Tom Chick

Best thing you’ll see all week: Catastrophe

, | Movie reviews

I have a problem with the first season of the UK sitcom Catastrophe. It sets itself up as two people making the most of a difficult situation. Presumably a catastrophic situation, hence the title. Rob has unintentionally gotten Sharon pregnant; they decide to give it a go. It superficially resembles Knocked Up, the Judd Apatow comedy in which Seth Rogen unintentionally gets Katherine Heigl pregnant and they decide to give it a go. Knocked Up is indeed a catastrophe. She’s a woman with a promising career who behaves like an adult. He’s Hollywood’s typical manchild stoner out-of-shape slob loser whose shortcomings are entirely excused because he’s funny. Obviously, Hollywood says, he’ll make a great dad. Oh, and husband. Never mind what Heigl’s character could have gone on to do with her life, pregnant or not.

But whereas Knocked Up pretends it’s not a catastrophe, Catastrophe pretends it’s not a perfect match. But Rob and Sharon are as perfect a couple as you could ever hope to see on TV.

They’re the opposite of a catastrophe. Continue reading →

Simon Parkin asks a question that really shouldn’t be asked

, | Features

I can understand why Simon Parkin, one of the rare videogame critics worth reading, seems to be feeling some anxiety about his job. A lot of people feel must feel that way, whether they’re plumbers, doctors, or social workers. But Parkin implies his anxiety is unique. So he’s written an article about writing articles about videogames:

But no matter how scintillating the text, when the real world starts to tremble, when fascism begins to rise, when the bombs start to fall, when real lives and real rights are imperilled, the job of writing about [videogames] is further undercut. Why waste our time focused on fictional quests when so much of the real world is in need of repair?

Now maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t see anyone writing these articles about books, movies, or music.

Continue reading →

Resident Evil 7: Silent Hill: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre feat. Blair Witch Project

, | Game reviews

Resident Evil 7 has a strong opening, a sagging middle, and a disappointing finale. In other words, it hews closely to the arc of most horror. But to Capcom’s credit, this Resident Evil is taking pages from books it hasn’t previously read. I’m not convinced it understands those pages, but at least it’s attempting something other than the usual roiling mass of black goo with bright orange weak points you have to shoot. For a while at least. It’ll get to that. But before it plods through its sagging middle to its disappointing finale, Resident Evil 7 is at least trying.

After the jump, found FPS isn’t a thing. Continue reading →

Alien Shooter TD lives up to every single word in its name

, | Game reviews

I don’t play tower defense games. They’re beneath me. They’re for people who want to turtle in an RTS, but they don’t want to actually play an RTS. They don’t even want an AI. At least MOBA players, who want to play an RTS without actually playing an RTS, are going up against other players. Tower defense players just want to shoot stuff that runs at them to get shot.

So I don’t play tower defense games. But when I do, they have to get four things right. Alien Shooter TD gets those four things right, plus a fifth thing. So if I played tower defense games, I would play Alien Shooter TD.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say that I do play tower defense games. Continue reading →

Is the Last Roman DLC for Total War: Attila too limited, too small, and too real?

, | Game reviews

Total War: Warhammer is the pinnacle of what Creative Assembly has been doing for over 17 years. But with orcs. That last bit is important. A lot of the appeal of this Total War is that you have monsters and wizards and spells and ogres and things that fly. You have stuff you never had in Total War. You do things with them that you never did in Total War. You capture elf strongholds and sneak through orc tunnels and stave off the taint of chaos corruption. You equip legendary magic items, level up various flavors of fireball spells, and build a reliquary so you can recruit ghost soldiers who ride on ghost horses. Queue up some waypoints for your dwarf gyrocopter to drop bombs on hapless minotaurs.

How can you go back to mere history after that? How can you go back to something as mundane as levies with nothing but a tunic, a spear, and a pair of sandals, whose most dramatic upgrade will be heavy armor and some sort of halberd?

Actually, the more pertinent question is “how can you not?” Continue reading →

Worst thing you’ll see all week: The Monster

, | Movie reviews

The best horror movies have the quality of an allegory. But being an allegory doesn’t excuse you from the task of telling a good story. The Monster sets up its allegory and then morphs into exactly the horror movie you’re expecting. So far, so good. But it keeps going. And going. And going. Eventually, you’re watching a bog-standard creature feature that has lost its allegory. It’s as if writer/director Bryan Bertino forgot what he was doing. The Monster has the quality of someone wandering into the kitchen, forgetting what he was there for, downing a beer at the sink real quick, and then belching. Roll credits.

Before it starts shotgunning its horror movie trope beer, The Monster is fairly riveting. Partial credit to Bertino’s experience with slow creepy set-ups, as he demonstrated in The Stranger, a movie about how home invasions can really rekindle a romance. But most of the credit goes to the achingly effective performances from Zoe Kazan and especially the young Ella Ballentine. The actresses connect unflinchingly, spinning out the sort of relationship you almost never see in movies, and certainly not in horror movies: an abusive parent choking on her own shame and a terrified child who has no idea what to do. These aren’t the usual villain and precocious victim. This is a real horror movie.

But once The Monster forgets where it was going and literally careens into creature feature territory, it unravels under the weight of bad decision after bad decision. On the part of the filmmaker and the characters. It goes from suggesting to brightly lighting, almost never a good idea in a horror movie. It leans heavily on characters doing stupid things like, oh, not leaving when there’s a monster in the woods. And it creates a Cujo-like situation without understanding what made Cujo work. If a mother and child are trapped in a car by a rabid Saint Bernard, they’re just going to wait until they’re rescued. Boring. But if a mother and a diabetic child without his insulin are trapped in a car by a rabid Saint Bernard, you’ve got a real horror show. But The Monster forgets about the diabetic child without his insulin part, which means it’s ultimately about a couple of people who didn’t have the sense to wait in the car. But at least you get some good backstory about them, and at least you get to appreciate a child actor who hopefully has a long career ahead of her.