IanTheCool's Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Jul
01

whiplash

Whiplash is a great movie. If you are like me and are hesitant to watch it because you really dont give a damn about jazz music, let me put your mind at ease. You do not need to love, or even like, jazz music in order to fully appreciate and enjoy this film. The theme runs much deeper than the subject matter.

Whiplash tells the tale of a young drummer who strives to be the best and is mentored by a ridiculously over-strict instructor. What the movie is really about though is how far will you or should you go to achieve excellence at something. The movie shows that in order to be the greatest at anything (in this case its drumming, but it really could be anything), you will have to sacrifice a lot. And by a lot, that includes your friends, family, and even your own health, dignity and self-respect.

All the pieces here are meticulously constructed. The cinematography is vibrant and sleek. The sound design and mixing is incredible (it dese4rved its Oscar here). And the acting is also top notch. Miles teller has a face you just want to punch (which suits the character, whom you should want to punch after not too long), but he does a very good job. J.K. Simmons is also great, creating what may be the year’s best on-screen villain.

Whiplash does a great job exploring the cost and pay-off of trying to be the greatest. IN the quest to become the world’s best drummer, this character goes through a lot and changes a lot. For a moment there, I was worried that we would be left with a disappointing ending however. At the beginning of the third act, the movie started to lose steam and felt like it was going to whimper out at the end. But I was wrong. The conclusion of the film really picked things back up again, took this theme that its been working with and brought it to its pay-ff. And whats brilliant, is that which the theme of achieving success is brought to its fulfillment, it left to the audience to interpret whether or not the cost is worth it. Only great movies can do that.
9/10

Jun
29

Blazing With Theme

pic1129370_md

Co-op games found new life with the release of Pandemic in 2008. Since then the genre has exploded, and one of the better entries into this category was kickstarter success Flash Point. In Flash Point, players work together as a team of firefighters racing to rescue as many people as they can from a burning building. As far as themes go, few fit the nature of co-ops as well as that. In fact, the theme of Flash Point is probably the primary factor for its success as a great game. Let’s see why.

Gameplay

The goal of the game is to rescue seven victims from the fire. If three are killed or if the house collapses, everyone loses. The central mechanic of the game revolves around action movement turns where the players must spend action points to move into the house, find the victim, and get them out. However, the team also needs to be aware of extinguishing fires before things get out of control, because if fire ever lands on a space with a victim, they’re dead.
Each firefighter has a role which makes them better at certain parts of the game. The rescue specialist will, well, rescue people more specially. The CAFS guy puts out fires better. The driver gets to shoot the water gun, which is always a lot of fun. These roles both add to the theme of being a team and gives each player at the table their ow feeling of purpose.
As thematic as this game is, there are a couple things that don’t quite make sense. For example, while there will be up to 10 victims in the house, there are only three available to be found at any time. So where was that one guy when you just went through this room earlier?! Also, The water gun doesn’t make a ton of sense, unless you picture the roof having collapsed, which would cause a lot more problems. But honestly these are minor quibbles in a game which gives an overall gestalt which really makes you feel the theme while playing.

Components

This is an area where Flash Point really takes that all-important theme and solidifies it. First off, each character has their own coloured figure which is shaped like a firefighter. These guys are awesome and add to the motif a lot.
Other components include lots of tiles: smoke and fire, victims, trucks and ambulances, explosives, etc. They are all designed with nice art and all contribute to the firefighting aesthetic. And there’s even cat and dog victim tokens!
The board is also great. Its double sided, with each side offering a new house to start on fire (Not literally. Now THAT would be theme integration!). They are well-planned out to make things challenging, while offering lots of décor details to add to the immersion.

pic1475658_md

Conclusion

Flash Point is simply a lot of fun. It’s an easy-to-learn co-op in a similar vein with Pandemic, but different enough to justify playing and owning both. Its not as mechanically solid as Pandemic mind you. There are some aspects like using the dice which don’t flow as well. But the theme is one that everyone can get behind and it really creates an atmosphere of both tension and enjoyment.
The great thing about Flash Point is that it creates experiences. It’s one of those games where everyone can get into their roles and into the “story” of it all. Neat scenarios can arise which make more memorable game moments. For example, having to choose between saving a person or the cat, and choosing the cat. Or having every player race to the top floor (sorry, different floors are from the expansion) to rescue the dog as the last victim to win the game, only to have the whole building collapse.
So if you like your games thematic and are looking for a great cooperative experience, or just like good gaming experiences in general (so, everyone then), light up some Flash Point: Fire Rescue!

Jun
20

RTiVEzJ

Twenty-two years after having my mind blown in theaters as a 12-year old, the actual park is finally open. Having the park open for public was brilliant move for this third sequel to the franchise. Seeing the attractions come to life was a lot of fun and it made me really wish that there was such a place in real-life. Like, seriously. I want this to be real. Maybe some day…

Jurassic World has a pretty stereotypical blockbuster premise. The two main kids both have some troubles in their life, while their aunt who runs the park isn’t comfortable with them at first, but changes throughout. Everything seems fine and dandy, until it isnt. Then the chaos ensues. Its all pretty basic, some of it is really cheesy but it generally works as a skeleton for the main muscle, which are the dino interactions.

I’m just going to say that I enjoyed this a lot. It really struck for that nostalgia chord, and for me it usually hit the right notes. Sometimes they went too far, like holding up the banner from the visitors center. Just having it there on the ground for us to find ourselves was good enough. But sometimes the nostalgia really elevated certain scenes, like the paddock opening scene at the end.

The main crux of the movie revolves around a genetically engineered dinosaur who escapes and goes on a rampage. I didn’t have too much of a problem with that, and found that it gave us some really thrilling moments, even if they were very reminiscent of the other films, such as the scene in the gyro-car thingy.

Let’s address the raptors, because i can see that this is an area a lot of people would have problems with. The raptors here are trained, much like lions or tigers. And while the whole concept seems ridiculous (unless you actually take a moment to realize that yes, they do do this with lions and tigers) they handle it pretty well. They walk the line between having a connection and always being in danger. And there’s a pretty great moment in the third act where this danger element intensifies. So while skeptical of the whole idea, it didn’t bother me too much while watching.

Jurassic World doesn’t have the same magic as Jurassic Park, but lets face it very few movies do. This really had no hope of that. But its a good sequel which is able to slightly transcend its blockbuster downfalls for the most part. The score wasn’t very good honestly, except when it touched upon the original music. Chris Pratt is a good lead and there’s some great imagery and set pieces. And that finale…. they just went all out. That was pretty awesome.

All in all, it was nice to revisist Isla Nublr once again.

8/10

Jun
13

movies-ncrawler-103114-videoSixteenByNine540

What a cool movie.  Nightcrawler tells the story of a social outcast who finds his passion in late-night news photography and will do whatever it takes to become the best at it.  Its engaging, interesting, and captivating right from the start.  The reason its all of those things is because the character of Lou Bloom is so weird and eccentric that you get drawn in to watching his actions and conversations play out.  Jake Gyllenhal probably gives the best performance I’ve seen him in.

Bloom wants to be great at something and doesn’t have a lot of moral quandaries keeping him back.   He’ll tamper with crime scene evidence, withhold information from the cops, do whatever he needs to to get the best news footage.  The way he goes further down the rabbit hole kept me engaged every moment.  This is an energetic movie with a despicable yet vastly interesting character at its center.  Check it out if you get the chance.

9/10

Jun
07

Dragons Not Included

pic1470166_md

I’m not sure if this will be so much of a review, as a comment on how Fantasy Flight has chosen to deal with the expansions for the Game of Thrones board game. Hopefully it’s a little of both, but I may rant a little. Hopefully that’s okay.
The Dance With Dragons expansion is really just a deck of cards that provide new character cards for each family and a new set up scenario. It takes the story ahead to the end situation in the Song of Ice and Fire books thus far, so I suppose there are some spoilerish stuff if you are currently reading them or if you are a TV watcher only (though I suppose at this point they’re pretty much in the same place).
But don’t let the name fool you: Daenerys does not make an appearance. The only reason it is called so is because it’s the title of one of the fifth book. So lets talk about that for two seconds, because it drives my organizational mind crazy. The first edition of the game had two expansions, named respectively after the next two books; Clash of Kings and Storm of Swords. Okay, cool idea.
Then after the second edition, the first expansion out was this one, named after the 5th book and completely skipping over the 4th (which would be next). I got an OCD twinge in my neck, since that will always be out of order now. Also, I can’t really complete the set, since the first two expansions are incompatible. It would have been nice to have gotten some updated versions, but oh well. I know that I am one of a small few who are actually bothered by this, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.
But let’s look at the expansion we do have now.

Additions

1 New Scenario – The major idea behind ADWD is the new scenario set up. It has new starting positions to reflect the progression of the storylines such as *SPOILERS* Stannis being at the Wall, the Bolton’s controlling the North, and so on. What this new set up does is gets the aggression in the game going faster rather than player’s spending a turn or two just preparing for battle.

2 New House Cards – The other major addition is the new character cards for each of the 6 houses. These also reflect the changes in the books as characters who have been killed off are no longer present, while others have been promoted. The artwork is interesting as always, and I like that their looks are not influenced by the TV show at all. They also have some neat abilities to try out.

pic1530625_md

Critique

Best Feature:
For me personally, it’s nice to have a new set of character cards. On a fan level, it’s nice to see new characters represented. On a game level it’s nice to have a few different tricks up your sleeves

When to use: The new scenario is only to be used when there are exactly six players, but if you’re doing a 6-player game then this is the way to go. It ultimately makes the game shorter and gets the action going quicker. So it can only be used with one player count, but it’s good for that player count.

Does it fit?: Its only a deck of cards, so it fits in the game box very easily.

What type:
Dance is an alternate scenario expansion, but its pretty limited as there’s only one alternate scenario.

Overall: It’s worth getting if you are able to play with six players a lot. If not, only get it if you are a fan and what to see more of the people of Westeros in your game. I know I went on a rant about the expansion names and orders, but that’s really just a “me” thing I wanted to vent about.

thumbsup

May
20

bb69cb62_MadPietFurryRoad5

So, a new Mad Max eh? Seems like an odd choice for a franchise to revise, as the original films really only exist as cult classics. And while it has name recognition, Joe and Jane Public really don’t know much about it apart from that. But nevertheless, it is back and with a vengeance.

Fury Road promises an intense action ride with lots of car chasing goodness and gritty settings and characters. And it delivers. The action sequences take up the majority of the film and are both inventive and well-choreographed. They manage to stay fresh throughout the movie too, which is nice.

There is one major lull about 3/4 of the way in as the runaway rig carrying fugitive women from a work camp gets to take a break from the constant pursuit behind them. Normally a break in the action doesn’t bother me much, but maybe because there wasn’t much substantial in this lull or perhaps because I had become so accustomed to the breakneck pacing and energy thus far, it felt really laborious.

Tom Hardy definitely looks the part of Max, but other than that most of what he does is grunt his lines under his breath.  Charlize Teheron is great as Furiosa.  That guy who plays Beast in the X-Men movies plays a rather annoying character which brings the story down a bit.

The setting really manages to realize the anarchistic landscape of the original films in a somewhat fuller and richer sense than before, going into various different factions living in the outback. And honestly, a lot about this society is mostly an exercise in grotesquerie, something which I’ve never been a fan off and usually turns me off. A lot of the grosser realizations does knock this down a notch for me, but I do realize that that is a totally personal and subjective nitpick. But in reality, this is one wild ride and a truly visceral action movie experience.

8/10

May
03

Avengers Age of Ultron

Marvel has been very successful in creating a movie franchise universe for its comic book heroes, and ever expanding that universe across almost a dozen films. But in their second Avengers movie the whole franchise seems to have evolved to a whole new step. The Marvel movie universe has now managed to completely immerse itself into the same world as the comics from which they came.

What do I mean by that? What I mean is that Age of Ultron really feels like one of those crazy cross-over comic events with tons of characters showing up all over the place, each contributing to a central story where its taken for granted that we know who these characters are and where they come from. Some people will hate this most likely, but I thought it was impressive.

We get right into the action as we see the Avengers hunting down the last stronghold of Hydra. This isn’t a great action scene as the CGI is very apparent, but dont worry; much better action scenes are to follow, like the Iron Man vs. Hulk fight. The main story however sees Tony Stark create an evil AI called Ultron in an attempt to develop an automated security system for the world. And of course Ultron is out for destruction.

The biggest problem of the movie is that they don’t do a great job of establishing the origin of Ultron. Its rather rushed and feels awkward. But after that the story runs pretty smoothly (which the exception of some sort of dream cave Thor goes into?? Wha??) and Ultron is a pretty cool villain, and quite daunting since he can transport himself to any other robot if he’s defeated.

What I really liked was just the smorgasbord of characters thrown into this thing. (I mean, Vision?? I did not expect a character like him to show up.) I know that doesn’t seem like it should be a good thing, but personally I love huge casts of characters all interlocking, and as I said before it is necessary for that evolution of the franchise to truly feel like a Marvel comic come to life. Yeah, its a little clunky in places, but there are a lot of balls to juggle here and I liked how most of them stayed balanced in the air pretty well. I loved the craziness of this movie.
8/10

Apr
26

FOXCATCHER

Foxcatcher tells the story of two wrestling brothers who allow themselves to be taken under the wing of an eccentric millionaire as their coach.  Its based off of a true story, but whether that gives it more or less power is up to how you feel about it I suppose.  It’s is a competently made film.  The cinematography is fine, the editing is fine, and so on.  The main problem is that its entirely devoid of any type of charisma.

This lack of charisma extends into the performances of both Channing Tatum, whose almost Neanderthal like as Mark, and Steve Carrell as John Du Pont who is essentially an unfunny Michael Scott, filtered so that only the awkwardness is left.   They aren’t bad performances, but with the dialogue they lack spark.    Mark Ruffalo’s David is the only one who really gives you some personality to latch on to.

So what results is a somewhat interesting, somewhat boring story.  It was hard to see what made this particular story remarkable enough to make a movie about it, which I found out at thee end.  But even then, the ending of the film just kind of happens.  There’s not a lot of build up to it, follow up from it, or any real power behind it.

6/10

Apr
03

A Blend That’s Great, Even with Eight

pic1304646_md

Vivajava is my hidden gem story. I ordered the game without really knowing how it worked. I just liked that it was about producing coffee. But low and behold, what I ended up with was a fantastic game that quickly became a hit among my group of friends.
Vivajava is a rare breed. It’s a eurostyle production game which works for up to eight people and involves tons of interactivity among players. In short, its awesome. It fills an interesting Niche, as most games involving that many players tend to be party games or secret role games like The Resistance or Werewolf. Having the option for an actual strategy game with that many people is great.

Gameplay

The goal of the game is to make the best-selling coffee blends and earn points based on how long they stay in the market. Coffee blends are made using a basic poker system, but with coloured beans pulled randomly from roaster bags instead of playing cards. This is a brilliant idea as it’s something most people can relate to an latch on to. The best blends get the best places on the market.
Vivajava also has a number of other great mechanics including a research track which gives you special abilities. It also has the added strategy of trying to maintain an efficient roaster filled with any number of coloured beans in order to make the best blends. There’s a lot for gamers to sink their teeth into here.
But where this game really comes out strong is the actual blending process. Why is that? Because in order to blend, you must do so as a team with one or two other players. Therefore, you are making temporary alliances every turn in order to team up and make the best blend possible between you both. This makes the game very interactive and dynamic and gives it its spark.

Components

Like a great cup of coffee, the artwork and components of Vivajava are soothing and comforting. There is a stack of blend slates, each with interesting art. The colour schemes of the main board work very well to create a consistency. And the fact that the game actually comes with little wooden coffee beans is just awesome.
There may be slight confusion between the red and brown beans if the lighting isn’t quite right, but that’s really just a nitpickers problem and not that big a deal. Otherwise, the components are top notch. The roaster bags are good quality, the graphic design works well, everything is great.

pic1243091_md

Conclusion

I expected this game to be a game I bought because I liked the idea of a coffee-centric game, but one that would just sit on my shelf as an oddity. I underestimated how fun it would actually be. Now I get plenty of requests for “the coffee game”, and it’s easy to see why.
Vivajava promotes interactive gameplay and can accommodate groups as large as eight, which is a rare thing. And it also does all this without sacrificing genuine eurogame economic strategy, which is even rarer. Vivajava is a great game that fills in interesting niche, and one which I highly recommend.

Apr
02

A while back I posted my top ten most wanted blu-rays here.  A lot has changed since then, and eight of the ten have come to fruition.  Time to take a new look at the blu-rays I’d love to see.

10. The Wire

The-Wire-Blu-Ray1

Alright, this is kind of a cheat, since HBO is releasing The Wire complete series on blu-ray June 6th.  But what I would like to see is the individual seasons, jsut cause I’m weird like that. (All my other shows are broken into season sets, so…)

But if this is a cheat, then put Roman Holiday in this spot.

9. The Marx Brothers

81ESiVv1D4L._SL1500_

Someone needs to put out a set of Marx Brothers films on bluray.  The one I am specifically interested in is Duck Soup, but honestly they all should be.  The Marx Bros were a massively important part of film history, and really should be preserved on blu-ray high def.  i’m honestly really surprised this hasn’t happened yet.  Its a shame.

8. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

055417

This is one of the few from AFI’s top 100 movies list that has yet to get a blu-ray release.  It should have one.  I mean, that whole list should have one, really.

7.Spartacus (Remastered)

Yes, Universal already has a blu-ray of Spartacus released.  But from everything I’ve read about it, the transfer is an atrocity.  Digital noise reduction appears to have taken all of the detain out of the images.  This post will tell you why.  The great thing is that it sounds like this may happen, according to Digital Bits.

 

6. Before Sunrise

before_sunrise

Rumour has it that Criterion is planning a trilogy release of Linklater’s Before series.  The only one on blu right now is the third one.  I adored the first one, and would love to add it to my menagerie of films.  The only thing I ask is that they don’t make it a box set, or if they do they make each of the three individual discs and literally put them in a box.

5. The X-Files

indextghyrt

This was my favourite show as a teenager, and it still sticks with me even though the show dropped off considerable in the last four seasons.  But it is certainly a show I would  love to include in my collection.  There are rumours that this has been coming for a while, and with the new announcement of the series returning for a stint on TV again, chances for a Blu-ray release are high.

4. Prince of Egypt

1263978121

I really have no idea why this isn’t out yet.  Its a pretty well-respected animated film from Dreamworks that I would think is well worthy of a release.  I sort of expected it to come out when Exodus was released in theaters, but no such luck.

3. The West Wing

West_Wing_S1_DVD

TV on Blu-ray was a tricky thing.   I had to wonder if it was even worth getting into, since I knew so many shows just wouldn’t bother with the upgrade.  But then Game of Thrones came out, and so I began my TV collection.  I know I wont get all my shows on blu, but there are some I’m really hoping for.  West Wing is one of my all-time favourites, and I really hope that it comes to HD in the near future.

2. Bringing Up Baby

51D8fQW9sML

This is one of my all-time favourite comedies, yet it is one of the few AFI Top 100 list movies not on blu yet. Whats up with that? Get it out there!.

1. The Original Star Wars Trilogy

My most wanted blu-ray remains the same.  I will repost what I wrote last time:

I decided to put the least likely to happen at the top of this list.  What I am talking about here is the original, unadulterated trilogy with no CGI Ronto’s added, no extra scenes, and no ridiculous song-and-dance numbers in Jabba’s palace.  I want the three movies released with beautiful new transfers without any of Lucas’ obsessive tinkering.  The driving force behind blu-ray has become film preservation; allowing films to be released in their pure form as they were meant to be seen.  So why not Star Wars too?

Mar
29

mockingjay image8

Okay, lets talk.  We need to chat about book adaptations.  I confess there was a time when being faithful to the source material was important to me.  I remember having a number of nitpicks when the Lord of the Rings trilogy came out, for example.  But over time, the movie fan in me has grown to realize that adaptations should not be about capturing the source material as closely as possible, they should be about making a good movie, period.  The books are there to provide a proven story and a source of inspiration.  The movie should try to capture the overall tone of the material yes, but changes are usually very necessary.  For example, changing the ending of Watchman was a big improvement in making the whole film more complete and well-rounded.  Leaving out Tom Bombadil from Fellowship of the Ring was a necessity, since it would have disrupted the pace and flow of the film.  The point is, making a great movie should be priority one, accuracy to the source is secondary.

The reason for this rant is because the process of adapting is where I think the latest Hunger Games movie has problems.  Its clear that they want to make book fans happy and really try to get lots of little details and stuff in from the book.  But what ends up happening is that lots about this movie feels very contrived,  There are very small examples of this that add up, and there is one glaringly large example of this.

The small examples are things like Katniss having a nickname for her sister (little dove or something?), which is clearly only there because its in the book and reader’s expect it.  But it sounds eye-rollingly unnatural whenever its said, and very transparent to why its there.  These little book details keep popping up and feeling out of place with the movie presented.

But the biggest example of this is the relationship between Katniss and Peeta.  They keep trying to jam this thing down our throats, but its not at all convincing.  Which is problematic since her thinly-constructed motivations for why she’s dong things centers around her “love” for Peeta and her wish to help him.  But there is absolutely no chemistry between these characters and it ll feels like a false note.  And its clear it is being force-fed directly from the books.

Now, I did mostly enjoy this movie.  I liked seeing the revolution take hold and enjoyed a lot of aspects about how that worked.  But it does feel like a lot of the underlying problems of this film franchise are starting to break through.

6/10

 

Mar
21

3Cxnpap

Under the Skin is a weird movie to be sure.  Its also an oddly compelling one.    The premise is pretty much like Species; an alien under disguise as a female human seduces victims.  But that doesn’t at all prepare you for what kind of movie this is.  What we actually get is a more contemplative look at a view of the human race from a visitor’s perspective.  This movie is more about mood and atmosphere, which are meticulously  crafted.

This movie is not for everyone.  It sounds like a thriller, and though there are thrilling aspects when she lures her victims, its not really.  There’s little dialogue as well, which may frustrate some.  And there’s not much of an explanation as to her purpose (though in the second half of the movie, her personal motivations become apparent).  We assume she’s an alien creature of some kind, but to be honest when I saw her in her fur coat, within the background of the Scottish isles, my mind went to the mythological Selkies.  And upon further research on imdb after the movie, it appears that selkies were indeed an influence.

Somehow, I didn’t feel frustrated by Under the Skin, though I should of.  But the movie ended up luring me in, much like one of her victims.  The tone was haunting and evoked a compulsion to keep watching. There’s a scene where we see inside her pool of mystery which is particularly disturbing.  The photography was great, especially when mixed with the oddly mixed sound production.  We would have long shots of her walking through a Scottish town hearing nothing but her footsteps a lot of the time.

Scarlett Johanssen is great in the lead role, managing to hit just the right notes of someone pretending to be human, but not having the emotional pitfalls of humanity.  For example, when she lures in a man with a deformed face, she doesn’t even notice he is different than any of the others at any point.  She also captures the curiosity of a stranger to our planet very well.

If you are okay with slower paced movies whose themes are “under the skin” so to speak, than this is certainly an interesting watch.

8/10

Mar
15
A Renewable Resource of Great Gaming
pic173153_md

In the fast-moving popularity contest which exists within this hobby, it doesn’t take many years for a game to have lasted to be called a classic. In the case of Power Grid, which just had its 10th anniversary, it is a status that is well-earned, whether or not you agree that ten years is enough time to make such a declaration. Because lets face it, the attention of a lot of gamers is fickle and fleeting in the “cult of the new” obsessed hobby. But a game like Power Grid has enough prestige and depth to endure. Lets find out why.

Gameplay

Power Grid is an economic game where the goal is to supply power to as many cities as possible. To do this you need a network reaching those cities, power plants to provide power to them, and fuel to run your power plants (either coal, oil, garbage, uranium, or wind).
These three aspects also dictate the three main areas of gameplay: an auction to buy bigger and better power plants, a supply and demand economic system to buy fuel, and a cost-calculating map phase where you are buying into different cities. These different phases all work together really well despite seeming like fragmented pieces, and all are important to your overall goal.
Power Grid has a reputation of being a number-crunching game, and I suppose that is true. When you are calculating your routes and how much fuel to buy, there is a low margin of error, but I think that is to the acclaim of the design. This is a eurogame after all, and decisions need to be tight. But I also don’t believe that it is completely automated either as market prices depend so much on what other players do as well.
Power Grid has a very interesting aspect to it which is the battle for turn order. More so than any other game I’ve played, turn order is very important in this game. Because so much depends on player decisions (networks, markets, power plant bidding), being able to go first is a great advantage. However, to do so you have to be behind in the number of cities you power, which means you are also behind financially as well. So that creates a very interesting balance struggle.

Components

Power Grid is famous for having one of the most boring box covers ever. And I’m perfectly fine with it. Inside the box, we get a board with some unique aesthetics and a great layout, including the economic and turn tracks set up with ease. The power plant cards are awesome, and the wooden components for the power stations and resources are just as nice to have as wooden components always are.

The game comes with paper money.  Good.  Everyone complains so much about paper money, and I just dont know what the problem is.  Is it more rebellion against monopoly?  I’m not sure, but paper money is modern currency, and it makes sense with a modern market such as this one.  So paper money: good stuff.
So lets face it, there’s nothing overly interesting about the power grid components. But I still like them. I like wooden components, even though we just have the same houses as Catan. I like the artwork as well, its different than you usually encounter. I also kind of like the bland box cover; it doesn’t try to dress up the rather bland theme. Power Grid doesn’t need to be fancy or flashy for anyone, and I respect that.

pic105289_md

Conclusion

Power Grid seems like a dry game with a dry theme. Buts its far more dynamic than it looks, and is a really great economic game. It can be unforgiving, so be aware of that. If you lose your turn order spot at the wrong time, for example, you can really be cut out of the loop (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…). But this is a great economic game that can give a different experience than most other games being played today. So if you don’t mind mathy games and tough decisions, best to dim the lights on this one. If you like an interactive and dynamic challenge, then crank up the voltage on Power Grid.

Feb
28

Baymax_Boot_02

This turned out to be a much better movie than I expected, and I can see now why it won the Oscar. That puffy robot just killed me, I think I laughed at almost everything he said or did. “I am not fast.”  Or when the kid told him to kick the door down. Great stuff.

The setting is interesting though confusing.  So why is it now San Fransokyo?  Or does it not matter?  I guess not.  The story is pretty solid, with a core emotional backdrop. The biggest flaw I would say is that the secondary friend characters are very “cartoony”, in that really annoying way. Like how the tall skinny girl speaks so fast and loud, etc, or how goofy Fred is. It probably works really well for kids though.

But the robot is the reason to see this movie.

8/10

Feb
22

Birdman-Movie-Michael-Keaton-8

Another year, another Oscars.  Neil Patrick Harris made me laugh a few times, but he seemed to be falling flat a lot at the theater.  Oh well.  I also thought how it was interesting how there was a mini-rebellion against the play-off music.  Which is good.  The people who win these awards work hard for them and deserve their moment, and shouldn’t be played off immediately just because they aren’t shown on Entertainment Tonight.

Also, this was a very soapboxy Oscars, did anyone else notice that?

Last year I only had a 58% prediction rate.  Lets see if I did better this year.

BEST PICTURE:

Winner: Birdman

My Pick: Birdman

Boyhood still had a chance, but as expected Birdman came out ahead.


DIRECTING:

Winner: Alejandro Iñárritu – Birdman

My Pick: Alejandro Iñárritu – Birdman

They went the last two years with a split, so I really didn’t think it was gonna happen again this year, though I would have liked to see Linklater get it.  But this was the right pick I think.


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Winner:  Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

My Pick: Michael Keaton – Birdman

I know I was going against the front runner, but I really thought they’d give it to Keaton.  I forgot that the academy likes disabilities and impersonations of famous people, and this was both.  I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’d imagine it was a very hard performance to pull off and was likely well deserved.


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:

Winner: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

My Pick: Julianne Moore – Still Alice

I was just going with the front runner here.


ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Winner: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

My Pick: J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

This was the first award of the night, so at this point I was batting 1000.

Lots of great actors in this category.  Must have been tough to vote.


ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Winner:  Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

My Pick: Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

I would have liked to have seen Emma Stone win, I like her.



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Winner: Birdman

My Pick: Birdman

Called it!


ADAPTED  SCREENPLAY:

Winner: The Imitation Game

My Pick: The Theory of Everything

I picked the wrong scientist movie.


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Winner: Ida

My Pick: Ida

When in doubt, choose the film you’ve actually heard something about.  It usually doesn’t work, but this time I did.

I like that the guy refused to leave despite the music.


ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:

Winner: Big Hero 6

My Pick: How to Train Your Dragon 2

More like Big Upset 6.


PRODUCTION DESIGN:

Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel

My Pick: Grand Budapest Hotel

Called it!  Imitation Game would have been a good pick too

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Winner: Birdman

My Pick: Birdman

After watching the film today I realize how important the camera work was for this movie.   Two for Luzbeski.

COSTUME DESIGN:

Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel

My Pick: Mr. Turner

Cool.

FILM EDITING:

Winner: Whiplash

My Pick: Boyhood

This is very surprising.  I thought for sure it would be Boyhood, a 12 year effort cut into on film. But Whiplash has done well tonight.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Winner: Citizen4

My Pick: Virunga

I knew I should have went with the more popular film.

MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:

Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel

My Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy

Looks like the academy was willing to back up all the nominations they gave Grand Budapest with a couple of awards as well.

ORIGINAL SCORE:

Winner: Grand Budapest Hotel

My Pick: Imitation Game

Well I picked the right guy, wrong movie. Do I get half a point?

ORIGINAL SONG:

Winner: Glory – Selma

My Pick: Glory – Selma

Last year I didn’t go with the exceedingly obvious choice of Let it Go.  I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.

SOUND MIXING:

Winner:  Whiplash

My Pick: American Sniper

I should have thought about this one more.  A movie about drumming and other musical instruments? Yeah, of course it was going to go to Whiplash.

SOUND EDITING:

Winner: American Sniper

My Pick: American Sniper

If you are a sound editor and want an Oscar, do a war film.

VISUAL EFFECTS:

Winner: Interstellar

My Pick: Interstellar

I was hoping this would win but was doubting it would.  Glad it did.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:

Winner: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

My Pick: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Its the hot topic issue this year apparently.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM:

Winner: Feast

My Pick: Feast

Looks cute.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM:

Winner: The Phone Call

My Pick: The Butter Lamp

Again, its the hot topic issue this year.

MY SCORE: 14/24 = 58%

The same as last year.