Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Edge of Tomorrow:
A movie about Tom Cruise fighting aliens would never be at the top of my viewing queue, but I watched it during treadmill time one day (when the latest Sons of Anarchy episode kept featuring long, pensive reaction shots that didn't move the plot anywhere) and liked it a surprising amount. It can essentially be treated as a modern remake of Groundhog Day with tentacles and Emily Blunt, but somehow manages to miss all of the pitfalls of scene repetition that normally plague these affairs (see also, Source Code and Arrested Development, Season Four). Definitely worth a viewing.

Final Grade: A

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag:
I have never played any games in this series, but bought this on sale because being a pirate in an open-world game sounded fun. Strike one was that it, like Far Cry 3, required me to install the useless gaming service, UPlay, when I was already using Steam. I then spent the next two hours in an "on rails" tutorial sequence running around an island, skinning pigs. The movement animations are flexibly fluid, but so fluid that you'll get stuck on scenery and switch into unskippable climbing animations where there's obviously nothing to climb. The whole first section felt over-polished and triple-A sanitized (like Starcraft II), and I got bored quickly. Maybe it gets amazing just a few minutes later, but I'll never know!

Final Grade: Not Graded

Person of Interest, Season Three:
More people should be watching this show, as it's probably the best non-cable show on TV. It hasn't been a procedural since Season One, and deftly juggles a great cast of characters with a fresh set of guest stars that never outstay their welcome. In order to manage this complexity, one of the major storylines from Season One and Two is finally wrapped up early on, which may disappoint fans of that plot. However, it gives one character well-deserved closure, and allows the writers to really dig into the broader privacy and surveillance storylines that sometimes feel almost prescient. The season ends with yet another board-flipping change-up, hinting that the next season will be nothing like the last one, similar in intent to The 4400 cliffhanger where half the population developed super powers.

Final Grade: A

Wired Magazine:
I resubscribed to this magazine because I missed the tactile feeling of monthly mailings and reading away from the Internet. Besides Consumer Reports, the last magazine I subscribed to was PC Gamer, back in the early 2000s. The content in Wired is always timely and relevant to my interests, but its presentation often gets in the way. The typography and page design often feel like some graphic designer's Senior Project, with poorly-spaced columns or random coloured letters that interfere with reading. It's like a high school kid trying to show that he's intrinsically edgy by being SUPER EDGY while also being unable to retain his nonchalance. It also doesn't help that there's an ad on every other page, often with scratch'n'sniff scents that smell like a bro on the subway. Sadly, Consumer Reports must have recently hired alumni from Wired, as their magazine just got remade in the "Design for Design's Sake" mentality too.

Final Grade: B-

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