Posts Tagged as reviews

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  1. Friday, November 16, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Bodyguard, Season One : This show is like a British version of  Homeland, Season One  (before that show spun out into tedium). In just 6 hour-long episodes, it maintains a strong intensity and uneasiness that resolves in a satisfying, logical conclusion. Its success rests on the ability to depict realistic characters that don't just exposition-monologue their feelings for the audience -- everyone seems like a threat at various points in the show, but the resolution is weighted towards character motivations rather than cheap plot obfuscation devices (unlike  Westworld, Season One 's vague timeline approach to storytell...
  2. Friday, November 09, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       American Vandal, Season Two : I figured it would be hard to follow up the "Who Drew the Dicks?" mystery of  Season One , but Season Two opens with an unfortunate laxative incident at a preppy private school and seeks to determine who the "Turd Burglar" is in the style of a crime documentary. This season is actually better than the first, and has a satisfying ending that actually raises relevant questions about society. It's more than just turds all the way down.   Final Grade :  A     Unguilded  by Jane Glatt:  Magic of Thieves  made me hesitant to continue rea...
  3. Friday, November 02, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.    I've noticed that my grading has gotten slightly harder since Maia was born. Time is money, friend!      Art of Doubt  by Metric: In their latest album, Metric moves away from the padded electronica sound of  Pagans in Vegas  and back to a more garage rock sound. The songs are still fun, but a bit more repetitive, and nothing stands up as a catchy hit.   Final Grade :  B-     Greatest Showman  (PG): The success of a musical effort like this really depends on the actors investing in their roles 110%. Led by Hugh Jackman, the energy level remains high throughout....
  4. Friday, October 26, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Magic of Thieves  by C. Greenwood: The second book in the  Secrets and Spells  anthology is a pretty big letdown after  The Gallant . Though billed as Book 1 of 6 in a series, it barely contains enough plot or character development for a full story and feels more like a Prologue. I grew irritated with the main character fairly quickly -- although I realize that it might be a style choice to narrate in a juvenile manner to match the character (first-person perspective), it just felt wooden and unnecessarily episodic (I had the same feeling about Fitz sometimes in the Farseer Trilogy). Events simply meander randomly alo...
  5. Wednesday, October 17, 2018:
    Review Day: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch)     Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker  was originally released for Nintendo's failed  Wii U  console. I'm torn on all the effort going into these ports -- while it's nice to play some fun games that never gained widespread appeal beyond the 4 people that actually bought the old console, I'd much rather have more original content designed specifically for the newer console.    Captain Toad  is a charming puzzle game where you maneuver a pacifist Toad (who can't jump because of his heavy backpack) through 64 self-contained 3D puzzle boxes to collect gems and stars. Porting of the controls from the Wii U (which had a touchscreen in your lap to go with the big action on the TV screen) is pret...
  6. Wednesday, October 10, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Jack Ryan, Season One : This is a well-constructed, if extremely generic, addition to the military/terrorist genre. In spite of a few unique sparks, it retreads ground already covered by better shows like  Homeland  without much new to say. John Krasinki mostly overcomes his typecasting as Jim from  The Office , but might be the most boring protagonist to base a story around. Wendell Pierce from  The Wire  is woefully underused. Free on Amazon Prime.   Final Grade :  C+     iZombie, Season Four : Following the big setting shake-up at the end of the th...
  7. Friday, October 05, 2018:
    (Re-)Review Day: Super Mario Odyssey    I first gave this game a  C-  after playing for several hours and not finding much to draw me back to it. After 6 months without turning on the Switch, I recently dusted it off and gave it another shot. One key difference between my original abandoned attempt and now is that I can play for longer periods (sometimes an hour at a time) and on a big TV screen rather than the portable screen. Back at Christmas time, I was squeezing in games while Maia barely napped for 10 - 20 minutes at a time (just narrowly long enough to get through the interminable load screens and reminders to use motion controls) while walking around quiet corners of the house.   I appreciate this game much more on the big screen, bu...
  8. Monday, September 17, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       The Woman Who Smashed Codes  by Jason Fagone: This is a biography of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, one of the first cryptoanalysts in the early 20th century. It's rare that a person's life is as interesting throughout as Elizebeth's, leading the biography to be a more comprehensive look at her place in history rather than a set of vignettes separated by long time jumps. There are also great, shallow looks at the world events going on at the same time, revealing some interesting stories such as J. Edgar Hoover's concerted efforts to steal credit for her work for the FBI.   Final Grade :  B+     Fe...
  9. Monday, September 03, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything  by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith: This book does a decent job of pairing interesting emerging technologies (like augmented reality, space elevators, and bioprinting) with straightforward explanations and cute cartoons. It starts to lose its luster when it gets  too  jokey, like the authors think the tech is too boring on its own and readers will lose interest unless there's a neverending selection of humor and bad analogies. These aspects actually reduced my interest in the material and I barely finished the book.   Final Grade :  C...
  10. Wednesday, August 29, 2018:
    Review Day: Dead Cells (PC)   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Dead Cells  is an addictive mash-up of three separate gaming genres. At its core, it's a side-scrolling platformer with monsters to kill and challenging boss fights like the Castlevania series. As a Rogue-like game, death is permanent and kicks you back to the beginning of the game with reset stats and basic starter equipment. Some earned abilities are permanent and persist beyond death, allowing you to explore old levels in new ways, evoking comparisons to the Metroid series and reducing the general level of frustration.   This feedback cycle of explore, grow powerful, and die is perfectly implemented, with interesting loot drops,...
  11. Friday, August 17, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Arrested Development, Season Five, Part One : This batch of 8 episodes is far better than the fourth season, but still not on par with the originals. The characters are all in the same room much more often leading to funnier jokes and reactions. The plot boldly picks up right after season four but there are enough flashbacks to refresh your memory so you don't have to rewatch it. I enjoyed the general silliness, although I felt Gob and Tobias were surprisingly overused this time around and I'm not totally sure where the plot is heading (8 more episodes are due later this year to close out the season).   Final Grade : ...
  12. Wednesday, August 08, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Rise of the Tomb Raider : I first gave this game a  B-  back in January 2017. I recently picked it up again because I wasn't sure if I'd given it enough of a chance. I can now say that its predecessor, the  Tomb Raider reboot  is superior in every way. The parts of this game where you're actually playing are fun, with tight controls and neat mini-puzzles. However, the game beats you over the head with continuous cutscenes telling a boring story with awful voice acting and much of your time is spent on loading screens, backtracking through old levels to open up impassable barriers with new tools you gained in later lev...
  13. Friday, July 27, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       A Very English Scandal : This three-part mini-series features Hugh Grant as a member of Parliament who has a gay affair and tries to cover it up very poorly. It has a fun voice and pace, although it starts to lose some momentum in the middle act with too many leaps ahead in time. Free on Amazon Prime.   Final Grade :  B-     Atlanta, Season One : This show, created by the multitalented Donald Glover, gets a lot of non-mainstream hype. However, I liked the show it started out as more than the show it turned out to be -- over its short (10 episode) first season, plot emphasis drains a...
  14. Wednesday, July 11, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Sinfonia Pop  by Mika: This DVD is a delightful live concert of Mika performing with orchestral accompaniment. The conductor is also the arranger, and allows Mika's songs to exist away from Mika's normal electronica. Great performances all around, including the little peppy backup singer who is clearly having a ball. For example, here's the song, Grace Kelly,  as originally recorded  and  orchestrally arranged .   Final Grade :  A     3%, Season Two : I really enjoyed this season (though I could only watch it during Maia naps where I could pay attention to the Po...
  15. Wednesday, June 27, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       No Shame  by Lily Allen: Every artist seems to go through an album fatigue phase where they do a lot of mellow songs and sound in need of a long nap (see also, KT Tunstall's Crescent Empire album, as well as Muse's Second Law album). Lily Allen is no exception. This album has a few pleasant songs but very little that is memorable or in the same vein as her older songs. Also, the album cover looks like her label texted her for art on a deadline and she sent them the last blurry picture from her phone.   Final Grade :  C+     Arrested Development, Season Four Remix : This is a re-...
  16. Wednesday, June 20, 2018:
    Review Day: Beat Saber (Early Access)   "Not to sound like a shitty Ted Talk or anything, but virtual reality is finally here."    I pulled my  Oculus Rift  out of storage last week after not having played with it since that whole "having a kid" thing happened. In addition to re-downloading all of the games I partially played and dropped midway, I also used up some store credit on a pre-release version of  Beat Saber , a rhythm game in which you slash through blocks with light sabers in time to the music. Since the awful first season of  Riverdale  proved that telling is inferior to showing, here is a gameplay video recorded in my new semi-permanent VR room (formerly known as "the workout room" and sometimes known as "th...
  17. Friday, June 15, 2018:
    Review Day: Divinity: Original Sin 2    Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an excellent Kickstarter-based, old-school role-playing game with minor deficiencies that will probably be ironed out in the Enhanced Edition coming out later this year (free for owners of the original). It features a top-down view with a fully rotatable camera, turn-based combat built up around Action Points that allow you to cast, attack, or move specific amounts, and an involving story based in high fantasy without feeling overused. If someone were to modernize  Ultima 6  and  Ultima 7  today, this is probably as close as you could get to those classics.   I enjoyed the original D:OS game until its cumbersome UI got in the way. This round is much more polished b...
  18. Friday, June 01, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle  (PG-13): This unnecessary reboot-sequel to the original movie updates the premise by making the titular board game a video game. It was surprisingly pleasant to watch (especially if you go in with low expectations) as it features actors playing out of their typecast and exploits common video game tropes. I remember very little of the original, other than the fact that it involved screaming children, screaming animals, and very poor sound mixing, but this did not affect my understanding or enjoyment of the new version at all.   Final Grade :  B+     Jon Mulaney:...
  19. Friday, May 25, 2018:
    Review Day: Forbidden Island   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.    Forbidden Island is our latest attempt at finding a two-player game we can play together that isn't just the cripple version of a game for more people. It's designed for 2 - 4 players to play cooperatively and feels well-done at both ends of the range.     Players start on a randomly organized island of 24 tiles and, with limited inventory, must collect enough treasure cards to attain the 4 plastic treasures. Once the team has all of the treasures, they must reach the helicopter landing pad to fly away together. The gimmick of the game is that random parts of the island sink after every turn, at a rate that gradually increases over time (and ...
  20. Friday, May 18, 2018:
    Review Day   There are no major spoilers in these reviews.       Under Stars  by Amy MacDonald: This is a pleasant album full of forgettable cliched lyrics. No album has topped her first,  This is the Life , but some of the more annoying bits of her interim albums are polished away here.   Final Grade :  B-     Wild Pendulum  by Trashcan Sinatras: There are no amazing songs on this album, but it's like spending an afternoon with an old friend. The group has perfected the "chilling in a meadow" approach to songwriting and still sound great for a band that's 32 years old.   Final Grade :  B    &n...
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