The People’s Albums: #46 Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits

With Shocktober now behind us, I suppose it’s about time I return to writing about The People’s Albums again.  Not that Shocktober had much to do with this long absence, but rather it had to do with this album not being as mildly awesome as I hoped it would be.

Album: Greatest Hits
Artist: Kenny Rogers
Release Date: September 3, 1980
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 12 Million Continue reading

White People Suck: The Movie

12 Years A Slave

I can’t really say I’ve been looking forward to writing this review, much in the same way that I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to see this latest film from director/misery-inducer Steve McQueen.  But with all the (deserved) Oscar-hype and talent involved in this project, it seemed like something I should see.  Which is really the only way I can sell a movie like 12 Years A Slave: it may not be a rip-roaringly fun time at the movies, but it’s really something you should see.  Not only for the way it depicts slavery with a cringe-inducing honesty, but also in the way it offers an emotional release in regards to this atrocity.

Based on the 1853 memoir of the same name, 12 Years A Slave chronicles the unlikely story of Solomon Northup, a freeborn black man who was abducted and sold in to slavery.  As you might expect, Northup’s intelligence and pride do him no favors in gaining favor with his new white masters, and things just get worse for Northup with every attempt he makes to keep his dignity in tact.  He’s then more or less broken down to a nub of a man once he’s eventually sold to a sadistic plantation owner, played unflinchingly by Michael Fassbender.

For a movie that somehow exudes both “importance” and “art house flair”, 12 Years A Slave does have a surprising amount of star power.  The likes of Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, and Brad Pitt all make appearances at some point in the film, and except for maybe Pitt–who’s kinda just doing his usual Brad Pitt thing–all disappear into the roles quite nicely.  But the heart of the picture undeniably belongs to its star, Chiwitel Ejiofor, who takes full advantage of the kind of meaty role that he’s been long overdue for.  The film as a whole isn’t terribly talky, but I think this works in favor of Ejiofor’s ability to internalize this man’s struggles, all while McQueen’s camera seems constantly zoned in on his weathered face.

I know this might seem a bit strange for a smaller scale film like this, but I think 12 Years A Slave is a film that should be seen in a theater, and I’m saying that almost purely based on my own experience.  Walking in to the movie, I was pretty irritated to find myself surrounded by a fairly packed, and fairly noisy audience.  But after about a half-hour into the film, the audience was completely silent, and by the end of it, I could distinctly hear grown men trying to hold back their tears, and I’ll admit I was right there along with them.  And in this era where people keep on saying that television is now far superior to film, it’s nice to be getting movies like Gravity, and now 12 Years A Slave that remind us of the kind of communal aspect and the emotional catharsis that the medium is still capable of.

Homeland, Sea, and Err

How about the Homeland last night, right? Pretty gross! Also, pretty exciting. It was nice to see the show get back into observation and interrogation, as that’s what it does best. Seems that after a shaky first few episodes, the real plot has come into focus and the show has basically found its footing again. So have you been avoiding Homeland this season or really down on it this year? Here’s a post for you.

The biggest complaint, at least in the Lemme household, has been the show’s dedication to Dana Brody stories. We got to the point this week where my dad actually booed her appearance on the screen. In a show where everyone else’s plot involves life and death stakes, it’s hard to care about Dana dating a shitty boy, especially since that was last season’s plot for her already. And yeah, I get it, she is there to show us what Carrie and her dad would be like if they weren’t so fucked up, but after being so unpopular last season, I’m amazed the show decided to double down on her like it did. Although, based on this week’s episode, we’re probably not going to be seeing much of her going forward, so… Maybe they just moved all her screen time to the first half of the season? Maybe it’s a mercy?

I don’t know. In the first season, it made sense to spend a lot of time with Dana and Jessica, her mother, because the story was about Brody readapting to life in America. Now the show seems to be squandering an opportunity to show the toll of Brody’s actions, especially since it has thus far just used Jessica as Dana’s mother, not the wife who lost it all, built it all back up, and lost it all again. At least we haven’t had to spend much time with Mr. I’ve-got-my-shit-together Mike.

The second cause for complaints is Carrie’s bipolar disorder and how crazy she’s been acting. This was mostly alleviated a few episodes ago, but the show really seems to hammering in how many problems this lady has, to the point where I almost feel like she could snap at any moment. This week they added even more complexity to her state of mental health, and it just rubs me like a shitty twist, one they really didn’t need. She had enough problems already, leave her alone you jerk writers! I have another problem with this, but I can’t address it without outright spoiling it, so ask me later.

My biggest concern going into the season was Brody’s place in the plot. Namely, that he shouldn’t have one in it. I’ve been really impressed that so far, he actually hasn’t been part of the story at all. They gave us an episode to show what he’s up to, but it was almost entirely separate from everything else going on. It’s a bold choice to have him off on his own island, one that I’m sure will turn into him being crucial to some plan in the latter half of the season, and I’ve been really pleased with it. Especially because it’s meant getting Saul bumped up as the second lead.

We all know Saul is great, the best character on the show (arguably after Virgil). Having him take the lead on the plot they’ve decided to do this season is really smart. If you want to do a story about justifying the existence of the CIA as it was, who better to spearhead that than Saul? Sure, we’ve got the weird machinations of Dar Adal, but watching Saul be in charge has been great. And I think this season’s theme of the human cost of spy work is so far being dealt with extremely well.

The first season about Homeland was a much more subtle, amazing show. The second season was bombastic and riveting, maybe the most exciting show on TV that year. That’s when we all started to worry that the show would just turn into 24, and it kind of has. I’ve noticed most episodes this season have been about 45 minutes long, and the nudity and graphic language has seemed scaled back… The show feels more like a network drama than it should. But damn, the show’s still capable of those moments that make me hurt to know what happens next. Suck it, terrorists!

Con-Fuse-d About What Happened to Overstrike


Sometimes, in an attempt to judge a game on its own merits, we lose the overarching story surrounding that experience. Where did you get the game? How much did you pay? What was your experience like playing it? For most critics, it’s important to isolate and remove those details, to try to give an unbiased account of the game as it is, even though a review is still entirely opinion-based. Hey, people don’t want to read your blog, they want to know what you think of a game, that approach makes sense. But in this one case, I’m going to break from the pack and tell you how it really went down.

I am a member of GameFly, which I used to explain as Netflix for video games, but that makes less sense now since no one rents discs from Netflix anymore. I like GameFly, they ship from Seattle so I get games fast and their “keep it” option means I can get “like new” used games on the cheap. This is especially nice because they give members discounts on purchases based on how long you’ve been subscribed, consecutively. Sometimes they even sell games they have to many copies of on the cheap. Fuse was one of those games, I picked it up a couple weeks ago for less than $10.

I wasn’t super excited about Fuse, based on the reviews I had read about it, but I figured it would be fine. It sounded like the most OK game of all time, but it was an Insomniac game, and despite never really loving an Insomniac game, I think those guys are all right. So I bought it and I got it and I played it over a few weekday afternoons when I wanted to put off doing the things I needed to do.

Fuse is the story of a team of misfit commandos trying to stop an evil PMC from using an alien substance called, shockingly, Fuse. To do this, they themselves use Fuse-based weapons to slaughter thousands of people. The whole story kind of feels like a super generic GI Joe knock off, devoid of the brazen goofiness that makes that cartoon still remarkable. Our heroes are white guy, black guy, tough lady, and stealth lady. They each have one Fuse weapon – a shield, a sniper crossbow, a crystallization assault rifle, and a black hole machine gun. As you might imagine, the two girls with their way cooler, offensive guns are a lot more fun to play.

This game is clearly meant to be played with three friends, but if you chose to solo it like I did, you’re free to jump between all the whole team, letting you use your favorite set up for each situation. But the situations are basically shoot a lot of guys, do some light platforming, and fight a boss, so don’t expect to really ever want to use shield guy, despite his ability to absorb and shoot back bullets being pretty cool. Honestly, I played each mission as one of the characters, then stuck with the lady with the crystallization gun the rest of the game.

Levels in Fuse are long, with numerous firefights broken up a few objective segments and, as I said before, some light platforming. The platforming is super easy, the controls are tight, I always knew where I was going, and I feel like you probably couldn’t die without trying. So it all comes down to the shooting… Which is fine. It’s weird, because Insomniac is known for the inventive guns in their games, that the combat feels so spectacularly run-of-the-mill. It’s cover-based combat that isn’t bad, but no where near as satisfying as Gears of War. With only four Fuse weapons at your disposal, that twist on the shooting feels like it didn’t go nearly far enough. Mass Effect wasn’t an amazing shooter either, but it made it work by throwing in so many fun powers you didn’t have to shoot if you didn’t want to – Insomniac needed to step it up to make this game stand out.

But whatever, Fuse was OK. It cost me roughly a matinee movie ticket and gave me some great procrastination fodder. I wish it was better, I wish it was really special, but it’s a game that played it safe in every aspect. Which is too bad, because if you go back to the original Overstrike trailer, it’s hard not to think that Fuse got focus grouped to death. And hey, if you want to shoot for the middle, it’s hard to get any closer than Fuse.

The Next Gen Conundrum

It’s November now, which means just one thing: Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season is upon us. I mean, sure, there are other things going on too, like elections, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving, but come on, we all know what’s up. In our capitalist, consumerist society, the reach of Christmas is vast. I think that’s part of why January is so depressing, since so much hype, for almost a quarter of the year, is focused on December 25. Anyway, Christmas is a big deal because of presents and Black Fridays is the biggest day of the year for shopping, you know this. If you’re a video gamer, this year will be especially tricky.

The way I see it, you’ve got four options. The first is the smartest, and the one I would recommend to pretty much everybody: Don’t buy a next generation console, wait for games you really want, maybe pick up a 3DS and Pokemon or something. New consoles are big investments, we’re talking low-end iPad money. The smart thing to do is wait until the demand goes down a bit, and a game you really want is out, before buying one. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to spend your money. So that’s one option.

Another is to go out and upgrade or buy a gaming PC. This is the most expensive option, unless you already have an all right computer and just need to do some upgrades. Titanfall, the most hyped next gen game, will be out on PC, just like most of the big third party games this holiday and probably going forward. Building a gaming PC is simpler than it sounds and being able to buy games on Steam, the Humble Bundle, and countless other online retailers means you’ll be able to save a ton on games going forward. But you will have to worry about things like drivers and in-game settings, plus, if you don’t already have them, a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and various cables. But if you’re in the market for a new computer this year, this is the option I’d recommend.

The third option is to buy a PlayStation 4, which comes out November 15. This is the system with the most goodwill, and at $399, it’s $100 cheaper than the Xbox One, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it became the fastest selling system in the early days of this generation. It’s also the most powerful next gen console, and already we’re hearing that games like Call of Duty run in a higher resolution on PS4. It’s still not PC, but the PS4 games will look good for a while. At launch they’ll have the new Killzone, which I’m sure will be pretty good, but not really great, as well Mark Cerny’s Knack, which might just be special. Also, that new Infamous game looks awesome and will be out next year.

On November 22, the Xbox One will be released for $500, which is a lot. But the system does come with a upgraded Kinect, which is capable of doing some pretty cool stuff. That means you get the most out of the box with the Xbone, as long as you believe developers will find interesting uses for Kinect going forward. Someone probably will, right? Also, the Xbone launch lineup is a lot stronger, with exclusives like Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Forza 5 all looking at least interesting. Plus Titanfall will be out on Xbone next March, and that sounds like it will blow everything else out of the water unless something goes terribly wrong.

Which path is the right one to go down? The immediate gratification of the Xbone, or the popular, smart bet of the PS4? I really think if you want to have the most fun the Christmas, it’s probably on the Xbone, but after Tintanfall, who knows? The PS4 is more powerful, but it’s not necessarily night and day. The Xbone probably has the better controller, but everyone says the DualShock 4 is a massive improvement over Sony’s previous controllers, so you’d probably be happy either way. $100 is $100, but if motion gaming really takes off down the road, you’ll have to pony up for it on PS4.

I didn’t preorder either console, because that’s a crazy thing to do and the people who do that either have plenty of disposable income or are scum-of-the-earth bastards planning on reselling the system on eBay for a profit. So what are my next gen plans? I’m not going to lineup for a console, because I remember lining up for the Wii. I guess I’ll keep my eyes open, and I’ll be sure to read and watch next gen coverage on sites like Giant Bomb and Polygon. I guess if I had to pick right now, I’d probably go buy a PS4 and take my chances on being able to run Tintanfall on my rapidly aging PC. But man, it’s been a fun year for games and it’s going to be exciting right to the finish.