Tom Chick

When videogames turn annoying

, | Features

Why is it doing this? It’s not stopping. Sure, a couple clacks would make sense because something mechanical has happened and that’s a sound mechanical happenings make. Clack. But why is it continuing to happen? Why is it an ongoing thing?


This is utterly insufferable. It’s drowning out everything else. Why won’t it shut up?

clackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclackclack Continue reading →

Best Judy Greer movie you’ll see all year: Adventures in Public School

, | Movie reviews

Judy Greer’s initial appeal was her girl-next-door beauty, straight out of Central Casting into the fantasy waitress role in Adaptation. But as she’s segued from girl-next-door to soccer-mom-next-door, her real appeal has emerged as something else. A quirky but earnest zeal. Sweetness and light, offset by just the right amount of crazy behind the eyes. When she smiles, it’s equal parts maternally beatific and ex-girlfriend lunatic. “You’ll never see these again!” she screeches as she rips open her blouse on Arrested Development.

So far, 2018 has dropped her into a handful of thankless roles. The mom in 12:17 to Paris, the mom in Ant Man and the Wasp, the mom in Halloween. I’m sensing a pattern here, along with a waste of her unique appeal. Fortunately, there is also this year’s Adventures in Public School, a lightly profane but affably Canadian coming of age comedy that gets Greer better than any of the expensive Hollywood nonsense that cast her just because she’s pretty.

The movie opens with a voiceover about the cosmos. Ugh. It seems our protagonist will be a gratingly self-aware precocious teenager written by a gratingly self-aware screenplay writer. Fortunately, our protagonist is played by the immensely likable Daniel Doheny who scrubs any grating self-awareness from the script and replaces it with sincerity. He plays a homeschooled teenager who longs to experience public education, much to the chagrin of Greer as his fiercely helicopter mother. The two of them are wrapped in a mother/son bubble of socially awkward obliviousness. They would be creepy if they weren’t so cute. When she realizes he’s on the verge of a sexual awakening, and probably about to lose his virginity, she steals into his room one night. “Let’s do it now, together, and get it out of your system in a safe and responsible way,” she tells him while they lie in bed, face to face.

“Do what together?” he asks. It doesn’t occur to him what occurs to us because their world revolves around their bond, where nothing is inappropriate because everything is well-intentioned.

“Rebel,” she says. For the next day’s homeschooling lesson, they will practice swearing. Greer will later produce a joint for the two of them to smoke together. “A supervised first try,” she calls it, taking the first hit. “Ooh, it’s burny,” she says. Then, giggling, “It’s Bernie Sanders.” It fits her so well that I can’t tell if it’s improvised. Director Kyle Rideout and his script are in love with Greer’s zeal. His movie is built around it. It thrives on it. It is fueled by it. Although it fancies itself a denizen of Napoleon Dynamite territory, Wes Anderson adjacent, Greer gives it something more. And because Doheny adroitly matches her quirky zeal, their relationship relocates it into the same territory as Eighth Grade. Adventures in Public School doesn’t have the heart, insight, or celebratory joy of Eighth Grade — what movie does? — but they’re still of a piece, exploring the interaction between a child finding his way and a parent trying her best to find the impossible sweet spot between helping and letting go. This is where Judy Greer belongs. Take note, Hollywood. Moms can be more than pretty actresses delivering their lines.

Cowboy Bebop: you don’t even have my curiosity

, | TV reviews

I don’t know much about anime, but I think Cowboy Bebop is one of the fundamentals. The only animes I can name are this, Sailor Moon, and Hello Kitty, so I figure they’re all equally famous. A friend of mine who’s not even into anime is unashamed to wear a Cowboy Bebop T-shirt. He told me it’s good. I believe that he believes that, but I don’t have much interest in finding out for myself. Like sports, James Joyce, and reality TV, it’s a gap in my cultural literacy I can live with.

But I’m about to change that. Continue reading →

Over Diablo III? Now that it’s on the Switch, I don’t think I’ll ever get over Diablo III.

, | Game reviews

Here I am playing pretty much the exact same game a fifth time over. I first played Diablo III when it came out for the PC. Again when the Necromancer was added. Again for the Xbox 360. Again for the Playstation 4. And now for the Switch. Nothing has changed since the last time. And of course, none of my progress has been carried over because, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are like divorced parents who refuse to talk to each other, much less come together to support a single game. Everyone’s gotta be his own gatekeeper these days.

So, naturally, the ennui sets in quickly and I commence the dull slog through content I’ve already seen a hundred times, right?

As if. Continue reading →

How The Walking Dead suddenly got good again

, | TV reviews

The dirty little secret about hate-watching is that you’re not just doing it because you hate a show. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s not the main part. If you simply hated the show, you would stop watching. But what none of us will admit, and what drives all of us who hate-watch, is the secret hope that the show will get good again. That it will show some sign, even a glimmer, of what made us watch it in the first place. We call it hate-watching so we don’t feel dumb for watching a show that’s no longer good. But really, there’s no such thing as hate-watching. There is only hope-watching.

And sometimes it pays off. Continue reading →

Sure, crossbows will be cool in State of Decay 2, but what I really wanted…

, | News

I haven’t minded that State of Decay has never had crossbows. Because every single other game has a bow, or crossbow, or hand crossbow. When Arthur got his bow in Red Dead Redemption 2, I groaned out loud. Oh god, another archery weapon. Really, Rockstar? To be honest, I always felt a little silly using the bow as Arthur. Like I was playing a videogame. So I don’t really need to get my archery fix in State of Decay 2. I know, I know, Daryl Dixon in Walking Dead. I get it. But one of the many many silly things about Walking Dead is that Daryl Dixon would be far more badass if he just grabbed an assault rifle like everybody else. At this point, toting a crossbow smacks of hipsterism. Like listening to vinyl.

But I guess I wouldn’t mind a crossbow in State of Decay 2. Which is something that will happen with tomorrow’s update. It’s adding a crossbow. Actually, eight crossbows. Eight seems excessive. Three I could understand. Maybe as many as five. But eight? The update also adds a bunch of other stuff you can read about here. It’s mostly just bits and bobs, but it’s a free update, and there’s nothing like more bits and bobs to pull me into another playthrough.

The more interesting announcement is that there are two sets of DLC in the works. One will be an updated version of Trumbull Valley, the setting from the original State of Decay. If you played the original State of Decay as much as I did, a Trumbull Valley map will be like coming home. But the DLC that really grabbed my attention — but apparently not the attention of Undead Labs’ copyeditor — is this:

…we’ve got a new difficulty setting coming in 2019. This will bring you a more challenging player experience, and allow you struggle through increase difficulty in new or existing communities.

Since I’m fluent in poorly edited text, I think I know what they’re getting at. It sounds like the Breakdown DLC for the first game, in which you played on increasingly harder difficulty settings until you failed, which is how any zombie story is supposed to end. Currently, the difficulty in State of Decay 2 is a built-in dynamic system. As you clear more of the map, it starts spawning more special zombies, and the remaining areas get more difficult to clear. It’s a good system, but it doesn’t push back very hard. On the contrary, it sort of hangs fire and lets you muck around at your own pace. Which is fine for some people. But what I really want in my zombie apocalypse games is a prohibitively difficult survival challenge with the looming inevitability of despair, starvation, failure, death, and the annihilation of humanity. Is that too much to ask?

The crossbow update is out tomorrow. The Trumbull Valley map and difficulty settings will be out next year.

Tips, tricks, and suggestions for the novice Red Dead Redemption 2 cowboy

, | Features

Red Dead Redemption 2 will talk you through most of what you need to know. For the most part, it’s not a challenging game and it’s not trying to be. It just wants you to spend time with it while it tells you a story. But sometimes, you’ll find yourself wrestling with the controls or not quite understanding how something is supposed to work. You might accidentally shoot someone because you mixed up your L2 and your R2. You might then find a town full of folks shooting at you. You might then hitch your horse when you meant to get up on it. You might then die and now you’ve lost your favorite Appaloosa. All this is theoretical, of course. I’m not saying it happened to me. But I’m not saying it didn’t.

So here are a few helpful things that I had to figure them out on my own. And since none of them are spoilers, I pass them on for you to use as you start playing.

Continue reading →

Red Dead Redemption 2 and the love song of J. Arthur Morgan

, | Game reviews

Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of homespun wisdom, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

–with apologies to T.S. Eliot

The camp is celebrating because one of the gang members has returned, rescued from certain death. A night of carousing has begun. Mary-Beth asks Arthur to dance. He’s not much of a fella for dancing, he tells her. Oh, it’s okay, Arthur, she says, just ’cause you dance don’t mean you’re not still angry and sad.

Is that what you think of me? he asks good naturedly.

Sad in a good way, like a romantic poet.

Well, that’s about all I can muster, he drawls. They dance in the firelight to a merry accordion.

Continue reading →