Media Consumption – Blizzcon 2015 Edition

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Interesting Day

MediaConsumptionLast week I had this grand plan of hanging out at home and watching BlizzCon 2015, so I took the day off work.  Then as we got closer to the day, it suddenly filled up with other things I needed to do.  Our house looked like madness yesterday with three vehicles of the contractors working on the siding and minor renovations, and another truck for the heating and air company.  All of this while my wife and I were being forced to park in the next door neighbors driveway.  Thankfully they were not here the last few days, otherwise I have no clue what we would be doing for parking.  I am sure the neighbors are wondering what manner of insanity we are up to… as at one point yesterday we had a guy stop and gawk for a few minutes without asking anything.  I guess that is the benefit of not actually knowing half of your neighbors is that you don’t have to make the same small talk over and over when something like this happens.  This morning in honor of BlizzCon however I am going to talk about the things that interested me.

Diablo 3

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I am leading off what was I originally thought going to be the big disappointment of the day.  Blizzard did what they always do and rolled out everything that was new and shiny in their opening ceremony.  The problem being… they said absolutely nothing about Diablo 3 which has turned out to be probably the game in their lineup that I care the most about.  I had hoped they would announce another expansion this year, but alas that didn’t happen.  However I am completely fine with this because the Diablo 3 panel later in the evening pretty much showed me that the team is quietly doing awesome stuff, in spite of apparently being ignored by Blizzard as a whole.  The presentation was essentially a rapid fire series of announcements of new features.  The one nearest and dearest to my heart surrounds the season play functionality.  They have essentially sorted out that they are going to make seasons three months long, meaning at the end of that three months there will be new content leading into the next season.  They said this gives players enough time to really deeply experience it… and also fits players like myself that swoop in… play enough to get the easy rewards and stop playing for a bit.

The biggest announcement as far as I am concerned is the “Rebirth” feature, which will allow you to essentially reboot a previous character and turn it into a new seasonal character.  All of the gear that was on the character gets mailed to the account, and that character gets dialed back to level 1… but keeps achievements, hours played etc.  It sounded like maybe there would be a special set of achievements for reboots, but essentially it solves the problem I always have of feeling like I have to create something brand new to be able to play along in the season again.  They are also adding additional stash space… and the ability to earn slots by completing the seasonal journey on a character, up to 10 slots total.  This all honestly would have been enough for me, but they are revising the buff system, changing the way damage is shown…  adding a whole item set dungeon functionality where specific dungeons will require you have an item set equipped and then have challenges based on the strength of that set.  On top of all of this… new zone and some expanded areas which makes 2.4 pretty damned awesome and it apparently goes up on the PTR next week.

Heroes of the Storm

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The highlight of the Heroes discussion is the fact that we are getting Genn Greymane as a playable champion.  This is absolutely hands down my favorite Alliance leader… that isn’t given the respect of having his own damned town to govern.  I am still a little sore that Gilneas never became someplace we could actually use as a capitol city.  I would seriously bank in that town all of the damned time if they allowed me to.  All the same however it is awesome to have him as a champion and it looks like the gameplay is going to be based around changing in and out of Worgen form.  The other interesting tidbit is that it seems like they are introducing ARAM for Heroes of the Storm.  The details were pretty scant and I have not watched any of the panels for Heroes yet… but from the sounds of it, the mode seemed to put a random group of champions against another random group of champions just like “All Random All Middle” mode in League of Legends.

I am honestly all about that because ARAM is probably my favorite mode to play in League.  Mostly because it takes all of the pressure off in that if you are getting randomly assigned a champion… no one can complain too much about you not being able to play it terribly well.  I’ve found it a great way to get my feet wet and get used to how a champion performs under actual combat situations.  The other interesting thing from the show was the introduction of Cho’Gall the two headed ogre.  This is a champion that is literally played by two different players.  I am assuming that one controls the movement and the other controls the combat at least to some extent.  Everyone with a BlizzCon virtual ticket will be getting it added to their account… and then they can play matches with other players to pass the character on.  After two matches a player will earn their own copy of Cho’gall and after I think they said four matches the original player gets a sack of gold for spreading the madness.  It sounds cool and it is awesome to see this game thriving.

Hearthstone

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The highlight of this announcement was awesome new Brann Bronzebeard artwork.  Hearthstone is one of those games that I like, but rarely actually boot up to play.  I am not sure what it is about the game, but essentially I keep playing the same deck over and over without changing it up much.  It is like this game requires too much of me to actually get in and sort out the decks I might want to build.  I am happy that it seems to be doing well, and I am happy that it has a meta that is very much alive.  That said I felt generally meh when listening to them talk about the gameplay.  I feel like maybe if it ran for shit on my iPad I would play it more, but I struggle with this game in the same way that I struggle with so many mobile games.  It requires too much of me to pop into it while waiting on something…  but it just isn’t sticky enough to make me choose to play it over literally any other game I have installed on my computer or consoles.  There just is rarely ever a situation where I am going to pick this over an MMO or a single player game experience.  I have so many other games to play… and honestly most of the time too damned many.  The hearthstone fans seemed to be really happy, so I am never going to rain on their parade with my own “meh”.

Overwatch

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I won’t lie the highlight of the Overwatch presentation for me was seeing just how awesome the Mercy Wings are in Diablo 3.  Other than that I loved the Mei reveal, because she was freaking adorable… and also looked like a really fun zone control champion to play.  Similarly I thought D.Va was a pretty cool concept, but I doubt I could ever see myself playing her.  The boot up sequence of her HUD was awesome, in that it showed a cute bunny icon while it was loading.  I really don’t care for the design of her Mech, which is my main problem with her as a champion.  There is just something wrong looking about it… I get they were going for a jet with legs after the reboot that allows her to fly…  but a Guardian Mode Veritech is a better version of what they were trying to accomplish.  Though I think the design they came up with was largely a compromise to save space on the screen.

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I have to admit I was largely tempted when they announced this would be coming to PS4.  The problem there is that the Xbox and PS4 Blizard games are disconnected from Battle.net.  That is my biggest problem with playing Diablo 3 on the PS4 is that I am stuck with only having access to my PSN friends… which are in no way as long of a list of Blizzard fans as the Battle.net account.  So even though I am going through a bit of a renaissance of console gaming… I am ultimately going to go with the mouse and keyboard of the PC and essentially have to reacquaint myself with that sort of game play.  I agree with Kodra in his belief that playing with a controller on a PC is a trap when it comes to a competitive FPS.  There are times I have even considered picking up a XIM4 for my PS4 so I have the option of playing with a keyboard and mouse there as well.  The PS4 natively supports USB and Bluetooth keyboards and mice… but very few games actually support that.  Mostly right now I just want to get into the Overwatch beta… and I am hoping that will be a thing that happens soon.

Warcraft Movie

I have to admit on this one that before this trailer I had not really given much of a shit about the Warcraft movie.  But man…  those feels while I watched this.  I have just been burned in the past when a franchise that I love was turned into a movie… at least from the gaming side of things.  Does anyone remember how horrible the Dungeons and Dragons movie was?  or Doom?  This however…. looks like it is going to be a really good movie and revitalize the Warcraft franchise for a whole new generation.  Maybe it is just the hype I am feeling about Star Wars spilling over into Warcraft… but I am feeling like now is the time to set aside old grudges and just embrace any fandom wholeheartedly.  Both Durotar and Lothar were awesome in the trailer, and I think they were probably right to make this a Warcraft movie… and not a World of Warcraft movie.  My hope is that along with this we maybe see a rebooted version of the original Warcraft RTS franchise.  In any case regardless I know what I will be doing next June… sitting in the theater and watching this movie.

Legion Expansion

Now we finally get to the low point of Blizzcon… which I guess tells you how far my tastes have changed.  I was completely amped about most of the above announcements other than maybe Hearthstone.  I wholeheartedly love Blizzard games… but I have just reached the point where World of Warcraft is my least favorite of them.  The cinematic trailer was nice… but I honestly had hoped that maybe we would have seen Varian die during it…  or at least I thought that was what we were going to see for a bit.  For years Varian was supposed to be “our thrall” but he has always been this paper thin super one dimensional character.  His son on the other hand… Anduin has gone through some actually interesting changes especially during Pandaria.  So my hope was that we would see Varian dying during this siege and passing the banner to his son who is more than likely far more capable a leader.  The trailer also gave me hope that maybe just maybe they would finally be retiring the tired old shtick of Alliance versus Horde and giving us the ability to play with friends from both factions.  Look… it is a dream that I am not going to let go of ever… I hate faction bullshit.

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For the most part there is a lot of interesting things at work here… but I lack the faith that they are going to be carried out in a fashion I am going to like.  It is my honest hope that I get into the beta testing process so I can see if I like it or not.  I big nail in the coffin for Warlords was how badly they made the Deathknights feel…  so I guess there are a lot of things that sound good on paper but never quite work right when you put them into practice.  I am absolutely willing to give this game a shot, but I want to know that I will actually like it before I plunk down that pre-order.  The new zones do look absoultely amazing however.  They are pushing this aging engine for every ounce of oomph that it can muster, and I love that.  The way WoW looks right now, reminds me of the way late in a generation console games look… when they have really figured out how to make the most of the resources they have to work with.  This expansion is a bunch of really good ideas, that just don’t seem to be connected by enough tissue to hold them together.  My disappointment largely was that the game didn’t really give me that moment of “fuck yeah!” that I have had in previous expansions.  It did however give me a lot of moments of “that sounds cool”, especially when it comes to the non-linear leveling process for the new content.  Unfortunately that same level scaling won’t apply to the rest of the world… so we are again creating this walled garden of “good” content and everything older will feel like crap as a result.

 

 

 

 

Media Consumption – 10/31/2015

Happy Halloween

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This was another week where I mostly just watched things on YouTube.  That said I did dig up a few gems that I feel are worth sharing.  My weekend is going to be a bit odd because last night we recorded AggroChat so the members of our podcast that have social lives… can go out and do social things.  I on the other hand plan on playing the new Funcom single player game “The Park” in honor of the holiday.  I am not 100% sure if I am going to stream it or not, but I will likely record it.  I have heard it is honestly not that long of a game, but it seems just about right for Halloween fun time.  Other than that…  I have this fear that because of the cold snap I am starting to also get a cold…  I know it doesn’t work that way but still.  So I am starting to preemptively medicate myself, because I really don’t want to be sick again…  after having recently spent entirely too much time sick.

The Book of Sorrows

This is absolutely amazing… and you should stop what you are doing and spend the next hour and a half listening to this.  I may or may not be a bit obsessed with Destiny and its oddly coherent… but insanely difficult to find Lore.  This lore has traditionally been pieced together in a manner that can only be fully represented if you imagine a basement somewhere… with newspaper clippings, photos, scribbled writings…  all connected together with red string with various bits and pieces circled and text scrawled on it that says “this means something”.  Seriously to understand Destiny lore is to lose a significant part of your sanity.  With the Taken King release…. they made things a bit easier in a way that peeling an orange with your bare hands… is easier than trying to do it with a pair of those weird mechanical lab arms that you see in science fiction labs.  Throughout the new items there are some items called Calcified Fragments… and each one you collect unlocks another tidbit of a tome called the Book of Sorrows.  This actual book…  outlines the progression of the hive from being this tiny race that lived only ten years…  to the immortal monster that it is today.  This shit is really good… and at some point I will listen to it again.  The channel I linked is pretty damned amazing… because it is voice acted in a manner you would expect an audio book to be done.  Extremely worth your time…  seriously listen to this now.

Star Wars Original Trilogy – Force Awakens Mash-up

Another thing I am also completely enamored with right now is Force Awakens and anything else that seems like  Force Awakens.  The measure of hype and love that I am feeling for Star Wars right now…  is insane.  The awesome thing about it is that right now I am rocking a R2-D2 beanie… and it is insane the amount of friends I make because of it.  I had a long conversation about Star Wars Battlefront last night with the grocery store cashier because it all started with a “Man I love your beanie”.  If you want to be crushed with feels….  watch this above video.  The creator took scenes from the original trilogy, and cut it to fit the thematic elements of the Force Awakens trailer and that soundtrack.  Seriously…  I felt shivers when I watched this thing… and then was just overwhelmed with emotion upon its conclusion.  I am probably overselling it…  but you know I get super excited about things so…  watch this too.

Detroit Trailer

A few years back there was this amazing tech demo running on the Playstation 3 hardware called Kara, about this android that feels more emotional than it should.  We wondered for years what would become of it…. if anything would come of it.  It was this great experience of trans-humanism and my friends and I all sort of hoped it would be more than just a tech demo someday.  Turns out they are in fact working on a game surrounding that same universe, and they are setting it in Detroit.  Not sure exactly what the appeal of Detroit is for non-American developers…  but apparently it has some because there seem to be an awful lot of games set in this city.  The game looks pretty awesome, and it is going to be interesting to see what ramifications come from being a “free range android” of sorts.  Reminds me quite a bit of the show Humans, which deals with similar issues.

Destiny re-cut to Force Awakens

I said I was obsessed with Force Awakens right now… and also Destiny… and this video connects the two.  Similar to the original Star Wars trilogy trailer, this takes the sound and voice over associated with the Force Awakens trailer and edits it to Destiny footage.  I think it works pretty great, and I felt the same sort of warm fuzzies watching this as I did the other…  I was honestly shocked at just how well it worked.  The strange thing is… the guy that did this apparently almost exclusively re-cuts movie trailers to Destiny footage… but honestly most of them don’t work nearly as well as this one.

Walking Dead

I thought I would throw a footnote in here really quick…  just to say I am not going to talk about this episode.  Mostly because I don’t want anyone to accidentally have it spoiled.  Some shit happens… some major shit…  and Monday morning we tried to sort through all of it.  We were seriously distraught because we were uncertain what the events of the show meant for the franchise as a whole.  Then…  one of us found some leaked information…  which makes me even less likely to write about it.  Right now…  I am just not sure how I feel about it… what happened… what supposedly will happen.  As a result I just am not going to talk about it other than what I have just said here.  Since however I have gotten in the habit of running down each new episode, I thought I would at least leave a footnote.

Media Consumption 10/24/2015

Week of Star Wars

MediaConsumptionThis week was extremely dominated by my burgeoning love of Star Wars.  I have written many times about how I just was not feeling the franchise after the prequels… and that all of the hype surrounding me has rekindled that little kid inside of me that wanted to be “darfa bader”.  I’ve always loved the empire more than the rebels, and I feel kinda bad about that… but Storm Troopers and Darth Vader….  come on.  I was sick for a chunk of the week and while home sick… I caught up on a few things… namely Star Wars Rebels.  So without further rambling… lets talk about stuff.

Star Wars: Force Awakens – Trailer 3

This trailer is absolutely amazing and only serves to bump my hype for this movie up to a fever pitch.  This honestly scares me more than a little bit.  I am as excited right now for Force Awakens as I was for Phantom Menace… and we all know how that turned out.  I think the thing that gives me confidence more than anything is the giant trail of money attached to this movie.  Disney paid four billion dollars to purchase the Star Wars franchise… and I think the realize if this movie is the stinker than Phantom Menace was… they have essentially flushed the vast majority of that money down the toilet.  That said I have also come to realize that quite simply I don’t think George Lucas knows how to direct human beings with human emotions.  I’ve recently watched the prequels again… and those movies are full of some really damned good actors… all of which are chewing up scenery with some of the most unnatural dialog and acting I have seen.  You take those same actors and put them in quite literally any other movie and they do amazing jobs… so it has the be the movies themselves that are the problem.  Anyways… enough of that and on to the trailer.

I love the feel of this trailer, how it is a sequence of more fleshed out vignettes this time.  I have gone back and forth on the popular conspiracies and at this point I simply don’t have a clue.  I don’t know why Luke Skywalker isn’t on the movie poster, and I am starting to question if it is him with the robotic hand reaching out to R2-D2.  I am playing this game of “who is the Skywalker”, and I right now I am starting to think that maybe Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren are all connected to the previous trilogy.  I am still leaning heavily towards Kylo Ren being the child of Han and Leia who has now turned to the Dark Side and become essentially a Vader fanboy… since he knows that Vader was essentially his Grandfather.  You see Rey behind the seat of the Millennium Falcon in one of the shots that has come out… so that would lead you to believe that maybe she is ALSO the child of Han and Leia…  maybe sibling to Kylo?  Finn is the one I cannot place…  since we see him wielding a lightsaber we know he is a force sensitive.  Makes me wonder if maybe he is the child of Luke, but with whom.  He could also be the child of Sana Solo which is now apparently the in canon wife of Han.  I feel like a lot of this movie is going to center around Kylo Ren essentially going on an Artifact hunt trying to find relics of Vader, but past that I am not sure of anything.  I am absolutely looking forward to December so I can finally see how the pieces are going to fit together.

Star Wars Rebels

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While sick this week I caught up on watching Star Wars Rebels, which I found out you can stream from the Disney XD website so long as you have a cable provider to validate with.  The only problem with this is that it isn’t really clear where one season ends and the next begins.  At this point I am apparently caught up and into season two, and I have to say this show… is so great and just what we needed to bridge some gap between the prequels and the modern age movies.  This show is essentially about the birth of the Rebellion as we know it episodes four through six.  I’ve talked about the show in the past on my blog, and I will warn you it honestly takes a few episodes before it starts to feel right.  Sabine Wren is awesome… just going to get that out there.  I love Mandalorians and she has this awesome quirky nature that is just great, and I love the fact that she tags her armor every time they take down another imperial target.  I also adore the paint job she did on the captured Tie Fighter.

The coolest part about this show however is the fact that we get to find out what happens to Ahsoka Tano.  That was the biggest problem I had after Clone Wars you weren’t really sure what became of her.  You know she isn’t in any of the prequels…  largely because I don’t think the character existed until the Clone Wars cartoon… but we just know she is not around in any form.  Here we find that she is fighting the good fight and acting as the rebel operative known as “Fulcrum”.  It is awesome to see her again, but we know that issues are going to come up…  and with a brief interaction with Darth Vader he realizes exactly who she is… and that she is still alive.  You are left with the impression that she has her assumptions that Vader is Anakin…  but she isn’t nearly as certain as Vader is in that interaction.  I thought it was awesome that they brought in Commander Cody as well, and it makes me so damned happy that essentially Clone Wars and Rebels are a continuation of the same basic story arc.  I was afraid that all of the great characters that got invented for the Clone Wars show would simply be gone, but now we are seeing them almost all revitalized as part of the Rebels show… which also I believe means they are being inducted into the canon universe.  The hope is that maybe some of these characters will have brief cameos in the new movies as well.

Walking Dead Season 5 – Episode 2

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Wow… this episode.  I thought the first episode was intense with the quarry full of walkers, and herding them down the path.  This episode starts off very benign showing you how the rest of the characters were spending the time while everyone else was out in the field with the walkers.  Then in a manner so quickly that I thought it might literally be a hallucination…  we see the wolves get into Alexandria and just start slaughtering the residents.  We all knew the wolves would eventually get there, and it seems as though either someone jumped the fence in the same way that Carl and Enid have done…  or someone left the damned gate open again.  Last week we theorized as to who was hitting the car horn and leading the walkers of the pack, but this week we find out that it was instead a semi truck that was heading for one of the walls to break it down.  The gun in the guard tower managed to shoot the driver…  but then the driver fell on the horn while dying.  The episode as a whole was just so strange to see how absolutely feral and blindingly fast the wolves were.

The part I am thankful for however is the fact that essentially this incident forced Carol to abandon her disguise.  She had to become the badass we all know she is, but I do think it is significant that she once again took on the disguise of a wolf, much like she took on the disguise of a walker getting into Terminus.  I think this is the sign of something more with her character… I think she got used to having to wear a mask in the years she was in her abusive marriage, and now it is just comfortable for her to keep adopting them in order to stay safe.  This episode however was a tale of two styles conflicting…  the monk like pacifism of Morgan, and the brutal and honest force of Carol.  The body count from this episode was massive and I think in one show we have whittled down the folks in Alexandria to only the reliable and self sufficient ones are left.  The wolves came in and killed all of the sheep as it were…  all of the people who simply could not take care of themselves.  As a result I think Alexandria is going to be a vastly different place in the coming weeks as they have to deal with this horde of walkers bearing down upon the walls.  I am amped for this week to see what happens next.

Media Consumption 10/17/2015

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Television Lite Week

This week has been one that has seen me absolutely consumed with Destiny on the PlayStation 4, and as such I have simply not spent much time watching television.  I have however watched quite an excessive amount of YouTube videos, namely as I try to find information about Destiny.  There is this shift that is happening where certain games with certain audiences… simply do not have information blog posts about them.  I’ve gotten spoiled in a world with Dulfy.net and WoWHead.com in that I expect pretty much every game I have to have this quality of resources.  Instead for many games lately all I am ever able to find is YouTube videos on a given subject.  I am sorry to all the YouTubers out there… but I am of a generation where I feel like a video is the least useful way to disseminate information.  I will take a written explanation and some good screenshots any day over a lengthy video walk through.  At some point in the near future I hope to take some of these things that I found frustrating and attempt to write some blog posts outlining how to do this thing or that thing in Destiny.  Granted that is not to say there are not a lot of really good Destiny YouTube channels…  but I would still rather have an informational post.

Destiny Lore

The first time around when the AggroChat crew played Destiny… we joked that it was a game almost entirely devoid of story.  That apparently is not the case…  they just go to strange lengths to hide it from you.  The story of the game is told through a series of grimoire cards, item descriptions, quest text, and hinted at in cinematic scenes.  In fact there is actually apparently a TON of information about the characters in the game, their background, how they arrived at the tower… and all sorts of legends from the golden age, the city age, and the now tower age.  In my search for information about Destiny I happened to stumble across a really awesome YouTube channel called Myelin Game… which is not to be confused with long time friend Mylin1.  The channel is chock full of videos where Myelin digs into the lore of Destiny and connects the dots, weaving all of the known information… and speculated information into a narrative around a certain subject.  I linked the Black Garden video since the game does a pretty poor job to explain what the hell it actually is…  but I also highly suggest the trilogy of videos talking about thorn, last word, and first curse.  I have always guessed there was this rich story somewhere behind Destiny… because the dots connected too neatly at times not to be well planned, but now that I am starting to learn some of the actual story I am loving it.  I still feel it is a strange choice to make players dig for this knowledge, rather than letting you experience chunks of it through the story.  The Fallen King expansion does a much better job of being more forthcoming with information… and it gives characters that previously did not have much of a personality… plenty of chance to show it off.  I’ve spent a lot of time listening to these lore videos while doing other things and I highly recommend them.

Star Wars Minute

Another thing that I stumbled across this week is Star Wars Minute, which is a great YouTube channel that takes segments of the Star Wars universe and condenses them into roughly one minute long narrative explanations.  Much like the Destiny Lore, this feels as much podcast as it does YouTube video because the narrative explanation is the important part… and the images going along with it are nice to have but not 100% necessary.  I ended up finding this as I started doing some googling related to the Star Wars universe, namely for the upcoming pen and paper game that should have its first session tomorrow.  The funny thing about this is how much of the universe I already had a full grasp on but have no clue why.  I guess even though I have been a sleeper Star Wars fanboy since the prequels… I was still subconsciously hungry for knowledge about this favorite of universes.  Star Wars Minute is great to play in the background as you do something else and they release three new episodes a week, so there is a silly amount of content available already.

Arrow Season 3

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Be warned I am going to go into some serious spoilers here, so if you have not watched Arrow Season 3 or if you intend to at a later date…  you might want to skip this section.  Here is the point at which I get really frustrated with this show.  Generally speaking I am all for a television show deviating from the source material to make the universe work better for the TV audience.  For example most of the Batman movies have worked really well… and they are essentially a condensed soup version of the batman universe…  gathering up all the good bits and trying to weave a story out of them.  You have a very limited amount of time on television, and what might work fine to slowly build over the course of several years of a comic run… needs to happen in an under two hour long movie.  Television shows have a bit more leverage when it comes to pacing something out, and this is also cool.  The thing that apparently pisses me off though… is when you take actions attributed to one character and apply them to a completely different character.

What I mean is that this story line that has played out throughout the season around R’as al Ghul didn’t happen to Green Arrow…  ever.  Essentially this is a Batman storyline, and all of the events that are playing out happened at one time or another to Batman.  This caused me to think about Arrow the television show in a different light and realize that essentially… they have been turning Arrow into Batman this entire time.  Maybe it is because Batman has been tagged as a “film” universe and is not available to be done in a Television version that they feel the need to create someone that is Batman-like.  Green Arrow was admittedly a comic that I did not really follow.  I mean I knew that him calling his sister Speedy when that was the character that would ultimately become Arsenal was wrong… and I knew a few other points seemed less than correct.  However I lived in this world of relatively little knowledge about the show so I was able to pretty much ignore any differences… until they started stepping foot into the Batman universe.  THAT is a universe I know considerably more about, and after a whole lot of research and the council of Thalen…  I pretty much determined that nope…  Green Arrow has never really interacted much with R’as al Ghul at all.  So I am sitting here two episodes away from the end of the season… questioning if I care to finish watching it.

Walking Dead Season 6 Premiere

WalkingDeadSeason6

Thank god Walking Dead is back.  “Fear The” was such a pale imitation of Walking Dead, and I am exceptionally happy that they chose to back up the start of Season Six to the end of the first season of Fear.  I do have to say though that it makes me extremely happy that Talking Dead has been pulled in officially for Fear as well, because for me at least that has become so much of that experience.  This is one hell of a first episode, and I really liked the way they handled Flashbacks in this episode by making them Black and White.  That is always the challenge with a show, how to visually tell the watcher that the events they are seeing are not happening in real time but instead an imagined replay.  When you are dealing with older characters and younger characters, it works naturally… but when you are dealing with only a few hours or days passing… it becomes much more challenging.  So the choice of black and white gave a nice clear demarcation point between the two time-frames.  As to the rest of the episode…  Rae sent me a text as the show as going on that simply said “Nosh Pit”.

The premise of the show has to be one of the most Rube Goldberg style plot devices I have seen in awhile.  To figure out a way to draw the walkers out of the pit and along a fixed path to get them away from Alexandria.  The parallels to herding cattle…  was extremely strong in this episode.  They even managed to draw them down a chute just like you do cattle for a period of time… and then cleared out the farm supply store just to make sure nothing would spook them and draw their attention away…  kinda like you do cattle.  The slightest noise can distract cattle and get them to move in a different direction, and that apparently is the case with walkers.  The thing is… going into this episode… you knew something was going to go wrong.  There were scenes in the Season 6 preview show of Walkers in Alexandria or at least the hint of that happening.  This show is really good about misleading us, for example the above poster would seem like we are heading towards some central conflict between Morgan and Rick… and in truth… it seems like Morgan instead manages to back Rick down from the ledge a bit.

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As far as the walkers…  when they are nearing the clear zone…  someone sets off a horn in Alexandria, causing the mega horde to turn that direction.  So the question is… who did it.  At work the popular theory for awhile has been that Enid is a spy from the Wolves, and that the scenes of her in the car with the walker outside…  hint that she set off the horn.  My personal theory is it is Father Gabriel once again trying to destroy everything around him.  He wanted to go out on the mission to herd the walkers, but Rick shut him down immediately.  My theory is he is vindictive, and after being shut down by Andrea as well…  he is still on some mission to destroy this community and in the process allow himself to be kill in some sort of twisted act of contrition for letting his parishioners die.  In truth it could be the wolves themselves, who have been watching everything happening and see this as their opportunity to let the zombies batter down the defense of Alexandria and allow them to come in after they are done… and loot the resources.  If nothing else this episode explained why Alexandria had been left fairly unscathed… because the giant pit of zombies had been drawing in more zombies and keeping them away from the town.  It is going to be interesting to see how the next few episodes play out, and who we lose in the process.

 

Media Consumption 10/10/2015

Netflix Binge Time

This week things felt like they were starting to get back to normal.  Since last week was so freaking crazy I ended up taking Tuesday off and just hanging out around the house.  That meant it was the perfect time to binge watch something on Netflix.  Unlike the previous week there have been multiple times that I simply hung out downstairs with the laptop and television, and as such have some shows to talk about.  Of note, if anyone has something they suggest I watch feel free and chime in.  I am always looking for something interesting, but the caveat is it must be available either through Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime streaming.  I know iZombie has started back up, and I have the episodes recording to my DVR but am largely waiting on my wife to watch them since she also was able to get into the previous season.

Dark Matter – Season 1

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Dark Matter is one of those shows that folks had been suggesting to me for some time now, but I never really got around to watching it.  When I first checked to see if the show was streamable somewhere, I was only able to watch like the last five episodes through Hulu.  Now the entire series is on Netflix and it seemed like the perfect time to watch it.  I can’t think of this show without also comparing it to another SyFy channel show Killjoys.  There are moments where you wonder if this is set in the same universe, because they seem extremely similar.  Distopic future where corporations control pretty much everything, and folks are forced to carve out their lives on the fringe of society.  The twist here is that the  crew woke from out of cryosleep only to find that they have all had their memories erased.  During the first season we spend a lot of time trying to sort out who they are and what exactly they were doing, and at the same time blending together as a team.

So far my two favorite characters are “Five” aka the hacker stowaway girl, and the Android…. that they sadly just keep calling Android.  I am hoping in season two they finally give her a name, because I like the character and actor playing her.  If you are a fan of Lost Girl it is the same actor that played the Fae Doctor on that show, and sometimes love interest of the succubus title character.  What is awesome is that obviously there is some malfunction with the Android as she is starting to develop emotions, which makes the experience very “Data” like.  As far as the hacker… I knew she looked familiar and it finally hit me.  She is the little girl that played Alessa in the Silent Hill movie, and I IMDB’d to confirm it.  There are moments where the show gives me very Cowboy Bebop vibe to it, as they wander around space looking for jobs to pull…. so you know they can eat and have fuel.  All we need now is a genetically modified Corgi.

Arrow – Season 3

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Also showing up on Netflix is season 3 of Arrow, which I somehow completely missed arriving until last night.  While playing SWTOR I binged my way through about half of the season and plan on trying to finish it up today.  So far I am liking it, but I am not super keen on some of the events that have transpired.  There is a lot of this season that just feels like it is set up material for future events.  I feel like I also really need to watch Flash after this to help piece together some of the parts that are missing when ONLY watching this season.  The cross over episode felt a bit odd, because I am assuming it started with Flash.  Also the lengthy set up for Atom has been interesting but a little contrived.  I am also not super sure what is going on with the character of Felicity this season, she seems to be shifting personalities a lot.  I am largely cool with Laurel taking the mantle of Black Canary as well.  The problem with the DC universe is that I only really know a shallow version of it that tends to be very Batman-centric.

Growing up I was a Marvel kid, and the only comics I really delved into were the Batman and Green Lantern universes…  other than Superfriends that is.  Marvel always felt like the universe of gritty anti-heroes and that was the sort of thing I thought was cool.  DC however tended to have much more detailed story arcs, and they obviously did a far better job of licensing their properties than Marvel since we have the ability to see all of these cross overs.  Obviously the whole handing Cupid over to Suicide Squad bit… is going to end up biting them in the ass.  I am hoping as the season goes on we see more of the Suicide Squad, especially as this season and season four probably really need to set up for the Suicide Squad movie, seeing as that is not a part of the DC universe that most people know anything about.  Well that is other than Harly Quinn… at this point everyone knows and loves Harly Quinn.  Looking forward to finishing the season today, as I continued to work my way through the Bounty Hunter storyline.

Fear The Walking Dead – Season Finale

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The funny thing about Fear the Walking Dead is how the episode finale had two vastly different effects on me and my wife.  Up until this point in the season she had been watching the episodes with me, and it seemed like maybe she was almost getting into the show.  Whereas honestly I was bored and kept waiting for the inevitable other shoe to fall, because having been a long time walking dead watcher…  you knew the bad stuff was coming eventually.  Finally in this episode everything starts to go wrong, and this is the point at which my wife completely loses interest.  It seems like she is fine with a world where people have to sort out how to survive, but not so much in a world where they are constantly being chased by the dead.  Daniel still rises from this episode as my favorite character, namely the only one who is truly prepared to exist in this world.  The only problem there is he takes what is a bad situation and makes it even worse by letting loose the first horde.

In earlier episodes we find that they were using a stadium as a shelter, much like they did in Katrina with the super dome.  Something goes wrong and people start turning, and the military is unable to sort out who is living and who is dead and just ends up chaining the entire contents in essentially assuring that all two thousand plus people end up as zombies.  So when Daniel turns them lose to use them to attack the military compounds, it gives us a hint and maybe HOW the hordes form.  Maybe they get started when zombies finally break out of places they have been pinned up in and keep wandering together because they don’t exactly have free will.  Which makes you wonder… where exactly did the mega horde near Alexandria come from?  The big thing I wanted from Fear the Walking Dead, was more insight into WHY the world fell to hell and that seems to be something that was not on the menu.  Largely I am disappointed in the show, and the lack of Talking Dead after it was a problem for me.  Talking Dead essentially played the role of having someone to talk about the show with, in a strange way.  I am hoping when Season Two comes around they will do a “Talking Fear” show or something like that.  In any case this week we get the return of the real Walking Dead show so in the meantime I am pretty amped for that since experiencing the watered down version.

 

 

 

 

Media Consumption 10/3/2015

Week of PS4

This week was pretty much the week of me intending to play other games… and then never quite getting off of my PS4 in time to actually do that.  As a result I spent most of my time upstairs in my office with my chair turned to the side pointing at the television that runs my consoles.  Also as a result I did not really watch any television other than last Sunday night, which means that portion of my usual media consumption was pretty scant.  However that said I did watch a bunch of really interesting things on the Internets own television station…  aka YouTube.  As a result this episode of Media Consumption is largely going to focus on things I found interesting on YouTube.

Tommy Westphall Theory

So firstly I have to give a major shout out to the PBS Idea Channel for creating videos that are almost always thought provoking or at least makes me want to discuss whatever it is they are talking about with my friends.  This week however they posted a video that quite literally blew my mind.  Tiny fireworks went off followed by lots of mental pain… as I attempted to reorient myself to accept the notion that what they were saying could be real.  They delved into this idea called the Tommy Westphall Universe Hypothesis, where essentially over four hundred different seemingly unrelated televisions shows… all occur in the same universe.  To make things even stranger the suggestion is that this entire universe exists in the mind of one autistic boy named Tommy Westphall that appeared on Saint Elsewhere.  If this sounds interesting then by all means watch the video and prepare to make mind explodey noises.

Ahoy – Nuclear Fruit Series

The problem with the internet is that things change regularly… and there is little to no way to track down what things previously were called.  There is this great channel that is currently called Ahoy, but I cannot for the life of me remember what the original name was.  Essentially it is a channel that does these awesome videos that explore video game concepts with amazing narration and artful two dimensional graphics.  I first was made aware of the channel through the Brief History of Graphics series where they delve into computer games and explore the various eras and the graphical changes that came into play as part of them.  There is also a really great series called Iconic Arms where they delve into the ubiquitous guns that we use in shooter games, and the origins of them… usually delving into the maker and the real world conflicts they were actually used in.  Today however I am here to talk about their latest five part series called Nuclear Fruit, where they delve into our fascination with nuclear warfare and the games that were inspired by it.  As of writing this there are only four parts available but the next part should arrive this coming week if they follow the standard schedule.  If you look in this playlist the video appears to be available but just flagged to “private”.

Cool Ghosts – The Taken King: Does it Fix Destiny?

If for some reason you missed this yesterday, I am a really huge fan of this video.  It does an excellent job of highlighting the things that felt wrong with Destiny Year One and the way many of those have been improved in Year Two.  Yesterday I also went into my own reasons for why I think the game is in a much better state, but still the video is well worth watching.  Matt Lees the guy who appears in the video makes absolutely brilliant videos, the problem being they are somewhat sporadic.  My hope is that his new “Cool Ghosts” initiative where he collaborates with another friend will serve to be a fertile ground for new content.  In the mean time we can always just re-watch his crowing achievements of the PS4 and Xbox One reveals.

Fear the Walking Dead

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There is a huge part of me that is excited for this weeks Fear the Walking Dead…  because it means this season is over and we can return to the normal Walking Dead television show.  In all fairness I have to say last weeks episode had things finally starting to get interesting.  From this point out… I am going to delve into a ton of spoilers and if you have not been watching this show you might just want to stop reading this sub section.  We found out a bunch of stuff that does not bode well for the characters.  I have a feeling that there is no way that they are getting out of tomorrows episode without at least losing one of the characters.  Essentially the crazy old man… aka Daniel Salazar… aka the only person who has the survival instincts necessary to survive the undead apocalypse…   has kidnapped the soldier that his daughter Ofelia is sweet on.  Then he proceeds to do what so many fathers have wished they could do to the guys dating their daughters…  slowly peels away his skin in a cruel torture ritual.  The thing is…  as horrible as this act is… it is quite literally the only way he was able to get him to spill the beans about operation Cobalt.  This is apparently a planned execution of all of the civilians when they abandon the Los Angeles Basin.  As we go into this weeks episode it is essentially the day these events are supposed to play out.  That said it seems like most of the soldiers who would have been involved in said plan… got nommed on in an overrun hospital.  So here we go…  things are finally going to get crazy…  because I am tired of this suburban living under armed guard phase of the show.  Let the bodies hit the floor!  It is seriously time to weed out some of the characters.

Media Consumption 9/26/2015

The Second Week

There is a distinct reason why I decided to call this new feature “media” consumption rather than television or movies, namely because there are some weeks that go by that I don’t really watch much television.  For example unless having cartoon network going on in the background counts, I have not really watched any purposeful television since last Sunday.  I did however watch a lot of stuff online and listen to a lot of music, as such this week is going to be a bit of a pivot as I talk about some of those things.  As I am starting to pull out of my hibernation state a bit, I am by nature spending less time parked in front of the television.

Meg Myers – Sorry

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It is so rare that a musician comes around that so closely matches my personal tastes as Meg Myers.  I’ve seen her described as what would happen if Trent Reznor and Tori Amos had a kid…  and honestly I feel like that is probably a fairly apt theory.  The funny thing is that when I heard this theory I had no clue about the supposed affair that the two of them had back in the 90s… but a good friend of mine is a historian in all things Trent and filled me in on the details.  In reality the music is just damned amazing.  “Sorry” is her first full length album, but there have been a few EPs floating around for awhile that are up on Google Music, and they have been in pretty regular rotation since I first found out about her.  I feel so strongly about this music that when the album was released on September 18th I purchased it…  even though I had access to it freely through my Google Music subscription.  This means a lot, because I generally don’t buy music other than video game soundtracks… because I have access to stream pretty much anything I could ever want through Google Music.  In fact this is the first album I have purchased since backing the Amanda Palmer kickstarter.  It is the first musician in a long time that I feel like I want to wholeheartedly support.

If you have never heard anything by Meg Myers I highly suggest checking out the title track “Sorry”

If you want to pick it up… [Google Play] [iTunes] [Amazon]

Star Wars Phantom Menace Review

After last week going into how disappointed I was about the prequels after watching them again recently, a good friend of mine linked me a really strange youtube review of the series that takes place over the course of seven different videos.  Now there is some disturbing comedy woven in between the bits of actual review that I don’t necessarily think is sane and rational, but most of what this person is saying about the movies themselves is exactly what I had been feeling.  If you are like me and living in this constant state of disappointment about the movies… it might be a bit cathartic to listen to someone rip them a new one.  The amount of time spent delving into just why Phantom Menace was so horrible…  is a bit obsessive but I listened to them one night while playing Destiny.  I enjoyed myself, but your mileage may vary.

Inon Zur plays Fallout 4 Theme

If you have been around me for very long, one thing you know is that I love video game soundtracks.  One that has been on regular rotation for years is the Rift soundtrack composed by Inon Zur, so I am absolutely no stranger to his work.  In the above video we have him doing a very passionate rendering of the Fallout 4 theme song.  This combines so many things that I love, because you could not be any more excited about Fallout 4 than I am.  Hell I even managed to snag one of the pip boy editions.  Fallout is one of those game series that I have been passionate about since College and each one just seems to keep getting better.  Lately we have been talking New Vegas on the Podcast because Thalen is experiencing it for the very first time.  Knowing Inon Zur is the composer for the main score even makes me more excited about what the fourth installment might bring.

iZombie

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At this point my wife and I are around eight or nine episodes into the first season.  The hope is between today and tomorrow we can catch a few more episodes while she grades.  I still need to remember to set the DVR to start recording episodes from this season, since I guess the whole Fall television thing is happening.  I know that I can get the five latest episodes through Hulu but I want to make sure not to miss an episode and have to track it down somehow through nefarious means.  Have I ever mentioned that I hate the current state of television and how damned hard it is to sort out which medium happens to be streaming which shows?  I feel like if you are a television provider and not offering your shows either through Hulu or through Netflix… then you are passively giving me permission to track your stuff down illicitly on the interwebs by not giving me a subscription based option.  Anyways hopefully we will sort out the rest of this season and be caught up soon.  This is actually a good enough show however for me to watch it on a weekly/semi-weekly basis.

Fear the Walking Dead

I can honestly say that right now at this moment… there is not a single character on Fear the Walking Dead that I actually like.  In fact I would be just as happy as not to see them attacked by Zombies and then replaced by a cast of characters that we have yet to even meet.  As much as I am enjoying iZombie… I am that much NOT enjoying Fear the Walking Dead.  I keep hoping and waiting to see if it gets better, but right now…  that is very much not a thing that is happening.  In fact in many ways it has gotten worse, and it is my fear that they will drag this shit out until the sixth episode before finally giving us anything interesting.  All of the characters are weak and stupid… and I cannot fathom how any of them are going to survive past the end of this season let along the series as a whole.  I guess society hasn’t fallen apart enough for folks to start reverting to primal instincts yet, but I am so ready for the heroine addict son to end up as walker fodder.  I guess what is annoying about all of this is that so many people seem to be acting like “life as normal” can continue, when we the audience know that their suburban existence is over and that staying there is essentially a death sentence.  Maybe this is precisely what Kirkman was going for… making us loathe the characters so that when they ultimately die we will enjoy it?  I would be shocked it more than one of that first family actually makes it out of this season.  Right now I am betting on the mom, she seems to be starting to go down the path of Carol.

 

Media Consumption 9/19/2015

Another Thing

One of the things I have found myself doing a lot lately is hanging out downstairs on my laptop and watching a fairly steady feed of television and movies.  Now some of this I am consuming from the On Demand service from cable and others from Netflix or Hulu.   Over the last few years there is a ton of television content that I have wished I had seen, but never actually got around to seeing.  With fall coming on, I tend to spend a lot more time snuggled on the couch, and as such I think I am going to start another weekly feature similar to my Sunday “what I have been playing” column to watch about the media content I have been consuming.  One of the big things that has changed over the years is I tend to watch an entire television series over the course of a couple days, instead of letting it drag out over the course of a season.  In fact I prefer this method of consumption so much that I will let an entire season of a show record on my DVR before starting in on watching it.  I blame Netflix squarely for this tendency and right now quite literally the only shows I watch as they are airing are the Walking Dead series simply because most of my development group is hooked on the show and we discuss it Monday mornings.  Hopefully folks will dig me going back and talking about what I have been up to.

iZombie

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I started this show on my own a few days ago, but quickly realized that this would actually be something that my wife would enjoy.  As a result last night we started in and managed to get about three episodes into the series.  Essentially you take the smart and quirky writing of Veronica Mars, mix in a dash or True Calling and Crossing Jordan, and add a dash of Being Human and maybe a sprinkle of a show like Drop Dead Diva… and you end up with the weird mix that is iZombie.  The premise is simple… she was a promising surgical resident until she went to a party on a boat…  where a designer drug turned people into zombies.  She got scratched and wound up as a member of the unliving… completely uprooting her promising career, her engagement and most of the relationships in her life.  Instead she now works in the Morgue where she has a ready supply of brains, and a series of misadventures that spring around her ability to see flashes of memory from the brains she consumed.  Flat out if you loved Veronia Mars as much as I did… you will love this show.  It is more of the same sort of intelligent writing and snarky commentary mixed with crime solving…  just of a different sort.  I look forward to picking up and continuing watching this show over the weekend.

Black Mirror

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This one is available on Netflix, and is a British show which means…  short seasons.  There are two seasons available currently, which only actually mean six total shows to watch.  I tweeted that this show was weird, but there is something infectious about it.  I like to think of it as Tales from the Crypt for Futurism and Technology.  Essentially they take ideas that folks have always thought might be cool…  and take them to really dark extremes.  One of the episodes featured a device that you stuck behind your ear, that recorded every single moment in your life allowing you to review them later.  But what happens when no one ever forgets anything… and can scrutinize every moment and everything you have ever said in full high definition color?  The show makes up a series of disturbing what if’s that bring cautionary tales about our own lust for technology and innovation.  I managed to make it through four episodes of the series before finally falling asleep the other night, so at some point I will pick up and finish it.  The six episodes make it a quick watch and if you are into dark futurism….  it might be down your alley.

Chappie

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This movie combines a bunch of weak spots for me…  Artificial Intelligence, Die Antwoord, and Neill Blomkamp.  I loved the movie District 9, so when I saw the trailer for Chappie I thought I would probably like it as well.  The problem is it just took me a really long time to get around to watching it.  The movie is really odd at times…  because for most of it, it really just feels like a really long Die Antwoord video.  Pretty much every piece of music found in the video is theirs, and it features all of the same odd visuals that you find in their videos.  This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, it just makes the movie feel less “movie-like”.  I am imagining there will be a Chappie 2, because they left a lot of things unresolved at the end of the movie.  As far as Chappie itself…  the robot was kinda adorable…  and he is voiced by the same actor that played Wikus from District 9.  The robot is vulnerable and childlike and extremely impressionable… but at the same time very loyal to its humans.  The movie as a whole asks a bunch of trans-humanist questions about what exactly consciousness and sentience is.  It will be interesting to see where this goes if there is a sequel.

Star Wars Prequels

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Something that I did last weekend and over the course of this week was watch the Star Wars movies.  I’ve talked a bit about how Phantom Menace was a massive let down for me… and how I have been afraid to get excited about Force Awakens because of it.  In spite of all of my better judgement however…  I am infected with full on hype mode when it comes to Force Awakens and Star Wars in general.  I grew up loving this series… and in spite of the prequels I am once again in love with anything and everything Star Wars.  As a result I thought to myself…  maybe I was too hard on the Prequels, so in my rewatch of the movies attempted to go into them with an open mind.  The end result is that I don’t necessarily “hate” them, but objectively they are really bad movies.  The pacing feels off, and the characters feel forced to act out awkward dialog at every single turn.  There is something however that bugs me even more about them.  There are times in movies and television shows when the viewers know more about the movie than the characters on screen… and this can be interesting.

The problem with Phantom Menace is that it somehow pretends that we don’t know that Senator/Chancellor Palpatine is Darth Sidious.  Like when we finally find out that he is the Dark Lord of the Sith… the movies act like we should be shocked.  Additionally making these movies about Anakin Skywalker just feels wrong.  We know from the moment this series starts that he is ultimately going to end up in a fight with Obi Wan and be damaged to the point of needing to go into the suit to survive and become the Darth Vadar we all know.  The prequels should have focused on Obi Wan, and told his story… with his failure to steer Anakin away from the Dark Side as being a part of that story.  Obi Wan is the interesting character here, not the whiny bullshit of Darth Teen Angst.  There are awesome moments scattered among the three films, but I feel like you could make one really awesome movie if you just edited out the bad bits.  In fact there is a fan edit that does just this and trims the movie into a 2 hour long epic.  The only part of the first film that is shown is the “Duel of the Fates” sequence.  I think this would be a much better way to jump start the awesome movies that follow… and really the original movies are awesome.  I found myself thinking just how great they were as I watched “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back”.  I can still however take or leave “Return of the Jedi”, because I feel like it starts some of the bullshit that George Lucas tried to continue throughout the Prequels.

Fear the Walking Dead

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Finally I wanted to talk a bit about Fear the Walking Dead, which this Sunday will show its fourth episode.  Last week the shit finally started hitting the fan, as the Zombie infection began to finally get noticed.  My wife happened to catch the first two episodes before watching the new episode last week because she happened to be downstairs grading.  She made the same sort of comments that I had been making internally about how stupid the characters were acting.  At one point she made the comment “Have none of these people ever seen Scream?” as another character put themselves in a really dumb position.  Over the first two episodes the series played on the fact that we know how the Walking Dead unvierse works, and placed the characters in compromising positions….  only to have the Zombie NOT jump out of the shadows to get them.  That however I think is changing, and this week I expect things to start to get really crazy.  I love the way the series is playing on the modern riots as the way the public at large is dealing with the zombie epidemic.  When the police put down a zombie, it is seen as police brutality and a huge riot breaks out downtown.  The show keeps giving us little clues that things are heating up… like the first few zombies took awhile to turn, but now the virus is mutating and speeding up.  In one sequence there is a cop being munched on by a zombie… and then a few scenes later that same police officer is munching on a protester.  The only thing that really frustrates me is the fact that at no point do people seem to recognize what is happening.  I mean are zombie films not a thing in this universe?