Tom Chick

Hand of Fate will crawl out of your computer as sure as Samara crawls out of a TV

, | News

Hand of Fate is one of the great videogame explorations of how to use cards to spin out a game, to tell a story, and to create a sense of progression. I can’t say enough good things about it. Actually, I guess I already have.

It is no longer content being inside your computer! The developers have teamed up with some boardgame developers to make a tabletop version. As was the case with the videogame, they’re not mucking about with nonsense like publishers. They’re doing what all indie developers do with their boardgames and hoping you’ll buy it before it’s actually available. So today they launched a Kickstarter campaign and more than doubled their goal on the first day. If you want in on the action, it’s a straight-up $60 buy-in. No deluxe editions with a ton of tiny plastic figures, or stretch goals for cobbled-on gameplay elements that they had to think up, or even T-shirts or mousepads or oversized bonus cards. Just the game. Due to be delivered in November. Which is Kickstarterspeak for early 2018.

So, can I be that guy and say it looks weird to see so much color on the cards? In the videogame, the cards are black-and-white, as if they were woodcut prints, like you might find in a volume of Blake poetry. But now they’re all sorts of gaudy colors like you might find in a comic book. I don’t like it and I think they should have–

Okay, who am I kidding? I’m not going to be able to hold out for another 29 days no matter what rationale I invent.

The Wire, season 1, episode 5: just jump the 5!

, | TV reviews

In bad movies, the villain tells the hero, “You’re just like me!” The hero tends to disagree, or at least get upset about being in a movie with moral ambiguity. Now the hero is less of a good guy and/or the bad guy is less of a bad guy. Now the moral ambiguity is laid out for everyone to see.

The better way to imply moral ambiguity is what The Wire is doing. Continue reading →

Best thing you’ll see all week: Lady Bloodfight

, | Movie reviews

I don’t mean to imply that Lady Bloodfight isn’t dumb, inconsistent, and familiar. It kind of is. The basics are nothing that haven’t been done a thousand times with everyone from Jean Claude van Damme to, uh…who’s doing these kinds of movies these days? John Cena? I haven’t been keeping up.

But for this kind of dumb, inconsistent, and familiar, Lady Bloodfight is as good as it gets.
Heck, better!
Continue reading →

Horizon Zero Dawn violates the Hippocratic Oath of game design

, | Game reviews

Horizon: Zero Dawn is far better than it should be, given that it’s the developer’s Guerilla Games’ first time making an open-world game. Previously, Sony has shackled these guys to whatever Playstation is currently missing its Halo. Hence the long line of Playstation-exclusive Killzones. But it’s clear from playing Horizon that Guerilla has done their homework, studying what it takes to make an open-world work.

And then they apparently dropped out of class. Continue reading →

The Witcher is not headed to the big screen

, | News

When the major studios option a franchise, that doesn’t mean much. It just means they paid someone for the privilege to say “we call dibbs!” Screenwriters might be hired, talent might be courted, directors might be talked to. But in the end, an optioned property is just as likely to sit on a shelf as it is to become a movie. That’s Hollywood for you. But Netflix isn’t exactly Hollywood. So when they announce they’re producing a Witcher series, I’m inclined to think it carries more weight than the usual videogame adaptation announcement.

Consider that Netflix dumped a boatload of money into their international Marco Polo production. I suspect they see The Witcher as having a similar international appeal, but this time with some Game of Thrones cachet because it’s fantasy instead of boring ol’ history. They furthermore announced the participation of a couple of partners that suggests money is already moving beyond just licensing deals. For instance, this Polish effects studio and these guys who helped shepherd a Tom Cruise mummy movie to the big screen and The Expanse to the small screen. Seems to me a Witcher series might actually be happening.

For Geralt, I’d like to suggest anyone but Vin Diesel.

(Via Variety)

Better Call Saul: so many star wipes in a row

, | TV reviews

One of the cases to be made for Better Call Saul being better than Breaking Bad is consistency of tone. Breaking Bad frequently strayed from family soap opera, to hard-hitting crime drama, to wacky character comedy, to drug cartel intrigue. You could argue that was one of its strengths, because it allowed for episodes like the one with the fly and the magnet heist. Breaking Bad went wherever it felt like going. From Mr. Chips to Scarface, as Vince Gilligan is on record as saying. But with multiple layovers.

Continue reading →

The Wire, season 1, episode 4: fucking elementary, my dear McNulty

, | TV reviews

“This case is nowhere near anything we’re doing,” McNulty complains to his partner. They’re getting ready to investigate the scene of an old unsolved murder case. But we know he’s wrong. We know it’s directly adjacent to what they’re doing. We know the murder was committed by the very same person who put into motion everything that has happened.

Baltimore is a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world (one out of every 2000 people in Baltimore has been murdered this year), and yet McNulty and Bunk have been randomly assigned the one murder that relates directly to everything else they’re doing? I’m not sure how I feel about such massive coincidence in a procedural. But I know how I feel about the investigation scene that’s about to happen. Continue reading →

The Wire, season 1, episode 2: Read all about it! Read all about it!

, | TV reviews

I could watch a full hour of Lance Reddick giving a briefing. And then I could watch another full hour of him at home being debriefed by his wife. He listens as she walks him through the dilemma he’s in. “You can’t lose if you don’t play,” she explains. For an officious hotel clerk in John Wick and a sinister government agent in The Guest, it takes an actor who can listen as well as he can tell.

Okay, this is really dumb, but I might as well get it off my chest before it fades into technological obscurity along with phone cords, typewriters, and Crown Victorias. All of which appear in The Wire, by the way.

Continue reading →

The Wire, season 1, episode 1: the boy who would be Johnny Storm

, | TV reviews

Here I am, finally watching The Wire. How long has it even been? How long did I miss out? How long have I had to endure people prattling on about how good The Wire is? Ten years? Twenty years? Who knows. I saw a pager in the title sequence and my mind shifted into “okay, now you’re watching something from the 90s” mode. It certainly has the cinematography and the aspect ratio of the 90s. To think we used to watch TV is a narrow square box. Then there’s a scene with McNulty and an FBI guy about how the feds have been “getting out of drugs” since the Towers fell. Oops, okay, not the 90s.

My mind’s 90s mode explains why I thought the kid who plays one of the drug dealers looks like Michael B. Jordan. He does a thing where he knits his brow while he licks his lips, and then pulls his lips in, like he’s thinking really hard about something. Just like Michael B. Jordan does. He also has a funny bit where he points out that Alexander Hamilton was not, in fact, a President even though he’s on the $10 bill. And this from a time when most people associated the name Manuel with a Panamanian dictator instead of a Broadway sensation. Then the credits roll and, hey, it is Michael B. Jordan! Well, yeah, that’s about the age he would have been ten years ago, when The Wire began its run. I guess this is the dawn of TV getting good enough to have actors worthy of being movie stars. And there’s Idris Elba, who I used to think of as the guy from that British TV series about vampires. That’s how most people know him, right? From Ultraviolet? Or was it this Wire thing that really kicked his career into high gear?

See what happens to your perspective when you go twenty years not watching The Wire.