Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Report: "The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made"

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sestero and his ghost writer tell the sometimes sad, sometimes inspirational, always weird story of perhaps the worst movie ever made with passion, enthusiasm and a studied eye for detail. Tommy Wiseau emerges as a tragically comic character of immense triumph.

He is at the same time a maniacal stalker, a pathetic loner, a delusional moron and a tribute to the American Dream. Despite a lack of talent and age, he wills his insane vision into being, refusing to let the roadblocks that stop most others before they can even get started.

The book and the movie on which it's based give me a deeper appreciation for the art of novel and screenwriting, as well as the film industry as a whole. Like "La La Land," it challenges you to stoke the flames of your artistic visions, even in the face of almost certain failure. This is a magical story and one I was sad to see end.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

"Unexplored: Unlocked Edition" Review

As the roguelike genre has risen over the last several years, developers have stepped up with their own unique takes on the genre, continuing to top one another.

Less is more when it comes to "Unexplored: Unlocked Edition," which slinks onto the Switch with retro-flavored visuals and sound design.

Like so many roguelikes, no two playthroughs will be the same, with level design, monster placement and treasure drops changing up from one session to the next, making for the sense of a mysterious new world every time you venture into the game.

This game stands out from the pack by nailing the basics, making them seem new again.

Three DLC packs from previous releases come to the Switch version, making it the definitive way to experience the iterative design and wild happenstances that emerge.

While maybe a little too punishing and unforgiving for some tastes, those who relish the difficulties of exploring without handholding and scrapping for every inch of progress willl appreciate what "Unexplored: Unlocked Edition" has to offer.
Publisher provided review code.

Monday, August 06, 2018

"Dead Cells" Review

Combining the brutal difficulty of "Dark Souls" games with the 2D action/exploration sensibilities of the Metroidvania genre, "Dead Cells" puts you through a gauntlet of unforgiving platforming challenges, just-out-of-reach upgrades and dastardly enemy placement.

Economical storytelling courses through the game's chilled veins. As with "Castlevania," the monsters you face are a rogues gallery of eclectic horror archetypes. You inch your way through vertically dense levels, making leaps of faith through platforms that give way below, climbing down ladders and searching out hidden pathways to guarded upgrades.

Item juggling is key to survival. You rack up funds to buy items from shops you discover along the way. The best stuff, though, you'll need to put your neck on the line for. It takes your wits and dexterity to work your way through the layers of tribulations that stand between you and the prize you seek.

A whimsically gothic art style accompanied by an entrancing soundtrack adds a modern touch to the retro-styled gameplay. At its core, "Dead Cells" is the type of game that was common in the 1990s but is rarely seen these days. With no hand-holding or kid gloves, the devs hurl you into a colossal challenge, forcing you to use trial, error and experimentation to make your way through.

Death creeps around every corner, ready to deal out harsh lessons you'll use to regroup and incrementally improve. As you learn the game's hard lessons, you find that some things are worth dying for.
Publisher provided review code.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

"The Inner World" and "The Inner World -- The Last Wind Monk" Switch Review

Over the last half decade, German developer Studio Fizbin has done its part to keep the adventure/puzzle genre alive. "The Inner World" series, which turned heads in the indie PC game community, seeks a new audience on the Switch.

Making ample use of the controller layout and screen real estate, the exploits of Robert and Emil, the respective protagonists of "The Inner World" and "The Inner World -- The Last Wind Monk" come to life. Intricate menu systems make it easy to juggle items and actions, and those meld with the "Adventure Time"-like animation to conjure an ethereal aura of intrigue and discovery.

Both games, sold separately, are set in the oddball, clockwork-like realm of Asporia, which is locked away from general society and shrouded in a mesh of intermeshed oddballs, with conspiracies and conflicting agendas abounding. Lurking beneath the simplistic facade are dark, mature themes that explore serious psychological depths.

You'll get the most out of the games by taking your time and exploring the hidden corners in which the devs have lodged assorted Easter eggs and non sequiturs. "The Inner World" games thrive on their sense of assured eccentricity, blossoming to vibrant life in their own insular realm of exploration-based brain teasers. If you're a Switch owner looking for something methodical and breezy, you should do yourself a favor to seek out these "Inner Worlds."
Publisher provided review copy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book Report: The Godfather

The Godfather (Mario Puzo's Mafia)The Godfather by Mario Puzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first two Godfathers are about as perfect as movies can be, and the book on which the movie's based is at least as good. Puzo's storytelling style is as conversational as barbershop chatter.

He tells his sprawling opera of gangland influence, intimidation and execution with deceptive ease, lacing his saga with psychological battles and poignant philosophical observations. In a style George R.R. Martin would come to imitate, he shifts perspectives among the main players, injecting empathy into to the plights of characters who at first appear to be cold, detached villains and turn out to be people who made hard decisions out of self-preservation and advancement, choosing to transform into monstrous versions of themselves in the name of protecting their interests.

At the core is Don Corleone, whose shadow looms over every corner of the kingdom he rules. He is a figure who inspires awe in all he befriends, controls and contends against, as well as the reader and Puzo himself, who based the character on a composite of mid-20th century mob kingpins.

Puzo holds up a mocking mirror to the mobsters' lifestyle of rationalized savagery, but also holds a deep respect for the customs, mannerisms and cultural fabric, and lulls his readers into a similar fascination. His novel and the movie it inspired are both shimmering and glorious triumphs.

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