5 Things I Learned From EA’s Press Conference (E3 2017)

I’m Still Not Interested in Sports Games

Listen – I like sports. I don’t necessarily like playing them, but I watch hockey. I watch football. I watch baseball. I love the Olympics. I am not against sports. I’m not even against sports video games – play what you like. But I ask you this – who gets EXCITED about sports video games? Is it you? I’m not asking who PLAYS sports video games. I’m sure they’re great. I know that millions play them. But who gets EXCITED about sports video games ANNOUNCEMENTS? Anyone? Please, let me know, because I’ve never understood why EA spends so much time showcasing games like Madden and FIFA on their E3 stage. These games are released every year. The changes are usually incremental. They bring out athletes and internet personalities and other people I don’t know to try to sell these games that are ALREADY GOING TO SELL because really, who else is making sports games? EA kind of has a monopoly on the genre. So I ask you – who is this for? These aren’t new IP’s, they don’t feature anything new or unique, there are no crazy set pieces or action sequences. It’s just not good material for a stage show that has one primary purpose: hype. Not even a STORY MODE can get me interested in a sports game. Moving on.

The New Need for Speed Game is Fast & Furious

I have been wondering for years why we haven’t gotten a real Fast & Furious game. There was a stand-alone Forza Horizon 2 expansion, and there have been lousy movie tie-ins in the past, along with an assortment of arcade and mobile games, but we haven’t gotten a real, fleshed out Fast & Furious game that resembles the later movies in the franchise. We still don’t have one, but Need for Speed: Payback may be the closest we ever get. It’s so similar, in fact, that I’m shocked they didn’t actually partner with universal to create Need for Speed: Fast & Furious. The gameplay shown featured a fast and furious car chase – complete with slow-mo takedowns – that ends with a woman crawling out of your car, jumping onto a semi-truck, breaking in, then stealing a car and crashing out the back of the truck. Control then drifted from your car to hers as she proceeded to speed towards a number of police cars. This game is my jam. Give me all the heisting, ramming, and speeding gameplay. Feed it into my veins.

I Want To Play a Co-Op Prison Break Game

In 2013, Starbreeze Studios released a great little game called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Members from that team have branched out and started Hazelight, and their first game is A Way Out, a character-driven game about two convicts breaking out of prison. Brothers director Josef Fares has taken the unique “single-player co-op” mechanic of that game and removed the “single-player” part – A Way Out is a “forced co-op” game, which will definitely be a turn-off to some, myself included, but it still looks so cool! You and your partner have to work together to break out of prison and escape from the law, which requires you to team-up, split up, and make joint decisions. The game employees a 24-like split-screen mechanic, with one side of the screen becoming more prominent when the situation calls for it. While one player is experiencing a cut-scene that takes up 70% of the screen, the other player is able to watch around and view that cut-screen from an outsider’s perspective, using the other 30%. It’s a really neat mechanic, and I really want to try it out… but, you HAVE to play it co-op, which isn’t a problem… IF you have someone to play with. I guess what I’m saying is… I need a gamer girlfriend.

Bioware Has a New IP

Bioware, the developer responsible for franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, has a new IP. It’s called Anthem. And that’s literally all we know. There’s a giant wall that protects people from giant monsters, and there are robot suits. And no, it looks nothing like Pacific Rim. We’ll find out more at the Microsoft conference, but consider my interest… piqued.

EA Really Likes Star Wars

Towards the end of the press conference, there was a big Star Wars: Battlefront 2 presentation, followed by… 30-minutes of Star Wars: Battlefront 2 gameplay. Which is great! It just kind of felt like… EA’s kind of putting all their eggs into one basket. I mean, they’ve got sports and driving. And they’ve also got… nothing else this year apart from Battlefront 2? Which, I mean, that’s fine. That’s kind of EA’s thing. They’re like the CBS of video game publishers – they make broad hits for broad audiences, the kinds of games that people who don’t even play games play. I just can’t help but wish there was something more. Granted, we’re fresh off of the poorly received Mass Effect: Andromeda, Anthem is on the horizon, Titanfall and Battlefield are presumably on off-years. I would just rather see EA diversify a bit instead of becoming the “sports and shooting” company. And I have no idea what this has to do with Star Wars. I drifted. I think the point I was trying to make was that if you’re not into sports, your gaming options from EA are down to… Star Wars. So that’s why they spent a good 40 minutes on it. Stormtroopers marched out, Janina Gavankar (the actress who is starring in the single-player portion of the game) came out on stage and acted super excited, and we got a great trailer, followed by an entire multiplayer match. The game looks cool. I just wish… there had been more. And yes, 40 minutes is a lot, but those 40 minutes were not varied. They spent a good chunk of their stage time touting this story-driven, single-player campaign, and then they didn’t show us any of it. Plus, there are two more story-driven, single-player Star Wars games in development (one from Visceral and one from Respawn) that we know just about nothing about. More and more, E3 conferences have begun to focus on the “short term” rather than far-off future, which is good in many ways, but it also means that some years are going to be pretty boring if there isn’t anything interesting immediately on the horizon.

Advertisements

It Was 4-1

1297946280407_ORIGINAL

It was 4-1.

It doesn’t feel any better this morning than it did the night before.

It was 4-1.

I knew going in that beating the Ducks was a long shot. I would have felt more comfortable facing anybody else – Edmonton, San Jose, even Chicago – anybody but the Ducks. The Ducks are not the best team in the NHL by any stretch of the imagination, but they have this effect on the Flames that can’t really be described. Other teams can beat Anaheim – Calgary cannot. It defies all logic. It just is what it is. So I knew our chances going in. I tried not to get my hopes up. My only wish was that the Flames didn’t embarrass themselves and get swept 4 games to none. Well, what can I say other than

It was 4-1.

It hasn’t been all bad. For 40-50 minutes each game, the Flames weren’t an embarrassment. Elliott has made some great saves. The Flames have become more disciplined as the series has gone on. They’ve shown more composure and made fewer mistakes. Monahan, Versteeg, Bennett, and Ferland have really stepped it up. They’ve hung in there with the Ducks in a way I think very few people were expecting. They’ve shown that they’re good enough to compete and honestly, they should be winning this series 2-1 right now. But they’re not. Because for all of the good things they’ve shown, for all of the positive takeaways, there’s the fact that

It was 4-1.

In Game 1, they played great, apart from an inexcusably awful line-change that lead to a 3-0 rush for Anaheim and the fact that they took 7 penalties. In Game 2, they played great again, apart from, once more, stupid penalties. In Game 3, they played great and controlled the game for 50 minutes before allowing a bunch of soft goals to let Anaheim tie the game and win it in overtime. Has the reffing in this series been awful? Yes, for both sides. Has every penalty that has been called been a good penalty? Absolutely not. Have the refs missed a ton of blatant infractions? Of course. Has a goal review gone the Flames way all season? Nope. But guess what? It’s not the refs fault we’re losing. It’s not the fault of Hockey Operations in Toronto, or Gary Bettman, or the NHL. It’s not Anaheim’s fault, or the curse of the Honda Center. It is the Calgary Flames’ fault they are down 3-0. They made the line-change that lead to the 3-0. They took stupid penalties when they knew the refs were calling all kinds of bullshit. They let their foot off the gas when they were up by 3 goals. They didn’t push back. Elliott has played poorly. Gaudreau has been invisible. Hamilton has been a liability. Tkachuk hasn’t been the force people were expecting, nor have Backlund and Frolik. It would be generous to say that even half the team is playing to their potential. They’ve shown that they have the talent to win, but not the experience, the drive, or the maturity. Blame the refs, blame the NHL, blame the Ponda curse and the hockey gods, but blame the Flames most of all, because

It was 4-1.

And now it’s 3-0. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

1297946278451_ORIGINAL.jpg

Opinionado!!! (03.26.17 – 04.08.17 Part 1)

I’ve got a lot of opinions. Anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter or in real life knows this. I constantly want to talk about things that are going on in the world of entertainment, but I need an outlet. That’s what this is for. Every week, I’ll give you my thoughts and impressions on the biggest pieces of entertainment news, from trailers, to promotional images, to breaking news stories. I’ll even provide short reviews or impressions of the things I’m watching, reading, playing, and listening to every week. So sit back, relax, and get swept up in the swirling vortex that is… Opinionado!

Film:

Justice League (Trailer 1)

Whoo boy. Starting off with a doozy, huh? This was probably the most anticipated trailer on the planet. Even before Batman v Superman’s release, fans and critics alike have been wondering “What the hell is that Justice League movie going to look like?” Turns out, the answer is “Like a Zack Snyder film”. It’s got the incoherent action, the muted colors, overall grimy texture, and the copious amounts of slow-mo. The only thing this doesn’t have is Malick-like shots of wonder and Christ imagery. I’ve watched this thing a few times now and tonally it’s just all over the place. The film LOOKS exactly like a sequel to BvS would be expected to look, but they’ve sprinkled in a bunch of “light-hearted” attempts at humor (some of which works and some of which doesn’t) and layered the whole thing in a cheesy, rock-version of The Beatles’ “Come Together” because apparently Beastie Boys’ “Unite” would have been too on the nose. Look, it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of how Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder have handled the DC Extended Universe. I want them to succeed, because I actually like DC Comics and their characters and storylines, but I also want them to fail so that they can just start the whole thing over from scratch and do it the right way. I have no idea if Wonder Woman will be good (although the skeptic in me says to not get your hopes up), but I’m almost positive that Justice League will not be a good film. I hope I’m wrong – I actually like what they’ve done with Aquaman and the Flash, and I think Cavill, Affleck, and Gadot are actually a great central trinity – but man, some parts of this trailer look really bad! Cyborg is just awful on every level (is his costume still rendering?) and the set pieces in this thing just look so dreary. It’s like someone took Return of the King and turned down the saturation. And really, “Come Together”? Damn.

Spider-Man: Homecoming (Trailer 2)

“If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” CHILLS. Man, I am so ready for a good Spider-Man movie, and I really hope that’s what this is. It’s not the Marvel film I’m most excited about this year (that honour goes to Thor: Ragnarok), but I’m cautiously optimistic. I think that Tom Holland is a great Peter Parker, and I’m geeking out that Spider-Man will get to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I mean, could anyone else sell that “Friendly neighborhood Spider-Man” line the way that Robert Downey Jr. sells it? I don’t think so. I love the whole “John Hughes with superpowers” thing, especially since I just saw the same thing done quite effectively in Power Rangers. We haven’t see much from the extended cast yet (remember that Donald Glover, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Kenneth Choi, Tony Revolori, and Logan-Marshall-Green are all in this movie and I think we’ve seen glimpses of maybe2 of them in the two trailers released thus far), but I love the chemistry between Holland’s Peter and Jacob Batalon’s Ned. I’m even excited for the Vulture, and I don’t like the Vulture as a villain. I haven’t been a big fan of any of his iterations, be it revenge-seeking engineer, youth-sucking vampire, acid-spitting mutant or whatever, but I think this works. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Michael “Birdman” Keaton himself, and they’ve actually designed a Vulture suit that looks appropriately badass, especially when paired with that vintage military flight jacket. I’m excited to see where they take this whole thing.

A Ghost Story (Trailer 1)

Every now and then, there are movies that I hear enough good things about that I decide to abstain from watching their trailers. I did this for Arrival, I did it for Split (after seeing the initial trailer), I’m doing it for Colossal, and now I’m going to do it for A Ghost Story. So no, I haven’t watched this trailer yet, but I’m been assured that it’s a good one. Watch it, or don’t. Your choice.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Trailer 2)

Man, I have no idea what to make of this movie, but I think I love it? It’s like Terry Gilliam, Baz Luhrmann, and Guillermo Del Toro got together to direct a pastiche of Star Wars, Jupiter Ascending, Moulin Rouge, Guardians of the Galaxy, John Carter, The Fifth Element, and Doctor Who. It’s so wacky and colorful and fun. I have absolutely no familiarity with the source material, but even if it fails completely on a plot and/or characters front, I need to see it on the biggest screen possible on opening night.

A Dark Song (Trailer 1)

I don’t have much to say about this one other than, uh, creepy. This looks to be right up my alley. I believe we’re going through a bit of a horror renaissance right now, and this looks like a strong contender to join the ranks of It Follows, The Babadook, The Witch, Get Out, and the rest.

It (Trailer 1)

Nope nope nope nope nope nope NOPE. That was my initial reaction to this trailer. Actually, I think my initial reaction was “holy shit”. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this looks absolutely terrifying. I’m haunted by the image I saw as a child of a clown in a sewer grate, and this brings that right back to the surface. I get chills watching this thing. I know people are upset that Cary Fukunaga walked away from this project because they wouldn’t let him make the movie he wanted to make, but that doesn’t necessarily damn the movie. We were all upset about Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man, but that movie turned out great. I’m not saying that Fukunaga’s It wouldn’t have been better, but that doesn’t mean that this one will be bad. Pennywise looks insanely creepy and the movie looks like it has been very well shot. I even kind of want to read the book now, which is insane, because I’m pretty sure it’s like, 8000 pages long.

Tomb Raider (Promo)

I mean, she looks great. That’s my opinion on this. She looks good. That’s really all we know, but it’s a good sign, right?

Sony Is Making Their Own Marvel Cinematic Universe (News)

1490633823035

If you haven’t already heard, this past month, Sony announced plans to release two new comic book movies in 2018 – an R-rated Venom film and a Black Cat/Silver Sable team-up film. If you don’t know who any of these characters are, that’s okay – most people who aren’t Spider-Man fans wouldn’t recognize them, which is why it’s weird that Sony is betting hundreds of millions of dollars that people will flock to the theaters next year to see them. Back when Sony was still producing those decidedly not-amazing Amazing Spider-Man films, they had plans for a grand web of interlocking Spider-Man films – a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, if you will. They were in development on a Sinister Six film, a Venom film, and a female-led Spider-Man film. And then the Sony hack happened, and all of these details leaked out, and Sony began to tank. They ended up teaming with Marvel Studios to produce a new series of Spider-Man films that would tie into Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, the first of which, Spider-Man: Homecoming, comes out in July. We all assumed that Sony’s dream of a Spider-Man cinematic universe had died, because it just doesn’t really make sense to do that without Spider-Man. Well, you know what they say about assuming, right? As it turns out, Sony is charging full steam ahead of producing a number of Spider-Man spin-off films that will be, in no way, associated with Spider-Man: Homecoming or the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s certainly… a choice. This is… this is maybe one of the more misguided decisions I’ve seen a studio make recently. I mean, I think DC is making a ton of mistakes with their cinematic universe, but at least they have access to all of their characters. Venom was designed to be Spider-Man’s foil. Black Cat was introduced as a love interest for Spidey. What are these characters without their shared history with Spider-Man? Imagine if DC made a Catwoman movie that had nothing to do with Bat-what? Oh, they did that already? Well how did it do? Oh. OH. Well… yeah. Then I expect these to do about as well as that did. Good luck Sony. You’ll need it.

Joss Whedon is Directing a Batgirl Movie (News)

636268974516956473-whedon-batgirl.png

Chances are if you know me, you already know how I feel about this news. My feelings towards the DC Extended Universe can be summed up with one Shania Twain song:

As I’ve said before, I’m torn on the DCEU – on the one hand, I’d love to see good movies based on DC characters, but on the other hand, I don’t want to see future movies saddled with the garbage continuity they’ve established thus far. I want a fresh start. Rebuild it from the ground up. Don’t build your home on a dubious foundation like Batman v Superman. Alas, Suicide Squad made enough money to keep this failed experiment afloat and I’m sure Wonder Woman and Justice League will help matters, regardless of their quality. With each passing day, I’m more and more convinced that we’re stuck with what we’ve got, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything Warner Bros. is doing is misguided. Did you know there are currently 18 DC films in various stages of development? Of those 18, only 6 have dates, and only 3 of those 6 have officially entered production. It’s absolutely bonkers. There is constantly so much drama going on behind the scenes of these things – the rumor mill is constantly churning, and it would be easy to just disregard it all if Warner Bros. didn’t have a history of driving talent away from their DC franchises (I’m looking at you The Flash). I’m not even sure it’s worth formulating an opinion over Whedon’s Batgirl film because the chances of a) it actually happening and b) Whedon being involved are so slim that it feels pointless. Will I watch a Batgirl film directed by Joss Whedon? Absolutely. I’ll watch anything by Joss Whedon. Would I rather he not make a Batgirl film and do something else instead? Absolutely. Will I get my wish? Probably! Who knows? Come see me in a year if Whedon is still attached to this stupid thing.

Review – Ghost in the Shell (2017)

gits_trailer

Look, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding this anime adaptation and the whitewashing it contains. I won’t defend it, but I also understand the decisions that lead to this point. I’m not going to say anymore on that here because frankly, I have no authority to do so. I also don’t have the authority to speak on this film as an adaptation. I’m not a big anime guy. I haven’t seen any of the source material. In fact, I skipped out on watching the original film specifically because I wanted to judge Ghost in the Shell on its own merits. So what did I think? I thought it was good! Not great, just good. I enjoyed my time with it. It’s not going to win any awards for plot or characterization – it raises some interesting questions that it never gets around to answering – but it sure looks nice. The production design is just fantastic. The effects, the sets, the cinematography – this is a nice film to look at it. I kind of want to see it again in IMAX for that reason alone. If you’re looking for some entertaining eye candy, you could do a lot worse than Ghost in the Shell. If you’re looking for a deep, philosophical sci-fi film that’s going to blow your mind, look elsewhere.

 

Television:

Black Lightning Gets a Costume (Promo)

BlackLightning

In case you weren’t aware, The CW is getting a fifth (FIFTH!) DC superhero show in Black Lightning. It’s unclear as of now whether or not Black Lightning would exist as a part of The CW’s Arrowverse, as it was initially developed for Fox, who passed on the script. The pilot is currently filming in Atlanta and we now have our first look at Cress Williams in costume as Black Lightning, and it’s… busy. Aesthetically, it actually fits in well with the rest of The CW’s superhero shows. They continue to go in a completely different direction than Marvel Television, who seem intent on downplaying as many costume elements as they can (just check out the leaked set photos from the Inhumans). Many have remarked that this would be a better costume for the Inhumans’ Black Bolt, but… we’ll get to that when we’ve got an official still from that production.

ReBoot Reboot is Official (News)

reboot_reboot.0.png

As a kid, I adored Reboot. The first computer animated TV series, ReBoot was revolutionary from an industry standpoint, but it was also revolutionary to me from a storytelling standpoint. ReBoot, along with its sister-series Beast Wars (or Beasties, for us Canadians) showed me that kids show didn’t have to be dumbed down. Both series’ featured dark, mature storylines, with character deaths and plot twists. A lot of my storytelling proclivities were formed during this period and they greatly influenced me. So it’s with a heavy heart that I must announce that ReBoot is returning as a CGI/live-action hybrid. Who is this for? People have been clamoring for more ReBoot for years, and every now and then we’ll hear something about an eventual ReBoot reboot, but now it’s officially official and I don’t think it’s what anyone wants. Instead of a straight sequel or a re-imaging, we’re getting some weird thing about teens who play an MMO and get tasked with protecting… cyberspace or something. I don’t know. It sounds really stupid. One of the character’s names is “Goog’z”. GOOG’Z! Apparently the original characters will play some sort of role, but I just don’t really have any interest in seeing human characters. Am I the only one? I hope I’m wrong! But I’m never wrong. My opinions are always right (re: DCEU).

Legion Season 1 (Impressions)

legion-banner

I recently finished the first season of FX’s Legion, and… y’all should watch Legion. It is such a unique, gem of a show. I don’t want to spoil any of the weird, little things that make it so special, but I will say that the acting, the music, and the production values are all top-notch. It quickly became one of my favorite currently airing programs. Things start off weird and only get weirder, but the payoff is worth it. This is a Noah Hawley (Fargo) show based on the X-Men franchise. I shouldn’t have to convince you to watch it.

Attack on Titan Season 2 Premiere (Impressions)

attack-on-titan-s2-social.jpg

It’s time. Time… for anime! I’ve never been a big anime fan, but one of the few shows that I had actually watched was Attack on Titan. I go to anime for weird, crazy things that I can’t get from American films and TV shows, and Attack on Titan fits that bill. It takes place in a world in which humanity has been driven into near-extinction by a race of mindless, titanic, naked men. Yeah, you read that correctly. The remnants of humanity hide behind 3 massive, concentric walls that protect them from these titans, but they’re forced to fight when a colossal titan breaks through the gate. They fight using these aerial maneuvering devices that utilize gas-powered harpoons attached to ropes to swing through cities and forests like Spider-Man. It’s as crazy as it sounds. It’s ridiculous, intense, disturbing, and graphically violent. I love it. After a 3+ year wait, season 2 has finally premiered, and the insanity has continued. There are a couple great twists in the first episode and I can’t wait to see where things go from here.

 

Games:

Destiny 2 (Worldwide Reveal Trailer)

I, like many others, have a love/hate relationship with Destiny (both the game and the universal force). Prior to its release, I had it in my mind that we were getting something along the lines of “epic space opera of Mass Effect meets combat of Halo”. What I didn’t expect was “first-person sci-fi Diablo with less story”. It’s a very nice looking game with interesting art design, it’s got a good world with plenty of lore to discover, and the gameplay actually feels great – it’s just that none of that ever coalesced into a really great whole. The pieces are (mostly) there, but they were never arranged properly. The fun was mired by confusing systems and weird restrictions. I think there is a great game lurking somewhere in Destiny (and I’ve certainly sunk enough hours into it), so I’m hopeful that Bungie figures things out with Destiny 2. I think I like this trailer? The tone is a little off though; it feels like it’s trying way too hard to be whatever it thinks people want. I’m holding off judgment until we learn more about what the game actually is and how it differs from the first entry.

 

Music:

Kendrick Lamar – “Humble”

Okay, first of all, the song is straight fire. Second, does anyone else feel like Kendrick watched Beyonce’s Lemonade and thought “I can do that”? Not that this 3-minute video necessarily stands alongside Beyonce’s opus, but it certainly seems to be inspired by it. The video is filled with fascinating imagery and interesting camera shots. I’m not smart enough to begin to understand what any of it means, but it sure looks great, doesn’t it? It inspires hope in me that I’ll actually enjoy Kendrick’s new album after feeling let down by To Pimp A Butterfly. Yeah, that’s right. Come at my haters.

Broken Social Scene – “Halfway Home”

I was a huge Broken Social Scene fan back in high school, and they, along with Arcade Fire, basically shaped my taste in music during the mid-to-late 2000’s. I was a fan of just about anything the Arts & Crafts label released, and at one point I was basically buying all of it (even though I ended up with many CD’s I disliked and would never listen to again). I thought that I had outgrown Broken Social Scene, but it sure brings a smile to my face to see them all performing on stage again. BSS concerts are a special experience, because it’s literally just a group of friends playing music together on stage. There’s a purity and an intimacy to it that you don’t get from big, packaged concerts. I’m not sure I really dig the song all that much, but I’m glad that Broken Social Scene is back regardless. “Friendship ladies and gentlemen, friendship!”

Let’s Keep Talking

Every January, Bell Canada hosts “Bell Let’s Talk Day” – a day to raise awareness for mental illness in an effort to end the stigma surrounding it. This is done through the use of the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on various social media networks, which is meant to facilitate conversation. For every mention or interaction with this hashtag, Bell donates 5 cents to mental health initiatives across Canada. Yesterday, with 131,705,010 interactions, Bell and the people who participated in Bell Let’s Talk Day raised $6,585,250 for mental health in Canada. It’s a great day in which people come together to share their own stories and spread awareness of mental health issues. While Bell Let’s Talk Day is undoubtedly a force for good, it’s not without its problems. Some see it as a cynical publicity stunt, and while they’re not wrong, I see it as more of a win-win: it’s a brilliant PR move for Bell, and it’s also great cause. The way I see it, there’s a bigger problem with Bell Let’s Talk Day – it’s only a day. As I said, it’s a great day, where people feel more free to talk about these issues, but it’s still just a day. We talk for 24 hours, and then we stop.

So let’s put an end to that.

I’ve been miserable for a very long time. I can’t tell you exactly how long, but I remember feeling this way as far back as Grade 10 (that was 2003, for those trying to do the math). I remember one night, where I was talking to one of my friends on the phone. It was late, and I was in my basement, and I was explaining to her everything I had been feeling at school that year. I remember feeling lonely and lost. I remember feeling like there was this darkness that just followed me around. She asked me if I had considered talking to a counsellor about the way I was feeling. I said no. I wasn’t “depressed”, I was just sad. It would go away on its own. That was the start of a trend. Every few years, I would be talking to someone else, and they’d make the same suggestion – “You should talk to a professional about this”. I brushed it off, continuously. I often used the word “depressed”, but I don’t think I really understood what it meant to be “depressed”. The way I saw it, I was just sad. Sad that I was out of shape. Sad that I wasn’t particularly good at anything. Sad that I had no friends. Sad that everything always seemed to get worse instead of better.

I was always a nostalgic child. The past was where my mind resided. Terrified of the future and never fully able to appreciate the present. The problem with living in the past is that it’s gone. By the time I came around to appreciating something, it was out of my grasp. This isn’t a great state of mind for someone who’s already sad all the time, because it just makes things sadder. All I ever wanted was to go back in time – to live in the past, because everything was better in the past. So it was all throughout my childhood, and so it was when I graduated. While everyone else rejoiced to be finished with school, I cried in my room. By my Grade 12 year, I finally felt like I was making progress – I had stepped outside of my bubble and started to flourish. Things began to look up, and just as soon as they did, they were gone. Once again, the present had passed me by and all I had left was the past.

Life continued. I continued to live, never really content with the way things were. Life was merely serviceable. I moved through different jobs, completely indifferent to them all (except for my belief that whatever job I currently had wasn’t as good as any that I had previously left). I spent a year at university, taking random courses and accomplishing nothing. I applied to Ryerson University and got put on a waitlist. I ended up attending Trinity Western for no real reason other than that they actually accepted me.

As much as I dreaded going to Trinity, there was a small part of me that felt hopeful – my life had been in a holding pattern for 3 years, but it felt like there was finally some momentum. I was moving forward. And that hope was rewarded with brief moments of happiness over the next 4 years, but those moments were fleeting, to the point where I’m convinced that happiness only exists in those brief moments. I fell into many a dark hole over those 4 years – some that were pretty obvious to those around me and some that I did a better job of hiding. I’d whine and complain for hours on end to my closest friends, but I’d put on a happy face for everyone else. I became “friends” with everyone I met, laughing and joking and hugging and high fiving. I created this loveable character that everybody knew and I felt completely alone. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been more lonely in life than I was at Trinity, despite being constantly surrounded by people.

It got worse as time went on. I found these periods of darkness began lasting longer and longer. No matter my circumstances, I was never happy. I drove many a friend away, and losing friends is not something that comes easy to me. I tend to hold onto people, and even now, it still hurts to think about people I haven’t seen or spoken to in years.

By my fourth year, I felt more lost than ever. I had already given up on my education and I told myself that I was just at Trinity to have a good time. I roamed the halls day and night, looking for people to spend time with. Whenever I found people, I felt alright about myself. Whenever I didn’t, I was convinced it was because nobody liked me. I’d spend entire days wandering the campus, searching for people to distract me from my thoughts. When I failed, my mind would swirl down into a pit of self-loathing and hate. I knew everybody hated me and I hated myself. I had hated myself for a very, very long time.

Things got pretty bad towards the end of the semester. Exams were ending. Graduation loomed. The mood on campus was jubilant. I felt only despair. One night, I reached out to one friend and met her in the recording studio. I unloaded on her – everything that I had been feeling all year came tumbling out. Whenever I had tried to talk to any of my other friends about how I felt, they were dismissive. I don’t blame them for that – I’m a negative person. I’m draining to be around. I complain constantly, and I don’t listen to any advice that people provide. I tire people out. I exhaust their goodwill. I’m like a parasite, moving from one well-meaning person to another until they’re too tired to listen anymore. They’d heard it all a thousand times before. But this person hadn’t, and when I spoke with them, I didn’t see dismissal – I saw recognition. She nodded as I explained the way I felt. She knew. She had felt it all too. The relief I felt in that moment was incredible. To talk to someone else and to have them understand. It was freeing. She told me that I should look into getting professional help. She wasn’t the first person who had told me that, but I decided that it was finally time to listen.

On my last day in BC, I made an appointment with one of the counsellors at Trinity. It was a silly thing to do, because counselling is not a one-day process, but it felt like a step in the right direction, and it was free (counselling is very expensive). We spoke for an hour. He told me that I might suffer from dysthymia, which is a persistent, mild form of depression. I could finally put a name to it. Things were finally beginning to look up.

LOL

I didn’t see a counsellor again that year. I spent the summer working at a job I hated, and in the fall I went to the Laurentian Leadership Center in Ottawa. That was probably a mistake. I didn’t actually want to attend, it was simply a last ditch effort to regain some of what I felt I lost when I left Trinity. Remember that whole nostalgia thing? Despite being miserable for most of my 4 years at Trinity, by the end, it felt like home. I didn’t want to leave the campus or my friends. I didn’t want to face the real world, so I prolonged my schooling for no other reason than to prolong my schooling. I strived for a way to remain in the past, as I had my entire life.

Ottawa was a terrible experience. Every negative emotion that I had felt at Trinity was amplified in Ottawa. I felt like an outcast. I was an outcast. The nature of my internship kept me from keeping the same schedule as everyone else. I was around during the day while everyone else was gone. I was gone evenings and weekends. I missed dinners and social gatherings. Things got worse and worse, and for a number of reasons I won’t get into here, I fell into a deep depression. I spent whole days sitting in the same spot, not talking to anyone. I’d spend hours sitting in the dark by myself. Life just piled on and by the time December rolled around, I couldn’t wait to leave. The one positive thing that happened in Ottawa was I opened up about my depression. Despite feeling it for years, I had never labeled it as depression, so this was the first time I was able to talk about it with anyone other than my closest friends. Later that month, before returning home for Christmas, I did one of the hardest things I had had to do – I told my family about it for the first time. They were supportive, and the next year I got on medication and started counselling.

The end.

LOL

There was a part of me that was relieved that I was officially “depressed”. For years and years, I felt like there was something wrong with me. And not in a “depression is a sickness” way. I mean, I felt like there was something wrong with ME. As a person. In my soul or in my heart. No matter what I did, I felt like I couldn’t change. I could never make any progress. Things only ever got worse (or at least it felt that way). To know that all of this was false? It was incredibly freeing. And then I went to see the doctor. I explained how I felt. I explained my thought processes. I told him that I thought I might have dysthymia. And he smirked. He told me that I didn’t have dysthymia. He told me that I wasn’t depressed. He told me that there was nothing medically wrong with me. What he said was that everything I had described was normal. He feels the way I do. Everyone feels the way I do. I just wasn’t good at coping with the small things that everyone else copes with on a day-to-day basis. He told me that counselling might help with that, but other than a lack of coping mechanisms, I was perfectly fine.

After years and years of feeling lost, and hurt, and hopeless, I had finally found an answer. I wasn’t a broken person. I was sick. I had finally found an answer, and then in one moment, that answer was taken away from me. I wasn’t sick. I wasn’t depressed. I was just bad at living. You see, the problem was that if I wasn’t sick, then it meant that I felt the way I did… for no reason. If it wasn’t mental illness, then it was just… me. And that meant that there was no solution. That meant that this was just the way that I was, and this is the way that I would always be. That stuck with me. It still sticks with me. I don’t agree with that doctor’s diagnosis, but I can’t shake the feeling that he was right.

I eventually found a doctor who would prescribe me medication. I stayed on it for about 3 months. I never felt any different. I took blood tests, but nothing in them indicated that I was clinically depressed. I saw a counsellor for 6 weeks, up until I made the decision to move to Langley (another mistake). I convinced myself that I was moving forward, taking a step in the right direction, but all I was doing was taking a step backwards. I didn’t actually want to live in Langley, I just wanted to be near Trinity again, surrounded by my friends (who, for the most part, have moved on). It may have been the worst thing for me. It furthered this delusion that the past was within my reach. I was unable to give up on this dream I had of returning to Langley and having everything be the way it was when I left. Even after I failed to find work and moved home with my tail between my legs, I kept thinking of returning to Langley. I eventually did. It’s where I’m writing this right now. I’d like to say that I moved back here for a better reason this time, but that would be a lie.

I never saw another doctor. I never tried another medication. I never saw another counsellor. I honestly don’t know if I’m depressed. If I have dysthymia or if I’m just broken. I sometimes go a long time without feeling depressed, at least in the way that I did when I went through really dark times, but I’m rarely ever happy. I know that I’ve developed crippling anxiety when it comes to issues relating to finances and employment. I know that sometimes I can’t sleep because of how stressed out and anxious I am about every single thing. I know that sometimes I lay in bed for hours after waking up. I know that sometimes I go days without leaving the house. I know that I’m terrified of meeting new people. I know that I’m incapable of making even the simplest decisions. I know that I am able to “defeat” any advice that anyone provides. I know that I’m able to talk myself out of doing literally anything. I know that I have self-destructive tendencies that perpetuate, even though I know they’re destructive. Does that make me sick? Or am I just a screw up? I genuinely don’t know.

What I know is that I FEEL depressed, but I don’t know that I feel as depressed as people who are actually clinically depressed. Using the word “depression” makes me feel like a fraud, like I’m simply making up an excuse as to why I am the way I am, because it’s easier than facing the truth. I talk about mental illness as if I have some sort of personal experience with it, but I don’t know that that’s true. Surely many, many others have it much, much worse. So who am I to sit here and write thousands of words about my “struggle”?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if I ever will. But maybe something in this mess of text will resonant with someone, and maybe they’ll seek their own answers, and maybe they’ll actually find some. That’s a lot of maybes, but maybe is all I can provide right now.

Bell Let’s Talk Day will come around again next January, but let’s make sure that in the meantime, we don’t stop talking. Keep the conversation going 365 days a year, because you never know who needs to talk.

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – Pure Genius (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

Pure Genius (Thursdays on CBS)

pure-genius

One of my problems with the vast majority of CBS programs is that they’re all overly simplified, seemingly in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s not that their programs are that bad, it’s just that they’re bland retreads of ideas that have been done to death. Look at great dramas like Lost or Breaking Bad (yeah, that’s right, I’m putting them on the same level – fight me), or great comedies like Arrested Development or Community. They stretch the bounds of their genre and format. They actively strive to break new ground and to tell stories in creative and interesting ways. CBS programs do the opposite. It’s like they actively strive to be as unoriginal as possible. Which brings me to Pure Genius.

The brilliant author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke had three adages that were known as “Clarke’s three laws”. The third, and most renowned, of these laws is that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Procedural dramas too often take this idea to heart. One of the most common complaints about television procedurals is that the technology used may as well be magical. Watch any episode of CSI, Bones, or Scorpion and you’ll see what I mean. Procedural technology is capable of literally anything. How many episodes of television have you seen where someone tells a guy at a computer to “enhance” an image. Now there are actual ways to enhance an image, but these programs always take it to the most ridiculous extremes. “Do you see that? It’s his reflection. See if you can zoom in on it. Ah, what’s that in his eye? It’s the reflection of his killer. See if you can enhance the reflection of the reflection. We’ve found our man”. There’s actually a name for this phenomenon – the CSI effect. In an academic journal analyzing the effects of this phenomenon on actual juries, authors N.J. Schweitzer and Michael J. Saks state the following:

In recent years, the television program CSI and its spin-offs have portrayed forensic science as high-tech magic, solving crimes quickly and unerringly. Of course, CSI is only fiction. One forensic scientist estimates that 40% of the “science” on CSI does not exist, and most of the rest is performed in ways that crime lab personnel can only dream about.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Television is, after all, an entertainment medium and it’s used by many as a means of escapism. What’s the problem with a little magic technology? There is no problem with magic technology… in science fiction. But that’s not what Pure Genius is. It’s billed as a medical procedural, and in an attempt to distinguish itself, it incorporates “sufficiently advanced technology”. It is the television embodiment of Clarke’s third law.

There’s a scene in the episode in which the team, led by brilliant Silicon Valley billionaire James Bell (Augustus Prew), try to bring a young girl out of a coma. They’ve grown tired of waiting for her to come to them, so they decided to go to her. With the vast resources that he has used to fund the cutting-edge Bunker Hill Hospital, Bell purchases an experimental piece of equipment that allows for brain-to-brain communication – mind-reading. They throw the helmets on the patient and her mother, and sure enough, as the father speaks to his daughter, the mother utters the words “hi daddy” through tears. Now, if this were an episode of Fringe, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Fringe was a sci-fi procedural that dealt with fringe science. Pure Genius is not. In fact, showrunner Jason Katims actually told his writers’ room that he didn’t want to make a science fiction show. That means that apparently, the writers have done some amount of research into real experimental medical practices that they believe could be utilized some day. If this episode is anything to judge by, however, those practices are still a long ways off. Everything important in this show takes place on a high-tech computer screen or holographic tablet. Every impossible problem is solved through magical technology that’s too advanced to fail.  This is House without the ingenuity – or the characters.

Every character in Pure Genius falls flat. There are no distinct personalities. The only character less interesting than Bell himself is Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney), who is at first reluctant to join the hospital before being wowed by the miraculous power of all the expensive tech. There’s a whole team of medical experts that frankly aren’t worth elaborating on here – trust me, this show isn’t doing anything you haven’t seen a hundred times before. If you’re going to have boring characters, then you at least need to have an interesting plot. If you’re going to have a boring plot, then you at least have to have interesting characters. Pure Genius lacks both. ER, House, and Grey’s Anatomy were compelling because you were watching interesting characters push themselves to solve problems and save lives. In Pure Genius, the technology does most of the heavy lifting.

It’s unfortunate, because Jason Katims is the insanely talented individual who brought us Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, two shows which were known for their loveable characters and authentic emotional beats. Those shows elevated the family drama, but there’s nothing that sets Pure Genius apart from other shows of its ilk. Maybe one day Katims will have his show explore the complexities that surround sufficiently advanced technologies, but until then, I can’t recommend Pure Genius.

It kind of sucks to end The Pilot Project on such a low note, but… what can you do? I didn’t ask CBS to premiere half of its new fall schedule later than everyone else. Go forth, skip all CBS shows, and be blessed.

Recommendation: Skip it

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – The Great Indoors (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

The Great Indoors (Thursdays on CBS)

the great indoors.jpg

One of my problems with the vast majority of CBS programs is that they’re all overly simplified, seemingly in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It’s not that their programs are that bad, it’s just that they’re bland retreads of ideas that have been done to death. Look at great dramas like Lost or Breaking Bad (yeah, that’s right, I’m putting them on the same level – fight me), or great comedies like Arrested Development or Community. They stretch the bounds of their genre and the format. They actively strive to break new ground and to tell stories in creative and interesting ways. CBS programs do the opposite. It’s like they actively strive to be as unoriginal as possible. Which brings me to The Great Indoors.

The Great Indoors, like most CBS comedies, can be boiled down to a simple, singular premise, which in this case is “millennials are funny”. Like Two and a Half Men (“men are funny”), The Big Bang Theory (“nerds are funny”), and Mike & Molly (“fat people are funny”) before it, The Great Indoors places all of its bets on this one joke.

Joel McHale plays Jack Gordon, the “aging” adventure journalist at the now-defunct magazine, “Outdoor Limits”. Due to the fact that print is dead, “Outdoor Limits” is shuttering its print division in favour of going fully digital. Jack is horrified, because now that “Outdoor Limits” is just a website, it apparently means he can’t go explore the world outside anymore. In fact, when you switch from being a magazine to being a website, you also have to switch from posting articles to posting memes. Like I said, everything has been overly simplified in order to beat you over the head with a singular joke. You see, Jack can’t do his previous job anymore because he’s now in charge of supervising the millennials that make up the magazine’s online team. There’s Clark (Christopher Mint-Plasse), Emma (Christine Ko), and Mason (Shaun Brown). All three are so VERY millennial. They post content such as “Best Outdoor Gear for the Zombie Apocalypse”, because while they work at an outdoor magazine, they actually know nothing about the outdoors. Because they’re millennials. And iPhones. And such. Clark hosts a podcast where he interviews Mason about his podcast. Emma is upset that she’s been working 8 weeks without a promotion. Mason keeps accidentally (?) sending people dick picks. Do you get it yet? There are frequent jokes about participation trophies. I’m not making this up. At one point Jack is referred to as “the human version of dial-up”. I haven’t cringed this much since I watched the only episode of The Big Bang Theory that I ever watched (bazinga!). Will Jack and these crazy kids ever be able to work together to create something meaningful or are they doomed to continually fall into the same old clichés? Both, probably.

I suppose if you’re old enough to find millennials perplexing (although aren’t we all?), maybe you’d get something out of the jokes involving Instagram accounts and podcasts, but if you are that sort of person then surely you’ve heard it all by now, right? In fact, you’ve probably already MADE the same jokes that these writers are being paid to think up. Doesn’t that just infuriate you? Writing isn’t even a real job though is it? Maybe they should get out of their parent’s basement and make an honest day’s living for once. You know, back in my day, we weren’t special. Siiiigggghhhhh… I just can’t even right now. :$

Recommendation: No

The Pilot Project ’16 (Pt. 2) – Man with a Plan (CBS)

The time has come once again (again). The summer sun set long ago. The days have grown colder and the nights have grown longer and we’ve filled those nights with fretting about the election new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks unleashed a flurry of new programs meant to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months (and beyond). So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to (even if it takes me months to do so). I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for more of…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition Pt. 2)

Man With a Plan (Mondays on CBS)

man-with-a-plan

Oh man. This is it. The one we’ve all been waiting for!

I don’t know that I necessarily dreaded watching any of this year’s pilots (even Kevin Can Wait was fun to mock), but if there was one that I cared about the least, it was probably Man with a Plan. Now, I wasn’t really basing this feeling on anything. I hadn’t seen a trailer or heard anything in particular about the show. I think that maybe my preconceived notions stemmed solely from the title. Nothing about a show called Man with a Plan sounds particularly appealing, because that’s about as broad and clichéd a title as you could possibly come up with. Unfortunately, the show lives up to its name.

I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but Man with a Plan is fine. It’s fine! It’s not particularly funny or original, but I’m sure there are people out there who would enjoy it. Matt LeBlanc stars as Adam Burns, a (wait for it) man with a plan! He’s got a wife, Andi (Liza Snyder), and three kids: Kate (Grace Kaufman), Emme (Hala Finley), and Teddy (Matthew McCann). The Burns’ are a middle-class family living in the suburban Pittsburgh, and the series looks to follow Adam’s struggle to become a stay-at-home dad while his wife goes back to work. It’s a winning formula, because that’s just it – a formula. Down-to-earth wife, goofy husband, and oddball children. I just described Man with a Plan, as well as The Middle, Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, Modern Family, and Speechless (and those are just the network family sitcoms that are airing this fall). I would have listed The Goldbergs as well, only the husband/wife roles have been reversed (sorry, I can’t speak to The Real O’Neals because I haven’t started it).

Listen, you’ve probably noticed by now that it’s very hard for me to hate a show. Unless the show is actively offensive or boring, I’ll probably find some redeemable qualities in it (or at least I’ll recognize that it’s competently made). Should I be so easy on unremarkable entertainment? Maybe not. That’s why I’m not a very good critic. Having seen first-hand the work that goes into creating a show, I don’t feel right being overly dismissive. Man with a Plan wasn’t very funny, but I also wasn’t overly offended by it. So…

Man with a Plan is a serviceable slice of American family sitcom, and if you think it’s something you’d like, then go ahead and watch it, but you’d be better served by watching Fresh off the Boat, Black-ish, The Goldbergs, Modern Family, Speechless, The Middle, or The Real O’Neals (probably). There might have been a time in which Man with a Plan would have felt fresh and original, but in this age of “Peak TV”, who has the time?

I mean… if they didn’t bother to put in any effort, then why should I?

Recommendation: Skip it