Monday, August 31, 2015

Movie Review: Interstellar (2014)

Alas, Interstellar. You could have been truly epic.

Expectations were high for this film: it was written and directed by Christopher Nolan and its main cast featured an array of Oscar winners and nominees. ALAS. The film's stunning images and fantastic score (by Hans Zimmer) are offset by the clunky dialogue and contrived contrivances.

Le plot: In the not-too-distant future, humanity is on the BRINK of starvation as crops FAIL around the world. An "anomaly" sends engineer/ space pilot/ stripper-turned-farmer Cooper (McConaughey) to a journey BEYOND the beyond, TO SAVE US ALL.

The movie starts out strong, especially when focusing on the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murphy. But once the story gets going, the sheer beauty of space onscreen is almost overshadowed by the heavy-handedness of the script. The mandatory eye-rollingly stupid decisions, moustache-twirling villains, and in-the-nick-of-time realizations had me groaning and grateful that I only paid $0.99 to watch the movie, thanks to the iTunes Movie of the Week program!

One final note: I like Anne Hathaway, but Kerry Washington should have been cast as Dr. Brand. I mean, if lips were the main category for casting (trembling lips = EMOTION), then Ms. Washington FTW. And Michael Caine could still have played her father, because why not?

Okay, I lied, I have one more thing to say: TARS is the best character in Interstellar. Fact. Dear Apple, please replace Siri with TARS.

TL;DR: Gravity > Interstellar. But still worth a watch!

This post brought to you by mommy-baby matching shirts!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Another Crucial Baby Lesson Learned

As Junior continues to level up, so too does his potential for terrifying hijinks. Yesterday was one such example. The picture provides proof of his power.

... Alliteration!

Anyway.

With Junior underfoot, I was ironing and concentrating on not having the little peanut grab the cord and pull the iron down on himself. As soon as I was done, I went to put the iron on a nearby unreachable surface. Then I heard a crash.

See, before I turned my back on him, Junior had pulled himself up using the bottom of the framed full-length mirror we had just bought and installed. As I walked away, he began pulling on it, and my forebrain made the calculations, consulted with my midbrain, and assured me that he couldn't possibly tear the mirror off the wall.

WRONG!

Junior had pulled in such a way that the hooks holding up the mirror had a conscious uncoupling from the wall, and the whole thing came crashing straight down. This is a good thing because, had it plummeted at an angle, the mirror's fall would have been broken...by Junior's head. Instead, the scene that greeted my panicked eyes was the mirror still standing -- frame broken, glass cracked, but still standing! -- and a blinking, unharmed baby.

I pulled him away from The Scene and laid him on our bed for a physical, checking his uncovered bits for bleeding or shards of glass. He was fine and already vocalizing about my using the phone to leave Hubby a hysterical voicemail ("The mirror broke! Baby broke the mirror! I think he's fine! Uh! Call me back!").

Then I strapped him to my back and cleaned up the mess. My heart rate went back to normal after about 30 minutes, at which point Junior was already blissfully napping, dreaming of his next feat of baby-inspired parental terror. I believe it's daddy's turn next.

TL;DR: We will now Velcro everything to everything.

This post brought to you by Fiji water! Fiji water: savor the taste of decadent capitalism! Also, read this tiny article about bottled water.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Movie Review: Trainwreck (2015)

There's plenty to like about Trainwreck. Written by comedian Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, it's a romantic comedy that has a central formula (the Mismatched Couple) but also includes enough sports, profanity, dysfunction, and one-liners to appeal to a broad audience. "It's the perfect date movie," as my friend wisely concluded.

The "trainwreck" in the title refers to Schumer's character, Amy, a magazine writer who parties hard and lives her dad's philosophy: "Monogamy is bullshit." Assigned to cover a sports medicine doctor (Bill Hader), she discovers a mutual attraction despite her utter lack of sports knowledge or interest. And thus the freakout begins, because Amy has no experience with a lasting/grown-up relationship.

While the plot sounds like it's paint-by-numbers, the movie is saved by the dialogue and supporting characters, including Lebron James, Vanessa Bayer, and Tilda Swinton looking like a modern human (!). *Note: Swinton's presence automatically makes any movie 50% better. Also, the ending is ridiculously cute, in the vein of the late Heath Ledger's singing performance in 10 Things I Hate About You.

The movie also explores the themes of daddy issues and family. Amy's foil is her sister Kim (Brie Larson, aka Envy Adams from Scott Pilgrim Versus the World), who has a sweet husband and a precocious stepson. Schumer and Larson are great as sisters who have made opposing life choices and rib each other about said choices. And that kid (Evan Brinkman) is adorable. If my son does not turn out like him, I shall be very disappointed.

My only "meh" about this movie is the casting of Hader, who's a fine comedic actor but is an odd choice for a leading man. But then, my "yay!" about this movie is having leads who aren't conventionally attractive, so I'll take it. The soundtrack also starts out strong and then becomes forgettable as the movie progresses.

Still a thumbs up movie, though!

TL;DR: Schumer + Apatow = dream team.

This post brought to you by Nalgene! Nalgene: wash it with soap, drink soap-tasting water for a week! Makes your mouth feel nice and clean!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My Baby Looks Like He Ate Another Baby

(1) Mid-June                        (2) Early August

In the space of seven weeks, my favorite little peanut transformed from a tiny wobbling cherub into someone who looks like he's in construction and pounds Muscle Milk during his breaks.

His development has been rapid: he's unlocked crawling, pincer grip, responding to his name, yelling syllables to indicate...something, and cruising. His latest achievement is a multi-step process with the end goal of getting multiple Cheerios in his mouth:

1) Lick hand
2) Slam hand down on Cheerios on tray
3) Get lots of Cheerios stuck to hand
4) Shove entire hand in mouth

Truly, he is his mother's son.

He's also now able to stand on his own for about 2-3 seconds! Soon enough he'll be walking and his dad will be chasing him around. And then comes the natural next step...prepping him to get perfect scores on his SATs so he goes to college on a scholarship.

TL; DR: Babies grow up so fast!

This post brought to you by coffee! Coffee: helps keep you regular! Also, here is an article about civet coffee, the most expensive stuff.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Game Review: Tales of Symphonia (PS3)

Tales of Symphonia came out on Gamecube in 2003 and was ported to PS3 in 2013. This appears to be one of the most beloved games in the Tales series, popular enough to spawn a sequel and an OVA. I am perplexed as to hwhy.

Symphonia's main character is Lloyd, a young swordsman (obligatory) who is accompanying his childhood friend Colette on her journey to regenerate their declining world. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's the plot of Final Fantasy X (2001). But unlike FFX's Yuna, who is more of a Summon/Action Jesus (summon spirits to defeat the bad guy, die in the process), Colette is a Mana/Kidnapped Jesus (life to be sacrificed to restore mana/energy, gets abducted a lot).

I honestly don't know why this game is so appreciated by other gamers. It screws up the biggest JRPG element: the story, which is borderline incoherent and frequently moved forward by fetch quests to previous locations. Argh! And the sound effects are atrocious -- waterfalls sound like chainsaws, a theme park sounds like a possessed cassette tape on rewind, and your avatar's footsteps are the aural equivalent of Monty Python's King Arthur on horseback.

But then again, Symphonia does have interesting protagonists, a great soundtrack, and it's surprisingly unflinching in its portrayal of dark themes such as racism, murder, and parental abandonment. This is definitely an older kid's game.

The real-time battle system is also fun, rewarding button mashers and strategic attackers alike. Players can choose to deploy basic physical blows or use up energy for techs. When the battle gauge fills up, you can use a Unison Attack, where every person on your team whups a selected target. As a bonus, selecting the correct techs will yield a Compound Unison Attack, where two characters finish off the enemy with a righteous smackdown.

With eight playable characters, you can choose your lead as well as your team. This is usually what makes RPGs so fun. My go-to team has two tanks, a healer, and a mage (Lloyd, Presea, Raine, and Genis). If I were more Mindlessly Obsessed, I'd play through again with different team compositions, but then I'd have to re-endure the plot, so no.

I will demonstrate why the story is so bad by explaining it. The plot of Tales of Symphonia is mainly driven by one dude: Mithos Yggdrasil. You can tell that he is a truly bad person because this is what he chooses to wear:

"Going to the discooo~"

For this outfit alone, he must be stopped.

But on top of his horrible leisure suit, the objectives in his Evil Villain Logic Model are awful. To wit:

Goal 1: Create a world without discrimination.
Objective 1: Sacrifice human lives to develop technology that transforms half-elves into "angels."
Objective 2: Kill as many humans as possible so that only half-elves are left.

Goal 2: Resurrect his beloved older sister, killed by humans.
Objective 1: Genetically modify selected human lineages to create a human vessel suitable for his resurrected sister. Eliminate the ones that fail. Take four thousand years to complete this task.

Goal 3: Prevent abuse of magitechnology.
Objective 1: Create a pact with the King of the Summon Spirits to be able to wield the Eternal Sword and manipulate time and space.
Objective 2: Split the two dominant, warring nations into separate planets.
Objective 3: Establish a system whereby only one planet at a time has enough mana/energy for humans to make technological advances. Once that planet develops sufficiently, redirect the flow of mana to the other world.
Objective 4: Create an elaborate marketing scheme with quasi-religious overtones to keep the inhabitants of each planet from questioning the "journey of regeneration" decreed by "angels" with pointy ears.

OMG do you see what I mean? Clearly, he needed to bring in consultants before he launched his Evil Quest, which is not so evil when you only look at his goals, but is pretty dickish when you factor in the needlessly complicated objectives. Obviously, he has a Tragic Backstory leading up to all this, but what evil villain doesn't? Yeesh. Mithos' one saving grace is his last line, where he basically says, "I regret nothinggggg!!!"

/rant

Anyway, all the cute little RPG elements come together to save Tales of Symphonia, so it's not a total wash. Like I said, I wouldn't play it again (unless you paid me at 1.5x my hourly rate, in which case I shall play the full 80 hours instead of my rushed 40), but I am sufficiently entertained to consider playing the sequel, which also came in the box.

TL;DR: I'm getting too old for this.

This post brought to you by August! Can you feel the heat?

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)