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*2018: All Media

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I have proven only that I am bad at this now, but here we go again, will I stick with it this year?

I simplified things for myself: all of the media I consume in one list. Newest on top!
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I'm going into March hoping I can have some great experiences with novels this month. I have spent most of my Christmas Barnes & Noble giftcards by now and I have several books I'm really looking forward to.

I need a new computer pretty badly, so my gaming is limited for now, though I may borrow my SO's computer if I get tired of only watching let's plays.

The weather is improving, maybe a couple theater visits this month?
Movie: In Theaters (3D)

First thing out of the gate: 3D movies where a mistake. I'm sure I would have liked it more if we'd been smart and seen it in regular old 2D.

I have to remind myself not to overhype the first film in retrospect, I'd enjoyed Pacific Rim but I remember thinking "that was good for what it was" when leaving the theater. That first film had lots of neat concepts and I loved many of the characters, and I'd watch it again in a heartbeat, but it never swept me off my feet.

Uprising felt somewhat similar, just a few shades duller. A few decent ideas that as an overall package failed to leave a distinctive impression on me.

It was a little more predictable, and the pacing felt kind of rushed. We didn't have many moments to take a breath and enjoy the giant CGi monstrosities on the screen. My favorite parts visually where early on, the first few appearances of the giant jagers where very cool. We did not get nearly so much cool kaijus on screen, and the "final boss" kaiju was disappointing from a monster design point of view. It wouldn't have inspired Newt to get kaiju tattoo sleeves if they had all looked this bland.

The characters where also more bland. John Boyega and to an extent Cailee Spaeny had a few opportunities to convince us they where playing interesting characters, even if we didn't get to see much payoff for it, but the rest of the cast might as well not have existed. We could have dropped Scott Eastwood completely and dedicated his time to more Newton & Herman scenes, and dropped like half of the new cadets, none of whose names I remember at all. It didn't seem like any one of their jagers got enough screen time to make them worth it so maybe fewer would have been better.

Some parts did catch me by surprise and I love getting frustrated at their lack of ability to fight kaiju properly (get out of that robot and let me get in there, you're doing it all wrong). Their total destruction of Tokyo was at least entertaining, and Newton's storyline, while less funny than the first movie, was interesting and not badly done.

Overall the movie was simply less memorable than the first, less quirky and a little more dull. I had fun, but I am not going to write home and tell everyone to see it like I did with Black Panther.

I do have to allow for the chance that the 3D glasses headache made me feel worse about the movie overall, so take all of this worth a grain of salt.
Anime: Netflix Instant
1 Season

While it still feels pretty "anime-y" this is a surprisingly nice little scifi story. I enjoy scifi that asks of us real human questions, puts us in tough scenarios and focuses on character or societal drama. AICO does succeed in setting up interesting moral questions and gives us characters we are sympathetic towards on all sides of the conflict. It's a nice little scifi gem in an anime wrapper.
Video Game: Youtube Let's Plays

This is a very long game, and I've only seen the first playthrough with The Bachelor so far.
Novel: Paperback
Movie: Netflix Instant

Uhhh... I don't really know! Was this good? I liked watching it, I liked the feelings I got watching it. I felt apprehensive and wary, a little chilled. A little confused. A little intrigued. I liked that it was so gentle with its scares, mostly. I liked that thing it did, that some modern horror movies do, where they try to play with viewer expectations a bit. I am still often hoodwinked by the will-they-won't-they-scare-me thing, it can be very pleasing when done right. This whole film is an extended session of feeling like that- will it won't it scare me? It did, a little! And I liked the atmosphere a lot. But it was also a very gentle thing of a story, like reading a short story about ghosts. Actually, I'm talking myself more and more into liking this. I do think I liked it. It's not Best Picture Academy Award Winner but it was enjoyable.
Novel: Hardcover

I wanted to read The Curse of Chalion again, and just give up on all other books because they're dumb and stupid and bad, but my girlfriend convinced me that I should probably read the second one in the series someday. Especially since I've had a hardcover copy of it sitting around for maybe a decade. So I did!

Pros: I liked Ista a lot in the last book and it was great to see her get an entire book about her. I felt for her a lot in this one. It was entertaining to see more of the world McMaster Bujold created in the last book, and the story itself was interesting. The writing was good, I could tell we where looking through a different character's perspective, and the story didn't seem to be trying to top over overblow the last story, and it was just as easy to get into McMaster's writing this time around, so overall it was a fun read. I will definitely try to reread it a couple times to really get a feel for it.

Cons: I'd read The Curse of Chalion at least four times before reading this one and it's one of my favorite books of all time, so there's no way Paladin of Souls could really get me going the same way. I just loved that first one so damn much. xD So, still a sequel, still not the same as the first that was so great in my eyes. But maybe time will warm me to it even more.
Movie: Netflix Instant

Hm... it was okay! Kinda fun. I liked the build up a lot. The end was alright... classic horror movie complaint, huh?
I had just been telling my girlfriend how the forest is different in different places, where we live now it's dense and you can't see fifteen feet ahead of you sometimes, but where I'm from you can see a long ways in the forest. But it's not necessarily any easier to identify things far away, because of the strange optical illusions of perspective that trees seem to create. You can stare straight ahead even watch things move around in broad daylight and still be confused because you're seeing them in front of and behind so many trees at once.

The Ritual actually had a couple scenes exactly like that, so it gets major props for showing up right after I tried to explain that weird visual effect.

I am a sucker for a good monster too. And a little mindfuckery. I'm glad I watched this.
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I spend time working from home and I like to have something playing while I work, whether it's podcasts, movies, TV, streaming on Twitch, or ambient videos on youtube. Recently I've been streaming MTG tournaments as background noise so a lot of that time was filled without watching or listening to anything productive, but I also got into watching video essays and analysis on video games on youtube, and that spurred me to get back into watching more content during the day.

Best Book: The Curse of Chalion
Best Movie: Black Panther
Best Game: Night in the Woods
Best Show: The Crown
Anime: 1 Season/Miniseries

More stuff I put on while I worked. I was kind of pleased with B, I thought it was going to go one direction, and it went anther. Not that it did anything especially magical. It was a cool story though, a nice little scifi miniseries masquerading as an oddball serial killer drama.

I would have liked if they slowed down the plot a little more, the scenes of crime scene examinations and this Keith Flick character where cool. They reminded me a bit of BBC's Sherlock, the early episodes I actually enjoyed. But in this series those moments are fleeting. Would have been neat to see a little more puzzling/mystery, but that's just a personal preference. It was trying to be a drama above anything else and it succeeded.
Movie: Theaters

Hell yeah, I actually watched a movie in theaters this month! First time I've been to the theater since the newest Star Wars in December.

I teared up almost immediately during Black Panther. I've never seen so many black women in a movie that's not about poverty or slavery. Much less superheroes. It is one of the most inspirational movies I've ever seen just for that.

It was also a great movie, not just a great superhero movie. I have seen every other Marvel movie except the most recent Thor film, and I am... a little oversaturated with superheroes. I went into that project not caring for them and while I could write a whole essay on the Marvel Cinematic Universe and probably enjoy writing it, I still think most of these movies can be really dumb.

But Black Panther did a really, really good job building a world and setting up rules and populating it, like it was an original concept scifi/fantasy movie. It was refreshing to see people use generally the same rules for technology, fighting, and other plot devices through the whole movie, instead of ten different superheroes doing dozens of different things each for three seconds of screen time. It was also refreshing not having to see Captain America at all even for a split second.

Also, this film got me crying several times. I'm a sympathetic crier! Stories about parents, especially losing parents, always get me. And both the protagonists and antagonists had understandable and even sympathetic points of view. It was a really well constructed film.

I think this is one of the only... possibly the only? Marvel film I'd recommend to people who aren't into superhero films. It's so good. It's fun, heartfelt, a little silly. It's full of beautiful people, and tough decisions, and family values. It's definitely still a blockbuster- but it's one of the absolute best ones.
TV Series: Netflix Instant

I am not quite in love with it, but I admit it's been fun to watch this on the TV with my ipad in front of me, googling all the actual historic details and seeing how close to reality the show is. I'll probably watch however much they make of it. It is quite pretty, and I like the actors quite a bit.
Movie: Netflix Instant

Watched this while I was working from home one day. It's still so easy to just put on a crime show or movie and I have watched way too many in the past year. :P And yet here I am, still watching them.

This one was average at best. Some of the crime jargon at the beginning felt factually incorrect, and the "twist" was guessable from the first fifteen minutes. The writing was kinda hokey and was trying a little too hard to be just a little too edgy. But I don't dislike Jolie or Hawke. And, bonus: this serial killer targets MEN. Amazing! A revelation! I didn't even know men could be murdered, no other movie has ever told me men could be terrorized in any way, that's what women are for.

So whatever, not good, but no regrets.
Anime Miniseries: Netflix Instant

I regret watching this even though the animation was pretty cool and the story was fascinating. I watched it a little sleep deprived and it was a mistake, because I was massively repulsed by the gore... and the sex and nudity tbh, it was just a bad day to watch such a high intensity show. But I watched it all in one sitting because I make bad decisions when I'm tired.

I'll credit it with all the praise I've seen others give it, but it was just the wrong tim for me and I didn't enjoy it.
Anime: Netflix Instant

I started this anime because someone called it one of the weirdest animes they'd ever seen, and I was curious. It definitely isn't even top ten weird animes that I'd seen so maybe I've seen too much, haha. But I still put the time in and watched it all. Pulls a lot of typical anime tropes and bullshit, but I was always starting each episode wondering how the heck they where gonna work gambling in this time. And then how the heck the main characters could come out on top yet again. So it had something there, definitely.

Movie: Netflix Instant

Cleansing the pallet with a familiar movie. I've seen it four-ish times, and I think I understand most of it now. It has been a pleasure to notice something new every time I watched it, and I still remember leaving the theater after that first viewing being quite confused but pleased with what I'd just seen.
Novel: Paperback

I tried to read a bunch of books mid January through early february while I tried the Amazon Kindle Unlimited trial, and a bunch of them where lame or just super bad. So I had to go back to a book I knew I loved: The Curse of Chalion.

This is like the fourth time I've read The Curse of Chalion and it's probably still one of my favorite novels ever, of all time, and forever will be.
The praise on the back of the novel seems hollow compared to the actual content of this book. Firstly I'm endeared to the characters, Cazaril and his ladies especially. I was really moved the first (and second and third, and fourth) time I read it because Cazaril is what I wish more people where like in real life. Hardly perfect, but he can see a person without being blinded by society, not constrained by the binds of gender or class, which is actually a little bit of a theme of the book. It was a refreshing break from reality, to be in the head of someone who could recognize how we humans create these stupid systems and classes for ourselves that trap us and harm others. I can't say the book goes into deconstructing any of that, and I won't go on my own soapbox here. But I wish more books could be like that.

Aside from that, Lois McMaster Bujold is some kind of sorcerer. I've never read writing as good as hers in this book. It intertwines but isn't contrived. It's endearing but doesn't dawdle or dwell too long. It's heart racing but never do characters get caught up in actions or thoughts that you can feel through the pages as the author inventing some random pointless event to lengthen the story- nope, every page is interesting and feels meaningful in some way.

I'm enchanted by the setting in a way that fantasy rarely gets me. Maybe it's seeing it through Caz's eyes, especially at the end.

I know my praise will seem just as hollow and hokey as the praise McMaster Bujold gets on the back of her books. After reading The Curse of Chalion so many times I can't help it anymore, I honestly love this book.
Video Game: PC

Wow! Wow wow wow!
I kept mistakenly thinking "this is one of the best books I've read in years" while I was playing this, because narratively, this game is actually well written. It's astounding how much we give video games a pass on writing, and it becomes painfully apparent when playing Night In The Woods just how bad games are at telling a story. I mean, jesus, these games can take millions of dollars to create, and the stories and plots and dialogue are like a fifth grade play.

Not Night In the Woods, though! I was hooked. This is telling an actual, human story, and really well. It uses its medium to its advantage, it lets you live the days as they progress and experience a little town of people as strange events unfold, in an honest and real way. I could relate to so much the main characters went through, and what I couldn't relate to still seemed like real human problems and thoughts and experiences. I felt for May and her family and friends, and I was entranced at the strange events that started to occur.

It's pretty too, the art direction is great, and the animal characters are charming.

I would recommend Night in the Woods to people who love reading books. I think if you're into books or movies and even if you've never played a video game, you'd like this one. I loved it.
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This early in the year I don't usually have clear cut goals, I'm just feeling out what 2018 is going to be like.
Also trying to get back into reading, I needed reminding that books can be really great, but I got there.

Best Book: n/a
Best Movie: Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe
Best Game: Stories Untold
Best Show: Wormwood
Movie: Netflix Instant

This is the sequel to Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, I believe adapted form another book in the series. This movie is sillier than the first and has a hokey feel to it, but it was still fun to watch. Maybe it had more... Laura Croft vibes, but not with the same semi-serious tone.
Movie: Netflix Instant

Very fun! My girlfriend and I had a good evening watching this. The effects where decent and the story was interesting. It felt like a book in some ways because of how sprawling it was, and as it turns out it is adapted from a novel, which makes me want to go read it. It's kind of like The Mummy in tone, lots of ancient forces and disasters happening, but it keeps its humor through the whole film.
TV Series: Netflix Instant

Summary: A police detective procedural set in the fictional Midsomer County, full of quaint tiny villages in the English countryside, and full of murder.

I binged a huge chunk of this show over about a month and a half. Just some jolly fun. I love the long format, the cozy mystery settings. Nothing about this show is very upsetting or difficult, a good one to watch to pass the time. I put it on to pass the time but ended up really liking it- especially as me and my SO also watched Escape to the Country together in the evenings. That and Midsomer Murders paired well together, like wine and cheese! Quaint English countryside was the theme of January and it made getting through the gray winter a lot easier.
Movie: Netflix Instant

Summary: A journalists' sister, brother in law and niece are brutally murdered in their home. When the journalist returns to the scene of the crime later she discovers someone has bought the house, physically removed the room where they died, and sold at a loss. She investigates further and discovers this room thief has been active for years, stealing rooms where violent murders and deaths happened, buying and selling houses at a loss and then disappearing without a trace.

Not especially worth talking about. Nothing special at all, boring even. A mildly interesting beginning (a person who steals entire rooms out of houses- how??) falls away to a very dull middle and end.
Movie: Netflix Instant

Summary: A wolf-dog hybrid dreams of racing in dogsled teams despite the prejudice he experiences from dogs and humans alike in this remote Alaskan town. When an epidemic spreads and a powerful winter storm prevents all aid from reaching the remote town, Balto not only has an opportunity to realize his dreams, but a responsibility to save the town who hates him.

Cheering myself up after a few long days. Some of the writing is the tiniest bit silly in the begining, but Balto can still pull at my heartstrings. The characters and animation is amusing and nicely done, voice acting is just fine. It's a good story! It's fun to let myself go along for the ride.
Novel: ebook

Summary: Bizarre misfortunes happen to everyone who live around the eerie, structurally pointless red bridge, but they especially happen to one man in particular. The stories of various townspeople and a couple tourists are interwoven as they try to uncover the secrets of the bridge, or simply destroy it.

If you're tired of serial killers who target only women in movies, books, games, TV shows, and everything, clap your hands! *clap clap*

Idk, I get what this book is doing and it's fine, some of it is even interesting, but it's also kinda bleak, and the whole murdering women thing is like, it's been done, and it was disappointing when this weird book dissolved into such cliche.

I thought the writing was alright, sometimes. It was tough when you knew a character was going to tell you something interesting eventually, but there was a page and a half of them going off on random tangents for no reason. And it was every single character that did this, which was annoying. The the late chapters that didn't where a great break, and alternating between the long rambling and the sharp blunt writing later, that was neat and effective.

The idea is interesting and you could say I'd be a fan of this weird red bridge, but once again characters that have flaws too much like people I've known irl make it not worth slogging through. I have been around the kind of person who thinks everything they do is cursed to go wrong and it's draining, and most people don't have an actual terrible deadly curse to back them up, they're just tragically lacking mental healthcare and a good support system. Too exhausting to keep reading this series, at least for now.

Also, if I have to read or watch another story about InNoCeNt BeAuTiFuL wOmEn getting MURDERED HORRIBLY I'll throw a brick through a window. Think. Of. Something. Interesting. To. Write. About.
Novel: Paperback

Summary: A man who experienced something traumatic as a child and then subconsciously buried the event investigates the murder of a child in the same town where his trauma occurred. Told from his perspective, it is a crime procedural/mystery and somewhat of a character drama.

Overall a little unimpressed. The main character, who provided narration for the book, was extremely unlikeable. It was neat to see the effects of how trauma changed his memories and effected his behavior, and the main plot was okay. But the dude was insufferable and a jerk, and I've been around enough insufferable jerks in reality that I was just trying to get to the end and finish it to be done with it.

Also found it had some bad rape and sexual violence tropes that I'm pretty disillusioned with. I was on a crime show/movie/book binge and it becomes painfully transparent how bad media treats matters like rape; I'd seen this same story like seventy times recently so it just seemed like bad writing.

Video Game : PC

Summary: A narrative horror game where you play out multiple "episodes" of a strange Twilight Zone style horror TV show as a narrative of who the player actually is slowly unravels. It is a point and click puzzle game for the most part, as well as text adventure and a bit of a walking sim.

The first episode of Stories Untold, called The House Abandon, was the most fun I've had playing a horror game in ages. Loved it. I would play an entire game based around this odd text-based horror experience. I was very frightened and engaged in all the best ways. The first part of this game was a 5 star experience for me.

The next three where progressively less spooky, though I enjoyed the Twilight Zone-style episodic content and they where not bad stories, nor was the overall connecting idea bad. Just significantly less scary. It becomes a different game after that.

I love a good puzzle game though. Still had fun and would recommend.
Miniseries: Netflix Instant

Summary: Based on (documenting?) true events, this miniseries follows a man who worked for the CIA and was covertly dosed with LSD, before mysteriously dying several days later by falling from a very high hotel window. It is in a documentary style, but the recreation of events is cinematic, like watching a movie. A beautiful blend of genres.

I actually finished this in December, but I wanted to start this list off on a good note.

It was really interesting to watch Wormwood... I feel the lines between TV and movies blurring, in such a beautiful way, thanks to the internet and services like Netflix. Watching Wormwood was to see the medium, the artform itself, progressing, moving forward into whatever weird form is going to be next for video. Not in a better or worse way, but the way all art has different eras and periods and movements. It was a fascinating combination of documentary and cinema, in a way that makes a lot of sense, but I haven't quite seen before. The cinematography, typology, documentary style, where all very pleasant to watch. And you know I was googling along with it, trying to figure out how much happened the way they say.

It led my father and me to have some interesting conversations about the nature of truth as well, and how much is hidden from us the average person, and how we can't possibly know what really happened in most situations, and what the government was and is willing to do to people. A great balance to the ten thousand christmas specials I watched while staying with him over the holidays. ;)

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Posted: 1 month ago at Mar 20 23:32
Nice to see your thoughts on all of the above. Looks like we came down similarly on I Am the Pretty Thing..., The Ritual, and Black Panther. Here's hoping this list continues to grow throughout the year. :)

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