Friday Flicks – “Serenity”

Serenity, for those of you who don’t know, is the movie follow up to one of the most beloved cult TV shows of all time, Firefly. The film attempts to give fans of the short lived series a bit of closure as it ties up many of the story lines left unexplained at the sudden cancelation. It’s hard to talk about this one without 1) getting into some spoilers and 2) not assuming the reader has seen the movie; so I’m going to do both those things and, if you have yet to see it, go watch it right now and then you can come back and see if you agree with me or not.

The cast, as a fan of the show would expect, is excellent. Nathan Fillion is exceptional as Captain Malcolm Reynolds and might even be better in the movie than he was in the TV show. That’s saying something considering the huge cult fanbase he built up while starring as the captain. The rest of the cast is just as good; Alan Tudyk (who plays Wash) and Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb) are two of my favorite lesser known actors and their performances are right up there with Fillion in this. Jewel Saite, who I’ve had a crush on since watching my first episode of Firefly, can do no wrong as Kaylee. I was a little sad that Ron Glass didn’t have a bigger part in the movie because his character, Shepard Book, was one of my favorites during the series. The other actors all do well, but these five gave the best performances in the movie and during the TV show in my book.

As I said, the movie attempts to tie up some of the major plot elements introduced during the series, namely what exactly the government was doing to River Tam during her time in their possession. What they give you is somewhat satisfying for fans of the show, but really just left me wishing this was something that could’ve played out in much longer format (read: another season or four). It definitely felt a little rushed, but at least we got to see Captain Reynolds go after the government one last time.

One of the things I could’ve done without was the death of Wash. By that point they’d already killed off Shepard Book and it just felt like the writers were trying to pull at my heart strings, but it only made me mad that they would kill him off for basically no reason. I understand that they wanted the audience to think it was a desperate last mission where anyone could die, but they could’ve found a better way for him to go down than just being speared after a ship wreck.

All in all, this is a great movie for fans and non-fans of the show alike. Obviously you’ll appreciate it more if you’ve seen the series, but I don’t think you necessarily have to watch it. The whole movie’s worth it just to see Jayne take out that guy in the first part of the movie. I easily re-watched that ten times before moving on. Please, do you’re a favor and go see this movie. It’s a cinematic masterpiece and will make you want to watch the whole thing and figure out what this whole Firefly thing is all about.

Community- ” Geography of Global Conflict” Review

The second episode of the season was much better than I expected it to be when it became obvious that this episode would be centered around Annie and, well, Annie. You see, there’s a new girl at Greendale and she’s just like Annie, but Asian. She’s smart, ambitious, and everything Annie was coming out of high school. This new competition doesn’t work into our Annie’s plans and so, after Asian Annie steals real Annie’s plans to make a Model U.N., we’re treated to a U.N. debate that will decide which Annie is “better”.

The debates worked very well, especially Troy, Abed, and Pierce’s parts. Troy was playing the part of Georgia’s (the country) U.N. rep and did so with a hilarious southern accent. His line, “Georgia, the country, is much obliged”, had me in stitches. Abed has absolutely no interest in the actual proceedings and was just worried about how there could be two Earths, which turned out to be a key plot point at the culmination of the episode. Pierce coming out and knowing everything about Somalia was amazing. I especially liked his question of “a place where it’s this easy to buy women and alcohol? How have I not heard of this paradise before?”

The subplot of Britta wanting to rediscover herself as a rebel and Chang wanting to prove himself as a security guard was funny because they made them out to be similar to lovers. I’m usually not a fan of Britta when she starts to go crazy with her world views, but when paired with Chang it worked well. I was a little sad to not see either of the Dean’s make an appearance, but when a girl centric episode is this funny there isn’t much I can complain about.

The after credits segment was one of the funniest I’ve seen in a long time. I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say it involves Troy, Abed, and Pierce playing a real life version of a classic board game. Not that anyone should ever skip one of these, but this is one you have to see.

Overall, this episode wasn’t as strong as the premiere, but it did have quite a few funny one liners. As I said earlier, I’m usually not a big fan of episodes that center around one of the three girls, but this one was one of the few that I would  recommend to even non-fans. Do yourself a favor and go catch this one on Hulu.

Community – Biology 101 Review

Community began their third season tonight with another hilarious episode from start to finish. They started us out with a musical number, proclaiming that this year was going to be different. Dean Pelton was his usual hilarious self in this, wearing the same extravagant outfit as Shirley. The dance turned out to all be a figment of Jeff’s imagination and a visual for what his hopes for that semester were going to be now that Pierce is out of the group.

Those wishes were short lived as Pierce was almost immediately brought back into the group, against Jeff’s best efforts. Sadly for Jeff, he was kicked out of the group’s Biology class and his seat was given to Pierce. They way he is kicked out of the class is, dare I say, so Winger. The writers and Joel McHale nailed exactly how a guy like Jeff Winger would be asked to leave a college class and never come back.

Jeff’s descent into madness because he was no longer a true member of the study group was interesting to see. We got to see just how desperate he can get and even were treated to a little bit of latent racism that might be lurking deep inside him. Pierce’s eventual confession/lie that got Jeff back into the group felt a little out of Pierce’s character last year, but I do like the idea of him changing it up a bit. It makes me think he has something dastardly to unveil later on in the season.

This was a Jeff centric episode, but we were also treated to quite a few solid Troy and Abed one-liners. The best was when they announced they had an announcement to make and everyone was afraid they were about to tell everyone about their secret homosexual relationship. The nod to the sci-fi classic Doctor Who in the form of “Inspector Spacetime” was amazingly spot on. The only problem I had was that it makes me hope for an entire episode spoofing the good Doctor.

If you didn’t thoroughly enjoy the new characters introduced in this episode you must not have a pulse. The new Biology teacher was cast perfectly and my mind is already reeling with possibilities as to how they can use his backstory as an incarcerated criminal to comedic effect as the season goes on. The real gem of the show was John Goodman as the Vice Dean. His short monologue directed towards Dean Pelton had me rolling on the floor. I can’t wait to see if he takes on an even bigger role later in the season.

The final thing I’d like to talk about is that it looks like I might be getting my biggest wish at some point soon. When the dean hired Chang to work as a security guard my eyes immediately lit up because it gets us one step closer to an episode in which the two team up for comedic hi-jinks. Fingers crossed.

Overall, this was a very solid season premiere that left me drooling at the possibilities for great story lines from the things introduced tonight. If you aren’t already addicted to this show, this episode will make you a believer.

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West Review

So, this game has technically been out for almost a year now and I’ve been meaning to play it for almost as long, but I was late to this one; I’m just glad I finally got to play it courtesy of Gamefly. Anyways, on to the very, very late review.

Story-

The main reason I wanted to play this game in the first place is because I’d heard the story was very, very good and, as someone who won’t really play anything that doesn’t have an engaging storyline (I’m looking at you Call of Duty), it was something I had to get my hands on. At first, I was thoroughly impressed with how the whole thing was set up. The setting is amazing and the idea that you always have to keep your partner alive or you die worked for me. Now, we’ve seen post apocalyptic worlds before and, honestly, it’s been done much better before, but this wasn’t a bad effort. In fact, for the first third of the game I was really enjoying the entire story (although I was really confused why Trip thought it was a bad idea to help Monkey out during the first part of the game when she so obviously needed him later). Then Trip’s constant need for me to do things for her started to wear on me. I really hated the constant, “Throw up me up here and then go 20 minutes out of your way to do some platforming.” And it’s not like there was give and take or anything, it was all me doing stuff for her. A little past halfway I almost mailed the game back because she was getting so annoying, but I stuck with it and was glad I did. The  final boss battle left a little to desired (more on that later), but the ending was a great swerve I never saw coming. I won’t spoil it for you, but it would’ve been nice to make my own decision in the end instead of letting Trip decide what happened.

Design-

I’ll say this, I never felt too bored going through the game. It had a nice variety of doing different things. Now those things were basically platforming and fighting off Mechs, but it changed it up enough that I never got too bored doing one or the other. I also have to say the boss battles that involved Monkey using his cloud were some of my favorite boss battles in a long time, especially the one against the Dog Mech. It was a very easy fight, but if it’s fun it doesn’t matter so much. I found myself wishing I could do more racing platforms sections like the one against Pigsy, which was another highlight for me. Finally there were a few cool “chase” portions of the game that were edge of your seat thrilling. The only downside is, like I said before, there’s really not much variety in the different things you do, but you’re never really doing it for too long.

Gameplay-

I have to be honest here, Enslaved didn’t really feel like much of a game. It was, for the most part, an interactive story. The platforming elements are quite fun, but all the things you’re supposed to use to climb up structures are highlighted with an orange glow; meaning you don’t even have to think about where you’re going, you just follow the trail. Sure, I had a lot of fun doing it, but it wasn’t a challenge at all. This brings me to the fighting or should I say constant mashing of the “Y” button. I literally never did anything else unless there were shielded enemies around. You just constantly tap “Y” and sometimes hit “B” to get an animated takedown. That’s all there is to the fighting aspect of the game. Now, later on you get to fire plasma and stun blasts from your staff, but the aiming isn’t exactly at COD’s level of precision so I seemed to miss quite a bit when the enemies were close in. The one bright spot in the gameplay is the control of the Cloud, Monkey’s personal hovercraft. That thing handles like a dream and I was always excited every time the computer voice said, “Cloud control activated” because I knew I was finally getting to do something fun.

Presentation-

This is a beautiful game and I almost never saw any pop up or frame rate issues. It’s not Crysis 2, but it’s more than serviceable. Part of that might be the bare bones gameplay, but at least it looks nice; even if there’s no substance. The character models are great and just cartoony enough to not hit the level of “uncanny valley”. I did think it was a little strange how Monkey is constantly hunched over, but that’s a minor thing. The menu system is pretty basic, but it’s clean and functional, which is always a plus. I will say that the radial system for controlling Trip seemed to work very well in my play through, which is odd because I’m usually not a fan of that kind of AI squad control. The cut scenes felt a little off to me, especially the backgrounds. There just seemed to be something different about them, but I can’t put my finger on it. It almost looked like they took the character models and plopped them into another game with a little worse graphics, which is usually the opposite of what happens. The final thing I’ll say is that it was very strange during the “glitch in the headset” flashbacks to see pictures of video of real life humans. Overall though, I was very impressed with this game graphically.

Overall- 7

I’m giving this game a fairly high score because, as a weekend rental, it’s a solid game. Now, if I had gone out and bought this for full retail price the score would be closer to a 5. If you get some free time this fall and have a weekend with nothing to I’d suggest playing this game because it’s a fun experience that doesn’t require you to think too much. Really, you don’t even have to do much of anything, but the parts that are fun are very, very fun and the rest is a decent game experience. Go ahead and give Enslaved a try, I’m glad I did.

Oh…didn’t see you there.

I’m not sure if anyone is currently (or has ever read) my little corner of the internet, but just in case anyone was I thought I’d tell you why it’s been so long since I posted on wordpress. The first, and main reason, is that I was working at a youth camp all summer and was basically working 24 hours a day with no time to keep up with news or make a blog post. The second is that I’ve been concentrating more on my Bleacher Report articles of late because I’m starting an internship there soon.

With that said, I’d like to get back to posting on here now that summer camp is over and I have much more time. Mostly I’d like to start back up Friday Flicks and Community reviews because it makes me watch things I like more than I would without those articles. That, and I’ve just gotten a Gamefly subscription so I’ll have lots of new games to play.

Speaking of which, I just got LA Noire in and, while I’m sure most of you have played this already, I’d like to take some time to talk about what I think about it. First, the game is amazing, for awhile. At first it’s so innovative and new that you don’t even care that you’re not really playing. Sadly, I’m only on the seventh case and I’m already starting to get bored of the investigation mini-games. Seeing how the cases come together is amazing, there’s no doubting that, and I truly love the interrogation portions, but I’m tired of picking up books that don’t help me at all. The story is well crafted though and fans of plot should waste no time in picking this one up. I might put up a full review when I finish the game, but really I just want to get to Deus Ex…if Gamefly ever ships it to me.

Well, I think that’s all for now. Hopefully this is the first of many posts as I’ve finally been able to get back into the swing of things after a crazy summer. I might even make a blog post about all the ridiculous stories that come from being a camp counselor. Anyways, I’ll get back to you guys later. Have a good one internet friends!

Friday Flicks “The Program” – April 23

As you can see I’ve decided to start entering the title of the movie I’m reviewing each week into the post title because I think it makes more sense. This week we’re looking at a movie about the college football scene in the 1990s that has no problem addressing the uglier aspects of a student athlete’s life.

The Program tells the stories of various football players at Eastern State University as they go through a season in which there is considerable pressure for them to win. The main story is that of Heisman trophy hopeful and star quarterback Joe Kane. Kane comes into the season as one of the two most highly touted players in the nation along with Michgan’s star quarterback. The film shows the pressure that is put on him to succeed and let’s us see how hard it is for him to do so. Kane comes from a family of drunks and believes it’s his destiny to follow down that path and ruin his life. After losing to rival Michigan by tossing a last second interception he partially fulfills that by getting arrested for drunk driving and get to sent to rehab; missing four games of the season.

That’s not the only story to be told, as we also get a tale of two star running backs competing for a starting job and an attractive lady in the form of a young Halle Berry. As the incoming freshman, Darnell Jefferson has a tough time getting to both as starter Ray Griffen already has both of these things. That said, Darnell gives a valiant effort and is able to finally get both at the end of the year. My favorite moment of this story though was that the two running backs were able to put differences aside and help their team win the key game at the end of the year.

They couldn’t of won that game without some defense though, and the movie gives us a few stories on that side of the ball as well. First up is the story of defensive lineman Steve Lattimer who has roided himself up over the summer to put on 35 pounds and get the starting job. At times it was painful to watch his story because of the graphic nature they go into, but it shed light on what will always be a big problem in the world of football.

The other story from the defense is my favorite of the whole thing, the story of Alvin Mack, the star middle linebacker. He’s the most likeable of all the characters for me because of how hilarious he is and the fact that he wants to make the NFL to help his very poor mother out. Sadly, he gets his knee destroyed in the middle of a game and his career is seemingly over. I would’ve liked to have something at the end that gave us some closure on his story and made him become a success in some way, but since it’s not based on a true story it’s hard to see them adding that.

Overall, the movie was hilarious and had some great football put in it. My biggest gripe with the football portions was that Kane only threw to his running backs because the wide receivers weren’t main characters. I understand that the backs were the star players, but in a late game situation you’re usually going to look for a receiver over a back. I loved how real this movie was, they never pulled a punch and gave it to you straight. That’s something I like to see in sports movies because often times their a little cleaned up for the viewing audience. This movie ranks up there with Any Given Sunday as something all football fans need to see.

Community “Paradigms of Human Memory” Review – April 22

Community took a break for a few weeks and because I’m bad at remembering dates I completely forgot that last week was it’s triumphant return. So, since I missed last week’s episode I was determined to watch it this week. Needless to say, I was thrilled when today, on Twitter, I saw that Ken Jeong and Yevette Nicole Brown called this their favorite episode of the year. Consider me fully pumped for it to be seven o’clock at this point.

The new episode begins and it’s quickly apparent this is clip show of past adventures from the season. The big kicker was that we haven’t seen any of these adventures so it twisted the clip shows we’ve seen in the past in a great new way that I can’t remember seeing before in a live action show.  You could tell from the beginning this was going to be one of the funnier episodes, as Chang entered the scene, lathered up in Vaseline with only a speedo on. Chang gets limited air time, but he’s probably my favorite character after Troy.

Speaking of Troy, I thought it was a great idea to use Annie’s Boobs (Troy’s monkey for those who aren’t up to date like me) as the reason they started remembering the times throughout the year. At first it wasn’t quite living up to Brown and Jeong’s lofty praise, but when they started talking about Annie and Jeff’s “romance” stuff got real funny real quick.

There’s obviously some chemistry between the two, but showing scenes that just make her look like she’s imagining the “stolen glances” had me belly laughing. Then they upped it even more, by showing Pierce and Abed doing the exact same things. Just thinking about it is making me laugh again. That was great comedy, especially towards the end where Pierce was jump roping and Abed gave him a little smile. Pure gold, and I’m glad they went somewhere besides Troy and Abed for the bromance this time.

While on the topic of Abed let’s talk about his apparent love of  the show “The Cape”. I don’t think I laughed harder than the bit where he tried to sneak up on Jeff and grab his lunch tray with his cape. You just can’t get any better than that. Also Jeff saying the show would get canceled after five episodes was hilarious, but it was Abed’s obsession that stole the show.

I would be remiss in not talking about Jeff’s speech to save the group at the end that went through the various clips and stole bits from them. It wasn’t the funniest moment of the whole show (and really how often is Jeff actually funny?), but it was amazing clever, especially the parts where they were in an insane asylum and he was just yelling gibberish.

I was also a big fan of Chang and Annie’s Boobs’ mini clip show at the end. Where Chang said, “We’ve had so many memories together” and then they cut to Annie’s Boobs hitting him over the head repeatedly. Dean Pelton’s cartoon at the end has to be seen because it’s close second to Abed’s cape scene on the list of things that made me laugh. As I’ve said before I really want a Chang and Pelton themed episode where they get in crazy hijinks and this just made me want it more.

This week’s Community was a huge hit for me and if you haven’t seen it yet, you simply must check it out online. See you next week when we go to Anthropology and Culinary Arts class.

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