Tag: Reviews

Cheers!

On this episode, the guys take some time to break down their thoughts on Avengers: Age of Ultron and their review may surprise you a bit. Also, they take some time at the beginning to talk about Burns’ hatred for panhandlers and over-the-top Veteran reunions (he hopes it doesn’t make him a terrible person, but it just may).

Burns also walks through two other movies he saw during his mini-movie marathon weekend in Ex Machina and It Follows. The fellas also break down the new red-band Vacation reboot trailer, excitement for Tomorrowland and Mad Max: Fury Road, and Brent talks about what the next big thing in movie theater view will be – HDR.

But, most importantly, Burns tries out the new Coors Light Citrus Radler, their summer seasonal. This one may be a game changer (or it is just another light beer). All of this and they drink and drink some more, so clink ’em and drink ’em and hopefully you enjoy (or at least tolerate) the 21st Birthday of Long Distance Drinking!

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It’s time again to do a little (or a lot of) Long Distance Drinking! One year to the day that it all started on as a matter of fact!

This time, the main topic of conversation is the fellas thoughts on the story and science of the movie Interstellar. In fact, we go into a good amount of detail with Lance’s amateur theoretical physics knowledge. And of course we rate the movie on the patented Hobby Box Blog 7 Point Scale (patent pending).

Along the way, we also try to make it seem like we know more about alcohol than just how to drink it; Brent solicits relationship advice from the two most single guys he knows; and we play a brand new game of Burns’ concoction. Plus, Lance’s level of inebriation leads him to a series of mumbles and curses by the end of it, but he blames the scotch for that. Near the end, we also share some listener feedback and we then say what we are Thankful for as it is Thanksgiving time.

So clink ’em and drink ’em along with us! Prost!

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***WARNING***
This episode contains complete spoilers of the end of South Park: The Stick of Truth

Game On, Oblivious Noobs!

We’ve finished the game and oh what an experience it was! Listen to us break down the final day of South Park: The Stick of Truth in all of its glory. We each also give our reviews of the game and let you know whether you should Buy it, Skip it, or Rent it! And we have a few laughs along the way, as always…

Sorry for the delay! Summer vacations and hectic work schedules affected the time and sanity needed to complete the editing process. But it’s here so enjoy!

No matter what, join us in our discussion of the game in this final part of our three episode arc.
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The one issue with movies based upon real life events is that they are subject to the constraints of the real human lives they are depicting.

In the case of Captain Phillips, we follow alongside Capt. Richard Phillips as his ship, the Maersk Alabama, is attacked by Somali pirates. The depiction of the events that occurred is top notch, dynamic and entirely engrossing. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the characterization of Phillips in this movie.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am trying to knock Tom Hanks down a peg, as I really am a huge fan of many of his performance. In Phillips though, it doesn’t seem like he has a lot to work with.

This partially comes down to the story itself. Phillips spends the majority of the movie in a reactionary role, which is to be expected with him being a hostage. But, even prior to that, there isn’t much time given to flesh out more dimensions of who Phillips is. The audience doesn’t get much of an opportunity to see beneath the surface.

This comes down to the writing, either the script itself or the source material they had to pull from. But Phillips comes off as a journalistic, impersonal representation within the film. If more leeway had been given to allow a bit more emotion or insight into the character early on, it would help the audience to buy into him as the protagonist much more. And it would have given Hanks that much more fodder to use in creating the character.

Without this, the points later in the film, where we see Phillips break emotionally or attempt to connect to the audience, seem forced. It doesn’t seem to build naturally, it instead just erupts and leaves us asking “Why?”

Note: Storyline spoilers to follow; skip down to the bold text to continue.

One prime example of this is when Phillips decides to attempt to escape from the life boat. Given that Phillips was so calm and collected an controlled leading up to this point, it seemed completely out of character for him to take the risk to shove the armed pirate and jump into the ocean and swim for it.

Now, I know they are restricted to the real-life occurrences, but more needed to be done to show Phillips building to taking this brash action, especially when he knew that the situation would be coming to a close soon anyway. Not enough was layered in the characterization prior to this to allow the action to make sense.

Contrasting the plain representation of Phillips is the dynamic portrayal we see if the three pirates holding him hostage, especially that of the leader, Muse (Barkhad Abdi).

With the pirates, more screen time is devoted in the beginning of the film to explain how they are forced into hijacking ships than is devoted to developing Phillips. Muse especially stands out, attempting to lead his crew to a huge payoff in order to earn less attention from the warlords demanding they earn more money.

As a newcomer onto the scene, Abdi does a phenomenal job of playing a character that should be despised, based upon our prior knowledge of the situation, and with skill turns it into one of the more sympathetic and believable characters in the film.

In fact, the one thing that Captain Phillips does extremely well is to turn what many believed to have been a black and white situation and display the various levels of grey within it from the four main antagonists. We have the previously described leader Muse. Along with him is Najee (Faysal Ahmed), who disagrees with Muse’s more lackadaisical approach to dealing with Phillips and wishes to command the situation more force, Bilal (Barkhad Abdirahman), whose injuries are tended to by Phillips and ends up sympathizing with him to some extent, and Elmi (Mahat M. Ali).

It is through these additional characters that we start to build understanding with. From the lifeboat sections onward, they also bring out more of the characterization of Phillips, which is much needed.

Spoiler-free from here on out.

Overall, the action in the film is handled extremely well. Director Paul Greengrass’ pedigre (the latter Bourne films and United 93) comes out in full force. At times, the shaky camera feeling can get a little in the way, but it wasn’t every completely incapacitating.  The pace of the action sequences is very sound, going from one piece to another and building suspense and intensity deftly to the climax of the various scenes.

The film does hit a few lulls at points, dwelling too long on conversations that could be more succinct and too the point, helping to keep that forward momentum moving towards the conclusion.

All in all, Captain Phillips is a solid film, aside from the title character. The fact that a good amount of character is missing from the way the character of Phillips was written almost gives credence to some of the discussions following the film that the man in real life does not live up to the legend surrounding him. If those pieces of character were left out by Philips in the writing of his memoir, that would actually explain completely why his characterization in the film feels so incomplete.

Rating: 4 Stars out of 7 Stars – Meh

Buy It: If you are a huge fan of films like Zero Dark Thirty or United 93 that give a bare-bones re-telling of real world events or you thoroughly enjoyed the book the film is based upon.

Rent It: If you were interested in the story back when it happened or you are interested in seeing another, unexpected side of modern piracy.

Skip It: If the only pirates you care about are Jolly Roger or Johnny Depp or  you cannot stand films that have poorly defined lead characters.

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Welcome to Oscar Week on the Hobby Box Blog! This week, as we scramble to watch as many of the Best Picture Nominated films as possible, the goal is to give you a review of the top contenders, leading up to our prediction of who will win the major categories on Sunday night!

So, we start off our first Movie Monday (admittedly a day late) right by kicking off Oscar Week with a review of American Hustle.

American Hustle – Review

One of the most beloved sub-genres in film has to be what I would call the “caper” film – being pulled off by a group of two-bit crooks kept together by the circumstances forced upon them. At its roots, American Hustle strives to exemplify the path paved by the giants of that sub-genre: The StingPulp FictionOceans Eleven, and Goodfellas.

In fact, Hustle has been compared in many ways to the latter film by many. In this, David O. Russell has pulled a con far larger than the characters within the film. This isn’t to say it isn’t a good film – I actually enjoyed it quite a bit – but, it isn’t quite at the level to be compared with the previously mentioned movies or in the same sentence as Oscar Best Picture.

American Hustle takes us to 1970’s New Jersey, where confidence schemes, bribery and corruption aren’t crimes, they are a way of life. At the center of it all is Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), an experienced con-artist struggling (unsuccessfully) to life a life of crime and a “normal” family life at the same time. He is partnered with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper) and at the start of the film, they are prepping to meet their mark, Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

Note: Slight spoilers begin here. If you are fine with learning a bit more about the early part of the film keep reading. If not, skip to the end for the synopsis and rating.

I must preface my next comment by saying that audience doesn’t need to (and sometimes probably shouldn’t) always know everything that is happening in a given scene and why. Leaving a bit up for question can sometimes be a good thing. But the first two scenes of Hustle end up being a rushed and confusing few minutes. Things go wrong, but ultimately, the audience doesn’t completely understand how it went wrong, why it is significant and exactly what is really going on.

I will give credit where it is due, the introductory scenes do help to flesh out the basics of the characters – Bale is the sympathetically pathetic lead, Cooper is the heavy that tries to control the situation while not knowing how to and Adams is the calming, supportive force needed to hold the operation together.

Aside from that feel for the characters, there is no way for the audience to get a good grasp on what exactly is going on. Ultimately overcompensating for this deficiency, the movie then delves into about 30-some minutes of exposition in order to explain the complex relationships between the three characters and introduce Lawrence as Rosenfeld’s off-kilter wife.

In fact, the movie spends so much time with the exposition that when it catches back up to the beginning, the audience has forgotten that the meeting with Polito was where the film started. It is an interesting device, though it ends up a tad clunky in execution, falling short Tarantino’s masterful execution of these techniques (which the film seemed to be attempting to riff off of).

Fortunately, the film hits the ground running from that point forward, and the conflict between the characters and situations really do help to ramp the film up from that point forward.

Note: More plot spoilers to follow; if you haven’t seen the film, it may be best to jump to the end now.

In fact, that very next scene where Irving works to convince Carmine introduces the most compelling relationship and conflict within the film. In fact, the chemistry between Bale and Renner in each of their scenes is fantastic, building that magnetism between the two characters that the audience knows will ultimately come crashing apart in the ending.

I’m actually quite surprised that Renner didn’t get mentioned in nominations for Supporting Actor over Cooper for this film. Granted, Cooper’s portrayal of Richie Dimaso is solid, but from a character perspective really doesn’t develop as much from the beginning of the film to the end and is quite static compared to the highs and lows Renner experiences in portraying Polito.

In fact, I really think the only reason Lawrence and Cooper are nominated is because if their experience in last years Silver Linings Playbook, which was also directed by Russell. Lawrence’s portrayal of Irving’s imbalanced wife is fun and interesting, but nothing ground breaking. In fact, some of the more emotional scenes with her do seem quite forced and top heavy, which turns the character into a less believable caricature.

Any Adams’ portrayal of Sydney Prosser is phenomenal. With her character stuck in the middle of all of the conflicts, she does a phenomenal job of showing the complexity and internal struggle of being the one character that constantly has to maintain the con while pretending to be someone else, the well off British Lady Edith Greensly, whose “banking connections” in London allow for them to con numerous ne’er do wells of their money. Even down to the drops of accent every now and again at pivotal moments, we see the internal struggle that comes from having to not be yourself but a character at all times.

In the end, the audience feels a mixture of emotions – happiness that Irving and Sydney come out on top, but sadness for what happens to Polito when a he had is the best of intentions for what he was doing.

Spoiler Free from here on out.

All-in-all, Hustle is a fun movie that gives you a slightly different take on living a life of crime. However, at no point does it take that next step forward to the level of greatness found in the likes of Pulp Fiction or Goodfellas. The fact that Russell and Sony were able to build that comparison just goes to show you that they have a little bit of Irving Rosenfeld’s hustling expertise.

Rating: 5 Stars out of 7 Stars – Good

Buy It: If you enjoy a more cerebral con scheme or you really enjoy watching Amy Adams’ cleavage. I mean, really enjoy it.

Rent It: If you are a fan of Bale, Renner and/or Adams or you are looking for a movie with complex character conflicts.

Skip It: If you can’t stand Bradley Cooper or you are sick of ’70s crime dramas that are not as good as Goodfellas.

Am I spot on in my evaluation? Or does it seem like I am as confused as Richie Dimaso? Let me know your thoughts on the film in the comments below.

Welcome back to Warhammer Wednesday! Last week, we discussed the new monthly magazine from Games Workshop entitled Warhammer: Visions. If you remember, it only received a 2-out-of-7 rating, mostly because it didn’t seem to accomplish what it set out to do for various reasons.

This week, we look at the newly streamlined and redesigned White Dwarf, which has replaced the previous monthly version. Is it better than the new monthly mag? Has it improved on what the former White Dwarf did, or is it lacking in its ability to deliver the content readers need?

White Dwarf Weekly

White Dwarf Issue #1

With the first three issues of Weekly White Dwarf in the hands of hobbyists everywhere, it is apparent that Games Workshop’s main goal with the redesign is to focus on the new releases, how they change the game, and how to include that into your gameplay.

And for the most part, the White Dwarf editorial team succeeds brilliantly in producing interesting content in a nice, short burst of information.

Similar to the previous edition of White Dwarf, each issue of the weekly magazine focuses on the new releases for the week, with two pages devoted to each new unit/character model being put out in a given week.

One benefit of the new format is that they have added a couple more photos showcasing the details in the design on the models. White Dwarf used to do this, but a few more images helps to show even more of the painstaking detail being put into the models by the GW designers.

Dwarf Gyrobomber White Dwarf Detail Shots
Details on the Gyrobomber

Ultimately, this section still remains a glorified catalog/advertisement for their new toys, but, GW is a toy company and White Dwarf has always been their avenue to show off what new toys they have for sale.

Similar to the previous White Dwarf, the new releases round up with two-to-four pages outlining new Black Library books, digital releases (like the new Battlescrolls and Dataslates) and other related GW properties that are seeing new content this week. This content, as before, will appeal to you only if you are interested in the subject matter (if you love the Horus Heresy series, then you will like to see what new 30K books are out).

The middle of each issue contains a focus article for that week. These articles have varied in the first three issues. The first issue focused on Tyranids and what unit types are most useful in the new army book from a few of the GW editorial team members as well as a couple of the games designers themselves. This helped to add some fodder for 40K fans out there, as the other two issues were completely fantasy focused. I found that this article gave some interesting insights from the “experts” about what they think will work best in the army. I hope that in the future, they continue to include more articles which focus on the strategy and concepts of the game and philosophies surrounding that.

Issue #2 included the regular summary of the newly released army book of the Dwarfs from the games designer for the Dwarfs, Jeremy Vetock. This article is the same as those  that appeared previously in White Dwarf with new army book releases and I believe it is interesting to see some of the thought process that went into the creation of the book and the “fluff”/ back story included within.

The third issue included a battle report featuring the newly redesigned Dwarfs against their much hated Skaven. This article was the biggest letdown for me in the redesign. My favorite part of the previous White Dwarfs as of late has been the battle reports. They did a phenomenal job of outlining each list and why the player went in the direction they did. Then, they split the game into three parts and described the pivotal moments of each portion while including images that diagrammed the strategy within. It was brilliant.

The good ol’ battle report

Unfortunately, the new battle report was a huge step backwards. Instead of at least a page each to discuss the two players’ lists, it is crammed into a sidebar and listed out without much explanation.

But, the biggest let down is the description of the action itself. Instead of focusing on the strategy of the game, as the previous battle reports had, the report focuses instead upon the story of the battle. And while I will say, I do enjoy that part being peppered in, I would also like to be able to follow the game more closely, instead of through vague descriptions written like a poor action story.

As you can see, it is hard to tell if this was even a real battle (plus, the army lists are almost an after thought).
As you can see, it is hard to tell if this was even a real battle (plus, the army lists are almost an after thought).

Even the images are focused in on small pieces of the action, instead of showing a wide sweeping shot of the battlefield, which lost all aspect of there even having been a game played. Which is unfortunate. It is never good to make a great thing worse and that is what the editorial team did here. I would rather they took out the next four pages – which included adding a model to the hall of fame and how the dwarf army was themed – and instead added more to fleshing out the battle report.

While the battle report left much to be desired, I do have to say I enjoy the flow of the rest of the magazine. Monthly columns are included each week from different GW staff members, including Jeremy Vetock, Phil Kelly and everyone’s favorite, Jervis Johnson. These are usually pretty interesting material as they were in the old magazine and usually discuss the hobby as a whole (though Kelly’s was much more focused on Tyranids). These opinion pieces from people “inside the dungeon” are always interesting.

“Paint Splatter” also makes its triumphant return, going through and showing some paint schemes to use on the new models. A new segment, called “Sprues and Glue” focuses on the model building portion of the hobby. Ultimately, these two sections will probably be fly-over country for the more experiences hobbyists, but these two sections include some important information for players that are new to the game, which are very helpful indeed.

Ultimately, my favorite addition to the new magazine is “The Rules” section, which lays out the stat line and special rules and equipment for a new unit or model. I find this to be a very welcome addition as it helps to explain a bit how these new units function. Now, this may be interesting for people playing the army, but it ends up being of more importance for players of other armies. Many people don’t have the ability to buy every army book that comes out. This allows other players to understand how the new units work and how they might affect the meta game.

The Rules of the new Dwarf Irondrakes
The Rules of the new Dwarf Irondrakes

Another interestingly redesigned piece is the “This Week in White Dwarf” section, which delves into a potpourri of different items, from back story and supplemental information about armies (in these issues, mostly Dwarfs) to showcasing a reader’s model of the week. The latter part is especially cool as readers can submit their models to be ogled and envied  (or critiqued) by all other hobbyists. My personal favorite so far is the Forge World Warrior Priest model painted by Graham Shirley.

A Forge World Warrior Priest by Graham Shirley (from White Dwarf #3)
A Forge World Warrior Priest by Graham Shirley (from White Dwarf #3)

Overall, I have to say I enjoy the redesign quite a bit. The shortened version is more focused and to the point compared to the sprawling previous iteration of the magazine. The benefit of releasing weekly is it continues to build interest throughout the month at GW and other hobby stores. Also, it keeps a consistent flow of new product to stores, which spreads sales out throughout the month, instead of concentrated on the week a codex is released.

One negative is that with a $4 price point, to purchase every issue each month is a $16 investment in the magazine, up from the $10 investment of the previous edition. Some may view this as another grab for extra cash. And, it is a valid question as to whether these collective issues add $6 of value over the existing version.

Another negative is some issues of the magazine, if they are focused on a game system that a player is not interested in, really aren’t worth the asking price. If GW hopes to get a majority of folks to purchase each issue, they will want to try to balance the content a bit more. Also, as of yet, a subscription is not available for the weekly magazine, which makes it difficult for those who live a significant distance away from a games store to keep up with the game as much as they could before.

With all of that said, I do say that it is an interesting read. The shorter, focused issues are enjoyable from cover to cover for the most part. I just hope that in this feeling out period, the editorial team continues to tweak pieces of it, hopefully striking a better balance between the game systems covered and fleshing out the format of  some of the weaker sections of the magazine – such as the battle report – in order to make it a better product.

Rating: 5 out of 7 – Good

What are your thoughts? Is there anything else you would like to see changed in the new look White Dwarf? Let me know what you think of the new magazine in the comments below.

Next for Warhammer Coverage: Tomorrow on Toss-up Thursday, we take a look at this coming weekend’s Warhammer Fantasy U.S. Masters Tournament: what to expect, where to get more information and how to follow the action!

As mentioned in our post at the beginning of the week, we have a new format on the blog. And that means today is our first Warhammer Wednesday!

Crazily, this first post coincides with the newly redesigned publications released at the start of February 2014 by Games Workshop (GW) for their line of games. So, we figured, what better way to kick off Warhammer Wednesday than by reviewing these new publications, the weekly and concise White Dwarf and the monthly and lengthy Warhammer: Visions.

As we all know, the old White Dwarf was a hodge-podge of hobby showcase, new release catalog/hype/hard sell, opinions and pretty pictures of models. In hindsight, it really was quite a mess. The issues would start with new releases, then chuck in a battle report, next throw some picture of models, do a focus on a hobby-aspect (usually how to paint some of the new models with GW paints) and then more pretty pictures of other people’s models, with some opinion columns on wide-ranging topics thrown in for good measure.

It really was a bit of a mish-mash.

So, splitting the information into two different publications seems like a good idea, allowing the editorial team at GW to focus their publications to the task(s) at hand. And for the hobbyists out there, it is a solid idea – because they can now disregard anything and everything that doesn’t focus on the game systems they play. Though, I’m not entirely certain that was GW’s goal.

Warhammer: Visions

Courtesy Games Workshop

As mentioned previously, Visions is the now monthly, 228 page multi-lingual picture book.

Now, you may think that previous statement is a gross-generalization, but I promise you, it is not. This magazine has no written articles themselves. Each page is a picture, multiple pictures, or portions of one picture with caption overlays in English, French and German included. The minimalist approach definitely takes some getting used to, and not just for the reader. I think the editorial team is still feeling out the best way to manage the content in this format.

This is a big publication, so it will be best to break this down, old-west style, highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

Increased Focus on the Detail of the Models
With the extra space in this format, GW has the ability to go into more detail on different models. This is most apparent in the Parade Ground section, where multiple images (sometime up to five) are used on one Golden Daemon winner to really focus on the quality job done by the creator of the model. This is also apparent in the Army of the Month, where more pages are now given to displaying the magnificent work done by the Army’s general.

photo 1 (1)

The Idea of a Cinematic Battle Report
Battle reports are a staple of White Dwarf. In fact, it may be my favorite portion of the old monthly magazine. In Visions, they decided to create a more cinematic battle report. Instead of focusing on strategies and the rules surrounding what is happening on the table, they instead followed a game and took dramatic images of the action, utilizing the captions to describe the story of the Chaos Space Marines battling the Grey Knights and Eldar in a Warhammer 40,000 (40K) showdown.

photo 2 (1)

It is an interesting concept, however I think they may want to tweak it some to include more of the game in the captions. For instance, I couldn’t really tell it was an actual game until the final page, when it declared the Chaos Space Marines the winner and showed one of the GW staff members in a series of photos pumping his fists in victory. It was rather confusing, but I do enjoy the concept.

The Bad

Imbalanced Representation of Game Systems
I play Warhammer Fantasy. I know some of 40K, but am not entirely interested in coverage of it since I do not play it. My guess is one of the biggest problems that GW had with the old White Dwarf is that when a specific game system had a new release, the other game systems would only get a passing mention in the magazine, with only a few pages of coverage that month.

When I first heard the announcement about Visions, I thought the main focus of having a magazine that wasn’t beholden to the game systems’ release schedules was to allow it to show a broad representation of all of their properties. Unfortunately, with this first issue, I was sorely wrong.

With the January new release of Tyranids for 40K, it ended up monopolizing the entire magazine. In fact, 40% of the magazine was devoted to Tyranids alone (91 pages to be exact) and 40K made up 56% of the magazine (129 pages). Now, 56% seems like a reasonable percentage. But, take into account that there was only one, 14 page article devoted to Warhammer Fantasy (6% of the magazine), it creates a very large imbalance for people who have specific interests in GW’s product ranges. And, it leads to those that were “slighted” to feel like they wasted their $12 – I know I felt that way.

Multi-lingual Captions Over-complicate the Pages
Warhammer: Visions - Tyranids in three languages
I can completely understand the reason why GW went in the direction they did with making the magazine multi-lingual – it allows them to put out fewer versions of the same magazine to save costs. And while this gives me an opportunity to start to learn a bit of French and German (did you know Tomb Prince in French is Prince des Tombes), at some points, the words tend to over-complicate the page and take away from the images. Granted, this is probably the most nit-picky of criticisms, but that is what I felt while reading through the magazine. Over time, I believe it will be easy to get used to this.

The Ugly

Background Graphics on Pages
One piece I did like was the 52 pages devoted to the models (and hobbyists) that earned Golden Daemon Awards at Games Day in Memphis, TN last fall. However, for some reason, it was determined by the graphics designers that the models themselves were not interesting enough and instead of having a solid background, they included a set of blue background images behind the models.

Warhammer: Visions - Dirty Background Images

Now, it is possible that this looked fantastic on a computer screen. But, on the printed page in the magazine, it is just sloppy looking and can affect the way the reader views the models. In my opinion, it really distracts the eye from seeing the details in some of the images and draws the readers attention away from these wonderful creations to blurry background stock images of space marines and battle scenes.

Page Folds and Page Size
The biggest criticism by far that can be made about this magazine comes down to the size of the pages and how that affects the images displayed. For a magazine that was created to showcase the hobby with beautiful images of fantastically painted and created miniatures, I am not sure why it was determined they should make the magazine about 3/4 the size (closed) of the previous and newly designed White Dwarf. Other than more apparent cost savings, I guess I just do not know.

Warhammer: Visions - Smaller Page Size

The size of the pages also leads to some images being ruined by the page fold in the center of the magazine. Having more pages that are smaller makes it that much more difficult to open up the magazine to see the details at the center of the image – which in some cases is the focal point of the picture displayed.

Warhammer: Visions - Page Folds are Terrible

Now, my guess is that these issues are completely nullified on the iPad version, which I have heard has fully zoomable, high contrast images. And it may turn out that format may be the best way to view this content. Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm this hypothesis as I do not have an iPad available to demo. Plus, I am not extremely willing to spend another $12 on this issue.

I had heard Visions marketed as being a focus on the hobby. In my mind (and also how I heard it explained) there were to be more features in this magazine about the process of building, converting and painting GW’s miniatures from their skilled staff. However, other than the few pages of the pre-existing Kit Bash segment and a Tyranids-focused Paint Splatter article, there wasn’t anything else other than a showcase of a job well done. Granted, that can serve as good inspiration for future projects, but it fails to fill this need.

Now, I do need to say, being an entirely new publication, Visions will need some time to find its legs and figure out exactly its purpose in the whole GW publication scheme. Given a few months, I am sure the editorial team will be able to address some of these criticisms. Ultimately at this point, the magazine is unable to fully realize its main focuses and does a poorer job at fulfilling its purpose than similar portions of the old White Dwarf magazine.

With time, Visions could get better. It has potential. Unfortunately, gamers are a very passionate and judgmental bunch and if the overall reception of the publication is poor, it may never be given much of a second chance, especially when it is asking a premium price.

Rating: 2 out of 7 – Terrible

Next Week on Warhammer Wednesday: We take a look at the first three issues of the other publication for Games Workshop, the new weekly White Dwarf.

Spoiler Alert – I enjoy it much more than Visions.

What are your thoughts? Have you read Warhammer: Visions? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Sticking with the space theme of the past two days, today we move on to the war for survival and salvation in one of my favorite games of the year:

Game #8

The key to great game design is creating a game that is simple enough in concept, allowing the player to  just jump in and play while still being complex enough to keep them interested, immersed and coming back for more. Sony second-party developer Housemarque, with games like Super Stardust and Dead Nation, has proven their design mettle.

Resogun is a remarkable example of old school game design, throwing storytelling out the window, choosing to players into the action, giving them incentives to push deeper into the game. It is no surprise that this “little” indie game is widely regarded as one of the best games available on next-generation consoles.

Resogun is all about gameplay. All you get for a plot is an annoucement, delivered through the speaker on the DualShock 4 controller, to “Save the last humans” at the beginning of each level. In this day and age, this may seem like this is a key mistake.

Things can get pretty hairy pretty fast

But it is quickly realized what Housemarque’s goal is: make a gameplay experience that is fun and difficult and let nothing get in the way of that.

The first time I loaded up the game, I looked around at the options and thought to myself, “is this really all that there is in this game?” There are three different ships to pilot through five worlds. And that is it; there are no secret levels and no unlockable extras.

Starting playing with the average ship on the first world on easy difficult, the game seems simple enough. Use the left stick to maneuver the ship and the right stick to shoot. Going through the level, text overlays explain the other special functions – boost, overdrive and bombs – that the ship has.

The waves of enemies keep scrolling from left and right at you, creating some basic, but fun, gameplay, hearkening back to arcade classics like Defender and Galaga, only with vibrant and crisp graphics and a frantic frame rate that never stutters one bit. This is what distinctly defines it as a next generation game; there is no way the PS3 could handle the amount of action and enemies occurring on screen without melting down its innards.

Getting to the end of the first world, I face a boss and easily figure out, thanks to onscreen clues, how to defeat it. Sounds totally simple.

The first boss battle

But continuing forward, the difficult ramps up, leading to the fifth and final world where, even on “easy” difficulty, it is a challenge to complete without losing all of your lives. Finishing the game, the player starts to think, “is that it? That can’t be everything that the critics are raving about?”

But, that is where Housemarque’s skill in giving nuggets of motivation to players reveals itself. Having beaten the game, as in those classic arcade games mentioned previously, you see your high score and how it compares to the top of the leaderboard and your friends for that difficulty level. Incentive number one to play through again.

The level select screen deftly displays the high score list, taunting you to do better.

Incentive number two is trophies, where a nice balance is struck between trying cool things – like juggling humans to try to save two in one second – up to more game maximization based incentives – saving all humans in the different worlds or beating the game on each difficult level – pushes players back into the game.

Speaking of saving the humans, this also becomes a motivator. There were many times where finishing a level, I would notice that I missed saving the a couple of humans. Saving all humans, other than unlocking trophies, also helps to boost your score. This pushes you to go back through, focusing on which keepers release which humans and trying to save them before abduction or death. Saving each human also gives you an instant bonus, from an extra life or bomb to boosting your overdrive, which then helps continue deeper into the game.

Starting the game at another difficulty ramps the action up even more. Finishing the fifth world on easy is harder than all subsequent worlds, but jumping into the first world on intermediate ends up building upon that difficulty.

If one gripe could be made, it is that the game does become ridiculously hard. The fifth world on the second of four difficulty levels is an insanely difficult challenge, especially with the end boss, which is near impossible to beat without losing at least one life, if not all of them.

But this ramping  of difficulty pushes you forward and alongside the high score rankings, makes you want to go through again and again to topple all of your friends or everyone else in the world.

The last piece of the puzzle are the different ships. There are three different ships to choose from and you will find that each one changes the strategy used to go through the game and how best to complete the objectives at hand. One is more nimble and has some auto-locking lasers, while another ends up being more of a gunship, using high powered weapons to destroy more foes in less shots. But, playing through the game with each of the ships ends up being a different experience and challenge.

As you progress through the levels, power-ups add more laser streams and other add-ons to each ships weaponry. And you will need these advances to combat the difficulty moving through the game. If there is one opportunity that the developer missed out on, it would be allowing you to control or customize the weapons or creating power-ups that changed the way the ship fired for the time being. This change could have helped to add a little bit more variety and personalization into the game.

As you can see, what starts off as a very simple concept and gameplay experience evolves the more you play into a frantic shoot ’em up, forcing the gamer to think about multiple things while playing through the level. This fully immerses him/her into the gaming experience unlike almost any other game out there today. It may only take a bit over an hour on the first play through, but with the number of variations and difficulty levels, as well as the outside motivation of high scores and trophies, it is very easy to spend fifteen hours or more.

Too many games these days get themselves lost in their own convoluted storylines or fall down a rabbit hole of control issues or frustrating gameplay sequences. Keeping it simple but including layers of immersion is what makes Resogun a fulfilling experience as well as one of the best games of the year.

Rating: Six Stars out of Seven – Great

What are your thoughts on Resogun? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Let me know in the comments below.

Where to Buy

Resogun is a PlayStation 4 exclusive game and can be purchased for $15 on the PlayStation Store. Resogun is also currently free for PlayStation Plus subscribers, so you have no excuse to not download it and play it right now if you own a PS4!

From one dystopian universe to another- today in the 12 Games of Christmas, we take to the stars to visit one of the most beloved franchises in history with…

Game #6

The Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game is a tabletop dogfighting experience to be reckoned with, doing its best to represent the complexity of space battles and the beloved nature of the franchise in an accessible package. And Fantasy Flight Games, for the most part, succeeds brilliantly.

For me, some of my favorite parts of the movies are the massive space battles. This love of space combat was amplified with the classic space battle game X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, which still goes down as one of my favorite games of all time. Its ability to encapsulate the difficulties of space dog-fighting with the graphics of the late ’90s was phenomenal.

In the X-Wing Miniatures Game, you create a squadron from either the Empire or Rebel Alliance’s array of ships – from the classic X-Wing’s and Tie Fighters, to larger ships like Boba Fett’s Slave One and Han Solo’s Millenium Falcon, as well as the more obscure Imperial Lambda-class Shuttle and Kyle Katarn’s HWK-290 from the Jedi Knight series of video games.

Each of these ships comes pre-assembled and pre-painted and look quite impressive both up close and in action on the table-top.

A few of the Rebel Alliance ships in detal
A few of the Rebel Alliance ships

Along with the ships and their bases, you also receive a set of four cards with each ship, signifying the level of pilot operating the craft. Each one of these pilots is worth a varying amount of points – which add up toward the total points limit you are allowed for your squadron for the given game.

The lower point-cost pilots start with the generic “Yellow Squadron Rookie” and increase in cost to named pilots who have special abilities. An example is the X-Wing from the core game set – you have the option of two generic pilots and then Biggs Darklighter or Luke Skywalker; Biggs’ ability attracts fire to himself from friendly ships near him (as in the movie) whereas Luke’s special allows him to change defense die results to help him evade attacks.

Each of the different ships, as in other pieces of the Star Wars universe, are good for different uses: The X-Wing is your all around attack fighter, the Y-Wing resides in more of a heavy support role, the B-Wing brings large amounts of artillery to the party, while the A-Wing adds speed and missiles to the squad. The varying amount of Tie Fighters fill similar roles on the Imperial side while the large ships give you different bonuses and larger amounts of fire power to utilize against the enemy.

Is Slave One running away? No, just firing with its rear attack.

Each player then chooses their squadron to fit within the agreed-upon point limit, selecting combinations of ships and pilots along with adding upgrades that each ship type can add. This system adds variation to the game, using different combinations to craft the play style of your squadron towards your taste and tactics. If you want to out-shoot your opponents, take a B-Wing with some major artillery along with an ion cannon equipped Y-Wing and an X-Wing; if you want to maneuver your way around the opponent, then use a duo of A-Wings with an X-Wing or maybe even the cheapest Millennium Falcon option.

The gameplay then happens in simultaneous turns. This may seem like an oxymoron, but it is the best way to explain it.  Each ship comes with a movement dial, which includes each of the possible maneuvers you can make with that ship. The number is the distance you can move, the arrow shows the direction of the movement and the color is how taxing the effort is on your pilot and if it causes stress – which limits additional movements in this and subsequent turns.

The movement dial for the B-Wing – Very slow and plodding.

Each player chooses the movement for their ship on that turn and flips it upside down. Those movements are then revealed in reverse initiative order and the ships move according to the movement templates included with the core game set.

A Tie Fighter reveals its movement.

If the ship makes a red movement, the pilot is stressed and cannot make additional actions in the next phase until he makes a green movement to remove the stress in a subsequent turn.

Once all ships have moved, they are now able to determine secondary actions, which differ based upon the ship type and player card. These range from “Evade”, if they know they will be targeted, to “Focus”, which allows the pilot to change a focus role to a result of their choosing.

The battle now reaches the attack phase. In initiative order, each pilot receives an amount of dice per their card to roll (usually 2-3) to see the effectiveness of the attack. If the targeted ship is at close range, the attacker receives an extra die; if at long range, the defending ship receives an extra defense die.

The different possible rolls for attack (red) and defense (green).

As seen above (in order), the defender can roll to evade, focus or no result. The attacker can roll a hit, a critical hit (worth two damage) or a focus. The focus rolls are meaningless unless the pilot chooses the focus action. If selected, the player is then able to change the focus result to whichever die result they choose. Aside from doing extra damage, critical hits can also add handicaps to the pilot or ship hit with the attack.

The game then moves forward in these turns until one side claims victory by destroying all of the other ships or completing some form of objective determined at the start of the game.

The most interesting dynamic in the game is choosing your movement and then revealing that decision. Because you do not know how your opponent’s ships are going to move, you have to anticipate where they will be in order to maneuver your ships into the most advantageous position. Revealing movements is fun  and unpredictable – sometimes a ship will end up right in front of you, while at other times, one of your ships may end up far away from the action.

You can expect the first game or two to be pure learning experiences; you will make mistakes and forget different rules, phases or abilities. In those first few games, I would highly recommend trying a range of ship combinations to figure out what options out there fit into your tactical tendencies.

Once you figure out the rules, a moderately sized game (60 – 75 points) will usually not take longer than a couple of hours, making the game fairly accessible for its level of complexity. 100 point games or battles with more than two players will ultimately add to the game time, but it still feels manageable (I guess most things do compared to Warhammer).

There are a few aspects of the game that do cause difficulties, however. At times, especially once you start playing in higher-point contests, the actual movement of the miniatures on the table can get quite difficult to carry out cleanly. Precise movement is paramount in this game – even the slightest extra rotation when placing a ship onto the table or slightest nudge while moving another ship can alter whether a ship is within line-of-sight or not.

There were a few times in some of our games where ships would be crossing on top of each other and you would have to alter the initiative order of the movement to fit ships into place. Even doing that, at times the table looks more like a game of bumper cars than a space battle as ships end up  stuck to each other for a round.

This is only made more difficult once you start playing with the larger ships. This is because the penultimate battles will send your smaller fighters towards those ships. Their smaller movements through the larger bases of the ships sometimes causes one big jumbled mess. Granted, part of that simulates how hairy and discombobulated dogfighting can be, but it can be at times a hindrance to the gaming experience, as you can end up spending more time measuring and futzing around with the positioning of the ships than actually playing the game.

One particularly messy exchange, with the Falcon at its center.

There are also a few combinations in the game that seem overpowered. For instance, an X-Wing with R2-D2 – which can help regain shields each turn – is a nearly unstoppable force for the cost of only four extra points. Granted, it makes sense per the films, but from a game-balancing perspective, it can be problematic. I could see this always being selected in a Rebel army at a tournament.

Aside from those issues, it definitely is an interesting spin on tabletop wargaming. The startup costs are relatively cheap, by wargaming standards: A basic starter set of the core game and two expansion packs of a ship for each faction will run you approximately $60 – $70 at full retail price; utilizing internet deals could drop that cost by at least a third. This gives you enough models to play simple but enjoyable games with both sides – which is perfect for learning the mechanics and rules.

Fantasy Flight Games is soon expanding the game by adding larger class ships to the fray, in the Tantive IV Rebel Command ship and the Rebel Assault Transport. These new ships are ushering in the new Epic Play style to X-Wing, which is starting to encroach into the levels of battles seen at the end of some of the original movies.

So, if you are a life-long fan of Star Wars like me or are just looking to test your tabletop general skills in a galaxy far, far away, you cannot go wrong picking up this game. May the force – and the dice – be with you!

Rating: Six out of Seven Stars

Have you played the game? What ships do you most want in your collection? Share your opinions in the comments below.

Where to Buy

Quite possibly the best place to buy X-Wing Miniatures are from Miniature Market. They always have discounts on items (when they have them in stock) and if you order $99 or more of products from them, it is free shipping.

Amazon will also have deals from time to time on some of the different expansion packs.

You will also be able to find X-Wing miniatures at many comic/game stores and also at the Fantasy Flight Games Online Store or in person at their Event Center.

Yesterday, we focused on the huge, modern day open world adventure that is Grand Theft Auto V. Today, we’re going to change gears, drastically. Instead of the massive fictional world that Los Santos, we will now be journeying back in time to the Cold War era in the fictional world of our next game:

Game #5

Papers, Please takes place in a fictionalized version of Cold War era Eastern Europe/the U.S.S.R. You play a character who just received a job via the labor lottery on the border checking passports of those attempting to enter your country, Arstotzka. Your job, to determine if the people are entering your country legally or illegally by validating their passport and other (increasingly complex) immigration information.

Just another day on the job…

As you can see, Papers, Please uses a simplistic art style. The gameplay mechanics are also nothing new; you review the information the prospective immigrants present and determine whether to approve or deny their request. You get paid for each correctly processed person. Make too many mistakes, and you get demerits (or even fired, arrested and/or executed).

“What is the point? This game looks like work. Why would I want to play a game that is about working?”

Although the gameplay mechanics are simple in a Diner Dash sort of way, the storyline and the overarching concept of the game adds more to the experience than any other game I have played in a long time.

As I mentioned before, you make money for each immigrant you processed correctly. This doesn’t just go toward buying a better passport stamp or nonsense like that. Instead, you need to be able to pay for rent, heat, and food for your family of six.

This alone becomes motivation to do your best to avoid being a dead-beat dad (or son or spouse). However, making enough money is not always within your control and when times get tough, you need to decide what is more important, heat or food. If this happens too often, your family gets sick and needs medicine and you need to decide which family members receive the medicine and which ones don’t. Neglect family members for too long and they will die.

Which family member gets the medicine?

This use of RPG=lite elements help to make the “grind” of the office a bit more interesting.

Speaking of the job, the game does a fantastic job of ramping up the complexity from beginning to end, starting you off with checking basic passports but then building to adding work visas, diplomatic papers and other sorts of identification. Directives will be passed down on a daily basis adding these new paperwork restrictions as well as other decrees from on high (such as not allowing anyone through the checkpoint from specific countries).

You must check all information with your guide to validate the authenticity of documentation and notate any discrepancies before denying entry.

As you advance through the game, small story events will come up that force you to make decisions. Do I allow the director’s buddy into the country without the proper credentials? What will happen to me if I don’t? Should I assist a secret order with their attempts to infiltrate the country and perform attacks on the government? If a person attempts to use falsified documents, do I arrest them or just deny their passport? These decisions help to build towards the 20 different endings within the game.

While performing your job and making these difficult decisions, the game continues around you. Every now and again, a terrorist will attack the checkpoint, causing destruction and closing the border early that day – which makes it that much more difficult to earn the money needed for grandma’s medicine. Eventually, you are even given access to defensive weapons (a sniper rifle or a tazer gun) to take care of attacks before they are entirely carried out.

What is most intriguing about this game, however, are the parallels that the developer Lucas Pope draws between the dystopian world of the game and present-day complaints and issues in America.

One parallel drawn is the price of terrorism and its affect on personal freedom. Similar to the TSA agents at all American airports, you gain the ability to scan people with revealing X-Ray scanners to determine if they have any weapons on them. After scanning, you are presented with a naked, front-and-back image of the person to inspect in order to see if any weapons or contraband is on their person.

Clearly, the most blatant subject the game covers is immigration. No matter how different the world may be in the game from the world we live in today, the game characterizes those immigrating and how their ability to enter the new country may (or may not) make a huge difference in their lives. The game plays with these concepts, showing all sorts of different people seeking entry and gives the player a unique perspective on the immigration debate in American that not seen in any other game (or any other fictional work for that matter). My guess is, based upon your discussion with some of the characters in the game, you will think twice about following the rules blindly and give their passport the green stamp.

The ways that this game is able to broach some of the most integral and serious topics in our world today within this simplistic looking game is a testament to solid story telling and game design.

Possibly this is why when I started playing the game – only planning to toy with it for about an hour – I became engrossed to the point that my short play session was in actuality five hours long. And I wanted to keep playing. Why? Because in its simple mechanics but complex, branching story, I just wanted to experience more of the world that was crafted.

The game succeeds in doing everything it set out to do and so much more. And that is why no matter how mundane this game sounds to you, I implore you to play it for just one hour – a few hours later, I believe you will feel the same way I do about Papers, Please.

Rating: Seven out of Seven Stars

Where to Buy

Papers, Please can be purchased at the game’s website via paypal or on Steam for $9.99.

 

The holidays are the time for friends and family to enjoy time-honored family traditions. Some of these may be caroling around the neighborhood, serving soup at a local homeless shelter or going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. If your family isn’t this straight-laced or politically correct or are looking for a new tradition to spice things up, look no further than our next Game of Christmas:

Game #3

My guess is you are familiar with the large-group card-based game Apples to Apples. If you aren’t familiar, that family-friendly game has players draw up to seven cards of specific and non-specific nouns (a birthday party, Einstein, World War II, beer). Then, each player takes turns flipping up a descriptive word (peaceful, risky, touchy-feely) and the other players need to submit face-down a noun that plays off of that topic – either because it is a good example of that description or is in some way comedically related. The player chooses a winner and the game continues until one person has won in a pre-determined amount of rounds (usually 3-5).

As the graphic above describes, this is Apples to Apples only in the most horrible, inappropriate and politically incorrect way.

Instead of q descriptive word, the setup for each round’s topic is usually a tad more elaborate.

Examples of Topics in Cards Against Humanity

As you can see already, this game has the trappings of being fairly inappropriate. The playable “noun” cards are also quite a bit more elaborate than in Apples to Apples and are almost always ranging from strange to completely inappropriate.

The fairly appropriate end of the spectrum
The more inappropriate end of the spectrum

As in it’s goody-two-shoes predecessor, the real fun comes in the combinations that are laid out for all to see.

As you can see, this game is not quite as PC…

The one innovation that this game brings to the table, other than totally inappropriate humor, is the addition of Pick 2 and even Pick 3 cards. When these are drawn, players must complete phrases with multiples of their white cards. This usually leads to some of the more hilarious combinations in the game.

An example of a Pick 2 at its worst (or best)

Ultimately, this game isn’t for everyone. If any of the above images offended you, it may be wise to pass up this game and stick with Bridge.  And similar to Apples to Apples, if you play it too often with the same group of people without buying more cards, it can become repetitive (there are currently four expansion packs that have been released).

But if you are looking for an entirely cathartic experience by ignoring your inhibitions and allowing your politically incorrect creativity to run wild, you will definitely have a great time with Cards Against Humanity.

Rating: Six out of Seven Stars

Have you played Cards Against Humanity? If so, throw me some of your craziest combinations into the comments to help give others a bit more of a feel for the game.

Looking for more ridiculous and terrible examples of combinations from the game? Check out this story from Buzzfeed:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/katec31/8-well-played-hands-of-cards-against-humanity-ch4m

Where to Buy:

One other positive of Cards Against Humanity is that you can download the beginning version of the game for free from the creator’s website. Then, all you have to do is print out the cards, cut them and laminate them and you have a fully functioning version of the game.

However, if you are lazy like me and 95% of Americans, there is a link to purchase them from their site as well at  http://cardsagainsthumanity.com/ for only $25.

Or, you can just cut out the middle man and go straight to the game on Amazon at the following link (and please note the description states that “0% of proceeds will be donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation”):

http://www.amazon.com/Cards-Against-Humanity-LLC-CAHUS/dp/B004S8F7QM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387239696&sr=8-1&keywords=Cards+Against+Humanity

 

On paper, I love this movie.  It is such a nice twist on what is becoming an old formula.  As soon as I saw the trailer there was no question in my mind, I was going to see this movie, and see it I did.

 I have been a fan of Mr. Knoxville and his group of Jackasses ever since I was a wee little teenager attempting the stunts I had seen them do on T.V.  Disclaimer be DAMNED!!!

Like many of you, though, it had become apparent to me that the original Jackass formula was being driven into the ground.  Those I still appreciate their movies, The need for them to keep making them was rapidly approaching 0.  After all, who really want’s to see 40 year old men behaving like teenagers?  At some point the lack of growth becomes depressing and sad.

But then Johnny Knoxville had a great idea.  What if we gave it a narrative?  Works for me.  Instead of doing the same old schtick, take one aspect of it, and expand.  Enter “Bad Grandpa.”

Bad Grandpa is the story of an old man (Knoxville) who get’s stuck with his grandson and has to travel cross country to bring the young lad home to his father.  A task that the Grandpa in question, is less than eager to take on.   During their trip, we enter classic Jackass territory. 

  • Old man enters public location
  • Does, or says, something horrible to unsuspecting citizens
  • Comedy Gold

Along with.

  • Young innocent looking child enters public location
  • Does, or says, something horrible to unsuspecting citizens
  • Comedy Gold

What I love about this movie is ultimately what I also hate about it.  Paradoxes aside, let me explain.

The beauty of Bad Grandpa really does come down to the Narrative aspect.  That’s what separates it from being just another Jackass movie.  The problem is that these guys are so used to making movies the Jackass way that they don’t know how to develop proper story arcs, or character relations.  That was quite apparent in this movie.

Before I go any further let me point out that this movie definitely delivers on the proven Jackass formula for comedy gold.  Good stunts, witty banter, and splendidly inappropriate use of a minor.  It is every bit as entertaining and hilarious as any other Jackass movie.  Only this one has a plot, and there’s where some definite improvement needed to be made.

We, as an audience, need to have honest feelings for how these two characters interact with each other.  We want to see them go through a journey, and not just a physical one where the travel from one place to another.  That’s what should make this different, if not better, than the Jackass movies.  We need to see this Bad Grandpa grow from his hateful distaste of this child, to something other than that, in a natural way.  The attempt was made, but made poorly, which really slowed down the movie for me.

Granted, at it’s base, this movie is just another Jackass movie.  I could probably be a little less judgmental of things like classic story structure when watching a movie where the highlight is a stripper showcase at a children’s beauty pageant. (I feel dirty typing that) If you’re going to make the effort to include story, you’re going to be judged on it.  I love Mr. Knoxville’s work, and I applaud his efforts of growth, but he has a lot to learn. (As do we all)

To wrap things up, If you like Jackass movies, you’ll probably like this one.  Watch it, laugh at it, and accept it for what it is.  The slow narrative definitely lowers it’s rewatchablility value, but you should enjoy it the one time you do watch it.

4 Stars out of 7

The Netflix rating system SUCKS!

What qualifies me to say that? I watch a lot of Netflix Streaming and I rate most everything I watch.  I like rating movies. I like the feeling of giving credit to good movies and shaming the bad ones. But the Netflix rating system sucks, because five stars just isn’t enough to judge anything properly.  Their “Hated It”, “Didn’t Like It”, “Liked It”, “Really Like It”, and “Loved It” rating system just doesn’t leave any room for really great movies or really terrible movies.

I end up giving 80% of movies three stars because they were just “meh” to me.  And then I am forced to put movies like Planet Terror and Land of the Dead in the same five-star category as V for Vendetta and Dr. Strangelove, when there is at least a star in between them.  But I can’t drop Planet Terror and Land of the Dead down to the four-star level with movies such as Payback and Get Shorty.

Then, the movies that I rated as “Hated It”, like The Mist and The Day After Tomorrow, get lumped into one-star ratings with movies that should be rated lower because they gave me cancer and kicked my dead dog, like 2 Fast 2 Furious and Timeline (because Paul Walker sucks).

This got me thinking about other rating systems that are out there.  There’s the “X” out of 10 rating system (solve for X), but that is just too many numbers.  When I see this rating system used I don’t give a shit about numbers 4-7, 9-10 might as well be the same number, and 1-3 must just be terrible.  And then, I just don’t know what to do with 8; it feels like getting a 15 in black jack (not sure if you want to hit or not).

Then there is Siskel & Ebert’s famous “thumbs” rating system that is for the dumbest of people who have no cognitive function, they just like shiny lights and loud sounds ( and anything by Michael Bay)… Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, FUCK YOU!

And this problem isn’t just for movies.  It also goes for TV shows, books, music, and whatever else you can or want to rate.  So that is my dilemma – there has to be a better rating system.

I have been pondering this a lot and I have an idea for something better.  It isn’t perfect, but I believe it is an improvement.  It is a seven star rating system.

With the Seven Star Rating SystemTM, One Star represents the worst movies ever made.  These are movies so bad that you wish nothing but terrible, terrible things on whoever (whomever?) was responsible – like for the rest of their lives, whenever they take a step it is always on a Lego.

Then you have a middle ground, Four Stars: the rating you give movies when you can’t quite decide if they are good or not.  Finally, you have a Seventh Star you can reserve for what you watch, listen to, or read that make you feel things and say “Wow! That. Was. Amazing!”  Also, the Seven Star Rating SystemTM eliminates the confusion about what the fuck to do with the “8”.

Seven Star Rating SystemTM would be this:

  • One Star: Atrocious.  These movies are so bad that you are pissed you wasted money and time on it.  It’s like eating a soggy biscuit from all the demons of all the circles of hell.
  • Two Stars: Terrible.  There are very few things you liked about these movies, they are mostly awful.
  • Three Stars: Bad. The things that you didn’t like outweigh the things you like by slim margin.
  • Four Stars: Meh. The movies you haven’t really decided if you liked them or not. There were good and bad points and more often than not it needs rewatching to determine your opinion.
  • Five Stars: Good.  The things that you like outweigh the things you don’t. They are enjoyable and often include guilty pleasure movies.
  • Six Stars: Great. These movies get almost everything right.  What flaws there are do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the show.
  • Seven Stars: Incredible. This is reserved for the best of the best.  These movies made a real impact on you and you will never forget them.  It’s like a velvet hammer from God himself.

Now, I know this still has holes in it because it only gives a very general view of whatever you are reviewing, but we are working on something to help make the review system mean more to you.  So until the entire “Greatest” Rating System is ready, we will be using the Seven Star Rating SystemTM.

So what do you think of Seven Star Rating SystemTM?  Does it make sense or is it total crap?  Let us know what you think in the comments.  Also comment on your One star and Seven star picks for movies, TV show, music and/or books.

P.S. God damn Siskel & Ebert’s Thumbs. Two thumbs so far down, they’re six feet under. (Too soon?)