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Five Favorite Films of 2013 (and then some)

It’s been a couple months since the year ended and I’ve finally caught up with most of my movie-watching. Save for a few Oscar-bait films here and there, I’ve pretty much watched all the major buzz films. And I’m happy to report that this year’s list isn’t swimming in sequels like previous lists. So what made my favorite film picks? Here’s my top “five” along with a few honorary mentions.

5. Gravity
There’s not much left to say about “Gravity” that people haven’t already said, so I’m just going to pitch my sequel idea: “Gravity 2: The Quest for Clooney”. It’s like the first movie, but backwards. Sandra Bullock needs to go back into space to rescue George Clooney, but her rocket explodes mid-flight and she has to parachute down onto a passing plane. But the plane explodes, so she has to hop onto a passing balloon. But the balloon explodes, so she has tie a bunch of eagles together. The whole movie is just her in the sky breaking all our nice sky things.

4. Thor: The Dark World + Star Trek Into Darkness
I was trying to decided which of these I liked better, and then realized they’re basically the same movie. Both are fan-service-packed sequels to films I’ve previously favorited, both are packed with goofy sidekicks, both involve flying through space, both involve sticking the villain in a prison cell for a short time before needing to let him out, and both involve a spaceship wrecking a city shortly following an inevitable betrayal. Basically, this is the “Save the Cat” category.

3. Frozen
LET IT GO, LET IT GOOOOO, FLIP THE TABLE AND SCREW YOU ALLLLLLLLL, I DON’T CARE IF I HEAR THIS NINE TIMES A DAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY, PUT THE SONG ON LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP – Hakuna Matata, biznitches! I still can’t figure out how it took Disney two decades to write a soundtrack this good. Sure, “Hunchback” and “Goofy Movie” have their moments, but it’s like between now and “The Lion King”, nobody at Disney had any idea what qualified as a good musical. Even the deleted songs from “Frozen” are pretty dang good.

2. Pacific Rim
Once upon a time, Zack Snyder made a dismal, mean-spirited and unnecessarily dramatic Superman movie that made me ashamed to enjoy mass destruction in movies. Then Guillermo Del Toro came along and reminded me that destroying cities can still be fun. The movie’s not without its problems: the Russian and Chinese Jaegers deserved more screen-time, the story over-complicates itself, and there’s a full 40 minutes between giant robot fights that I’ve been skipping through on airplane flights. But in the end, it’s still a wonderful smash-up movie with a theme song I can wake up to.

1. This is the End + The World’s End
This was the year we got two great movies about drinking and the apocalypse. Both were loveable and surreal for very different reasons. One explored a real-world setting with the actors playing themselves in the middle of the Rapture, and the other was about a guy dragging his friends through a pub crawl while being attacked by aliens. No matter what the heroes were aiming for, I found myself equally invested in their attempts to escape the apocalypse while they came to terms with their insecurities. As a personal pick, I’d lean more towards “The World’s End” just because I like seeing Nick Frost playing the furious ass-kicker for a change.

Favorite Underdog: The Lone Ranger
In the vein of “John Carter”, Disney clearly spent way too much money on this 150-minute cowboy comedy based on a radio show without any solid marketing strategy. But that aside, it’s a good goofy romp with carnivorous rabbits, a magical tree-climbing horse, a mentally deranged Tonto, and all the LSD-inspired fun you can have with a western without resorting to giant spider robots.

Favorite Oscar Bait Film: Her
While I’m sure most people would love to have Scarlet Johansson seductively whispering in their ear all day, I think I’d rather have that video game Joaquin Phoenix plays where you just sit around yelling at that trash-talking alien.

Favorite “Almost Had It” Movie: A Haunted House
This movie was actually way better whenever it wasn’t trying to milk terrible jokes or be a parody of “Paranormal Activity”. If you just drop the ghost angle entirely, you’re left with a decent satire about a young couple moving in together and learning to put up with each other’s bed farts and PMS.

Best Movie in Theory: Sharknado
We live in a strange world where a movie about filling a tornado with sharks somehow falls disappointly short of being “so bad, it’s good”. Still, I feel we need to preserve the idea of this film for future generations, so that in 20-30 years, we finally get the tornado-filled-with-sharks movie we deserve.

March 07 2014 | Movies | 1 Comment »

2014: Another Year, Another Update

Sorry for the extended silence, everyone. Thanks to work, life, and my new-found appreciation for napping, it’s been hard to keep up with my blog and I really wanted to provide some updates on future projects.

For starters… I’m getting married! I know this seems out-of-left-field since I rarely blog about my personal life these days, but for anyone following my Facebook, you were probably well aware that the last year of my life featured a lot of pictures of myself and a special someone being that disgustingly cute couple so many people love to hate. Sorry, folks, I’m a hopeless romantic. She’s a wonderful woman, sings like an angel, cooks like a pro, and was patient enough to let me stay up until three in the morning every night working on “Ducktalez 7″. And when that was done, she kept encouraging me to make another, so I’m 99 + 1% sure she’s a keeper.

“Ducktalez 7″ opened well, got a lot of positive reviews, and then the buzz died down. A lot of people have been asking if this is going to be my final episode and quite honestly… I want to say yes. It’s been a ride, and I really wanted to make thirteen of these in total, but this might have to be where I cut the line and set it free. My voice has been giving out and constantly rerecording the voices for this episode was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. It would be nice to revisit this series every decade with a couple new episodes, but if that ever happens, expect shorter stories. For now, I’m almost inclined to retire the “Box of Mystery” brand on this episode so I can move on to original work.

Speaking of original work, a lot of this year will be devoted to writing. Since I already spend eight hours a day animating at work, I’ve been burning out a lot more frequently at home. Writing is more relaxing, so I’m going to continue my “Ancients’ Royale” series with two more installments. I also want to get some design documents together for a few games ideas I have and see if any are worthy of a Kickstarter. I really want to get a team together for my next project, so when the time comes, I want to make sure I know what we’re all getting ourselves into. I don’t know what that project will be yet, but something in the vein of “Final Fantasy” wouldn’t be too far off.

Otherwise, the rest of this year will be renovations, wedding planning, and a few trips (including Vegas and China). I’ll keep you all posted on developments as they come. Thanks for sticking with me all these years! More to come.

(And I’ll post my Top Movies after I finished going over a few more of them. Too many good ones come out in December!)

Quick additional update: Sometime last year, I got to storyboard and animate my own solo “slug-isode” for Slugterra. The company just put it up on their channel, so watch and enjoy!

January 19 2014 | Daily Life | 1 Comment »

Ducktalez 7

December 15 2013 | Cartoons, Stuff I Made, Videos | 7 Comments »

Ducktalez 7 Trailer

December 10 2013 | Cartoons, Stuff I Made, Videos | No Comments »

Progress on Ducktalez 7

23 minutes and 43 seconds complete. All assets built. All voices recorded. Everything else should be downhill from here providing I keep it simple and don’t have a history of over-scoping my finales.

DTZ_Progress

I’m in trouble, aren’t I?

August 31 2013 | Stuff I Made | 4 Comments »

Ancients’ Royale Now Available!

Ancients' RoyaleMy first novel has been published and is available on Amazon Kindle!

“Ancients’ Royale” follows the story of two brothers running a bar in Halifax, and what happens when their past catches up to them. Their past being, of course, a nine thousand year-old demon sorceress and her angry band of chaos demons. Buildings will collapse, things will explode, bunnies will happen, you might find a spelling error or two – it’s fun and games for the whole family!

I’m already writing the sequel, so hop on over to Amazon and grab your copy for your Kindle device or app. It’s cheap enough. Or if you’re waiting for the movie to come out, go tell all your friends to go buy it so some Hollywood types will get the hint. Or if you’ve simply just been wanting to give me money for anything I’ve ever made, just buy this instead and we’ll call it even. And if you like it, leave a review! And if you don’t like it, at least I have your money!

I’ll updating again on this in the coming months when it hits different platforms, but for now, thanks to everyone who made this book possible! Sequel in the works.

August 09 2013 | Books, Stuff I Made | 1 Comment »

On Overused Karaoke Songs

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I do a heck of a lot of karaoke these days. Over the course of the year, I’ve grown into one of those table-hopping guys who knows the karaoke bars inside out and has no qualms about going up on stage and completely embarrassing themselves singing Alanis Morissette just to see if I can. It’s pretty fun. Plus, it’s a great way to collect high-fives if your song selection is just right.

But there are some unwritten rules for karaoke that non-regulars have to figure out for themselves. One in particular involves knowing which songs not to sing, no matter how much you want to. So I picked out five particular songs which always seem like a good idea at first until they happen. Avoid these and both the host and regulars will not secretly plan your demise for the next several minutes.

1. Frank Sinatra – My Way
Nothing against Sinatra; the song itself is great. But because this is a front-runner for his greatest hits, it’s also the go-to song for any guy who wants to show off his pipes. The problem is, much like Semisonic’s “Closing Time”, it’s a show-stopper. It only delivers the impact you want if it’s the last song of the night. Otherwise, you’re just screwing with everybody’s biological clocks.
Sing Instead: Anything else by Sinatra. Heck, try Tony Bennett. Maybe even Michael Buble. You’ve got options here.

2. Elton John – Don’t Let Your Sun Go Down On Me
This is the #1 most frequent Elton John song I hear at these venues. Usually, the people singing it are coming out of bad relationships, but no one should ever bring this baggage to karaoke. Your sadness is poisoning the venue and driving away business. The host doesn’t need your attitude. Either perk up or get out.
Sing Instead: Crocodile Rock. Philadelphia Freedom. Benny and the Jets. Hakuna Matata. Damn it, just pull yourself together! And stop creeping on young girls! You’re the reason they stop coming to these things!

3. Eminem – Stan
You remember how awesome this song was in high school? I bet you also remember that it’s seven minutes long, right? And that for karaoke, you HAVE to sing the rap part? You can’t just go up, sing the Dido part, and wait for the rap part to be over. And if you’re actually rapping, this is once again a buzz-kill of a song since it’s about a guy who descends into insanity and kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend. Also, it’s completely unsing-alongable.
Sing Instead: “Without Me”, “Just Lose It”, or “The Real Slim Shady”. People love singing along with these ones and they will thank you.

4. Pussycat Dolls – Hush Hush Hush Hush
No. Stop. Just stop. No more. Ever again. I will strangle something.
Sing Instead: No. If Pussycat Dolls is your first go-to song, you’re not allowed to sing.

5. Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know
This is a cursed song. Every instance I’ve seen of two people going up to sing it has ended badly, either on-stage or on the floor. Arguments break out, the song rotation gets out of whack, cats and dogs sleep together – total anarchy. Something about it brings out the worst in people. Not to mention it always features a guy singing while a girl awkwardly stands there for three minutes waiting for her part and pretending to be naked. This song in particular always boasts the most uncomfortable four minutes of stage time and will ruin your night somehow.
Sing Instead: Love Shack.

Hope that helps!

***

UPDATE: New songs will be added here as they start re-surfacing.

6. The Beatles – Hey Jude: This is three minutes of singing followed by four minutes of “Na na na na na”. You have been warned.

August 03 2013 | Daily Life, Music | 3 Comments »

SQ: Incinerations w/ Commentary

Yesterday, Troels Pleimert assembled the leading crew from SQInc together (myself, Frede, and Akril) to create the commentary for SQInc. Here’s the game in its four-hour time-span while we chat through it. Also includes concept art, and mayhaps, a sneak preview for something else I’m working on…

July 21 2013 | Stuff I Made, Stuff Other People Made, Video Games | 1 Comment »

“Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded” Released!


Return to Lefty’s Bar: Even sleazier in high-definition.

For the last week, I’d like to think I’ve been doing a very good job resisting the urge to write a block-o-text rant against “Man of Steel”. And then our good friend, Al Lowe, finished his remake of 1987′s “Larry Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards” and completely took my mind off of poorly-adapted comic book movies.

“Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded” is one of the many Kickstarter projects that I helped fund last year (well, $15 worth of funding anyway) and the first to actually to be COMPLETED! The total amount they raised was $650,000 and the end result is not only a hi-def, fully-voiced version of LSL1, but a vast improvement over the original. LSL1 was originally remade in 1991 using 256-colors, a mouse interface and MIDI sound, but even then, it wasn’t as far a leap as this one is.

Larry and Fawn through the ages: Still a better love story than Twilight.

I’ve always enjoyed the LSL series for taking the high road when it comes to being an interactive sex comedy. The game series has never catered strictly to perverts, and both genders can enjoy the hoops Larry jumps through trying to impress women. Not that the games aren’t swimming with countless sexual innuendos and filthy gags (I mean, come on – one of your main commands is “UNZIP FLY”) but as far as dirty humor goes, the Larry series has always tried to stay classy about it. Humor first, boobs second.

The original LSL1 features Larry in Las Vegas (or “Lost Wages” as the game likes to call it). He’s 40, he’s almost out of money, he’s never found love, and he’s still a virgin. You have one night to fix all that. The game is relatively short as you ride a taxi between a sleazy bar, a disco, a convenience store, a wedding chapel, and a casino in search of love. In this version, there are now five women in total whom Larry has his eyes on. There’s “The Hooker”, a nasty piece of work swimming in STDs and protected by her pimp, 2) Fawn, the ever-needy “give me presents” girl who will take up half your game with fetch-quests, 3) Faith, the under-dressed security guard, 4) Eve, the original End-Game girl, and 5) the brand new Jasmine, a perfume connoisseur who swims with sperm whales. There’s also Olga, the infamous sixth girl, but she’s a blow-up doll, so she probably doesn’t count.


Jasmine the Whale-Diver: I did terrible things to a cat for this woman.

Fans of the original will notice a lot of changes. Several new puzzles have been added to flesh out existing ones, and there are a couple dozen new characters standing about (most of whom are Kickstarter backers who donated a “little extra” to put themselves in the game.) None of it makes the game any less fun, although anyone who’s VERY familiar with the original will find themselves stumped when a puzzle solution they once knew is no longer there. This adds a new element of surprise for veterans of the series. The new addition of Jasmine to the game seems unnecessary, but does help the game’s pacing and gives us a new girly close-up to look at (and repeatedly click the hand icon on hoping there’s a hidden egg there somewhere). Although winning her over requires a bit of disgusting animal cruelty towards a cat that I’m ashamed to admit I laughed really hard at. The game is also now “dead-end” free, meaning there’s no game over if you screw up. Bums will give you change if you go broke, and if you die, a mad scientist will turn you into a zombie and send you back up to the street to continue playing as if nothing happened.

For a Kickstarter project, I found “Reloaded” completely exceeded my expectations. They remastered the soundtrack, added lots of bells of whistles, tons of new jokes, some snappy animation, and it still carries the same spirit as any classic Larry game. There’s a lot of passion behind the game’s development and I salute Al Lowe and his team for pulling it off. While it’s still only a fraction as good as “Larry 7″, it’s still a wonderful treat to play and I look forward to seeing them remaster “Larry 2″ and “3″. Or just plain make a new Larry game. Whatever comes first.

You can download the game at the Replay website.

UPDATE: In light of recent events involving Replay’s management with its fans, I’m still going to recommend this game on the behalf of the actual [i]developers[/i]. I will not be recommending future Replay games unless management conditions change.

July 01 2013 | Video Games | 4 Comments »

Classic Superman Movie Reviews

actioncomicsWith “Man of Steel” coming out this weekend, I’ve been revisiting the old Richard Donner-style Superman films and even rewatched “Returns”. I haven’t seen some of these in years, and often never in their entirety, so it’s been an interesting ride. It got even more interesting once Richard Lester started directing, but we’ll get to that shortly. For now, here’s my Superman review blog thingy.

Superman: The First Movie
This was one I hadn’t seen in one sitting, and I’m honestly hesitant to call it a superhero movie. Sure, it’s about a “super” person who has “super” powers and happens to be called “Super”-man, but the overall pacing and atmosphere has more in common with a dream or fairy tale. I’m not actually saying this is a bad thing. It’s a very good approach for the movie; it’s very similar to the book “Where the Wild Things Are”. You have a simple set-up that leads into an experience with no discernible goals, and then Superman travels back in time and it’s over. Otherwise, it’s just a super-guy performing super-acts of kindness, treating his girlfriend nicely, and not hitting people. The end result is a very positive and charming movie, which could double as an orientation video in case one of us ever gets super-powers. But with all the Batman lovers out there, you just know our first superhero is going to be some guy who hides in the shadows and punches people.

Superman II: The One with Zod
Unlike the first movie, this one actually has the comic book/superhero vibe to it. Superman’s got a character arc, he’s got villains to punch, and buildings to punch them into. This is probably why fans regarded this as the best in the series. This time around, Superman’s showing us that he can do more than move our furniture. I loved this one when I was younger (partly because we got it from a pawn shop, and the previous owner had taped over some of it with lesbian porn), but when I watch them in order, it suddenly feels like a step back from the first one. Maybe that was because Richard Lester took over Richard Donner’s directing job at some point and invented several stupid powers for Superman to use. Or maybe it’s because Superman is suddenly a lot more violent. It especially bothered me how after defeating Zod and his generals, his first order of business was going back to a diner and killing a trucker. I’d argue that Superman works best as a non-violent superhero, but then there’s programs like “Justice League” that have to go and prove me wrong.

Superman III: The One with Richard Pryor
I actually don’t mind Richard Pryor in this movie. I don’t know his work outside the film, so he’s just a typical comic relief to me. And on the whole, the film could have been great with a different director. You’ve got Superman fighting the internet, a dark version of himself, and he gets to nail the bad guy’s girlfriend (and possibly his future mom if you’re familiar with “Smallville”.) The main drawback to the film is how completely retarded it is. It might have made more sense if Mxyzptlk were the villain. If that were the case, you could explain away all the weird slapstick and sight gags. Instead we get a Lex Luthor knock-off for a bad guy. Why a knock-off instead of actually Luthor? I don’t know. Meh, just watch it for scene where Superman literally beats himself up.

Superman IV: The One with The Quest for Peace and Throwing Nukes into the Sun and Solar Fetuses and Superman’s Fix-The-Great-Wall-Of-China Vision
Five words: Go home, Superman; you’re drunk.

Superman Returns
Several years later, Bryan Singer decides to continue Richard Donner’s legacy. The verdict? Ehhhh, on the whole, it’s a watchable movie. Superman’s back to being the boy scout and a good role model… unless you count the whole illegitimate father thing. Otherwise, they put more care into letting Superman battle physics rather than battle people. Most of the time. The plane sequence is a great example of how Superman can run into problems without dumbing down his character. But then you have that weird bit where he’s throwing the kryptonite island and… doesn’t that go against the whole point of kryptonite? This movie is very vague on how kryptonite even affects him. Is it an allergy? Is it psychosomatic? Is it poisonous? And why does Lex think anybody would want to buy land on an unstable, jagged piece of radioactive rock? Otherwise, the movie is more of a love letter to Richard Donner than it is to Superman.

And that’s that. The last film acted like a closing chapter for the Richard Donner series, so we’ll have to see where Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel” takes us. In the meantime, this is me, signing out and wishing I had some clever closing catchphrase I could put at the end of my reviews.

UPDATE: Man of Steel
My brain hurts when I try to write about this movie, so I’m just going to liken it to “9/11 meets Jackass” and leave a flaming bag of poop on Zack Snyder’s doorstep.

June 15 2013 | Movies | 1 Comment »

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