The Worst of 2016

According to whom you talk to, 2016 was literally the worst! “This is the darkest timeline!” kind of stuff. However, there was a lot worse out there that may have gone unnoticed and for that I bring back the tradition of highlighting a few things I found to be subjectively the worst about 2016.

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Ghostbusters “Think Pieces”

Ghostbusters (2016)(heaven forefend anyone actually get a good and bad Ghostbusters films mixed up) was a mediocre movie, in a summer full of movies (see below) that wasn’t very good. However, before all that even happened, people started filling The Internets with “think pieces” about what Ghostbusters, with an all female cast, would mean for women…and science? How about the film being shouldered with the awesome responsibility of “proving Hollywood wrong” by anchoring the film with four leading ladies to show that that is nearly enough to fill seats with more female butts, thereby supplanting the dudebro iron grasp on butts in seats during summer movies?

I’m sorry that teenage boys tend to “muck up” the summer movie season. It’s either go see some banal movie with loud noises for hours at a time, or sit at home harassing women all day on The Internets.

It wouldn’t be so bad, had so many social justice websites not spent all their time leading up to the movies release being “exhausted” about the supposed nature of a film that they hadn’t even seen. Then take people (read: men) to task for hating on the horrible trailer, then the second horrible trailer that addressed certain aspects of the first trailer, flinging around accusations of racism and misogyny for no real reason other than it was apparently the perfect springboard to  finally cross the streams of nerd culture and social justice as critique. This would legitimize the entire enterprise I guess? Substantiating the need for the form?

What happens when the movie is mediocre? Silence. Snow falling on a winter’s night silence. Even social justice minded “movie critics” had to contort themselves in to liking the movie, because if you don’t like, then you’re a misogynist and racist and on and on and on. Better yet, where are all the “think pieces” on the Ghostbusters “think pieces”? The art form of critique cannot get better if there is never any self-reflection.

Or better yet, maybe next time social justice warriors pick their battles better.

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Amy Schumer

2016 was a pretty good year to be Amy Schumer. Your stock is never higher, you’re in a lot  more commercials, you are everywhere. Then the inevitable backlash as fans turn on you. First, there’s accusations of joke theft (a cardinal sin in the joke world), then a shitty fourth season of Inside Amy Schumer comes and goes, one of the shows writers, Kurt Metzger goes on a Facebook “supposed rape apologist” tirade that she gets dragged in to amid an internets shit spiral, then a horrible parody of a Beyonce video sends The Internets in to another shit spiral. What a great year to be Amy Schumer!

I wanted to preface this entry with a whole “I’ve been a big fan of Amy Schumer for long time, but…” and it’s true, I have been a fan of her work for a long time. When Amy Schumer Live at the Apollo came out last year, I felt something shift. The jokes weren’t that good; it was lower grade material than what I had seen from her in recent times. It quickly became apparent that after three seasons of a TV show and a movie, that maybe the Amy Schumer joke barrel was nearing the bottom.

But it’s not even that, Amy Schumer’s success has unleashed this monster of a person that’s not even remotely relatable anymore. Better yet, she has come to resemble what the olds think of the “millennial generation”, along with her compatriots Kim Kardashian and Lena Dunham. Why do we give a shit when any of them fart on a napkin and post it to social media? Why is it news that Amy Schumer isn’t ashamed of her body? Who gives a shit? It’s been a part of her “act” for over a decade.

As an aside, Amy Schumer got on this list mostly because one episode of her show featured a “sociopath” named M.E. Thomas.

I read her book Confessions of a Sociopath and it is the most insipid, boring, grating, gross book I have ever read. M.E. is one of those people that has grown up and resided in a bubble their entire life. Being raised hyper-religiously in the Mormon sect, the book reads of some sheltered girl “pushing the boundaries” of…being a dick to everyone and little else. It’s reading a girl learn “How to Woman to Succeed” with the kind of results you expect from a selfish asshole: Nothing’s ever her fault and she’s always the winner.

The beginning of the book even has a doctor’s note saying that M.E. is a clinical sociopath, but if you read the note carefully, you see that M.E. has apparently been shopping around for this diagnosis and knows how to finagle diagnostic tests to get the results she wants. So much for being a sociopath, huh?

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Summer Movies 2016

Goddamn what a shitty summer for movies! It was so bad that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was my favorite movie of the summer. That movie wasn’t very good, mind you. To its favor, it lessened the Megan Fox presence, added Bebop and Rocksteady…and Casey Jones, it has to commended for that…even if the plot was nonsensical and clearly globe trotted for tax write-offs.

Even movies I thought would be great like Kubo and the Two Strings were just “Meh. Maybe the source material didn‘t speak to me, the film is beautiful to look at and what Laika manages to do with CGI and Stop-Motion Animation is astounding. Nevertheless, the film is overlong, boring and the voice acting is miscast. Now You See Me 2 possessed none of the charm of the first film and Lizzy Caplan continues to be an actor that cannot seem to adapt to a scene. I can always tell she’s acting, I don’t see any characterization, I just see Lizzy Caplan being snarky and sardonic in everything she does. She’s like an uncharismatic female Seth Rogen.

I mean most of the filler of “Top Ten Worst Movies of 2016” is the vast bulk of these summer 2016’s movies! This goes even further when you look at just how lazy some of the movies were, with their banal-ass bad guy(s) sitting around some giant world destroying hole in the middle of a major city. This is mostly a holdover from a lot summer movies past! Nothing from this summer stuck out…in a good way…and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pretend that summer starts at the beginning of May and laud Captain America: Civil War for not being a hot garbage fire!

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Waypoint/Vice

When any new site dedicated to video games pops up, I tend to get a little excited. For every one of those that pop up in a calendar year, there’s the inevitable two or three other sites closing down. Which leads to a free agency of sorts of the same faces you know and love/hate from other sites doing work hither and yon for the few that remain. Vice hiring Austin Walker for a new video game themed venture seemed like a good idea. And there was a time everyone thought that Polygon was a great idea too.

Austin Walker has done some great work, the things he writes about pop culture and gaming are insightful in a way without being too stuffy and “try hard”. He critiques on the video game industry, and by extension, the games press, leads one to believe that if given the opportunity his new website could be the shift towards better.

You begin to wonder why social justice types complain about diversity of thought and person and the like in the video games industry, when given the opportunity to be “game changing” they stick with their version of “status quo”. This is what Waypoint represents in the fullest.

Filled to the brim with people of dubious ethical integrity, such as Patrick Klepek and Danielle Riendeau, Waypoint states that it’s the future of games writing, but has the hot stale breath of an aging whore, who’s seen a few things, tried a few things, and BOY does her breath stink of sameness! I get the notion of hiring two “veterans” of the games press: access, after all, is golden. But those two specifically have proven to be less than worthy of serious journalistic and ethical merit for some time now.

In the sites infancy when it was just another “blog style site” about video games, I emailed Vice/Waypoint and asked if they were going to have someone like me on the site to be the consumer advocate type. Gaming is expensive, I stated, lots of us daisy chain trade-ins and use sales to stay current in gaming. I feel we’re being left behind. To his credit, and several months later, Austin Walker got back to me.

He agreed that there should be sites for that “everyday consumer” but thankfully, “dozens” of those sites exist. Did he give examples? Hell, no! However, he did go on to mention that Waypoint firmly established their direction and voice. But this was well after I sent my email. I visited nigh daily and was aghast at how little the site spoke to actual gamers. Who was this site for? He also continued that it was much more important for the site to focus on what they do and do it well.

This point is odd because, again, what is Waypoint doing and doing well? Even in it’s infancy it was little more than a concern troll Kotakuesque blog about racist aspects of Mafia III, deep diving on God Hand making the writer feel icky because it’s Japanese as fuck, and other articles that you surely couldn’t find anywhere else, like say a Polygon or Kotaku…or The Mary Sue?

Even now, with it’s voice and direction firmly established, what is Waypoint doing that supposes this is a future trend in games coverage? Do we have to endure another E3 where Austin Walker looks sad and frustrated at a trailer that “triggers” him? Patrick Klepek’s social anthropology experiment of watching gamers “oggle” the breasts of a video game character and then be disgusted to be a white male?

The site design is awful, and though there is daily content, there’s nothing of real value here. Unless you like scrolling down an article about something as “insightful” and “intelligent” as yet another BioShock think piece, and getting slapped in the face with a Taco Bell ad!

It’s an odd marriage, a site dedicated to critically thinking about video games and the Vice brand. Though they share that “academic try-hard douche bag” DNA, there’s an air of venture capitalist money demanding Vice add more verticals to their brand, and it just so happened to be video games’ turn. Waypoint is the video games press at its most self-indulgent and hedonistic, masking itself as insightful and cerebral. I don’t foresee it being around for too long when there are dozens of other sites out there that do this kind of stuff better.

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The Witness

Well, I got one game on here. The Witness is an overpriced iOS game with a $35 Jonathan Blow tax slapped on it. I tend to look at the $40 I wasted on this game as an investment in to future Jonathan Blow games, and that maybe the next one will speak to me more.

I wanted to like The Witness, I put a good few hours in, solved a bunch of puzzles, but learned nothing. I even looked up a little map to get some “direction”. I was punished for brute forcing puzzles and not learning the “correct way” of things. And while I was dazzled by some of the deeper elements I encountered, I was left deflated by what was on offer and my brain hurt.

As it stands, The Witness is a boring, pretentious, overly designed asshole of a game that is not worth buying at any price.

The Worst of 2016

The Best of 2016

It was pretty difficult finding much to love about 2016, compared to the worst of 2016, which I, as usual, had plenty of. It was almost to the point of doing that stupid “honorable mention” nonsense that creeps in to other lists. No! I am better than that.

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Swiss Army Man

A movie that uses people holding in farts as an allegory to human emotions and how we deal with them, Swiss Army Man is something to behold. What initially appears to be a gross out black comedy, really digs in to that dark black matter towards the end in a twist that you should see coming, but don’t. This is mostly because you’re spellbound by the performance that Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe get up to. Taking up the majority of the screen time, the great chemistry and bizarre world machinations of human interaction that two actors share takes you away from the real reason Dano’s Hank was hanging himself in the opening moments. That the movie ends with a giant prolonged fart joke makes this a modern masterpiece in its own right.

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The Batman parts of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

BvS wasn’t a great movie, fine, I’ll give you that. Nothing that Warner Bros. and DC are doing cinematically to set up this “cinematic universe” is really lighting up the cinema world. However, both BvS and Suicide Squad made a lot of money, so it can’t be ALL that bad, right?

I have a little Batman bias though, and I think the Batman parts of BvS are superb. If there was an “extended micro cut” of the film with just Bruce Wayne/Batman and Alfred fucking shit up, then I’d still pay money to see that. As an aperitif to the inevitable future Batman movies, the Ben Affleck helmed The Batman, it was a fantastic tease in to just how much potential this could have.

Ben Affleck is a phenomenal Bruce Wayne and Batman, which hasn’t ever really been the case in the previous castings. You mostly had to settle with a strong Bruce Wayne and an “eh.” rubber-suited Batman. Affleck is handsome and charming enough to pull off Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, and brooding, square-jawed (and ripped) enough to play a….I don’t know what that suit is…Batman.

Jeremy Irons as Arthur and a sexy modern Batcave introduced in BvS shows nothing but promise, and made that movie infinitely better than it hoped to be.

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DOOM (2016)

DOOM was a game I was itching for that I didn’t even know I wanted. I started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order earlier in 2016, hoping to scratch that OLD SKOOL first person shooter itch. It got close, but when I started playing DOOM a few weeks later, that itch was scratched and then it kept clawing deeper drawing blood and horrified screams of maybe glee as I got exactly what I was looking for.

Hell, DOOM’s later levels eerily reminded me of Quake III Arena, so much that I was more than open to the notion of a NEW one of those.

Sure, the multiplayer is a mish-mash of also ran modern-day FPS baloney, but my god is that single player campaign the greatest thing video games had on offer in 2016!

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Stardew Valley

I’ve played games like Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing; they suck me in for a time, as is their wont. The “just one more turn” button in my mind being mashed repeatedly, as I try to make gains in those types of games. Then inevitably, the grind loses its appeal and I abandon my tiny little world. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising that Stardew Valley hooked me real hard earlier this year.

Developed by one man, Stardew Valley was a slice-of-life simulator like no other. The only problem  was hitting the wall in terms of things to do. While there are lots to do…there’s not enough of it, and after a while I had gotten good enough at the game that I wanted for nothing, and all the years started their Groundhog Day like march of sameness. However, we’re talking after nearly a hundred hours of play.

It doesn’t look like much, but Stardew Valley is a hell of an indie game.

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Atlanta

Just squeaking in here at the end is Atlanta. Donald Glover’s “Twin Peaks with rappers” show that doesn’t quite fit that description, but what does that even mean these days? Weirdness jammed up in the mundanity of everyday life? Something that seems cool in the writer’s room that winds up being a throwaway gag at the end of an episode?

Better yet, an entire episode that is essentially a straight half hour of a public access television station? Where only one of the main characters, and it’s not Donald Glover, is the only face we recognize. This kind of stuff is unheard of a first season of a show.

Superbly acted from top to bottom, with Keith Stanfield and Brian Tyree Henry being the MVP’s of the series, carrying it deftly and hanging with the show as it changes beats on a dime. Atlanta is the type of show that needs everyone bringing his or her best, and a network like FX that lets the show operate as needed.

Atlanta’s humor is perfectly balanced with representing the darker side of living life everyday. The odd interactions that we all have from time to time. When you answer the door and a man in a gray sweat suit, wearing a Batman mask asks if your cousin lives there, then runs away. All the while, it tells a great underdog story that ends in a very small, realistic, victory. Atlanta recognizes that the road is long and hard, and it is going to take a lot more than ten episodes to suss out.

The Best of 2016

Just Say “No!” To “No. Just No.”!

Imagine my surprise this weekend when I cracked open one of my favorite newspapers, The Kansas City Star, to find an apology from the publisher for something that was printed in the opinion section over the weekend. “Damn it,” I thought. “What was so horrible that the publisher had to descend off the tops of lofty Mt. Pious and apologize for?!”

One could imagine just about anything what with all the things going on in the world. Namely shootings. Yeah, just mainly shootings. It being astride the Kansas/Missouri divide of Kansas City it is a pretty pretty evergreen topic. The KC Star prints all sorts of opinions on a cornucopia of matters, all in the name of fourth estate journalistic fairness…so it could be anything!

Then imagine my surprise once more when I discover it’s just another opinion piece from one of the papers “Midwest Voices” in the form of one of their patented dopey middle-aged white woman what got a bee in her bonnet over something.

There’s nothing to enjoy about these “Midwest Voices”: opinion pieces that are meant to collect the voice of the “real” people of the respective region. If you were ever curious about the poorly formed uninformed opinion of your average white person in the Midwest, you’d find much to love here. This particular writer, Laura Herrick is just another in a long line of middle-aged women “Midwest Voices” writers that is just “telling it like it is”. Much of the time it’s nothing harmful, if anything it’s mildly that passive aggressive racism and bigotry that many have come to know and love when visiting the Midwest.

To wit, Mrs. Herrick wrote about something I was thinking about writing but found no real way in. Where does personal responsibility come in to play with “he said/she said” alcohol fueled rape? Does the woman have some responsibility in taking care not to go to a frat rager, get fucked up, black out and then wake up behind a dumpster the next morning with her dress pulled up over her head?

What’s more irritating is that Mrs. Herrick is in agreement with all this “toxic masculinity” and “men are in constant Rape Mode™” nonsense especially with all her preambles and caveats about rape being bad that riddle her poorly written opinion on a lady’s personal responsibility. Had any of these “OUTRAGED!” SJWs taken any time to actually read the piece and form their own opinion, they would’ve seen that. Wait, we’re talking about SJWs of course “OUTRAGED” would’ve happened regardless. It has been a slow few months for them lately.

More frustrating is The KC Star pulled the piece from their website, so you cannot readily access it to see what all the fuss is about. What journalistic cowardice, and as if that stopped the article from getting out further. The Internets are forever!

I’ve written about the SJW game of telephone around this time last year. SJWs in blog form and on social media supposedly raised all kinds of hell over this. Yet, a cursory search provides no real evidence to this, aside from that yes; some social media got its panties in an uproar over it.

Which is kind of what it does, right? Where I’m often of the mind that this whole “the entirety of social media” more often than not means “a few very vocal assholes on The Internets who are more than likely teenagers with nothing better to do”. Yet again, social media is scant with the sheer amounts of “OUTRAGED” implied by various articles. I guess the 700 or so comments section in the Jezebel article count as “national” outrage?

All but one of the articles I researched for this article actually referenced Mrs. Herrick’s article, with most of them choosing to run with Jezebel’s piece that cherry picked the most damning parts of the benign article to make it the click-baitiest click-bait it could be. Therefore, we have a bunch of SJWs getting all riled up over nothing, acting as if Mrs. Herrick is a rape apologist and victim blamer, which she clearly is not.

Luckily for Mrs. Herrick the Star is establishing “measures“ to make sure something like a plea for common sense in the form of an opinion article is ever published again.

Like several noted on “social media”, I do wonder if the editors of the paper actually read what is published in their Opinion section. For the most part, “Midwestern Voices blogs are a ghost town for independent thought to die in. Several of the articles appear there first, uncommented on, until they are published in the paper proper.

Laura Herrick may be many things, but she isn’t a rape apologist or victim blamer. Sure, her opinion is bit outdated, and more for the closed-door mother “telling it like it is” brutal lesson imparting session and not a major metropolitan paper. Nevertheless, that doesn’t discount that in all this purported hullabaloo that women take care of themselves. Especially if the rumors of “toxic masculinity” and the threat “perpetual rape from men” are true.

There is no discussion to be had about this topic because of the SJW battle cry of “No. Just No.” when it comes to topics like personal responsibility and drunken regret sex. Hell, of any topic where the lines are blurred and there isn’t a clear solitary victim. “Rape is rape.” is all fine and good when trying to avoid the topic Mrs. Merrick was ham-handedly addressing in her opinion piece, but that doesn’t disregard her point.

Regretful sex and poor judgment shouldn’t absolve someone from the criticism of their poor decision-making. However, we also don’t need articles like Mrs. Merrick telling ladies that they should take responsibly for themselves; it should be implicit for anyone.

Just Say “No!” To “No. Just No.”!

The White Whale of Analytical Consistency

When I use the word “pundit”, I do so derogatorily. There are few things more loathsome to me than a pundit of any kind. It’s something I grew to be baffled by in my previous endeavor of a blog where I would refute or mock editorials by media pundits. It got tiring over the course of few years, but I learned how to suss out bullshit nonsense quickly when I started covering the culture wars a couple of years back.

When #GamerGate arose, several “video game journalists” began to try distancing themselves from the moniker after it had become noticeably tainted in the aftermath. It was alarming just how awful they were at trying to call themselves anything else, I mean these people write and “create” for a living…surely they could do better than something like “Oh…uh…were just some doods who make silly videos on The Internets”.

I started calling them pundits. Sometimes with the moniker “video game pundits”, but mostly pundits. And wouldn’t you know…it caught on with some of the more “vocal” amongst them.

I will not be so egotistical to believe that I started this “pundit” uprising…but it is surprising just how apt it apparently is considering the turn of all types of media from something resembling information to nonstop opinions.
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Couching of all of this usage of punditry is the notion that media critics no longer seem to grasp the ability to analyze a work or say anything without inserting anecdotal bullshit in to their work. For some reason, I know the sexual proclivities of several writers. In all cases, it was completely unrelated to the topic they were covering. Nevertheless, there it was on display, because they could.

On top of this, several critics have essentially stopped reviewing media and started recollecting what the media did to them.

It’s more apparent with millennial critics as of late. It’s as if they have zero capacity to leverage a fair critique perhaps because they’re generally stupid, and therefore must rely on the anecdotal to have anything worth noting about the media they’re attempting to consume and review for others.

It’s fair to say that they may not even be stupid…just ignorant, that perhaps they’re “lowering” themselves to what they think the average internet denizen may think of their piece. Maybe an editor is telling the reviewer to make the review more clickbaity to garner those sweet sweet clicks from traffic? Because several of these writers are college educated in fields (film history, and the like) that you think would lend well to a better review.
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However, time and again you have field reports about how a movie didn’t have enough women doing something for a reviewers taste. Alternatively, my personal favorite, being a joke scientist and attempting to explain that they don’t like a dick joke…because they’re a lady? A certain brand of humor doesn’t quite hit them in the “Ha-Ha Zone” and suddenly a comedy film is trash because it didn’t make the reviewer laugh enough times? Yeah, this is what we’ve come to with our current state of critique.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for this type of critique or writing. It’s best suited for a diary with a tiny locket to be stuffed haphazardly under a bed. Not for the eyes and ears of an audience looking to make an educated decision on their entertainment dollar.

Perhaps too is the notion that because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s that in order to bridge the gap of ignorance in the field of media critique several people have lazily filled their output with anecdotes to perhaps “relate” to their audience. However, that’s the problem with being a vaunted “gatekeeper” you’re not supposed to be relatable; you’re supposed to be a “sage” of an informed opinion. Whether you like the color purple, or hate dick jokes because of a bad blowjob one time when you’re in college doesn’t help inform any kind of opinion on the media in question.

Mostly, it makes me wonder where in the hell these editors pluck these assholes from in the first place.
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The thing with pundits is that they don’t honor consistency and in fact, if you were to line up their output you would find mounds of hypocrisy. Granted, this is probably inevitable with the mounds of prolific output pundits tend to get up to, since they’re paid by amount not the content of their work.

Pundits love anecdotes, it helps them appear human, and since the bulk of them never cast a shadow near a real office door, they use them often. The bulk of our current media functions in much the same way these days. For the games press, you need look no further to sheer amounts of video games press that don’t bother to attend events like E3, yet somehow feel compelled to “cover” it for their respective tiny audiences.
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It’s where you begin to realize that this inability or lack of public interaction is what can lead to things like #GamerGate rising up in the first place. Where its fuel is purely based on audience alienation.

In fact, this continued alienation is fueling things on a larger front. The Internets has opened up the entire world to people, yet we find ourselves more insular than ever before. Now we can find all the confirmation bias we need in one or two places, we don’t need to have our ideas challenges and we don’t have to physically find our community anymore.

Therefore, you can begin to understand just why we’ve seen a collective dimming of the bulb in our “free thinker” pundits on down to the lowly asshole “ranter” on YouTube.

A pundit is a vestigial element of a less insular time. Add to it the democratization, for better or worse, of The Interents and we find ourselves awash in a useless sea of collective opinions that are like assholes: everyone has one, and they all stink.

 

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The White Whale of Analytical Consistency

The Worst of 2015

Ah yes, the fun list to do. It should come as no surprise that paring down my “Worst Of” list was a Herculean task, so much so that I almost thought of just doing the entire list, as it would be infinitely more fun to write than the “Best Of”, because I did really love a lot of what 2015 brought to the table in my favorite bugaboos of movies and video games.

However, with all that pleasure came a generous dose of pain, here lays those most responsible for that pain!

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Supergirl

What. The. Fuck. Seriously, what the fuck? I know that surely there is a constant memo being floated around to ALL the major television networks that they MUST GET A SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK SHOW ON THE AIR. However, can the comic book get some respect? Alternatively, at the very least be tailored to actually fit as a narrative driven seasonal television show?

Supergirl is a bad show. I’ve been hate watching since the first episode and I just wind up talking shit over it as it flounders around on the screen in this television purgatory of unwatchable.

Sold as a major network show, with what you’d think would be a major budget to boot; Supergirl is betrayed by the real notion that it was conceived as a CW show. It harbors all the trademarks: it looks cheap with ridiculous CGI and wire-effects, the cast has more in the “looks” than in the “acting” department, and it feels like it’s written by a room of forty-year old men perpetually asking “Is this what a modern working woman of the 21st century would be like…but she also has superpowers?!”

What’s more entertaining is reading initial reviews of the show. So many reviewers desperately tried to cram the show in to some sort of “camp” factor that just doesn’t exist. “It’s bad, but hey it’s trying real hard you guys…so like watch it” seems to be the major thrust behind these absurd defenses of the show.

Better yet, several reviewers tried to compare it to the Richard Donner 70’s Superman movies, as if that would somehow absolve the show of its shitty nature. But more incredulous to me is the AV Club write ups by Caroline Siede, whose lowest score for any given episode so for has been a C+…a fucking C+! The entire eight episode run thus far has been a C+ at best, and she has the temerity to have the show consistently hover at around a B+.

It’s as if Ms. Siede knows the show is terrible but is somehow bound by girl code not to review the show truthfully. Nevertheless, the show is an insult to women and comic book fans!

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The Mad Men series finale

I absolutely adored Mad Men; some might say I was obsessive about the show. Before each new season would start, I would watch the entire series up to that point. Then I would watch the entire season again after the finale. That is how much I loved the Mad Men. However, something odd happened after Season 7 “Part 2” ended, Don Draper’s smirking face fades in to “Hilltop” a “landmark” commercial about Coca-Cola. I screamed “No!” I watched the episode over after some time…again, I was incensed…No! What the fuck happened? What was that last hour of Mad Men? Besides a bunch of bullshit.

Never has a show so turned on all that it has established as Mad Men did in its series finale. I understand that narrative wise it doesn’t mean its all smiles and roses for Don Draper and crew, but really?

Of course the show didn’t end the way I wanted it to, but that doesn’t invalidate my criticism that the show threw out what made it so great in the first place in order to button everything up so neatly and stick a perfect unearned landing.

Ideally, the show should have ended as it began, with Don Draper alone. Instead, we get an episode of happy endings. Of Stan running all the way to Peggy’s office to say he loves her, of Pete and Trudy reconciling and heading off to Kansas…Joan’s late game man bullshit, Betty getting cancer (good riddance bitch!) and on and on and on. Could all of this non-Don Draper bullshit happen in the penultimate episode?

On top of this, several times over in the series Don Draper has said that one day he would leave advertising…for something else. What was all that running around in the back end of the second part of season 7 for then? To fuck with the audience? To mess with peoples expectations of how the show would end?

Regardless, a disappointing end to a great show.

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

While MGSV is a great game, it’s a very bad Metal Gear game. Where’s the weirdness and obsessive asininity that are trademarks of the entire series!

If you want to get persnickety about it, it’s in there a tiny bit and in some obvious places. The late game all female sniper squad with the super jiggly boobs, various Quiet scenes and the like…but you have to go out of your way to get to them! When I come to a Metal Gear game, I demand weird and kooky shit all up in my eye face! MGSV didn’t have that.

In my “Best Of” list, I touched on the regrettable development of MGSV and how that shows in the final product.  Nevertheless, I think Kojima does shoulder some of the responsibility. He could have restructured the game to not be so blatantly unfinished.

There’s also a lot of disjointed narrative going on in the game that makes “finishing” it a chore, demanding the necessity of going online to figure out if what you think happened…happened and if there was something you missed, because chances are…you did.

MGSV is still a great video game, but there is a large “BUT” that has to go with that proclamation. Namely, the part that makes you want to play more of it and the very Metal Gearness of the game is sorely missing.

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Inside Out

Yea, I’m going to be that guy…that guy that thinks Inside Out was a piece of shit. Are we just going to let Pixar off the hook for this nigh on DreamWorks level CGI bullshit-fest?

Too many of Inside Out’s reviews were more related to Pixar seemingly “turning it around” with the movies release than the content of the movie itself. This should have been a definite red flag that the movie itself might be less than stellar.

Maybe all that Pixar “magic” finally wore off for me and I now see the sad inner workings of a robot movie machine that tries to play with your emotions. Too much of Inside Out seemed to busy itself with trying to get you to relate and feel sad and ignore the banal “Opposites come together to solve problems!” plot that seems to be the crux of 90% of the movies Pixar makes.

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Marvel Movies

I’m done watching Marvel movies. Additionally, I’m so tired of the five or six comic book movies that glut up my calendar year. I hate that they’ve allowed anyone and everyone to be an unearned comic book nerd (cute ladies just put your finger in the corner of your mouth and look “adorkable”)…and that actual nerds have to raging hard-on’s for every Marvel movie and place them atop their vaunted “Best of the Year” lists. They’re not good movies; they’re spectacles and time-wasters and are not worth seeing in theaters. Stream and rent for television?  Sure why not?

I was done last year when Guardians of the Galaxy was being lauded…for something. It’s a decent movie, but you’d thought it was Marvel’s version of Citizen Kane with the collective orgasms coming out of nerdom! This years Ant-Man was just a heist movie with a “superhero” crammed in to it, and Marvel seems to be interested in that vein for the time being. Which should at least make the next decade of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (eye roll) somewhat bearable?

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Chappie

Soo…how many chances do we give Neill Blomkamp before we call shenanigans? It was toss up for whether Chappie or Crimson Peak would wind up on this list. Not for the movies themselves so much as their respective directors. I feel like Guillermo del Toro hasn’t been delivering too hotly lately either, but pound for pound he’s been far less disappointing than Blomkamp.

It’s beginning to look like the roughness that made District 9 so distinct is actual just crappy director as he’s repeated essentially the same plot/aesthetic three times over. His antagonists are laughably bad; you can’t really root for his protagonists because they’re so broadly written. The only real good thing Blomkamp is good at is making his worlds feel lived in and real. Other than that, his movies are turgid sci-fi trope fests that spit in all that promise you thought existed in District 9.

Chappie looks great, and has its moments, but it’s essentially the adventures of South African Johnny Number 5.

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The Worst of 2015

The Best of 2015

Like any other person on the Internets with an opinion, I am obligated by galactic law to fart out some banal list of things that I enjoyed over the previous year. It fills some calendar space and allows for time off to do Holiday business. On top of this…NO EFFORT REQUIRED.

This list is intentionally short and has been culled down from a much bigger list. Look, you don’t need a top ten, twenty, or fifty list to know what was truly good or not. At a certain point, it kind of doesn’t matter if the list is so long. What is the true difference between something that’s #8 or #6 on a list?

In addition, I don’t have any “best” music on this list because I’m not in to music as much as I am with movies, television and video games.

With all that out of the way, let us do this list! In no particular order:

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

MGSV is a fantastic game; it controls beautifully, looks great and has a lot on offer when you initially sit down to play it. I couldn’t count the number of tense situations I would find myself in as I tried mightily to go as stealth as possible. In my younger days, with previous Metal Gear Solid games, I would mostly play them Rambo style. It didn’t really affect the game in any tangible way, and MGSV is no different. Now that I’m older, and my old man hands aren’t nearly as nimble as they were, I did not want to be caught. On top of this, the enemy AI is a lot more intelligent than in previous entries. Don’t get me wrong, they are still pretty stupid and once you learned the give and take with the AI, the game becomes excessively easy.

I loved the way the game adapted to my play style and started adding little touches like helmets and body armor to the guards to mix up the interactions.

What story was there was decent, engaging and propelled the game along only bogging down in the back end as you tried to unlock the “true” ending and other nonsense that fleshed out MGSV’s story, but was ultimately more to it’s determent as it showed the games troubled development and seemingly stitched togetherness to get it out the door nature.

Saying all that, the initial forty or so hours of MGSV make it a great game in 2015.

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Dying Light

I loved Dead Island for really only one reason: the jank. Barring that, the game would’ve been unplayable and not worth anyone’s time. Nevertheless, the games developer, Techland, seemed to learn a fair amount of game design lessons from their time with Dead Island and corrected them for Dying Light. Thankfully, they kept the jank in too!

I spent countless hours with Dying Light this year and enjoyed all of them. This would’ve been impossible if not for the jank. I spammed countless weapons and money for myself, which didn’t make this supremely difficult game any easier mind you, just gave me some much-needed room to breathe.

While I initially purchased a PS4 for Far Cry 4, Dying Light really proved to me the need for a console upgrade, and for that, it is put on the list.

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Rocket League

Depending on the month and the current game I’m playing my mood on the PlayStation Plus program ebbs and flows. I would say that it’s worth the $50 for a year membership, but then need only look at the meager December 2015 offerings of Gauntlet and the first chapter of King’s Quest to say that it is not. But then I think back on how much fun I had with Rocket League.

I won’t lie; I haven’t played much since the first DLC pack was released. I gladly gobbled that up and gave Psyonix my money as a huge “Thank You!” for the sheer month of fun I had with their game. I’ve kept up with the news and dutifully downloaded all the patches in the vain hope that one day I’ll come back to this ridiculously fun game.

Rocket League was my go to “drunk game” in July. I loved nothing more than being fucked up and playing the game, somehow becoming one with my car and scoring on fools repeatedly. The short game lengths lend perfectly to this notion of “Just one more game!” until hours had passed by in a blur.

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Ex Machina

2015 wasn’t nearly as good a year for movies as 2014 was. For me the dark sinking pit notion of every summer being glutted with staid, banal superhero movies set in.

Enter Ex Machina. For a modestly budgeted movie, Ex Machina absolutely proved that you don’t need hundreds of millions of dollars to tell a great science fiction story. The movie reminded me a lot of early Christopher Nolan films in that it used nuance and story to great affect, eschewing the crutch of CGI as much as possible.

While the film needs you to empathize with Alicia Vikander’s Ava, the true stars of the film are the conversations between Oscar Isaac’s Nathan and Domnhall Gleeson’s Caleb about what it means to be essentially human on the planet earth.

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Rick and Morty (Season 2)

While I loved Rick and Morty’s first season, I was skeptical if it could have a second season as strong as it’s first. I was stupid and wrong. Rick and Morty’s second season picked up where season one left off and went to previously unthinkable places, all while keeping the overall arc of the season grounded. When the show went to dark places, it still maintained the humor and always paid off, even if it didn’t look like it would initially. Although I’m bummed that it’s going to be a long wait for season 3, I definitely want Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon to be well rested and ready to spill all kinds of sci-fi ridiculousness up in my face.

Check back later for my Worst of 2015 list!
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The Best of 2015

The Kotaku Conundrum (or #FucKotaku)

In the vain attempt to “wait it out” I may have waited too long, turning in to one of those people who opine the never was or too late to have anything cogent to say. On this series of tubes called “The Internets” it’s a death wish to those who wish to make any sort of career having an opinion on things.

Who was I kidding anyways? The games press at large wasn’t going to talk about the tantrum-as-editorial screed from Kotaku Editor-in-Chief Stephen Totilo outlining the sites “blacklisting” via game companies Ubisoft and Bethesda over the last couple of years. Not from an apparent fear of being “blacklisted” themselves mind you…more a general apathy they share at any news that involves them in any way.

It’s the same sort of apathy that struck “AAA game developers” in the haughty afterglow of #GamerGate last year. SJW’s howled that they come out and “take a stand”…against the very people that buy their software. Of course no game developer that was interested in making money was going to go anywhere near that, and so followed the majority of the games press.

I too am struck by my raging apathy at this “news”. I tend to be anti-corporation in general, but when it comes to the “Kotaku vs. Giant Games Corporation”, I can’t help but hold up a teeny-tiny “Go Giant Games Corporation!” pennant.

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Kotaku has been the carbuncle on the ass of the games industry for over a decade, and their crimes (both perceived and factual) have rightfully put them in the rueful place they currently reside. Loved by few, hated by some, tolerated by all.

Unpacking the whole Kotaku “blacklisting” debacle is an arduous task. I think it’s reductive to go the “soft target loving pro-consumer” route and take the Kotaku element out of the topic. Of course blacklisting isn’t cool, but it’s because it’s Kotaku that makes the “blacklisting” a topic worth discussing in full.

To say “Blacklisting is bad for everyone” and “Think of the small guy…the underdog” is lazy and just what a “soft target loving pro-consumer” advocate would say. It’s essentially talking a lot…but not really saying anything.

As someone who’s predominantly worked for the “small guy” websites on the internet that attempt to have some sort of “gaming” wing, I find it laughable that any game developer “blacklisting” Kotaku would be bad for me. Ol’ “pro-consumer advocate” guy hasn’t had to expend any real effort getting review copies of any games for quite some time.

That’s kind of the point of being popular on The Internets and having a nominal following, the game companies want you to say something about their games, move some units…etc. And who are they kidding, at this point “pro-consumer advocate” guy is just as mainstream as the rest of the game press, hipster welfare free agency be damned!

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Some seeming fly-by-night gaming “website” with less than a million visitors isn’t going to blow up a “AAA game developers” skirt, and more often than not, they pass. Hell, most of the times they don’t even reply to inquiries, so no a “blacklisting” of Kotaku isn’t going to affect any other gaming sites “access”.

When Stephen Totilo writes about Kotaku I always feel like he’s describing an alternate universe version of his website that isn’t an infected, cesspit asshole of the games industry. That alternate universe Kotaku is actually run with some degree of journalistic integrity and competency. On top of this, the staff is intelligent, well-informed and understand ethical practices.

Sad thing is alternate universe Kotaku doesn’t let Stephen Totilo access their side of the Fargate, so he can only tearfully watch from this side, and constantly shave that ever-present evil goatee that perpetually grows on his face.

I’m sure Stephen Totilo wishes he had a better staff of writers. I don’t think Kotaku is necessarily evil…I believe they hire “cost effective” (sub par) writers and that in it’s entirety Kotaku is essentially pieced together in a shit eating Voltron resembling a “gaming” website.

Kotaku writers treat the term “games journalism” like a switch that you can just turn “ON” or “OFF” as the need arises. Several of the sites writers proclaim to be “journalists” and therefore needn’t worry about things like “ethics” and “professionalism” and they being journalists would truly know!

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And don’t get me wrong, I’m okay with the click-bait nature of these video game related websites, it’s the unfortunate truth and reality of the modern day. But when you’re the editor-in-chief you make the call as to whether to run click-bait tripe or not.

There is nothing about either of the leaks that may have led to Kotaku’s “blacklisting” that merited their release on the grounds of “journalism”. This notion that this information just had to be known by gamers and therefore the journalist side of Kotaku deemed them worth of publishing is horseshit. This isn’t Watergate or some redacted information that was being withheld from the masses. Kotaku wasn’t doing anybody but themselves any favors.

They chose to run the leaks, bathe in the click-bait money, and now they’re paying the consequences for those decisions via being “blacklisted”. Apparently waiting a couple of years and trying to leverage your readership to rabble-rouse is the only way to correct this “error”. Except, no one cares enough because…well…it’s Kotaku!

The more disturbing element to all this is the circling of the wagons within the games press around Kotaku and it’s “blacklisting”. Does Kotaku have blackmail material on some people? What gives with this perpetual defending of nogoodniks in the games press? With Kotaku, it’s not just a one time “Oops!”, this is repeat offenses! Not only to game developers, but gamers as well! They burn all the bridges that matter in the games industry and the only defense you can muster is that it’s bad for everyone if we stop putting up with Kotaku’s nonsense?

Nothing sums up my thoughts on all of this better than Penny Arcade. To be fair, I am long-windingly writing “Meh.” all up in this piece. It’s worth noting that it’s hard to parse the argument of general blacklisting and the very real notion that Kotaku, and other game press outlets that insist on propelling an ideological agenda in their coverage, are painting themselves in to a corner and have no one to blame but themselves for the increased marginalization in their own medium.

Do we as a consumer base just roll our eyes and wait for the “ideological” elements to ooze out of our respective games press? Like some SJW national anthem that you respectfully endure so you can get to the meat of a review or Podcast?

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In the Fallout 4 episode of Polygon’s Quality Control Podcast the first few moments are filled with reviewer Arthur Gies stating that the games radio soundtrack had more female singers in it…presumably this was a great thing? There’s an awkward pause before the host delves in to the Podcast proper and it’s seemingly so excisable that you wonder why it wasn’t edited out. Really, that’s what was holding you back from enjoying previous Fallout games, lack of female singer on the soundtrack diversity?

It’s the kind of stuff, on top of the whole antagonistic attitude to gamers, which I submit that game developers and publishers eschew the games press at large and focus on Youtubers and “social media presences”. Of course, this will mean that much of the video game pundit class will continue to enjoy their stations seeing as they’re viewed as “pro-consumer” and if they have any real beefs they will keep it in the safe “soft target” arena and be non-offensive in their banality.

While it still works, this whole notion of using press outlets to get over excited and build up a hype train over a games release has been a large part of the problem. The games press lords all of its “access” and has been essentially “blacklisting” gamers with it for years now. It’s given sites like Kotaku this authoritarian bent that’s become increasingly intolerant and agenda driven to thoughts and ideas perceived as counter to it, slowly eroding the very notion of any “journalistic” integrity.

It’s time for developers and publishers to take their work to the people that actually matter: gamers. This need for a middle man in the games press is antiquated at best. It has to be infinitely more cost effective to give review copies of games to people that will actually enjoy them and, shockingly, may play through the entire game when they review it? Instead of that one spike during the games initial release, how about the slow, grassroots word-of-mouth buildup from people that will actually play your game for days and months to come, and not this whole “Well, I only have so much time to play this game…I have to compile a “best of” list” or some other bullshit.

With The Internets being what they are, and the very real notion that the games press isn’t really catering to gamers any more, why not just empower the gamers?

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The Kotaku Conundrum (or #FucKotaku)