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.

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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.

Thirteen Days of Halloween, Day 8 – This Is (A) Halloween (Mixtape)

In the days leading up to, and past, the Halloween holiday, I’ll be taking a look at and recommending all manner of Halloween horrors and spooky treats. These are the

Thirteen Days of Halloween

Day 1 – October 22nd: The October Country
Day 2 – October 23rd: Bone-Chilling Books
Day 3 – October 24th: Terrifying Television
Day 4 – October 25th: Petrifying Podcasts
Day 5 – October 26th: Grisly Games
Day 6 – October 27th: Creepy Comics
Day 7 – October 28th: Frightening Films
Day 8 – October 29th: This Is (A) Halloween (Mixtape)
Day 9 – October 30th: Halloween Horror
Day 10 – October 31st: Why Halloween?
Day 11 – November 1st: All Hallows’ Day
Day 12 – November 2nd: Día de los Muertos
Day 13 – November 3rd: Nightmares before Christmas

Day 8 – October 29th: This Is (A) Halloween (Mixtape)

Music is an important part of life. Music helps us connect. It helps us express ourselves. We attach meaning to songs, and those songs become a part of us, communicating something about who we are. We attach music to people, to places, to memories, and those songs take on a deeper meaning.

Ever since I first became obsessed with Halloween, there has been one band that has come to represent that season more than any others – Wolf Parade. I don’t really know how it started. I can’t remember if I just happened to be listening to a lot of Wolf Parade one Halloween, but I remember finding a lot of their songs spooky and unsettling, in a way that no other band has made me feel. I started to listen to them more and more and they became my October band. I purposefully avoid listening to them the rest of the year so that they can remain attached to October and Halloween in my memory. But Wolf Parade songs aren’t the only ones with that association for me, so I’ve decided to put together a playlist to show you what my Halloween sounds like. Maybe you’ll discover something you enjoy!

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Side A: Sinister Songs

  1. National American Halloween Prevention Inc. (NAHPI) – Do They Know It’s Hallowe’en?

I just discovered this song this year and I’m horrified that it took me so long. You know the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Well this is the Halloween version, put together by a bunch of indie artists such to support UNICEF. Contributers include members of Arcade Fire, members of Wolf Parade, members of Rilo Kiley, Beck, Feist, Karen O, and… David Cross for some reason. I wasn’t a fan initially, but the more I listened to it, the more I grew to love it. It’s spooky, goofy fun, and I’ll be returning to this every Halloween from here on.

 

  1. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Fright Night (Nevermore)

I don’t really have much to say about this one. The album Before Today showed up on some “Best of 2010” lists and I listened to it and this is the song that stuck out. I like it because it’s catchy and creepy. And the band has “haunted” in its name. And the song is called “Fright Night”. So… lots of factors!

 

  1. Michael Jackson – Thriller

This one’s kind of self-explanatory, isn’t it? I’m not even the biggest fan of this song, but that dance man… that dance has become kind of synonymous with Halloween, hasn’t it?

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Mr. Startup (2016 EP)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts (2004 EP)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Disco Sheets (2005 EP)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – We Built Another World (Apologies to the Queen Mary)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Wits or a Dagger (2003 EP)

  1. Wolf Parade – Ghost Pressure (Expo 86)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – In The Direction of the Moon (Expo 86)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Kissing the Beehive (At Mount Zoomer)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Dinner Bells (Apologies to the Queen Mary)

 

  1. Wolf Parade – Claxxon’s Lament

Sigh. I know. 10 Wolf Parade songs is too much. I tried to go with 8 (one from each of their releases, plus a cover), but I couldn’t decide which songs to take from Apologies to the Queen Mary and Expo 86. There are many Wolf Parade songs that you should listen to, but these are the ones that I think are the most suited to Halloween. These songs are all favorites of mine and represent the whole breadth of the band’s discography. Their debut album, Apologies to the Queen Mary, features many of the same songs found on their first 3 self-titled EP’s, so I cheated a bit by including the EP versions of “Dear Songs and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” and “Disco Sheets”. As you (probably) can (not) tell from the list, I vastly prefer Spencer Krug’s songs to Dan Boeckner’s. In fact, of the songs I selected, the only one Boeckner sings on exclusively is “Ghost Pressure”, which is part of the reason I included it (Both Boeckner and Krug share singing duties on “Kissing the Beehive”). There’s just something inherently unsettling about Krug’s voice that I find fascinating. I hope you’ll enjoy this selection. Sorry I ended Side A on such a downer (“Claxxon’s Lament” is a cover of a song from Frog Eyes, one of Krug’s other bands). As a bonus, I wanted to include this video I had once watched that combined “Kissing the Beehive” with a short animated film called “The Hangman”. It was fantastic, and after searching every popular video site, I was unable to locate it (I believe it has been removed for copyright reasons). I did, however, find a link on this shady-looking Russian website called “HomeTube”. It adds a sort of thrill to the video, knowing that it can only be found and viewed on this Russian website. Please enjoy.

 

Side B: Thrilling Themes

  1. Danny Elfman – This Is Halloween

I mean… come on. You knew this was going to be here. This is inarguably that greatest Halloween song of all time. It is flawless. Perfection. This IS Halloween.

 

  1. Andrew Gold – Spooky Scary Skeletons/Spooky Scary Skeletons (Remix)

This isn’t really a theme, but I needed 13 tracks on each side, so it was either this or “Thriller”. Let’s argue that “Spooky Scary Skeletons” is the theme song for Halloween itself! Now go listen to 10 hours of the remix!

 

  1. Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters

Once again, another no-brainer. This is one of the best songs ever recorded. I really wanted to attach the original music video, but for some reason, it’s nearly impossible to find online, so this low-quality DailyMotion link is what you’re getting.

 

  1. Jon Brion – Norman’s Walk

This song might not really be appropriate for a Halloween playlist, but it’s my favorite track from one of my favorite Halloween movies and I just think it’s incredible. It’s both melancholic and hopeful at the same time, and it reminds me that not everything at Halloween needs to be spooky, scary, tragic, dangerous, or evil. Please watch ParaNorman guys. It’s so good.

 

  1. Douglas Pipes – Trick ‘r Treat Theme

Here’s the theme for my all-time favorite Halloween movie (The Nightmare Before Christmas is my all-time favorite Halloween/Christmas hybrid film). It has just the right amount of creep for Halloween night, borrowing heavily from Bernard Herrman’s score for Psycho. Speaking of which…

 

  1. Bernard Herrmann – Psycho Theme/The Murder

How could I leave off these iconic themes (I paired them together because “The Murder” is almost more of a sound effect than a song). Masterfully creepy.

 

  1. John Carpenter – Halloween Theme

I’m running out of things to say, because it’s like “Yeah, no DUH Carpenter’s Halloween theme made the list. How could it possibly not? Carpenter is a master at horror and a master of film themes.

 

  1. Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells (The Exorcist Theme)

Broken record. Because OF COURSE Tubular Bells is here. It’s ICONIC!

 

  1. Akira Yamaoka – Silent Hill Theme/Winged Horse (Film)

  1. Akira Yamaoka – Laura Plays the Piano/Hope Drowns (Film)

  1. Akira Yamaoka – Promise (Reprise)/Lost Connection (Film)

  1. Akira Yamaoka – Never Forgive Me, Never Forget Me/Maternal (Film)

I’ve never actually played any of the Silent Hill games (okay, I played like… 2 hours of Silent Hill: Downpour last year but that doesn’t count), but I love the idea of them. I love the concept of this mysterious town filled with secrets that transforms into something horrible and grotesque – this place that you feel inexplicably drawn to and can’t seem to escape from. It’s for this reason that I love the Silent Hill movies. I won’t argue that they’re actually good films, but man, they just nail that ambience. The movies LOOK great, and they also sound great. Every time I watch them I’m blown away by the soundtrack. While looking up some tracks for this playlist, I discovered that composer Jeff Danna actually repurposed all of the themes in the film from the games soundtracks, which are composed by Akira Yamaoka (who consulted on the film soundtracks). For this reason, I included the names of the tracks from the games and their counterparts from the films. I prefer the film versions, but they’re often shorter, so I included what I thought was the better version of each.

 

  1. Marilyn Manson – This Is Halloween

I never thought I’d be recommending people listen to a Marilyn Manson song, yet here we are. I wanted to end this playlist on a more sinister note, while also book-ending this list of themes with another incarnation of the best Halloween song ever. Manson gives this Halloween classic a darker edge while still staying true to the playful roots of the original.

 

Here’s a link to a playlist containing all of the above songs. Or I could just embed it below I guess.

The Pilot Project ’16 – The Good Place (NBC)

The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs 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. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…

THE PILOT PROJECT (2016 Edition)

The Good Place (Thursdays on NBC)

the-good-place

The Good Place first came onto my radar early on when I heard people mentioning it in the same sentence as Lost. For the uninitiated, Lost is the greatest show of all time, so take all my reviews with a grain of salt, I guess. According to legend (or the Vulture piece that I read), Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine creator Mike Schur (who you might recognize as Mose Schrute from The Office, which Schur also wrote for) approached Damon Lindelof, the much-maligned co-creater of Lost, to help him develop the idea behind The Good Place. He didn’t want his high-concept story to suffer the same fate as the criminally-misunderstood Lost, and for good reason – despite the many things Lost did right, in most circles it’s only remember for what it got wrong (and while I’ll defend it to my dying breath, I will admit that there were… missteps along the way). Lindelof’s advice? “You just need to know where you’re going.”

By this point you’re probably wondering what exactly The Good Place’s high-concept premise is, so I’ll explain it as simply as I can. Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) is dead. She is now in “the good place”, which is a nondenominational approximation of Heaven (the show strays from associating with any one religion or belief, insisting that everybody was about 5% correct). The Good Place is comprised of a multitude of distinct neighborhoods, all perfectly designed to be the most appealing to the people living within them, of which there are exactly 322 (in each). Each of those 322 people is matched up with a perfect soulmate that they’ll spend the rest of eternity with. Oh, and every neighborhood has a frozen yogurt place, because everyone loves froyo. Now comes the twist – Eleanor wasn’t actually supposed to come to The Good Place. She was not a good person. She wasn’t the WORST person, but she was not a good one, and now her presence is causing havoc in The Good Place, like a glitch in a heavenly system. Now she needs to figure out how to become a good person in order to avoid being sent to “the bad place”, which we are meant to believe is basically Hell. I could get into more detail, but it’s already a lot to take in, especially for a sitcom.

Thankfully, it works. The premise is creative and unique, and while the jokes aren’t laugh-out-loud funny (yet), the humor is fun and endearing. Bell is adorable enough that even when Eleanor is being a total ash-hole (there’s no swearing in The Good Place, for fork’s sake), you still root for her. Opposite Bell is William Jackson Harper, playing Chidi Anagonye, Eleanor’s soulmate. In his previous life, Chidi was a professor of ethics, so Eleanor recruits him to teach her to become a person worthy of The Good Place. The real highlight of the performances, for me anyway, is Ted Danson’s Michael, the architect and facilitator of Eleanor’s neighborhood. He’s perfectly cast as an otherworldly administrator who is frantically trying to maintain control over the first neighborhood under his purview.  Rounding out the cast are Jameela Jamil as Tahani, a former globe-trotting philanthropist, Manny Jacinto as Jason, Tahani’s Buddhist monk soulmate who has taken a vow of silence, and D’Arcy Carden as Janet, who is a heavenly version of Siri, able to provide anything and everything the citizens of The Good Place require. It’s a solid cast delivering solid performances.

Furthering the Lost comparison, there’s a hint of an underlying mystery to everything. Michael appears to be hiding something from everyone, and the only thing Janet can’t provide any information on is The Bad Place. We don’t know how Eleanor ended up in The Good Place and we don’t know why her presence there is causing the havoc that it is. Plus, there’s the allure of possibly visiting other neighborhoods in The Good Place further on down the line. Oh, and Drew Goddard, who wrote episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Alias, and Lost, is an executive producer on the show and actually directed the pilot. So… Lost.

If all of these Lost comparisons are scaring you off, let me reassure you that apart from the fact that both shows are about a bunch of dead people in the afterlife, they’re really nothing alike.

That was a joke. Lost was not about people in purgatory you stupid idiots, it was about – no. I’m not going to take the bait.

I realize that this sort of quirky, high-concept comedy might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so while I want to tell you to “Watch it”, I’ll downgrade my recommendation.

Recommendation: Try it (but Watch it)

Jason Bourne: A Review

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Jason Bourne is back again
With a story I didn’t know
It made everything new again
If you want to you should go
Critics threw it out the windows, came along
Extreme views I know effect
And color what you see
I won’t let them color me

Jason Bourne I’ve watched it
It’s got a shaky camera fight
Dark theater I was in
That didn’t have any light
Dirty offices, dirty crowds
Dirty cars coming through
It’s a lot more of the same
Did you ever like it then

I would stand in line for this
There’s always room in life for this

Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
Like it always does, always does

Jason Bourne has premiered
It’s the movie that I sought
I didn’t have much to say
I finally understood the plot
I opened my eyes and closed myself
And closed my world and never opened
Up to any texts
They couldn’t get me to check

I had to close down everything
I had to close down my phone
Too many films to view
Too many that I own
I’ve seen so much in so many places
So many heartaches, so many car chases
So many dirty things
You couldn’t even believe

I would stand in line for this
It’s always good in life for this

Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
It had a car chase, a car chase
Oh baby, oh baby
Like it always does, always does

EXTREME WAYS out of BACK AGAIN

– A review by Andrew Stewart

The Fall: How One Dress Ended The World (An Excerpt)

“White and gold, blue and black… did it really matter? We may see the world differently, but if you cut us, don’t we all still bleed red?”

Professor Ibrahim Sarkeesian, Former History Professor:

“I remember it well. February 26th, 2015. The day the barriers fell. It started out as a bit of a farce, really. Many don’t remember that. It all began on Tumblr – that was a sort of… social media platform frequented by many youth – when a user named Caitlin McNeill posted a photo of a dress. It all began with a simple question: guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?‘ After that, it exploded. Everyone had an opinion. I mean, it was kind of mind-blowing… I myself saw black and blue, and yet 75% of people reported seeing the dress as white and gold. Even science couldn’t come up with a bulletproof explanation. Yet we all thought it would blow over. We’d all go to sleep and the dress would be forgotten come morning. We were so wrong.”

Dr. Raymond Clarkson, Psychologist:

“The effect was… uncanny. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Blue and black or white and gold? Even after the actual dress was hunted down and proven to be black and blue, the debate raged on. The scientific explanation wasn’t enough. The visual proof wasn’t enough. 3 out of 4 people reportedly saw that dress as white and gold. I myself saw the dress as white and gold. The 75% wouldn’t back down. After weeks of debate, we realized that this was about more than just a photograph of a dress, it was about perception. People began to go crazy. They didn’t trust themselves. They didn’t trust their own eyes. I mean, it’s no wonder things became violent.”

Chuck Hogan, Former United States Secretary of Defense:

“To this day, I still don’t know how things escalated so fast. It started out so innocent. We didn’t bother paying attention to the divide until it was too late. Within a month, violence had broken out in the streets of America. Of course America fell first, goddamned second amendment. What were we supposed to do, just open fire on our own citizens? We didn’t have enough soldiers. There weren’t enough officers. Not after the exodus. Let it never be said that words aren’t powerful. Once the blueblackers started referring to the other 75% as “The Wrong”, well… there was never anything we could do to maintain control. Canada fell a month later. By the end of 2015, the world, as we knew it, was over.

Caitlin McNeill, Former Governess of the Wasteland:

“Sometimes I forget what the damn thing even looked like. I think it was destroyed in the purge. Some of “The Blind” found it when the White House was ransacked. I assume they burnt it. I never actually asked. Once America fell, it didn’t seem significant anymore. Things slowed down after that. The President was dead. The “Right” fell into anarchy. The fighting was over, but things could never go back to normal. Those who had been ostracized, beaten up, lied to… they could never accept the “Right”. Not after everything they did. We’d lost too much; suffered for too long. Most of the “Right” went into hiding. I’m sure the less stubborn ones were able to re-integrate back into what was left of society. Many lied, told us that they saw white and gold when in fact they never did. At some point it just stopped mattering. The dress was gone and the internet was gone, along with the belief that, deep down, we were all really the same. Now we know better. Now we know that some differences are just insurmountable. Looking back on it all… I don’t regret posting the photo. I just wish… I wish that we had found a better way of dealing with our differences. A way to avoid all this death.”