My Week: February 25, '12

Mateo Gil, 2011
Finally can I check this off my "Most Anticipated of 2011" list. I'd been looking forward to it since my first attempt at a movie news article in March, 2010 and only by the oh so limited and intermittent grace of Netflix Instant am I now able to experience it. "Blackthorn" takes a little while to get going, and doesn't feature the sort of strong script one might expect from something involving Mateo Gil - in fact at a few brief times it becomes downright soapy - but it gets by with honors on strong showings from Sam Shepard and Stephen Rea, fitting and nostalgic callbacks to George Roy Hill's classic predecessor and an eventually involving and conditionally harsh story involving the joys and afflictions of brotherhood. Watching three key male relationships flourish and shift with our grizzled hero makes for captivating dynamics that build a progressively cool, calm and confident crackle until the brutal finale (which relies perhaps too greatly on its protagonist's alleged Robin Hood-esque qualities). And this is not to mention the beautiful and ultimately testing surreality of the second act climax' last-ditch chase through the Uyuni salt flats. I might've liked to see more of Rea as the surprisingly empathetic Mackinley, whose third act journey is the most compelling piece in the picture as it brings him from dishonored exile to unlikely respect of an ideal and finally an opportunity - albeit a late and thereby bitter one - to, just as his one-time target did above all else, be his own man (in my own, somewhat romanticized interpretation of the epilogue's events, that is).

Further first-time viewings:

This Means War - McG, 2012
Though doing its damnedest to charm and not without its (few and far between) moments, the sizzling chemistry between the leading trio can't save a juvenile script and matching execution with the emotional core of a daytime prescription ad, or the biggest pacing/editing disaster since "Thor", for that matter. It's practically offensive how pathetically daft the personality-confused Reese Witherspoon's character is allowed to be in the cunning hands of her manipulative suitors. This was also my first experience with Chelsea Handler and, please, may it be my last? And I feel inclined to point it out yet again: that "How You Like Me Now?" song is in everything!!

Act of Valor - Mike McCoy & Scott Waugh, 2012
If there's a film in recent memory I can recommend the absolute least to any connoisseur of cinema, it would be "Act of Valor". Is it the true test of a film critic, one who sees even the least promising of filmic endeavors? No, it's not nearly that vehemently offensive to the senses (like "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"). It may be that offensive to the intellect, however, as it makes sure to appease the simple-minded at every smoothed turn with no-nonsense explanations of its more relatively complex ideas. And by "relatively complex ideas" I mean exactly those you could expect to find in a truly careless amalgam between the most generic of "B" actioners and a private contracter docudrama. In fairness, "Act of Valor" is a film for a very specific audience. Thing is, it also breaks the cardinal rule of propaganda in true "Someone Else's Voice" fashion - it utilizes tactics that should be relegated to movie villains to glorify our American heroes' apparently necessary yet entirely primal endeavors. Without considering a more sophisticated approach to the material, our filmmakers have appealed to the most basal of patriotic sentiments. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. Imagine all the people. Living life in peace. Read the full review at Reel Time.

Total: 3

Rewatches (2): Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Review (Stoklasa, 2010), Cool as Ice (Kellogg, 1991)
- On a first viewing, I found "Cool as Ice" perversely entertaining. Second time around, it's just boring as sin. This is the part where I'd elaborate on the pop culture product's sickly twisted view of the good-hearted bad boy as a romantic interest or ponder the idea of making your Vanilla Ice movie a fish-out-of-water situation a la the later "Son in Law", but I'd rather watch YouTube videos of Ice's genuinely hypnotic dancing.

Episodic Television (1): Portlandia (Farm)
- Having heard much about "Portlandia" and having had personal experience attempting to live in the strange Oregon city myself (I went in excited for wider acceptance of my liberalism and left feeling like everyone viewed me the way they view Rick Santorum - it's a wackily extreme place), it was about time I gave the program a shot. And it's certainly not bad. Unexpected and entertaining, with the sensibility of something Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo might have done almost 20 years ago.

Video Games (4): Streets of Rage 2Kingdoms of Amalur: ReckoningAltered Beast, Mario Kart: Super Circuit
- Is it funny to think that my 12-year-old self could have whooped my current self's ass at "Streets of Rage 2"? I could have reached the final boss with a blindfold however many years ago... now I'm lucky to reach Stage 6.
- So the "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" experience came in the mere form of the Playstation Store's free demo, but it allows approximately a full hour of gameplay so I figured I'd include it. "Reckoning" (the title of which I get a kick out of, as "Reckoning" is my go-to parody sequel subtitling... I.E. "Eat Pray Love 2: Reckoning"... you know, classy stuff like that) is a blatant rip-off of "The Elder Scrolls" from its general item classifications down to its lockpicking mechanics. This may be excusable if only for Ken Rolston's intimate involvement, but it all feels too familiar and thereby moderately disappointing since it sets itself up to have such hopeless comparisons to a triumphant franchise. Still, in my short time with the game, I found myself longing to explore deeper and develop my character's skills further... and I suppose that can be considered a vital success in the realm of the open-world RPG. The vibrant colors are a nice contrast to the more realistically stark (though inarguably jaw-gaping) terrains of "Skyrim" and the exaggerated monster, weapon and location designs are similarly welcome, and even cathartically satisfying in the case of, say, cartoonishly yet vengefully smashing in a rabid wolf's head with a ginormous, electrified hammer. The ranged weapon aspect is also of note, not requiring arrows as a depleting inventory item but rather allowing for a limited number of successive shots depending on the skill level. It could be that I simply didn't figure out the stealth/aiming system, but my ability to sneak and pick off specific targets left something to be desired. All in all, I could see myself purchasing "Reckoning" for proper play once it drops in price (I can't justify trading in "Skyrim" just yet), though I do wish its movement controls weren't so wonky. Perhaps "wonky" isn't the exact word, but the way the character moves can take her or him from one side of the screen to the other in a blink, totally against player intention and out of line with camera coherence.


My Week: February 18, '12

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, 2012
It's about time someone made a documentary examining just what it is to be Nicolas Cage. I now understand that being Nicolas Cage is like being on a mean hallucinogenic drug that can, at any time, kick in to high gear and make you uncontrollably insane between bouts of percolating rage and suicidal depression. The creative choice to depict the man's full-blown psychotic breaks with a flaming skeleton is inspired, though it leaves me desperate to view a pre-effects version highlighting the "afro-caribbean voodoo paint" Cage claims to have adorned. Read the full review at Reel Time.

Further first-time viewings:

Double Dare - Amanda Micheli, 2004
Nothing spectacular, but a perfectly passable biographical documentary profiling Zoe Bell and Jeannie Epper, thereby female stunt performing in general. Fun and interesting enough to validate the time spent.

Total: 2

Rewatches (8): Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Review x2 (Stoklasa, 2009), Star Wars: Attack of the Clones Review x2 (Stoklasa, 2010), Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Review (Stoklasa, 2010), Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Review (Stoklasa, 2011), Star Trek: Nemesis Review (Stoklasa, 2009), Avatar Review (Stoklasa, 2010)
- These count! I love that one person with good humor dedicated such intricate care to utterly destroying the "Star Wars" prequels from the bottom up - while being entirely fair to George Lucas & Co., in my opinion. Watching Stoklasa's expertly assembled and punchy reviews is a cathartic experience that validates my own burning ideas of why, in general and specifically, the unnecessary and money-grubbing shams of over- and underloaded backstory films suck so bafflingly hard. As it is put in the reviews themselves (referencing both positives and negatives of character and story development, or a lack thereof), you might not have noticed it... but your brain did. And what can I really say about the prequels that hasn't been said about them a thousand times over? I have my own sentimental stories about my times as a "Star Wars" fanatic and even my stubborn repeat viewings of the first two prequel installments (this one is particularly soft, for me), just as almost everyone and their own fathers do. At first I couldn't shake the obligation... I was supposed to like these movies, so I liked them (but my brain was most certainly noticing, and "Episode III" has never seen as much of my forgiveness as "I" and "II" have). Thing is, Stoklasa lays it all out so elegantly from technical and storytelling positions with very little left to ponder. Plus he's just friggin' hilarious.

Episodic Television (1): 30 Rock (Idiots Are People Three! - Today You Are a Man)

Video Games (1): Mario Kart: Super Circuit
- Finally managed an A on... well, it's the Mushroom Cup, but still. This is the most difficult "Mario Kart" I've played simply due to graphical and control limitation, so I'm counting it an accomplishment. Don't know how it happened... do ranks B or C even exist? I'm sure I've completed the Cup better, previously, anyway. Weird game. Now I'm working on getting better than an E on the Special Cup. Maybe I should just pick up a book, instead.

Sundance's Gina Rodriguez, In Her Own Words

Carey Mulligan, Elizabeth Olsen, Jess Weixler… every year crowds at the Sundance Film Festival unofficially anoint a new “It” girl, and this year it’s Gina Rodriguez’ turn. NYU grad Rodriguez, a 27-year-old Puerto Rican from Chicago, headlines an all-star cast in the critical success “Filly Brown”. The breakout star discusses film, family, future and the dire state of Latino cinema.

Beach Bum Cum Laude: Talking "The Descendants" with Actor Nick Krause

Definitive American auteur Alexander Payne’s (“About Schmidt”, “Sideways”) latest opus, the major Oscar contender “The Descendants”, has generated plenty of buzz for its performances, one of which almost goes unnoticed for the deceivingly natural way it blends in with the film’s Hawaiian environment. Up-and-comer Nick Krause (pronounced “Kr-ow-zee”) co-stars as Sid, a youthful surfer dude tagging along for what appears to be dubious moral support and mere comic relief before he imparts sobering insight in to his own background. Personally for Krause, the opportunity to work with Payne and A-list headliner George Clooney was indispensable. Professionally, the work’s success has sent his burgeoning star skyward through an exciting awards circuit and plenty of groundwork for a bright future.

Suburgatory Stud Parker Young

The 23-year-old, six-pack-clad Parker Young has found himself in an inarguably swell position - amongst an all-star, prime time cast on network television, frequently sans shirt. The sitcom in question, ABC’s “Suburgatory”, has recently been picked up for a “back nine” - a latter chunk for its successful first season. Parker’s character may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but as the series progresses he’s proving well worth the watching through Parker’s enthusiastic delivery and non-stop thrust-dancing. With “Suburgatory” as a platform, this performer with a trick or two up his sleeve (when he has sleeves to speak of, anyway) is priming to leap further in to the collective consciousness.


My Week: February 11, '12

Sheba, Baby
William Girdler, 1975
"Sheba" represents in its individuality so much of what I love about blaxploitation, from the nearly ever-present Monk Higgins funk seeming to emanate from slammin' Pam Grier's mere presence and the immediately grabbing storyline of an ethical family's empathetic financial struggle, to the presentation of its titular character as uniquely strong in both the everyday and the extraordinary (I.E. givin' the gun-brothers the frizzies) to a general extent that defies the bounds of "exploitation". The themes at hand are relevant for all, and rarely if ever rely on matters of race or cultural idiosyncrasy. The racial themes are subtle, rendering it merely circumstantial that the established entrepreneurs (headed by D'Urville Martin as, well, let's just call him Prince George, you follow me?) taking on small-time competition generates a black versus black scenario. Then, one must point out the poignancy in the fact that above it all a white man is orchestrating the conflict to his benefit. When you're after the top banana, you peel off the skin! Read the full review.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Brad Peyton, 2012
"Jules Verne, man, you gotta believe." I dig the concept of these "Vernian" adventures - they're not definitively based on Verne's works, per se, but imagine that his writings are science fact as opposed to fiction then accessibly allude to source events. They use this territory to not only take families on colorful adventures, but also to reinvigorate for a new generation what are by contemporary standards rather antiquated notions of spectacle. The casting of such charismatic stars helps helps immensely, as well, with actors like Josh Hutcherson and, in this sequel, Luis Guzmán and Dwayne Johnson (hey, that's the first I've earnestly referred to him by that name without mentioning The Rock-- ah, damn). Since "Bridge to Terabithia" I've believed in Hutcherson's talent and now hope he graduates to bigger spotlights through the opportunities "The Hunger Games" will surely bring. The ever-reliable Guzmán is boisterously hilarious as the shabby yet good-hearted pilot few adventure tales can be without. And Johnson? I apparently can't resist that signature "electrifying" charm - "The Great One" effortlessly maintained a smile on my face, with his campfire rendition of "What a Wonderful World" marking a highlight. As a side note, it must have been a pain maintaining the continuity of his sweat stains. Yes, there are awkwardly forced relationship dynamics perhaps better suited for sitcoms on ABC Family, and the creative team has peppered slow-motion moments of über-cheese throughout (Vanessa Hudgens falling from the bee is classic). Just as with its predecessor, the picture ain't perfect... but then it doesn't really need to be. No kid should be without this sort of wondrously imaginative journey, even if it is leaky at the seams. This is like what "The Swiss Family Robinson" was for me. Or, hell, what the original "Journey to the Center of the Earth" adaptation was. Plus, it has officially introduced the term "thunder cookie" to my repertoire, and for that, at the very least least, I thank it.

Days of Heaven
Terrence Malick, 1978
Though astonishingly gorgeous, "Days of Heaven" fails to truly engage me on any level beyond the aesthetic. The story feels frivolous under the weight of Malick's characteristic eye, which is somewhat more restrained in this earlier effort than what we're growing more and more accustomed to and expectant of through the progressively, wonderfully elusive titles "The Thin Red Line", "The New World" and "The Tree of Life". There is something eternally relatable about the careless endeavoring, simple pleasures, false hope and desperation as shown primarily through Richard Gere in what may well be his finest performance this side of "An Officer & a Gentleman", but I'm really just in it for the lovely pictures.

Further first-time viewings:

Safe House - Daniel Espinosa, 2012
Tony Scott's blood stains the coliseum floor! When I exited "Safe House", the stir amongst my fellow audience members was a resounding "pretty good". I can't disagree. "Safe House" is "pretty good". I have no real complaints about the solid diversion, and it would be reaching to point out that it merely offers the entertainment value of a YouTube video (although it's true; outside one briefly impressive yet instantly forgettable fight sequence it offers exactly that level of entertainment). If you love YouTube, however, or get off on those CIA, here's-what-goes-on-between-the-lines kinds of things wherein you can't blink because you'll miss something between all the chasing, shooting and camera shaking (amongst which the director and cinematographer do manage to scatter several pleasant compositions here), this extremely blunt film that moderately prospers simply due to an unexpected Capetown setting might be right up your alley. Denzel Washington is a shark, teaching young honky boys how it's done with a patented cold yet smirking glare. First Ethan Hawke, then Chris Pine, now Ryan Reynolds (wait, should Matthew Broderick count for that list, too?).

The Mysterious Island - Cy Endfield, 1961
Yet another down from the very few Harryhausens I've left to see. And, as it turns out, I'd already seen in biographic documentaries all that's worth anything from this dull tip-toe around Jules Verne's novel. Where more successful films such as "Jason & the Argonauts" and "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad" capitalize on Harryhausen's involvement, allowing his stop-motion effects (in this instance labeled "Superdynamation") to dominate the spotlight and strongly impact the experience in multiple ways, "Mysterious Island" only obligatorily tacks in a meager smattering of brief and generic sequences involving a giant crab, a giant chicken, a giant bee and a giant crustacean. The bee in particular - which was shot in reverse to achieve its honeycomb-building effect - is a marvel, but of course only comprises so much of the running time. Considering the draining lack of luster, there emerges a certain satisfaction through the climactic crustacean bout's unsettling quietude - its deeply muffled determination is as though a representation of Harryhausen's yet-quelled creative spirit sinisterly forcing its way beyond the film's restrictive bounds and attacking the cardboard protagonists. And perhaps this is too modern of me, but I always find it so strange when films of this era relish the destruction of new lands and creatures without so much as implying the majesty, importance and wonder of discovery. Sure, run for your lives and try to excite us, but why glorify the finale of explosions laying waste to the scientific anomaly of an island without once lamenting its premature farewell?

Total: 5

Rewatches (1): Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Alfredson, 2011)

Episodic Television (3): 30 Rock (Dance Like Nobody's Watching - Idiots are People Two!), Claymore (Great Sword), How I Met Your Mother (Pilot)
- "30 Rock" may be off to what is feeling like its second-weakest season yet (right ahead of last season, which was painfully uninspired at points), but that doesn't mean I'm not still eating it up. I won't be as forgiving with this one as I was with my beloved "Scrubs" when it started to lose its stride - its constant toying with sitcom tropes keeps it from being that kind of show - but for now I'm still very much on board the "30 Rock" train and laughing loud.
- The the first "Claymore" episode is anything to go by, its villainous contingent is a little too goofy for my liking, but the rest reminds me of the set-up to a good J-MMORPG. This is the part where I obligatorily lament the downfall of "Final Fantasy XI" for the thousandth time then go on about how "Claymore" captures a similar thrill to that of a good MMO's opening cutscene.
- Outdated four camera set-up, archaic canned laughter, stilted humor, Jason Segel trapped in a box of forced unfunny... does "How I Met Your Mother" get any better? I'm highly doubtful.

Video Games (2): Kirby's Dreamland, Mario Kart: Super Circuit
- Is "Kirby's Dreamland" the first truly great handheld platformer? I mean, really, is it? I don't know; I'm not an expert on these things. "Super Mario Land" is fun, but it's overshadowed by default. "Dreamland" is wholly original and inventive while feeling like a full-fledged game in and of itself. It also obviously laid the groundwork for a successful franchise, as every "Kirby" installment I'm familiar with has come packed with the very same enemies and nuances as were introduced on the GameBoy. As I stated two weeks ago, I'm not the biggest fan of Nintendo's little puff ball... but I'll be damned if I'm not coming around. Random platforming thought: how great would it be if the 3DS eShop included 3D ports of Sega Genesis' original Sonic games (read: the games that shaped my pre-"Final Fantasy" video gaming youth)? I'd pay pretty for "Sonic the Hedgehog" through "Sonic & Knuckles", and maybe even more offbeat titles like "Sonic 3D" that I only played because they starred my then-favorite (and, more importantly, then-unadulterated) gaming icon.
- Handheld gaming was not ready for something as involved and dimensional as a kart racer in the age of the GameBoy Advance. The graphics in "Super Circuit" give me a headache. On top of that, the courses are torture. Even when I get first place on a 150cc grand prix, I still get a Rank D rating. And this is coming from someone who has little trouble with other entries in the line, particularly "Mario Kart 64" and "Mario Kart DS". Princess Peach is the only character who seems to steer properly; with anyone else I'm constantly running in to walls - on the outside for lightweights like Yoshi and Toad, and the inside for heavies like Wario and DK. Still, it's a Mario Kart game. There's only so much one can whine. It's fun on at least a base level. Little in gaming is as satisfying as blasting the guy in front of you with a perfectly aimed turtle shell.


Three Honkies: Sheba, Baby (Girdler, 1975)

The heat's on in the street... but Sheba's doing the cooking, and any cat in her way is gonna get fried!

I can occasionally be bad about watching but a portion of a film, getting a presumed vibe then writing the title off as viewed if I feel I've been there and done that with little else to glean. I perpetrated this with "Sheba, Baby" several years back, and with this mentality figured checking it out again would place it under the "rewatch" category. I had previously deemed it another "Coffy" retread a la "Foxy Brown", but where many identical plot points are indeed present the picture actually shares more in common with "Friday Foster" and is original enough to widely prove my initially hasty interpretation as fallacy.

"Sheba" represents in its individuality so much of what I love about blaxploitation, from the nearly ever-present Monk Higgins funk seeming to emanate from slammin' Pam Grier's mere presence and the immediately grabbing storyline of an ethical family's empathetic financial struggle, to the presentation of its titular character as uniquely strong in both the everyday and the extraordinary (I.E. givin' the gun-brothers the frizzies) to a general extent that defies the bounds of "exploitation". The themes at hand are relevant for all, and rarely if ever rely on matters of race or cultural idiosyncrasy. The racial themes are subtle, rendering it merely circumstantial that the established entrepreneurs (headed by D'Urville Martin as, well, let's just call him Prince George, you follow me?) taking on small-time competition generates a black versus black scenario. Then, one must point out the poignancy in the fact that above it all a white man is orchestrating the conflict to his benefit. When you're after the top banana, you peel off the skin!

To look deeper, one might also make note of the Louisville setting. Like Arthur Marks' also Grier-starring "Bucktown", "Sheba" brings prominent blackness to unexpected locales, spreading the soul like jam across a crusty country, beyond the traditional urban settings of New York City, etcetera. Grier's character in "Bucktown" never had a car as bitchin' as the one in "Sheba", though... and that's coming from one rarely impressed with cars.

How come the soul wave shot so rapidly downhill from 1975 forth? I hesitate to accuse the surface normalcy in "Sheba" as a trend, but there is the fact we're still dealing with today as evidenced through filmmakers' recent issues getting non-white casts funded or distributed in the mainstream - a majority of audiences are less keen on seeing brown faces performing normal tasks. Roles for non-whites in mainstream films are tailored to their respective races' stereotypes and narrative tropes, while pictures outside the mainstream fail to gain support even from their own communities. It goes without saying, I'm glad we have the independent scene, and that the offerings from it are looking better and better.

It suffices to say, the groovy and exciting "Sheba, Baby" makes me happy, endearingly stilted performances and all. I need more films like "Sheba, Baby" in my life. Thankfully, there are plenty more where it came from.


My Week: February 4, '12

A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg, 2011
Though not the exact interlocking portrait of Jung and Freud I might have desired from such a pipe dream coinciding of talent and subject, this welcomely refined Cronenberg's "Method" is a rivetingly gorgeous and unexpectedly humorous story fueled by the essentials of early psychanal-- I mean, psychoanalysis. The matter-of-fact manner by which indubitably Cronenbergian provocation is approached boils in the most sophisticated manner as Michael Fassbender dominates frames even whilst compositionally backgrounded. Fantastic picture.

Further first-time viewings:

The Martian Chronicles: The Expeditions - Michael Anderson, 1980
The epitome of melodrama with an unrealistic abandon of character professionalism, the appropriately unwieldy "Martian Chronicles" miniseries might not have struck me as a retelling of the Ray Bradbury work I love had it not come with the same title. Dull and hokey as it may be, however, its adapted subject matter (not to mention the involvement of the great Bernie Casey) is enough to intrigue throughout despite wide technical mediocrity.

Film socialisme - Jean-Luc Godard, 2010
A half-brilliant piece that's often nice-looking and impressively irreverent.

Balada triste de trompeta (The Last Circus) - Álex de la Iglesia, 2010
If nothing else, I can absolutely respect a film with conviction. "The Last Circus" at least has that, through its every last scrap of celluloid. If you're really in the mood for sideshow strangeness with a side of politics, however, I'd say your time would be a little better spent with Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre". I'm reminded I still desperately need to get around to Tod Browning's "Freaks".

Trespass - Joel Schumacher, 2011
No comment. Wait, wait, I've got one: And here I thought Nicole Kidman's career had hit rock bottom when she played a walking poop joke in a Happy Madison movie.

No Strings Attached - Ivan Reitman, 2011
Okay, I only actually made it about 10 minutes in to this movie. It's entirely unfair when I do this, but please don't just for the sake of posterity make me sit through more of about the most transparent, forced, hackneyed, run-of-the-mill, clunky, grating, boring and bullshitty bullshit I've seen since... I don't know, let's go with "The Help" ("X-Men: First Class" would be slightly more accurate, but hating on the similarly marginalizing and manipulatively backwards Oscar nominee is more pertinent). At least the casting of the younger Natalie Portman was fairly spot-on; the only way they might have done better would have been to get that kid from "Leon" [insert knee-slap].

Total: 6

Rewatches (4): The Weather Man (Verbinski, 2005), Young Adult (Reitman, 2011), Rampart (Moverman, 2011), Horrible Bosses (Gordon, 2011)
- I've noticed a trend in some of my very favorite films, which is present in both "The Weather Man" and "Young Adult". These films tend to open with the 30-to-40-something single protagonist awakening in their detached urban flat and preparing for the day as their surroundings inform us of their character (other prime examples being "Vanilla Sky" and "Bamboozled"). "The Weather Man" in particular grabs me and sticks throughout with this focus on character, as Nicolas Cage's David Spritz embodies precisely what I both dread and hope for my own future, which, just as it did for Spritz, becomes narrower and narrower every year, leaving me with who I am as opposed to how I used to envision myself. I won't be "chucking" my own "Breaking Point", however.
- Outside "Our Idiot Brother", Summer 2011 was a terrible time for big rated-"R" comedy. A rewatch of "Horrible Bosses", which I consider to be one of the better of the category for the given time frame, galvanizes that position. It has its moments (mostly the ones involving Charlie Day) and some quotable quotes ("I'd like to bend her over a barrel and show her the 50 states"), but for the most part... yeah, should have kept it to just the one viewing.

Episodic Television (1): Key & Peele (Pilot)
- It's rare a promising new show comes from Comedy Central. "Ugly Americans" made waves with me a few years ago but lost its appeal quickly. Like a more politically correct "Chappelle's Show", however, "Key & Peele" is rife with belly laughs of both social and pop cultural relevance. I'm already quoting a couple sketches on a regular basis, and I'm eager for further episodes!

Video Games (4): Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Wario Land 4
- "The Sacred Stones" is my first "Fire Emblem" game, and while it's surprisingly addicting (its chess-like strategy role-playing unintentionally weened me from the notoriously immersive action role-playing "Skyrim", for crying out loud) I can't help but feel it's designed for the perfectionist gamer. I'm on Eirika's Chapter 14 of my second play-through, which I commenced because I decided I wanted to repeat my former actions (which had also reached Eirika's 14) without losing any characters or bonus items. Well, I wound up missing the cherished Orion's Bolt anyway, leaving my Neimi a pithy Archer as opposed to a formidable Ranger (a role Gerik is fulfilling on his lonesome), and now that I've all too hastily commenced the current chapter without patiently training to the extent I did on my premiere campaign, I'm all but certain to lose characters - if not in the castle, at least outside once the two Grado armies set upon me. I have not glanced guides to alert me to this forthcoming ambush, but have crash-coursed the preceding castle to help strategize. That's the thing, though. If you want to get the most from them, every level is so painstaking and time-consuming that in all honesty, for as much as I'm enjoying the game I'm ready to put it down for want to avoid going insane.
- Noting a theme in my current game-playing? Yeah, I'm a 3DS "Ambassador", meaning I indeed got those 20 NES and Gameboy Advance titles for paying an extra $80 for the innovative yet content-barren handheld (I hopped on early for the appealing novelty and the impressive "Ocarina of Time" upgrade, which I'm still telling myself was worth it). When examining the offered selection, would it surprise you to hear that I'm far more taken with "Zelda II: The Adventure of Link" than the more recent "Minish Cap"? Neither are considered greats in the "Legend of Zelda" franchise, but I could hardly put "Zelda II" down before I reached the final dungeon, which is quite frankly the video game version of torture. "Minish Cap" did surprise me at first, though. The gameplay pretty much matches that of the same year's "Four Swords Adventures", which means it's fun but feels more like a Chinese knock-off of "Zelda" than a true "Zelda" entry (think Dairy Fairy as opposed to Dairy Queen, etcetera). What really got me was the opening festival sequence in Hyrule Town, the atmosphere of which reminded me of the special Starlight Celebration in my beloved "Final Fantasy XI". With story progression, however, the puzzles become so uninspired and awfully tedious they remind me of the first "Pokémon". Mind you, I'm only on the second dungeon... but it's not looking promising at the moment.
- I loved "Wario Land 2" for my old GameBoy Pocket. "Wario Land 4", not so much. This and several other GameBoy Advance titles I've experienced seem to represent the awkward transition from the challenging, innovative and iconic Nintendo to the gimmicky, childish Nintendo of today. At least Sega had the graceful consideration to switch much more rapidly from awesome to suck.

Literature (New!): Committee for Undiscovered Findings (Frank Mungiovi, 2008)