LOG 1: JAN/FEB 2020


I decided I should start keeping a log for all the media I consume, especially because I don't make zines anymore.  Unfortunately, I only decided on this during the end of January, so I'm combining two months (and possibly December) together. Anyway, here's the first of what, ideally, will be a monthly series.

MOVIES


Hooray for Letterboxd.

1/1 Cats (2019)

I started the new year off on the exact wrong foot, going to see this abomination of a movie at a subpar theater. It is a terrible idea, executed incredibly poorly. Everyone involved should be (and hopefully is) extremely ashamed of themselves.

1/4 Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (2004)

Mad about Mads. I actually thought the first movie was a little more interesting, but Mads Mikklesen is so goddamn compelling, it's an unfair comparison.

1/11 Magnolia (1999)

An epic without the epic. A truly beautiful film.

1/21 Parasite (2019)

This deserved to win best picture, especially considering the amount of insanity in it. Yes, it is definitely a film that is "about something," but it doesn't try and go oscar bait and get as heavy as possible on you, instead having  a lot of comedy along the way.

2/15 Sonic The Hedgehog (2020)

Eh. Could have been worse. It certainly isn't as good as the original Sonic the Hedgehog the Movie:


Say what you will about that OVA from the 90s (and boy, there are a lot things to say), but at least there's a fair amount of imagination involved. The latest film is fine, but is basically nothing. It is a big budget, family hollywood film, and it's everything that comes along with that. There's really not much more you can expect from it in the long run, and I'm sure I will basically forget alla bout it by the end of th eyear.

2/15 Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Better than it has any right being. By far some the best action I've seen in a superhero movie, but largely because of the absence of a lot of bullshit CGI. It is well-choreographed, easy-to-follow action, and is thankfully light on anyone having any actual superpowers, making it feel weirdly grounded (for a film that has a super villain as it's main protagonist).

It also stands out from other female led Superhero movies like Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman in that there's no horrible stand-out "gurl power" type of scene. The best example of this is probably in Avengers Endgame where all of the female superheroes stand together in a line fora  moment to pose triumphantly, before they all start to look at the camera and say "#YassQueens".

This isn't to say that this isn't a movie about sexism and misogyny, but it's a lot more subtle about it. No one is going out of their way to talk about how terrible women are or anything like that. If you need an example of how a more clumsy movie does this, look at the entirety of the film Captain Marvel. Yes, Harley et al. are all battling against the men in their lives underestimating them, failing them, and generally betraying their trust, but it never goes out of it's way to make any of the male characters talk about how much they hate all women and they should stick to staying in the kitchen (again, look to Captain Marvel's cockpit scene).

The biggest failure in the film comes from the weird flashback structure that the film employs for about the first half of the film. That paired with the Scott Pilgrim style writing on the screen and cutesy narration can be a bit grating at times. Luckily, it doesn't get in the way as often as it could. As an aside, the damage done by the Scott Pilgrim movie is likely to have a ripple effect on films for years to come, and we are barely into feeling the effects of it writ large. Also, hey, Ramona 

At the end of the day, it is a more than decent movie, punching far above it's way, making it one of the best Superhero films I've seen with some solid performances anchoring the films. Also, Ewan McGregor is chewing every piece of scenery he can find, and I am here for it. between this and Doctor Sleep I get the feeling we're on the verge of a McGregorssaince.

2/20 El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2020)

Hey, you remember how Breaking Bad ended in a tight little package, and didn't need to have anything expanded upon in it? Well too bad, here comes Jesse, bitch. Wholly unnecessary, but techincally fine. Seems to exist as a response to clickbait articles with titles like "6 Suposedly Happy Endings That Are Actually Super Dark."

That being said, it's competently-made, and well-acted, but there's really just not that much to it. It's like an extra long episode of Breaking Bad. There is simply not a reason for this film to exist.


GAMES

Sleeping Dogs

Who doesn't love a bit of Hong Kong GTA? I was, uh, "inspired" to play this after watching Vinny play the game in the following compilation:


And I have to admit that I did take the Vinny approach to mayhem and violence, tearing Hong Kong a new asshole in a violent rampage.

The only problem I ran into is I kept accruing Cop XP more than Thug XP, and I was a terrible cop! I hate cops! 

Also, Wei Shen is hot as hell. Please, can we get more video game protagonists in western developed games that are dudes who are hot as hell? Please?

AER:Memories of Old

You know me, I love any game that allows me to explore a strange world filled with the ruins of an old civilization (actually, odds are you don't know me, and I don’t encourage you to go through my old posts on this site or twitter to get to know me. Believe me, it's not worth it).

AER does deliver on that promise in a way that is super c h i l l. In fact it's so  c h i l l that it often feels like there are no stakes at all. It doesn't help that the game world feels very empty at times. The map is not that large, and since the game takes place among floating islands in the sky, there's not even that much land to explore. While I like the idea of avoiding combat, it needs a lot more challenge built into it to make the discovery of new places feel rewarding. Discovering something in Breath of the Wild felt like a triumph, but here it feels like nothing has changed from the baseline.

It's not all terrible, and it's great to look at, but at the end of the day, there just isn't much to this game.

Ethereal

This is a neat little puzzle game.

Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective

An elaborate joke? Absolutely. But it certainly does make a statement underneath the layers of Edu-tainment parody about the state of the art world, especially with the idea of Games as Art still haunting over this whole artform.

Give me more Zineth, Arcane Kids. Actually, I'm fairly certain Arcane Kids doesn't exist anymore, but it's always fun to wish for more JSRF-adjacent stuff. While I'm dreaming, give me another Jet Set Radio Future, please.

EVERYTHING

What I find most impressive about all this is the scale of the whole thing more than anything else. But I do enjoy the fact that David O'Reilly kept the movement from The Horse Raised by Spheres.

Hob

Hey, did you know my favorite Studio Ghibli film is Castle in the Sky? Just thought I would mention that, no real reason. Anyway, in Hob an ancient, one-armed robot helps you explore the ruins of a long-dead civilization in the hopes of finding the secret behind it and restoring to the old world. This is, to put it lightly, EXTREMELY MY SHIT.

Unlike AER, I always found the exploration and puzzle-solving in Hob to be extremely rewarding. It doesn't hurt that finding new locations consists mostly of restoring the old world, actively making it expand, all while acquiring more mobility upgrades to help explore all the places you could possibly want.

The removal of words in this story also helps build the world up in an interesting way. There's definitely a concrete explanation for what happened in the world of Hob, but at the end of the day, you still get to fill in the details, which is always satisfying.

The only real ding is the combat, and even then it's not a big complaint, it's just not that exciting. Also, the death animation for the character (possibly named hob?) feels very unnecessarily brutal.

There's also the bittersweet reality behind the development of the game, as many of you may know that this is Runic's final game before shuttering and that it's initial release was plagued with bugs. It is highly unlikely that Perfect World is going to release Hob 2, but hey, they did release it on Switch, so maybe that's a start.

Super Metroid

I had never played any metroid games before this. I've played many a metroid-like (looking at you, Axiom Verge), but never the real thing.

And yeah, it's good. What's there to really say regarding all this? You have probably played this already, what do you need my opinion for. I look forward to eventually playing the Prime rereleases for switch and bitching about it not being as good as the series roots.

Yakuza Kiwami

Here's what I knew about the Yakuza series going into Kiwami. It's ridiculous, and Alex likes it. Frankly, that's all I needed to go on. Oh yeah, it also may have something to do with Japanese criminal syndicates, but it's hard to say for certain.

This game kicks ass. It's a lot of fun to toy around with styles and beat the shit out of every person you come across, and there's something to be said with the enormous amount of side stuff. This is all with a surprisingly decent story filled drama and intrigue. It's the whole package, baby.

Kentucky Route Zero Act V

I bought this game seven years ago, and the idea that it's just now being finished is so insane. I was hooked at the start with the ethereal settings, the fantastic writing, and the most beautiful use of polygonal graphics I've ever seen. The question always remained whether or not it would hold up over all five acts, but I was optimistic.

I was right to be optimistic, as every subsequent chapter offered something even better than the previous. It was so good, I never minded waiting, sometimes for years on end. It was a story that dealt with things I never saw anywhere else, let alone video games: debt. Financial debt, emotional debt, and spiritual debt, it's all here and it's all leading to the final destination. There are things I experienced that hit me and hit hard in a way that nothing else has hit me before. There's one thing that really stands out to me:

[SPOILERS FOR THE NEXT TWO PARAGRAPHS]

In Act IV, I spend most of time in the Mucky Mammoth. I hardly went ashore at all. This might not seem like much, but it made one moment hit that much harder. The one time I did leave the boat, it was with Conway to get to the switching station through the bat conservatory. I never saw Conway at the tiki bar, or the survey place. I never knew he was talking with the boys from distillery. Why would he be? After all we were trying to stop him from getting whisked away by Hard Times and forced into servitude. I was more focused on the task at hand. I was finding the switchboard operator. I went down the corridor and I found the switchboard operator. It was interesting enough, but I was about done with the diversion. I had to get back to Conway. I turned around, and he was gone.

This man, the ostensible protagonist that was so desperate to finish his last delivery had just… given up. I had experienced deaths in previous games before, and yes I had gotten emotional. Lee's death in the walking dead was hard to handle, and the death of another character in a game further down this list was heartbreaking as well, but this was different. This wasn't just sadness, this was just… emptiness. I wanted to see the end of his story so much, and then he was just gone in the blink of an eye. It felt unfair, and unjust, and I wish I could undo it. It was like a real person died. I have never felt that in any other medium before. Shannon didn't even have any time to grieve before it was time to meet up at the Seafood restaurant. Neither did I.

After all this time, the story was coming to an end. I was hesitant. The writing was always great, but I was still skeptical that they could pull it off. I was happy to be proven wrong. It ended the way these things do, with a funeral. A long, drawn-out funeral, with everything that entails. It was time to move on.

Was finishing the delivery to Dogwood drive wroth it? Not really, but that's okay. It was never about that anyway.

Yakuza Kiwami 2

While still a good game, I couldn’t help but find Kiwami 2 to be a disappointment. I realize these kinds of dramas need some tragedy, but this game never really seemed to let up on the tragedy an insane story twists. The drastic change in combat and XP systems really put me off in a big way as well, and it just didn't feel like the Yakuza I fell in love with. That on top of a Cabaret storyline that you know I wasn't going to finish, and the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I would still recommend it, but certainly isn't as good as it's predecessor.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

Link's awakening is a classic Zelda-'em-up. I mean, its' a remake of Game Boy game, so it had better be classic. I'll be honest, this may be new favorite in the series. To be fair, I've only played a handful of the other games, but I still stand by that.

The thing is, it doesn’t' really feel like a Zelda game. Knowing the development of this game, that makes sense, but I think it also helps it stand out from the pack. It gets tiring to fight Ganon and save the whole world. You're just trying to wake up a mysterious creature on a weird island.

And my god, that art style is wonderful.

Yakuza 0

I bought the three PC Yakuza games at the same time and decided to play them in their unremastered order, and it paid off like crazy.  After all, who doesn't love a game where you can play as America's Sweetheart: Goro Majima.

In fact, the biggest problem with the games are the times you're not playing as Majima. Seriously, I was always upset to go back to Kiryu. Don't get me wrong, I like Kiryu just fine, and he is definitely a total hunk, but he doesn't have breakdance fighting in his arsenal.

Seriously though, the Ryu ga Gotoku team should be commended for making a game letting you play as the most interesting character in the series and not ruining his appeal.

MUSIC

I finally got a job where I can listen to music at work! I don't listen to a lot of music usually, so I had a lot of stuff burning a hole on my MicroSD card.

Gold ABBA

Here's the thing, ABBA rules. Anyone tell you otherwise, knock their fucking teeth out.

After the Rain my Heart Still Dreams Captain Ahab

It's no The End of Irony, but what is. Still has some solid songs about being a teenage girl, grils fihgting each other, and girls gone wild. Which is weird, all things considered…

Cancer 4 Cure El-P

This has the best backing track of any rap record I've ever heard.

Cancer 4 Cure (Instrumentals) El-P

This is the best backing track from a rap record I've ever heard.

Drumless Chromatics

An interesting experiment. I liked it, but I still think Chromatics kind of suck.


else heart.break() Original Soundtrack El Huervo

I still haven't played this game, but I just love El Huervo so much, I had to listen to it.

2 Triobelisk

You hear that there "Space Apache?" "Space Apache" is  a real good song.

Force Majeure Tangerine Dream

When I was young, I think I pictured the music of the future as sounding like Tangerine Dream. So yeah, this album whips.


Grand Theft Auto: ARENA WAR (Official Soundtrack) HEALTH

GTA Online is kind of stupid as shit, but hey, I always like HEALTH's soundtrack work.


HEALTH HEALTH

I love HEALTH and had somehow never listened to HEALTH. What is wrong with me?

HEALTH//DISCO HEALTH

This shit also rules, BTW.

Heavier Than a Death in the Family Les Rallizes Denudes

There are times when my life, where if there was a soundtrack it would sound a lot like this music.



NEXT MONTH:

NiER? More Zelda? Wim Wnders? Who knows! Tune in next time to find out!

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