Playing Games – Man vs Wife

I had an idea. What if I convinced my wife, who doesn’t generally like games, to play games with me, or rather against me, and I documented each one in a blog series? So I posed the idea to her, and she was lukewarm on it, but over time as I mentioned it now and then she began to like it more.

But what would we call it?

Man vs WifeOh, she didn’t like the name much. But it had actually been the jumping off point for the whole idea for me. I’d seen those shows, Man vs Food and Man vs Wild and the rest, and I thought to myself, “What happens when you take a man who loves gaming and he marries a woman could take it or leave it? Man vs Wife!” And it works for me, as both a play on those reality TV shows and as a play on the ends of wedding vows when the officiant pronounces the couple “man and wife”.

And so it begins. We’ve played one game already and I’m working on writing it up (we actually video tape the session so I don’t have to take notes), and we have a pile of board games and video games. Hopefully I’ll have the first one up within a week. After that I make no promise as to a schedule.

Anyway, that’s it. Just a minor announcement of future content.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Yesterday, Zombieland was released on Blu-Ray and DVD.  It was probably one of my favorite movies of 2009.  I mean, I paid to see it twice in the theater.  If you didn’t see it and you can handle a little zombie gore with a dash of comedy, then I highly recommend it.  If you haven’t seen it, or if you don’t plan to, then you missed out on one of the best opening sequences since the Dawn of the Dead remake used Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around”.

To help you out, here it is.  Be sure to switch it to 720p to give it a little more clarity, and turn off annotations to keep the viewing pure.  It’s not as good as seeing it on the big screen, but it’s still pretty damn good.  Enjoy…


10 out of 13 nots.
for heroes with problems and problems with heroes

If you loved Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk and want to see another super-powered thrill ride, Hancock is not the movie for you.  While previews and commercials may have made this movie seem like a funny action film about an alcoholic superhero, the truth is that this is a more somber tale about a lost superhero being helped find himself and recover from the mistakes he has made.

Closer in tone to Unbreakable than the more recent superhero fare, Peter Berg has crafted an interesting tale of a superhero who feels the need to save people but isn’t sure why and doesn’t take care in how he does it.  The movie has a few twists and turns, some of which can be seen coming if you pay attention, that veer the story away from being just another action flick.  I really enjoyed it, but I can easily see how others would not.  Dramatic and “slow” in places, it still has good action sequences and moments of comedy.  That said, I was never really at the edge of my seat.

So, enter with an open mind and you may enjoy the film like me, but if you go in looking for Iron Man, I think you are going to be let down.

The Incredible Hulk

11 out of 13 nots.
for never really slowing down and HULK SMASH!!!!

Long ago, there was another Hulk movie. When I heard about it, I was excited, I like the Hulk. I was very sad when I saw it and it was a slow dramatic mess that essentially shat all over most of the source material.

So, when I heard they were making a new Hulk movie and essentially ignoring the other film, I got excited again. And this time, I was not disappointed. While The Incredible Hulk isn’t quite as good as Iron Man, it is an example like Iron Man that Marvel is really taking care to bring their characters to the screen right, and not let go and have someone else make a mess of it.

This time around, we skip the origin, except in a flashback and a parade of news clippings showing suspected sightings of the Hulk over the last five years. Banner is hiding out in Brazil, working on a cure for his illness, and a group of the military, headed up by General Ross, is still looking for him. Banner has been talking to an unknown source who calls himself Mr. Blue, and Mr. Blue thinks he can cure Banner, he just needs the original data on the gamma exposure levels. To get that data, Banner has to go home, but even before he can set out, he’s found and the chase begins.

In the older Hulk film they bent the source material and forced in the Absorbing Man, and it was bad. This time we stick with Ross and in a much more believable way we get introduced to Emil Blonsky, who all the comic fans know becomes the Abomination. Like with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk is rife with comic facts, characters and bits that will make the fans happy, but nothing that will kill the movie for the casual viewer. They even threw in a number of references to the old TV show… and again, managed to do it without leaving new inductees in the dark about some missed piece of information.

Overall, this was a great way to bring the Hulk to the screen. Well worth the price of admission.

Iron Man

12 out of 13 nots
for fantastic heavy metal, both suit and soundtrack

This is how you do a comic book super hero movie.  The guys who made the Fantastic Four should be forced to watch this and maybe they’ll understand why their movie was crap.  Normally when a character from comics is brought to the screen, the first thing they want to do is tell you the origin of the character.  However, most writers/directors don’t seem to quite understand that you don’t have to start at the beginning and tell a linear story.  The audience, quite contrary to popular belief, is not stupid.  They may gravitate to more visceral experiences of things blowing up than the more cerebral dramas, but just because they enjoy simply uncomplicated pleasures it does not make them mentally deficient.  The Fantastic Four and Hulk movies dragged because rather than jump into a very interesting story and fill you in on the origin as they went, they decided to start at the beginning, which has little action and is a snooze-fest.  Daredevil, while suffering from other problems (mostly, in my opinion, a miscasting of Bullseye and Kingpin), at least the pace of the film works well.  With Iron Man they did decide to tell you the origin, but at least they were smart enough to weave the story of the film in with the origin such that they are not explicitly telling you the origin of Iron Man but instead telling you a story about Tony Stark during which Iron Man comes into being.  It is a subtle yet very important distinction.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into details of the film because it was awesome and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  However, I do want to touch on the soundtrack, mainly because it too was awesome.  The use of rock music in the film was superb, and the song choices were excellent.  I was surprised pleasantly throughout the film as songs popped up and properly set the mood for the scenes, and even more surprised that they actually held off using Black Sabbath’s Iron Man until the end credits, because, frankly, using it anywhere else in the film would be like hitting you over the head with a hammer.

Fans of Iron Man should be pleased with the film as they did sprinkle enough “nerd knowledge” throughout to make the comic book geek in me smile without drowning me in comic references.

Fun, fast and fantastic, Iron Man gets a well deserved 12 out of 13 here… I’d have given in 13, but I do try to hold off perfect scores for stuff that is truly life alteringly spectacular.

I Am Legend

Normally, I am not a vampire guy. Except as bad guys. That whole Anne Rice immortally tortured gay blood sucker thing just put me right off. About the only time I have ever liked a vampire as the hero has been the TV show Angel.

Luckily for me, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend isn’t about do-gooder or tortured vampires.

The story tackles an idea normally reserved for zombie movies, what if the world were overrun by vampires. A virus of some sort has swept the world and slowly the world succumbed. There are two kinds of vampires, dead ones and live ones, but there is only one man left. Robert Neville is the last man on Earth, and with no end in site, with everyone he loved gone, for some reason he just won’t give up. He keeps garlic on his doors and windows by night and goes out for supplies and to kill sleeping vampires by day.

Given the bleak subject matter, its a true testament to Matheson’s writing that the story doesn’t spiral into a morose somber mess. Instead there is an odd sense of hope, and even humor, in Robert Neville’s life. The end left me a little wanting, I understand what Matheson was doing there, but some part of me just felt a little… cheated. But the rest of the book is good enough that I’ll forgive him.

If you don’t care to read the book, it has been made into a movie a number of times in the past, although always under another name (The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston directly, and I’m sure the story influenced quite a few other films), but this year we’ll see a more direct adaptation in I Am Legend starring Will Smith. I suspect it will deviate from the book much like Mr. Smith’s previous I, Robot did. But I would still recommend reading the book.

Hellboy: Unnatural Selection

Man… I really am digging these Hellboy books. They sort of take a stab toward horror without getting into any of the cheesy melodrama that some horror has. Writer Tim Lebbon takes his shot at Hellboy with Unnatural Selection.

The story here is that someone is bringing back all the monsters of legend, pulling them right out of the Memory. He’s setting them loose on Earth, and its up to the BPRD to find out why and stop it, because the dragons and sea monsters are starting to eat lots of people.

Like other Hellboy books, its one part horror and one part action, with a dash of comedy. The blend is so perfect that the pages pratically turn themselves. The writing was good enough that I’m going to seek out more Tim Lebbon books. Thumbs up for the lastest Hellboy.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man`s Chest

Did you like the first one? Yes? Then you should go see this one too.

Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is just as good as the first one, the blend of action and comedy with a few nostalgic bits thrown in for those of us old enough to have seen the Disney ride before they began to overhaul it, but it does have one minor flaw. If you have seen the Back to the Future trilogy of movies then you are well familiar with this flaw. Since they filmed movies 2 and 3 at the same time, there are elements of the second film that are clearly setup for the third. In fact, from a purely story and plot standpoint, number two is not a satisfying film because while the story moves along nothing is really resolved.

But the swordfighting and ship combat is as good as ever. Seeing this movie will leave you itching for the final chapter… which should be along for Memorial Day 2007.