'd be even more pissed that it wasn't even caught on camera so it could be used in Jackass 4.

Read more about Dunn in this obituary.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Portal 2

Well, this game was awesome.

In fact, this game may have been perfect, as far as these things go. I certainly can't think of a single thing wrong with it, aside from the fact that I wish it had been longer. I don't mean to imply that this game was too short, but that it was so fun, that no matter the length, it still could have been longer. This was the sequel to game that was already perfect, and while this one isn't as fresh and original as the first Portal (by virtue of the fact that Portal was unlike any game ever made, where as this one is unlike any other game, except for the first Portal), it still manages to improve on the original, adding more to it, and crafting something more epic and exciting. If you liked that game, you'll love this one. And if you didn't like that game, you probably didn't play it, because it was amazing.

The Portal games are basically first-person puzzle games, where you have a gun that shoots orange and blue portals. You can stick these portals to almost any surface in the game, and when you go through one, you come out the other. You have to use these portals to get from one end of the level to the other, although there are different traps and items and techniques at your disposable, it stays that simple throughout, and therein lies the brilliance. The levels are perfectly designed so they never feel cheap, and even when you die (which might happen a lot, especially in the later levers when things get really hard), you never feel as though the game was being unfair, but that you managed to do something stupid yourself. The puzzles are very challenging, but once the solution presents itself, you'll wonder how you didn't figure it out in the first few seconds.

The first game was memorable not only for its design, but for the rich story and characters presented. GlaDos became an instantly iconic character, and she returns here, along with a few others who are just as good. In fact, Stephen Merchant's voicework as Wheatley may even have been better than the woman who did GlaDos, and she was brilliant. Merchant is just brilliantly funny, and his voice work was just about the funniest stuff I've ever heard in any videogame ever. He should win some kind of award.

So, Portal 2. Check it out, if you like puzzles, first person shooters, or just games in general. It does kind of assume you've played through the original game since this story picks up right where that one ends, but everybody should've played through that game already.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Franklin & Bash

This is one of those shows that I really wanted to like, if only because the two lead actors are so great. I mean, seriously, who doesn't love these two guys? Even if Saved By the Bell and Clueless were the only two things Mark Paul Gosselaar and Breckin Meyer had ever done, that still would've been enough to make them awesome. They've both gone on to do lots of other great stuff, however, which is good because I don't see this new show making it past a few more episodes. I really wanted to like it, but it just wasn't very good.

Franklin & Bash are lawyers who play by their own rules. These are two lawyers whose antics are totally out of order. Franklin & Bash are lawyers who didn't study for the bar, they got drunk at one. Franklin & Bash put the insanity in Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity. Are you starting to get the picture? Long story short, this is a comedy about two irreverent lawyers, and hilarity ensues.

Well, hilarity kind of ensues, since the lame premise only goes so far before it got annoying, no matter how game the cast is to make it work. Gosselaar and Meyer are wonderful, effortlessly charming actors who are fun to watch in just about anything, but the pilot episode for this show (which I downloaded for free on iTunes) just wasn't well thought out or well written at all. It was basically just the two leads being laid back and funny, which was entertaining for the first twenty minutes, until I realized that was all the show had. Even worse, it was just dumb and kind of annoying.

As I said, the episode is available for free on iTunes, so it's worth checking out for a few laughs and for the charm of the two lead actors, but don't get too invested because it just doesn't seem like something that's destined to be a hit, or, at least, it doesn't really deserve to be.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Best Worst Movie

This is a fun, likable movie, up to a point.

Best Worst Movie is a documentary about Troll 2, the 1990 horror film that is generally considered to be one of the worst films of all time and went on to achieve cult status... at least according to this movie, anyway. In terms of notoriety and camp fun, Troll 2 won't beat Plan 9 From Outer Space, but it's certainly a bad film, and this documentary was a neat look at the the production and the lives of the stars. George Hardy, the film's leading men, retired from "acting" after this film and currently works as a Dentist somewhere in Alabama. Hardy is a lovely guy and watching his anecdotes about filming a low budget horror film was great fun, as were the stories and anecdotes provided by the other members of the cast and crew.

However, the film spent way too much time talking with and about the "fans" who claim to worship this movie, all of whom are completely annoying, obnoxious, and off-putting. They talk about how this film transcends being a bad movie and turns into a kind of religion that will change your life (that's a real quote). Well, no it won't. It's just a movie. To be sure, it's a bad movie (I've seen it) and a lot of fun to watch, but no.... it's not going to change your life, and if you honestly watch Troll 2 every day, you probably need to get a life. There is a scene where they talk about this group that watches it all the time, and they referred to the newcomers who haven't seen it yet as "virgins," sticking them with post it notes that say "V" on them. I don't care who you are or where you came from but those people are just annoying.

So check out this movie if you want a fun, interesting look at how low budget films are made and impact the lives of those involved in the production, but skip through all the parts where they interview the fans. Ultimately, I found it lacking if only because Troll 2, despite what this film says, wasn't all that interesting or memorable enough to inspire an entire documentary. I would rather have watched a film about low d horror films in general, giving more time to more actors and filmmakers across the spectrum, and less time to the fans who over inflated this film to ridiculously high proportions. Then again, the director of this documentary was one of the actors from Troll 2, so I suppose I'll forgive him for being less than objective about the film's place in movie history.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Black Death

Well, I thought this film was pretty extraordinary.

I rented it the other day at the Redbox, because I was bored, I had nothing to do, and I was already at the grocery store so I figured I'd take a look. Nothing really grabbed my eye, except for this one which I knew only from the name and because it starred Sean Bean. According to the plot summary and the box cover, it was a period piece piece set in England during the height of the Plague in 1348. That was enough to sell me, since I love period pieces, I love English history, and I love Sean Bean.

And while it definitely was a work of a historical fiction about the plague, it was actually something of a horror film in disguise, since the setting, mood, and events were extremely unsettling, upsetting, and downright terrifying. The story centered around a knight played by Sean Bean and his band of compatriots who are sent to a town that has been spared from the horrors of the plague, either because they have been blessed by the grace of god or perverted by the evil power of the devil. I won't tell you what they find there, but it isn't pretty.

Sean Bean is very good in his role of the god fearing knight, and the rest of the cast of mostly unknowns are fantastic as well. The lead role was actually that of a young monk sent along with the knights as their guide, and it should have been a star-making performance by the astoundingly good Eddie Redmayne. It was also fun seeing Tim McInnerny as a very scary peasant who may or may not be in league with the devil. McInnerny may be best known as Percy and Captain Darling on Blackadder, but he is a very talented actor who proved with this role that he's just as good at being scary as he is at being funny.

As a period piece, this film was impeccably produced, with perfect costumes and stunning sets. As an action film, there's only one big fight scene, but it is incredibly violent and brilliantly put together. As a horror film, it'll have you on the edge of your seat and sitting in bed later on with the lights on for an extra hour or two. As a film about religious faith, it managed the extraordinary feat of appearing reverential of people with powerful faith, but wary of those who abuse it as well. As a film, anyway, it was very good and I highly recommend it, if you have the stomach for the gore and unsettling mood.

Two thumbs up.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Top 10 Indiana Jones Death Scenes Video

I actually wrote this list a few years ago, but I decided to edit it together as a video. And, yes, that is my real voice. And, no, I'm not happy with it either. Anyway, let me know what you think:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever

The fifth and final issue of the Witchfinder miniseries "Lost and Gone Forever" hit stores yesterday, finishing off one of the best comic book stories I've read in a long time. Because it was written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, and takes place in the prehistory of their Hellboy/B.P.R.D. universe, it was very esoteric, strange, and hard to follow in places, and I'm still not quite sure what actually really happened over the course of the story, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, since I also came away very satisfied and glad I read it.

This miniseries (the second, I think, to star the character, although he has made a few appearances in the Hellboy comics) has Sir Edward Grey travel from Europe to Utah sometime during the late 1800s or early 1900s to stop a witch who has taken captive the soul of a Shaman and resurrected a bunch of cowboys into zombies. Or something like that. Like I said, it's a weird story that was never really explained, keeping things vague and confusing, but intentionally so. Anyway, it was a neat story that allowed for lots of scenes where Grey fought cowboy zombies.

The artwork is by comic book legend John Severin, who should be well known to any fans of western, war, or horror comics, or maybe even just comic books in general.  At 89, the guy is still creating some of the best looking comics I've ever seen. The story is great fun, but the entire series is worth checking out of only for some great work by a true legend. Just check out some of these pages:

Happy Birthday, Pete Conrad!

Here at the Blessed are the Geeks Blog, we're big fans of everybody who has ever been involved with NASA, and of Pete Conrad in particular.

Conrad was Commander of the Apollo 12 mission and became the third man to walk on the moon, after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's historic Apollo 11 mission a few months previous. Armstrong's first words after stepping on the moon are now famous and immortal, but Conrad's were much funnier:

"Whoopie! That may have been a small one for Neil, but that's a long one for me."

He was joking about the fact that Neil Armstrong was one of the tallest astronaut's while he was one of the shortest (5'6 to Neil's 5'11). But what really matters is that the man's first words after stepping onto the moon were a joke, and that's just awesome. His courage and dedication to his job are well known to everybody by virtue of the fact that he was a commander who led a team to the moon, but by all accounts he was also a great wit, a good man, and a brilliant, fun loving guy. He was killed in a motorcycle accident almost thirty years after his historic walk on the moon. Had he survived, he would be turning 81 today. Whoopie!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Rifle, My Pony, and Me

I posted this video over in my top ten favorite singers post as something representative of Dean Martin's vocals, but it was buried there even though it's so cool it deserves its own post all to itself. This is taken from the western Rio Bravo, which wasn't actually a musical, even though it starred Martin and Ricky Nelson, both of whom get to sing a song or two. Anyway, this is just a really cool song by two really cool cowboys:

Red Dead Redemption

I should start a website called "The Poor Gamer," where I review videogames a year or two after they come out, since I only buy and play and comment on used games I buy after the price has come way down. Anyway, I picked up Red Dead Redemption a little while ago, Rockstar's open-world Western game, and it's ok.

That isn't to say it's bad, of course, just that it isn't the second-coming of Christ, as some videogame reviewers would have you believed, delivered from on high by God himself, and placed into the hands of gamers everywhere to bring peace to the face of the world. Then again, I'm not a professional game reviewer, so I don't assign seemingly arbitrary scores to games like "93.7" or some such nonsense. I tend to grade games by three different ranks: Great, ok, or bad. A great game is one that is, well, great, and keeps me hooked and coming back to play again and again, for weeks or months at a time. An ok game is fun, but maybe missing something or has some weird design choices, or just lacking in something that keeps me from really getting hooked. And a bad game is one that just isn't any fun, so I won't play it. Red Dead Redemption was just ok. I like it and respect the hell out of it, but it's just missing that crucial x factor that makes me really want to play it all the time, no matter what. At this point, I keep playing it because I bought it and because I don't mind it. You know, it's ok.

Graphically, however, it's extraordinary. This may, in fact, be the best looking game I've ever played. From the moment it begins and your cowboy main character steps off the train into a town straight out of the wild west, I was enthralled by the visual splendor. The character designs and animations are detailed and fluid and incredibly lifelike. The buildings -- both in and out -- are gorgeous and perfectly capture the feel of the old west. And the landscapes, from the rolling hills to the windswept deserts to the roaring rivers, were impeccably designed and brought to life. This game is so beautiful, I actually took a video of it with my ipod just so I could share some of the sweeping vistas:

The game itself, however, is just a little lacking. It's basically Grand Theft Auto with cowboys instead of gangsters, or maybe something closer to Grand Theft Horse and Carriage. The controls feel the same (and are just as wacky and obtuse), the structure is identical, and the tongue in cheek dialogue and quirky point of view is the same. The only real differences between this Rockstar game and their more famous one (other than the change to a Western setting) is that this time around there is a bit more of a penalty for breaking the law, since your fame and honor meeting goes down, effecting the gameplay, and also because the main character is now some kind of honorable man with a wife and kids back home who doesn't want to break the law or sleep with all of the hookers populating the game's saloons. Where's the fun in that?

He does kill bad guys, however, which is often very fun, even though the targeting system feels awkward, just like it did in GTA 4. Horseback riding has some wonderful animation and great sound effects, but it gets old real fast, since there is so much of it, the world is so expansive, and because it's just not that much fun. Your character can also join various poker games around town, which is a lot of fun and where I seem to spend most of my time. It seems silly that I'm spending most of my time in a videogame having my character play a card game, but there you go. It's actually a very fun and well done poker simulator.

The game is fun in small doses, since the western setting is so perfectly realized, the graphics are outstanding, and some of the missions are ok (the ones that involve shooting people), even if they all tend to blur together and get tedious as you go on. Still, it's worth checking out of only for how cool it is to ride your horse into the sunset as an old train engine whizzes by. But it's just ok.