Basquiat: the uninformed opinion

, | Features

My first thought upon flipping through a volume of Jean-Michel Basquiat works from a 2005 exhibit in Brooklyn was, “This is Basquiat?” He has such an exotic and dignified name. I assumed someone with that name would paint idylls and classical portraits. I expected he would be famous because his creations were moving works of beauty. Someone named Basquiat might even be a French master.

My second thought was, “This looks like garbage.” Angry childish scrawls. Gerald Scarfe when he was in boarding school. The cover of a Butthole Surfers album. An unabashedly amateurish webcomic. The scene when the protagonist flips through another character’s journal and discovers that character is totally insane. I don’t like this stuff. This is not the sort of thing I even understand.

So here is the exercise. Continue reading →

Worst thing you’ll stream all week: Extinction

, | Movie reviews

Extinction starts out as an alien invasion movie. As one of the invadees, Michael Pena plays a family everyman. It’s nice to see him as something other than a Hispanic sidekick, comic relief, or a comic relief Hispanic sidekick. Lizzy Caplan plays his wife. It’s nice to see her as something other than a token female playing thankless second fiddle to a male lead. Hopefully I’ll get to see that in a movie soon, but until then, I watched Extinction.

Continue reading →

Sol: Last Days of a Star throws a graceful apocalypse party and everyone’s invited

, | Game reviews

The premise of Sol: Last Days of a Star is that the sun is about to go supernova. She’s gonna blow any moment and you’ve got to beat feet, which is no mean feat, given that suns are a real drag. All that gravity, you know. Your only hope is to harvest sun energy to build up momentum to slip the fiery bonds of Sol.

The sun machine is coming down and there’s gonna be a party. Continue reading →

Forza loses some of its mystery

, | News

Turn 10 is removing prize crates from Forza Motorsport 7. The prize crates, Forza’s version of random loot boxes, will take at least until winter to be fully excised due to their ties with other elements of the game, but the developer has already removed cars as prizes from the crates. Turn 10 has also unlocked 100 previously locked exclusive cars to all players. While the prize crates were never available directly for real money, they now offer nothing but cosmetic doodads and will stay that way until they leave entirely. Additionally, the tokens which you could buy with real money in previous Forza games will never be coming to Forza Motorsport 7, and Turn 10 promises that they will not appear in Forza Horizon 4.

“The overwhelming feedback has been that this system feels out of place in the game.”

While the tide may not be fully turning against the loot crate model, recent high-profile reversals from games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War show that publishers are paying attention. The additional revenue crate gambling brings in may not make up for the loss of some players that refuse to engage with the model, and the hit to the brand’s reputation. Recent legal developments in other countries are undoubtedly taking a toll on the scheme as well.

No Man’s Sky changes everything, but leaves the futility intact

, | News

That’s me on my third No Man’s Sky starting planet in a row that tried to kill me. Those are the breaks in the infamous survival crafting game from Sean Murray and Hello Games. I was trying to check out all the changes in the much-anticipated NEXT update that was just released. True multiplayer, a third-person view, more junk to craft, a better guided beginning, and loads of other stuff came in the free update. Some of it works better than others. For example, the guided beginning works a lot better if the random number gods put you on an hospitable starting planet. The ones that burn you with constant acid rain or the fiery heat of a too-close sun make for a less great first impression. Overall, NEXT is a lot of greatness. It doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of the game, but it does fulfill a lot of the promise people thought the game was supposed to have originally.

Tom’s review of the game at launch is here.

Best bad thing you’ll see all week: Terminal

, | Movie reviews

If a movie can’t be good, at least it should be pretty. And if it can’t be pretty, at least it should be memorably gaudy. That’s where Terminal lives. This trite flash of neon noir plays like a community theater version of Sin City. The dialogue is the sort of oh-so-self-aware wordplay that an actual playwright might have written when he was still learning to write plays. The story is a mostly conventional femme fatale fable with precisely the unexpected twist you expect; the only reason you didn’t see it coming was because it’s all just made up at the end. Surprise! Every enthusiastically lit set looks like a first pass at concept art, drawn by someone whose only exposure to film noir is The Matrix. Shadows and fog not included.

But the appeal of Terminal is that its cast of accomplished actors is dedicated enough not necessarily to pull it off, but to at least give it a real go. Simon Pegg with the beard and brow of a Tsarist Russian intellectual; Max Irons as the slow witted and square jawed patsy; Dexter Fletcher and his unabashed mutton chops playing a vicious East End thug. Mike Meyers dons fake teeth and meanders through a couple of cameos. But above all else, Terminal offers Margot Robbie gamely reprising her Harley Quinn character, mad as a hatter and happy to slather on the make-up and gruesome grin to prove it. She’s nothing if not committed, and despite the dopey dialogue, cheap sets, and comic book visuals, she’s fascinating to watch. If Robbie can find her own Tim Burton, she’s guaranteed a career of caricatures as riveting as Johnny Depp’s. I, Tonya for the serious recognition with an occasional Terminal to show she’s still happy to come out and play.

You have less than a 1% chance at getting that popcorn goal explosion in Rocket League

, | News

Psyonix has published the drop rates for the loot in their Rocket League crates. According to the developer, the published figures have been true since the system went into effect in September 2016. Like most loot crate schemes, the rarer unlocks require a significant amount of luck to get. For example, the current Black Market tier of unlocks start with a 1% base roll to be present in the crate, and then each particular item in that tier has an equal chance of appearing. The good news is that you’ll probably unlock that common double-lightning decal pretty quickly.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands may be ready for launch soon

, | News

Ghost Recon Wildlands’ Special Operation 2 is launching on July 24th. More Ghost War versus multiplayer characters, new maps to fight in, more cosmetic loot to purchase. All fairly standard stuff for multiplayer content. What is notable is the new Ghost Mode coming to the single player and co-op campaign. The new feature enables permadeath, restricts you to one main weapon and one sidearm, disables inventory management unless you’re at a gear station, reloading early loses unspent ammo, and (this is the big one) turns off the AI team. Finally, an end to the garbage squad chatter! Goodbye faux stealth NPC.

The free update addresses a lot of the criticisms we had with the game in its original launch state. Say what you will about Ubisoft’s open world game design, but they’ve shown a willingness to listen to players and support their games for a good stretch of time.

The stars of Uncharted and Destiny trade roles

, | News

That’s hunky star Nathan Fillion playing Nathan Drake in an Uncharted short film. While it’s an unofficial fan production, this is something fans of the Naughty Dog action game series have wanted to see for a long time. Thankfully, director Allan Ungar did too. Between ABC’s The Rookie going from pilot to series, Fillion was able to squeeze in some time for the passion project.

“This is what we set up to make, what we set out to do when we sat down for vegan Thai food. It’s a fifteen-minute short film. It’s our tribute to the character. For right now, we’re very happy with this just this being what it is.”

Nathan Drake is famously voiced by Nolan North in the games, so it’s a bit coincidental that at about the same time the Uncharted short was hitting the web, Nathan Fillion confirmed that he does not voice Cayde-6 in Destiny 2’s upcoming Forsaken expansion despite voicing the character previously.

“I wasn’t available for this last instalment – it’s not me doing the voice for Cayde-6. In a wonderful, amazing turn of events – it’s actually Nolan North!”

When a door closes, a window opens. Something like that.

The man who gave us Warcraft is working on a Rogue Trooper movie

, | News

Duncan Jones is developing a movie based on the Rogue Trooper property. Rogue Trooper is a British comic character that first appeared in 1981 in the pages of 2000 AD. There’s a videogame relationship in the form of a 1986 Commodore 64 game, a 1990 Amiga game, and a 2006 game from Rebellion which was given the HD teatment with a 2017 Redux Edition. Jones even linked to the Rebellion game’s site in his announcement.

Grandma is looking fine in Total War: Rome II

, | News

The next big update for Creative Assembly’s Total War: Rome II is a doozy. The Ancestral Update (currently in beta testing) features a host of long-requested additions and tweaks to the almost five year old game. One of the most anticipated changes is the return of family trees. This was a large part of the strategic gameplay in the first Rome, so its absence in the sequel was always puzzling. It’s finally coming! Players will be able to track family fortunes, marry into and out of power and wealth, and piss off sullen teenagers with bad career decisions. War never changes.