A Timely, Scathing “Review” of Drive

There was a Twitter meme floating around yesterday about hot takes on movies. My hot take is that Drive, from 2011, the critical darling, loudly praised as a masterpiece, is hot garbage. A garbage fire. An “ephemeric splash of blue/orange/Gosling colored sewage” I replied to Andrew Bloom when he asked for some slack cut because of Albert Brooks’ presence. I’m going to try and explain precisely why I hate that movie so much, but please forgive me because I’m going off my memory of one viewing and a plot summary from wikipedia.

The long and short of it is style over substance, but I think even that understates it, because the style in and of itself is borrowed from a dozen other films. The Driver, a man with no name (do you get it, remember, Clint Eastwood, right?), played by Ryan Gosling is ostensibly our protagonist, but I don’t know why I’m supposed to like him, or even find him compelling. He’s handsome, he has a mysterious past, he wears a cool jacket. That’s all we get, and when he meets the new neighbor, his love interest for the movie, she knows even less about him. She likes him, as far I can tell, but it seems to be because they glance at each other a lot. If this was a set-up for a relationship in a romantic comedy, it would have been thrashed, but because it’s a neo-crime-thriller or whatever nonsense genre people want to ascribe to it, it’s suddenly permissible?

Love Interest also has a husband in prison, and everything devolves into chaos and crime where we finally see The Driver unleash his ultraviolence on some dudes. I guess this is when we’re supposed to feel shocked and stunned, much like Love Interest, but showing a man willing to commit crime is not interesting to me. Mysterious handsome silent white guy who dispenses murder is a thing I’ve seen before many times, and having it over synth pop does not distinguish it to me. “There’s neon!” cries the critics, and I reply “Yes, I remember the 80’s as well.” Why do I care about any of these people? Why do I care that The Driver is relapsing in violence? Because he’s pretty and he’s nice to his neighbor’s kid? At the end of the day, it felt like I was supposed to care because about these characters because of memories I have of other characters like them, from other movies. Yes, archetypes are an essential part of film vocabulary, but this archetype is the most boring, most used. Making it “arty” doesn’t suddenly make it interesting to me.

The movie looks really nice. It is the most blue and orange thing I can remember. It’s well shot, and I like the soundtrack. The actors are good-to-great, but I couldn’t even remember that Ron Perlman’s character was named Nino, when one of my best friends from college also had that relatively unique name. Every character is a trope from an older and better movie. I don’t care about any of them. It’s critique that I also have of the recent Netflix series Stranger Things (although I actually enjoyed Stranger Things). Arranging tropes I like in a slightly new and different way does not make something good.

This movie is nothing. It is tissue paper painted neon with synth pop playing around it. It is fifty films collaged together into an illusion.

The night I saw Drive my then-girlfriend and now-wife and I considered walking out, but because we were with a group, we stayed. I consider it a hallmark of our compatibility.

Money in the Bank 2016 Predictions

It’s been a while, but a nice wrestling prediction post is a good thing. So here are my thoughts for MITB 2016.

Golden Truth vs Breezango

Oh Tyler Breeze. You became exactly what we all expected. I’ve heard that this is a good low-card angle, but I can’t muster up any excitement for it. Golden Truth wins?

Winner: Golden Truth

The Dudley Boyz vs The Lucha Dragons

Is there a story to this match? The Dragons should win this, as the Dudleyz are clearly in the nostalgia heel team that puts over younger teams role now. The Dragon wins, and Kalisto gets a nice warm up for his spot in the ladder match.

Winner: The Lucha Dragons

Baron Corbin vs Dolph Ziggler

How is this still happening? This feud has gone on and on and on, with entirely too much amateur wrestling headgear involved, with entirely too many DQ and non-DQ stipulations involved. Big Banter wins, convincingly.

Winner: Baron Corbin

Rusev vs Titus O’Neil

I’m glad to see Titus in anything meaningful, but there is a 0% chance that he wins this match. Rusev is being built back up as a monster heel, and is doing a great job. Rusev crush!

Winner: Rusev

Charlotte & Dana Brooke vs Natalya & Becky Lynch

Seemingly a placeholder women’s match, with no title implications. Seem like they’re treading water until Summerslam, and despite reports about Sasha Banks’ injury bug, I still don’t see how they don’t get her involved soon. Since this is a match with a heel champion with no actual implications, Nattie and Becky win.

Winner: Natalya & Becky Lynch

New Day vs. Enzo & Big Cass vs. The Vaudevillains vs. The Club

This match should be really entertaining, with a lot of nonsense and mayhem. The New Day certainly don’t need the belts, and taking it off of them in a four way certainly protects them from the loss, but I don’t see them losing the titles. If and when they lose them, it’ll be something more meaningful. I hope.

Winner: The New Day

The Money in the Bank Ladder Match (Alberto Del Rio vs Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens vs Chris Jericho vs Dean Ambrose vs Cesaro vs ?)

The Ladder match rarely disappoints, and I fully expect this match to be another barn burner. Anyone could theoretically win this match, but most are narrowing it to either Owens or Ambrose. Owens has been consistently great, but I think to predict this match you have to look down the line to what the Wrestlemania plans are. Considering the Shield triple threat was the plan for ‘Mania this year until Rollins got hurt, I fully expect them to push it to next year. I also expect a Zayn/Owens match in what will probably be a life-long blood feud in the WWE. I fully expect Ambrose to win, because it’s the simplest thing in the world and the potential for those three in the same story will always be compelling. They can’t screw that up, right?

Winner: Dean Ambrose

John Cena vs AJ Styles

AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the world. John Cena knows that, but I don’t think he understands it. Styles wins, no interference, no Club, no Finn. Just Cena losing because he’s not prepared, and still recovering from his injury. He’ll probably get his win back at either of or both of the next PPVs, but Styles wins the first.

Winner: AJ Styles

Roman Reigns vs Seth Rollins

All of that history, and this is where it ends? No one expects it to, and I expect we’ll see some nonsense DQ ending. Or Roman wins and Rollins weasels his way into another match. Whichever happens, these two are going to be fighting long enough for the new MITB holder Dean Ambrose to get involved at some point.

Winner: Roman Reigns

Creating Space For Conversation: Why I Podcast

I have been podcasting for just over two years now, first doing the Handsome Boys Comics Hour, and then starting The Simpsons Show (a year ago on this date). I want to do more of them, but adding more to my workload would probably strain me to the point of breaking. Juggling a full time job and two podcasts is hard enough when trying to get a social life and some video games in. However, I would make one exception for sure, and that is any kind of podcast project with my wife. Now, she included in one of her marriage vows to do at least an episode with me, so I have witnesses that she would participate, but still, I feel like that is out of some kind of obligation. When I asked her the other day what she’d be interested in talking about, she asked me, why? Why do we need to record our conversation, and release it? Why not just have the conversation?

Podcasts are near and dear to my heart, even with me being a relative newcomer to a medium that’s been around for over a decade, but is now just gaining real traction with the general public. Why podcast? The obvious first answer is that it’s fun. You get to create a freeform radio show of your own devising, and stretch your creativity. There is no one telling you what you can or cannot do. You can create whatever type of show you want.

I think that’s the most obvious answer, however. The true reasoning of why I podcast, and why I love podcasts in general is that starting a show, of some kind, about something, creates a space for conversation to exist. In our modern world, it’s rare to just sit down and talk about a specific topic with someone, even a close friend or spouse. Even if you do, do you really analyze it, do you really look at it with a critical eye? And even if you do, do you really explore the topic? Do you really cover every angle? Probably not. We talk, we share ideas, but anyone you would converse with at such a level would probably already share a lot of your sentiments. Just with the act of exposing the conversation to the public, you open it to the idea of other opinions, for good or ill.

As well, by creating a rigid schedule, by giving yourself a responsibility to create this show, you now have an appointment to have a conversation. And that is a wonderful thing. You are forced to look at something with a critical eye, to think about it in different ways, to even expand your opinion at most. The simple act of recording it, and showing it to the world makes a normal conversation that much better. That, mixed with the ability to create your own unique take on the medium, and the fellowship of recording something, of sharing the experience, truly makes podcasting a extremely unique medium, one that is still growing.

Gimme Shelter: First Thoughts on Fallout 4

I stayed up for the Bethesda conference, watching Giant Bomb’s stream of the event, waiting anxiously for Fallout 4. The trailer release two weeks hinted at a lot of things, but the official news from last night couldn’t have me more excited.

New stuff:

  • Voiced characters
  • House and community building
  • Mass Effect style conversation wheels
  • Faster, more true FPS style combat, with true iron sights
  • Pipboy App

Old stuff, but better:

  • A dog
  • Weapon crafting
  • Facial customization
  • Colors! Plants! Animations!

First things first, a lead character that talks is the biggest change from previous games. Frankly, I’m all for it. The acting sounded great in the trailer, and should serve to add more emotion to the story. The house building seems obvious now, especially that it was added into Skyrim. But letting you create entire settlements from the ground up is literally the thing I wanted most in Fallout 3, and now is a reality. Building the dystopia back into something seemed like a goal of the first game, and this is letting you do that. It has so much potential. The crafting system as a whole is fun and deep, and should allow for all kinds of possibilities.

The conversation wheels are a shift, and although I had no problem with the previous conversation system, this is cleaner and faster, and makes more sense with a talking main character. Only potential flaw is the sin that Mass Effect sometimes committed, which is a misleading descriptor of what your character will say. Hopefully they’ll be clear enough to make the intent obvious.

The combat looks leagues better. True iron sights, sprinting, and a more dynamic VATS should make what could become systematic in FO3 more interesting and varied. The customization of weapons should also let you identify a weapon that you really like and really feels like you as a character. Not to mention the airlifts and jetpacks and custom power armor. Just so much stuff. With all the stuff they showed, there’s still so much there left unsaid. Is there still a good/evil dynamic to it? How big is the world? How many quests? With the depth of FO3 and Skyrim, and them trumpeting this is their biggest game yet, it seems like there’ll be a massive amount of ground to cover.

Not to mention the Pipboy app for your phone or tablet. Of all the gimmicky things to include, it is the one that I’m the most stupid excited about. Will it be any faster than just using the game? Probably not, but just having it is a cool touch that they didn’t have to do, but did anyway.

Speaking of, I’ve been playing the Fallout Shelter mobile game all day. I’ve gotten into a pickle by overextending myself, and leaving myself defenseless by sending out my only gun into the Wasteland, but I’m starting to get my feet under me again. Having a lot of fun with it, and it’s scratching that itch, for now at least. 148 days!

The Illusion of Progress

After the first night of playing Heroes of the Storm, I texted a close friend and told him that the game is dangerous. He understood immediately, as he responded that it’s a game designed to ruin your life. It is designed to keep you coming back, day after day, hitting all those sweet reward centers of your brain, constantly showing you progress, if not on a character, then on your overall level. There are musical cues, dialogue from NPCS, and visual cues that all tell you you’re doing a great job, keep it up, and you’ll get more rewards, more stimulus. Heroes isn’t the first game to do it, but Blizzard has done an excellent job at implementing what has been a continuing trend in gaming.

Almost all games now have RPG elements somewhere in there design, simply because it is a simple way to incentivize players to keep coming back, to keep unlocking new abilities, new skins, new weapons, new something. Dying Light, Shadow of Mordor, Far Cry 4, Call of Duty multiplayer, none RPGs, yet all of them have leveling systems. It’s gotten to the point where I can clearly see the carrot, know that it’s been put there only to get me to come back, and yet I still continue. It’s not as insidious in paid games, but in free to play games likes Heroes (with Marvel Puzzle Quest being the other freemium game that has lured me in) it can be downright destructive, because you’re basically paying to play the game by playing the game. It’s almost like a system of labor built into playing the game. It’s bizarre cognitive dissonance, when I’m really enjoying playing the game, and at the same time are completely aware of the systems in place. “I need to keep playing so that I can play it more!”

How do you react to games like this? I try and temper my enthusiasm for a game by limiting my time with it, knowing that I shouldn’t put too much time towards it, but it’s hard for me to resist that siren’s call completely. I find myself constantly asking myself if I’m really enjoying my time with the game, or if the game’s just tricking me. The strangest is when it’s hard to tell the difference. “Am I having fun?” shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, but at times I’m not sure. I find it interesting because it really delves down into what is fun about playing videogames. Is it that sense of progression, of growth and experience that usually isn’t easy to come by in real life but comes so quickly in a game? If a game is rewarding you with that, is that enough?

Retreat Isn’t Sexy: Starting Out in Heroes of the Storm

I am 6 days in on playing Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard’s first foray into the MOBA, the genre dominated by League of Legend and DOTA2, which spawned from a Blizzard game in the first place, Warcraft 3. It’s 5×5 team combat, with each player controlling a hero, leveling it up throughout the match, eventually trying to topple the opponent’s base, with the use of special abilities, strategy, and teamwork. I was always interested in MOBAs, finding the depth of strategy and mixing of characters really interesting, but getting into DOTA2 or League seemed very intimidating. Heroes, however, has me hooked.

After the tutorial, I started playing as Tychus, even though he’s rated a “hard” character. After dabbling with a few different melee characters among the launch week’s free characters, I feel much more comfortable as a ranged character. I’ve ranked him up to 8 at the moment, and bought him today after the free characters rotated. I’ve already ranked up Sylvana to 5, and I really enjoy playing with her as well. However, I’m having trouble keeping her alive, which is what I really want to talk about, what I kind of think is the essence of the game, namely, when to run away.

As a gamer, I’ve been trained not to run away, even going back to Mario. You keep going right, because there is no left, no retreat available. That through line has continued through most of video games. You either win, or you die, and start over. You don’t go back, you don’t run away. Running away doesn’t make any sense in most games. Retreat is seldom treated as a tactical option, and even when it is, it’s seldom worth it. Retreat isn’t sexy, isn’t fun, and so it’s not included in most game design. You die, and reload, or respawn. You don’t regret not retreating. You regret dying. However, death is an inevitability in Heroes, and playing with retreat in mind as changed my perspective on other games as well.

With the announcement of Fallout 4, I’ve been revisiting Fallout:New Vegas, a game I played, beat, and sold when it came out, enjoying it far less than Fallout 3. Revisiting it, I’m enjoying it more. With Heroes fresh in my mind however, it’s made me notice how it seldom let’s you escape combat. There are several areas close to where you start that are extremely dangerous for a low level character, and if spotted by one of the monsters there, you’re probably going to die. You’re too slow to run away. Your problem is that you got into combat in the first place. The shift in dynamics between the two has made me wish for a more viable option to retreat, to gather forces, to come back.

As a strategy, it’s also evident in RTSs to an extent, although you’re not nearly as focused on one character as you are in Heroes. It also explains why I was never very good at RTSs. However, I’m finding my footing in Heroes, leveling up and playing different characters. I’ve done well so far, and am really enjoying playing with my friends. I’ll end with what ends many encounters…RUN AWAY!



Edge of the Empire – The Adventure Begins

We started out with the the beginner adventure the system gives us. Matt is DMing, while me, my wife Kim, and Matt’s wife Melissa were playing. Kim and Melissa were playing pre-gen characters, with Kim as Pash (with a silent P), the smuggler, and Melissa as Mathus (pronounced either Maths or Matthouse), the slicer. I created my character, Helt Treeborn, a human bounty hunter from Onderon.

The adventure begins with a shootout in a Cantina, our team of rogues on the run from Gamorreans hirelings from Teemo the Hutt, who has decided we’ve outlived our usefulness. I took cover behind the bar, getting ready to take out whoever came in first. Pash jumped behind the bar, following my lead, but only ended up talking up the bartender. Mattus tried to jump behind a booth, but ended up slipping and falling into partial cover. The Gamorrean barged through the front door of the cantina, and I aimed and took my shot, immediately taking out the dude in front. The next dude, angry at his associate’s death, charged at me, swinging his big axe. It hit me with a glancing blow, destroying the bar and the my cover. The third went after Mathus, attacking with an axe as well. Pash shot next, hitting the third solidly as he was engaged with Mathus. Mathus attempted an attack on the one he was engaged with, but missed. After being hit with an axe, I was a little miffed, and I took a point blank shot with my blaster rifle at the Gamorrean who had charged me. It landed and took him out. The third, seeing that he was outnumbered and outgunned, ran quickly. Pash took aim and fired at the fleeing alien, killing him as fled for the door. 

The bartender, seeing the carnage and destruction we just caused, and having an eye on Pash, gave him the information we need, namely where to find a part to repair and then steal (or vice versa) the Krayt Fang, the only way offworld, the ship of the notorious bounty hunter Trex. We scooted down to the junk shop where a part was, and Pash successfully haggled the owner to give us the part for 600 credits, which had been promised to Trex at 500.

Next, we decided we needed the space friend code. After being stymied by the droids at the entrance, we sliced our way in the side door, with Pash and Mathus using some social engineering to get to the terminal, getting the necessary information. As we made our way to Landing Pad Aurek, we ran into a gaggle of Storm Troopers, who are making their way through the crowd. We try and melt back into the shadows, but fail, with a lead trooper spotting us. I open fire, missing, and the firefight is on. We exchange volleys back and forth, with myself taking damage, along with the troopers getting hit a little. The initial group of three troopers are joined by three more, leaving us outnumbered. As Pash and Mathus engaged the new troopers, I, being low on health, and seeing our odds looking worse, decided to even the odds by mounting a nearby dewback. Luckily, I found a medpack in the saddle and injected myself quickly. Pash and Mathus focus fire and take out a trooper to the southwest. The troopers to our northeast open fire at my newly acquired dewback, anointed Pal. He shrugs off the damage and I spur him towards the support of a nearby rickety foundation of the town’s water tower. Pal fails to take it down, but he is enraged, and after another flurry of blaster fire, rushes toward the northeast cadre of storm troopers, crushing all three, with me being thrown off in the chaos. Pash and Mathus have coated one of the two remaining troopers with both tomatoes and tent, and I join their fight just in time to finish him off.

We are left with one remaining trooper, who we knock to his back and interrogate. Pash puts his boot to his throat, and we learn that the local Imperial Lt. owed a favor to Teemo. Pash put the trooper out of his misery, and we moved to to Landing Pad Aurek, the streets empty after the firefight. 

After seeing a pair of droids guarding the front door, we sidled over to the side door, with Mathus slicing us in. The Krayt Fang is now visible, with two more droids guarding the entrance ramp, and Trex visible inside the ship. The group comes to an impasse, unsure of where to go from here. Do we lure him out? Do we rush in? I decide to take the initiative and walk over to the pair of droids in front of the Krayt Fang. After asking the droids if Trex is hiring, Trex eventually comes out of his ship, telling me to get lost. I walk out the front door, and make small talk with the droids outside. After being pulled away by Pash and Mathus, we finally decide that a physical altercation is inevitable. We sneak back inside, close and lock the front door. We open fire on the two remaining droids, taking them both down, but we have drawn the attnetion of Trex, who comes to the top of the ramp into the ship, opening fire at me, taking me out. Pash hits me with a medpack, bringing me back on my feet, while Mathus opens fire at Trex. He hits but Trex is one tough hombre, and he shrugs off most of the damage. Remembering that there were a pair of stun grenades in a crate nearby, I run over, grab the grenades, take cover, and open fire, hitting, but again, doing minimal damage. Trex opens fire once again, but this time his shots go wild, instead destroying the crates proviing me cover. Mathus shoots again, but Trex’s tough armor and hide protect him. Pash taunts him viciously, doing a dance before shooting him. This distraction gives me a chance to charge Trex, pulling both the pins and attempting them to lodge them inside his armor. However, both the grenades are duds. My momentum does take us both to the floor, knocking Trex’s gun out of his hand. Trex, furious, swiped at me with his claws, luckily missing me. Pash, cool as a cucumber, grabs Trex’s gun and fires both weapons at point blank range, doing massive damage and knocking Trex out. Pash finishes him off and we dump his body out of the ship.

Mathus quickly works on reinstalling the hyper matter something something, and we blast off. As we leave orbit, two TIE fighters make chase. I blast one out of the sky before they can even take a shot. Pash pilots, dodging the first volley from the remaining fighter. Mathus misses with his first shot. I open fire again at the last fighter, damaging it, but not destroying it. Pash does his best to evade fire, but the second volley from the TIE hits us, doing damage. Mathus shoots again, this time hitting the TIE, the TIE exploding, with some debris getting lodged in our hull. We hit hyperspeed, getting the hell away from Tatooine.


I’ve had an itch to write seriously lately, and I’ve finally scratched it tonight. Despite doing my best to procrastinate, I still managed to get a thousand words out. I don’t think I’ll be able to write every day, especially with how hectic life is right now, but knowing it’s there is good. I need to make this a part of my life. I can’t delay it and rationalize it. I’m going to cut my podcast production by a third so that I’ll have more time.

I’m going to try to make a serious effort to write something every day, even if it’s garbage. I need to make it a priority. I doubt I’ll ever make a living off of it, but I won’t know if I never try.

What is this?

In brief, this is a place for me to write things so I don’t make podcasts about them. I co-host, produce, and edit two podcasts already, three episodes a week in total. I do not have the time to handle another one, but yet I have feelings and thoughts about things. They will be put here.