(This article contains spoilers from the first season of Vice Principals. If you want to avoid them just know that this series comes highly recommended)
One of my favorite things about Jody Hill’s Eastbound and Down is the way that each season is structured like a movie. Moreso than most serialized series, these season arcs are designed with a real beginning, middle, and end, and the characters go through significant arcs from start to finish. Vice Principals follows a similar model, making it a difficult show to judge after just a few episodes.
I was not a fan of the Vice Principals pilot. The characters it presented seemed one-dimensional and plot points flew in and out too quickly to pique my interest. Danny McBride and Walton Goggins seemed to be portraying similar characters to what they had done on the past, and the show felt like it was coasting. But I stuck with it on the strengths of Eastbound and Down, which grew by leaps and bounds over its initial season. I’m pleased to report that this was the right decision.
Continue reading Vice Principals Season 1 Review
When taken completely on its own merits, 2016’s Blair Witch isn’t bad. It’s an above-average movie in the “found footage” horror sub-genre, written and directed by the team that created You’re Next (which is very good) and The Guest (which I have not seen). There are plenty of jump scares, some surprises, and a real escalation of horror that caps off with an especially intense ending. It’s hard to deny the film’s competence, which is ironically the movie’s biggest flaw.
Blair Witch feels like it was created for all of the people who saw 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project” and said “That sucked! It’s so boring!” 2016’s film is the original turned up to 11. Instead of whispers and laughter in the shadows, we have deafening noises and uprooted trees. The creepy stick figures that served as a creepy harbinger of doom in the original have their own twisted purpose here, there’s more gore, more definitive fates for the different characters, and a far lesser desire to hide the supernatural elements from the camera.
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The most interesting aspects of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’ Sausage Party are what they’re NOT promoting. Sure, the movie revels in its own bad taste, with just as many sex jokes and f-bombs as you’d expect from the Pixar-but-perverted slant of its ad campaign. But the film has far more to say about the failings of organized religion: its usage to paper over very real human fears, its role in global conflicts and warfare, its hindrance of actual scientific development, and its tendency to shame people for their inherent desires. Sausage Party empathizes with believers, but never obfuscates where it stands in regard to faith.
It’s a bold, refreshing, and inherently risky stance for a studio film to make, which is probably why it’s not the part of Sausage Party that is being sold to the masses. Sausage Party’s moral can be boiled down to “promote Atheism over religion, but don’t be a dick about it,” which is a hard sell to a country in which over 75% of the population identifies themselves as having faith in a higher power. Sausage Party is not likely to change anybody’s minds on such a grand subject, but it’s fascinating to me that a project could be greenlit at all, let alone be one of the biggest success stories of the summer.
Continue reading Sausage Party Review
The real strengths of HBO’s The Night Of are placed right front and center in the first episode. The hour chronicles the titular night, and we sit with future-murder-suspect Nazir Khan as his journey out to a party goes from ethereal to tragic. This episode is impeccably directed, with gradual shifts in tone emphasized by the color pallette and a softened depth of field. Director Steven Zaillian does a terrific job of drawing our attention to the little details that seem small in the moment, but will be significant down the road.
The decision to begin a criminal procedural mini-series with an episode that features practically no procedural elements is a real stroke of brilliance, and it colors our perspective of the whole show moving forward. We trust that Nazir is innocent not only because we know that his account of the night is truthful, but because he is our initial eyes and ears into the world. We have no reason to doubt him, since his perspective is our reality. Meanwhile, introducing some of the key points of contention in the first episode makes the procedural elements even more engaging. We have a real point of reference from watching the events unfold on our own.
Continue reading The Night Of Review
The long-awaited Playstation 4 space exploration title No Man’s Sky finally released this month, and while some are enjoying the game, its overall reception hasn’t been pretty. In its current state, the game is a bit of a buggy mess, with many PS4 users (and even more PC users) reporting frequent game crashes and, occasionally, needing to restart the game from the beginning to get past issues. Bugs at launch alone wouldn’t be especially noteworthy in today’s release-first-patch-later publishing culture, but No Man’s Sky has also failed to meet most gamers’ expectations. Many were expecting a practically infinite world full of things to do, but found themselves repeating the same boring tasks over and over again for dozens of hours, until they reached the center of the galaxy and (mild spoilers) essentially got to do it all over again.
For many, it’s disappointing. For others (*cough*me*cough*) it was inevitable from the start. Hello Games, the independent development team that created No Man’s Sky, is made up of 15 employees. Sure, they may have created an algorithm that mixed and matched a number of elements and created 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets (allegedly), but that doesn’t mean that said planets are wholly unique, nor does it say how many different variables can go into the flora and fauna of the game. And even if they created hundreds of variables for the planets and lifeforms that inhabit them, after a dozen hours or so, you’re going to be looking at various mashups of things that you’ve already seen.
Continue reading Who’s To Blame For High Expectations?