Monthly Archives: March 2023

Golf with Your Friends

So here’s an idea that I think should have happened a long time ago, but either never did until now, or else I never noticed. Mini-golf, right? People have made video games about mini golf that defy, if not physics herself, at least what a non-billionaire could spend on fancy courses. But if anyone has made the video game equivalent of that, and also you and your friends are the only people at the course and you’re drinking and playing hurry up golf where you’re all just constantly hitting the ball as fast or as slow as you want (but there’s a timer) and if your strokes happen to run afoul of each other as you play, oh well it happens!

That stopped being a sentence at some point. But my point is, if anyone ever made the video game equivalent of that before now, I missed it. Golf with Your Friends is exactly that, by which I mean, yes, it’s what I just described, but also, it’s exactly what it calls itself. At least, it’s that for me, when I get together with my friends of a Tuesday night and play things for a few hours.

A plus, would putt again.

Immortals Fenyx Rising

This review is seriously overdue, but in my defense I didn’t decide until I started the third game of the Season Pass[1] that I was going to review it separately instead of all together in one giant go.

Anyway, the thing about Immortals Fenyx Rising is that you have to get past the terrible name. You just have to. Imagine, if you will, that one of the titans has come back, and the fate of both humanity and the gods rests on the back of a lone mortal. Imagine further that the entire story is being told in recap by Prometheus to Zeus, in high snark, while Prometheus has as a fully visible “ulterior” motive to get Zeus to see just how awful of a parent he is. And that story is performed by you, Fenyx, the shield-bearer to (and story-teller for) a boatful of heroes who were all just turned to stone, along with most everyone else in the world.

Handling that little problem involves fighting infinite waves of monsters, leveling up your gear and powers, solving various and sundry puzzles scattered across the land, learning a great deal about Greek mythology[2], and constantly snickering at the narration.

People compare it to Breath of the Wild, the (for now) most recent Zelda game from a few years back. I will say a) that it’s easier, b) that it’s funnier, c) that it’s easier to get a handle on what’s going on, d) that it’s a smaller game, and e) that it’s probably not as good. That a) piece is honestly the only problem with this game. I am a completionist, and I tried to do most of the puzzles and things in advance of the main plot. The result was that for the last quarter or so of the game, I already had all my powers and whatnot maxed out, so other than puzzle-solving it was a little boring trying to get to the conclusion.

I mean, not when Prometheus and Zeus were talking, or any of the other characters. Just when I was fighting pushover monsters on my way to a chest with yet another reskinning of my fourth-favorite set of armor. But that means that I was meh on like 15 hours out of a 90 hour game. That’s not so bad. (Don’t check my math.)

[1] I still don’t entirely understand what a season pass even is. Does it mean that you get to play all future expansions (but not sequels, one presumes) ever? Just for this “season”? And if the latter, this brings me back around to having no idea what that means. What decides a season, other than the people who are charging you for its pass? I have a lot of questions about modern gaming, I guess.
[2] Mostly not the big obvious bits. I would say easily a third of the references, and maybe more than, were things I’ve never heard of (but that I have no reason to believe were made up, given how much I did recognize as accurate).


The boy has been watching Cars practically nonstop for the past four months. (Six?) But I didn’t ever sit down and watch it myself until this week. Common wisdom is that it’s a ripoff of Doc Hollywood, which would be easier to comment on if I, uh, remembered almost anything about that movie. I mean, the broad strokes, yes, in that a hotshot racecar|doctor learns that small town life is worthwhile and also falls in love. But I think I should be able to speak at a little more depth than that, to confirm or deny.

Anyway, at the end of the day, Pixar or not, it’s a kid movie, and unless maybe if you also are really into stock car racing (which I am not), it does not surpass its origins in the way that, say, parts of Up did. But it’s good enough to watch when his eyes light up like that, even if I think he should be watching Star Wars instead.

Return to Treasure Island (1992)

The next week’s letterboxd theme[1] was “central and eastern European animation”, which… I definitely have confirmation bias here, and to be fairer still, a lot of the things I had no access to sounded pretty interesting. But what we landed on was a US edit of a Soviet adaptation of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, where the adaptation a) was dubbed[2] and b) edited, I am informed, solely to remove live-action musical interludes. so I think it still counts, as the point was the animation.

The animation was… it had a certain style of its own beyond what I’m about to describe[3], but it was mostly a match for what I’ve seen come out of the 1930s, before Disney and Warner Brothers got fancy, and following the rules and physics of a Looney Tune. It followed Jim Hawkins from innkeeper to treasure map holder to British naval enlister to fort holder to pirate battler. How much of this is true to the source material, I honestly don’t know, but man, I assume it cannot have been much, because in addition to bad animation, bad music, and an overly jokey tone, the plot was far more terrible than a beloved classic could possibly be in real life.

Full disclosure: I got sleepy about a third of the way in, but I followed large chunks of the rest of the film, and I definitely got enough detail to form an opinion on everything except the plot. I’m possibly going to rewatch the parts I missed, and in the unlikely event my opinion changes as a result, I’ll say so. But… wow. Just wow. This was by far the worst thing to have come out of the website weekly experiment.

[1] I am making it appear as though we’re catching up. We’re not, I’m just been on vacation this week.
[2] I have no way of knowing, of course whether there was any initial propaganda nor whether it was edited out. The movie was made before the breakup of the USSR and the adaptation was made after, for whatever that’s worth.
[3] Mostly it (the style) was the hyper-realistic (compared to everything else) low camera angle on people walking forward, with a kind of rolling, striding gait. It was… mesmerizing, is what, possibly because they lingered on it far too long since it was a cheap loop that filled time.

Black Sheep (2006)

You know how sometimes the plot of a movie goes in so many different directions that you can tell the person (or more likely “people”, and probably in serial rather than parallel) had no idea what they were doing, and just kept throwing anything and everything at the wall to see what would stick, with the result that basically nothing sticks and the movie makes no sense whatsoever?

Apparently, in New Zealand, you can do that and it all weaves back together and every part of it makes sense. …well, okay, no, that is an exaggeration at best. But enough of it comes together and what remains is funny enough that you can ignore the plot holes. Well, also arguably I should not generalize to everything they make, but at least for Black Sheep, it’s all true.

It’s like this: two brothers, unalike dignity, in fair Aotearoa, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where ovine blood makes civil hands unclean[1]. …but I suppose I should say more. See, the grudge between them is over the murder of Henry’s sheep and also, due to the gory shock and unrelated timing of the event, over Henry’s subsequent ovinophobia. Unfortunately, the day fifteen years later that Henry shows up to finally wash his hands of the relationship (and the massive sheep farm that he owns a 50% share of) is the day his brother has set aside to reveal his new breed of sheep upon the world.

This is unfortunate because the disgraced geneticist that has assisted him with a unique (or, depending upon your perspective, distressingly common) form of animal husbandry has also been performing her own experiments in what I choose to believe was a method of keep meat fresh for the longest period possible. If you guessed “zombie sheep that are still alive even after being dressed and hung on meathooks, but also one of the experimental animals escaped and spread the, er, modification to the herds at large”, then, well, I really painted an evocative picture in the first place, and go me! Or you’re an uncommonly good guesser.

The thing is, there’s so much more to it than just that, and most of it chuckleworthy. Also, there are multiple instances of unnecessary to the story rabbit dismemberment. I wonder if it’s lingering resentment over Night of the Lepus? But whatever, the point is, the movie is mostly good, mostly funny, and has more subplots than you can shake a pointed stick at.

[1] There’s no reason for this, and yet here we are.

Mad Max

So hey, we watched another one of the weeks of that “watch a movie genre we pick with a film you’ve never seen” challenge thingy, probably from early November? That week’s theme was Road Movies, and we decided upon Mad Max. Which, I was thinking this whole time the theme was road trips, and I wasn’t really seeing that until the last third, but as just a road movie, yep, they spend almost the whole time on roads, so that checks out.

Max (you’re not going to believe this) Rockatansky is a cop in what all of the film’s advertising / copy will have you believe is a post-apocalyptic hellscape after a recent nuclear war, but I’m sorry, the signs of this are minimal at best. But okay, let’s pretend that it’s at least possible, so when they retcon it into later movies of the series, nobody has to get angry. Anyway, he’s a cop. And his fellow cops are like 75% of the keystone variety, but he’s cool as a cucumber. Until a vengeful motorcycle gang kills his partner and stalks his family, and then he gets… yes, I’m going to say it, I really have no choice here… mad.

So here’s the thing. It’s not a bad movie. But it is badly advertised[1], has huge pacing problems, an anticlimactic, er, climax, and the payoff on the title is just horrible[3]. It’s a mediocre ’70s car chase movie, in a decade where that art form was perfected. I have to say, I don’t understand how they ended up with sequels, even though I’m glad they did.

[1] Or, if you prefer, it’s terrible at showing post-apocalypse. Like, there are hints here and there that I could see if I squinted at them[2]. Note: spoilers in footnote 2
[2] Note: spoilers here. Like, there was the one “danger don’t go here” death sign, but it had regular traffic on the road beyond. And there was the one gas siphoning from a fuel truck chase scene, but honestly, the bikers could have just been criminals. (There’s other evidence of this, I promise.) The “Halls of Justice” thing and the pretty uncommon breed of police, they hint at something. And the scene with Max’s mostly dead wife, it seemed like the doctors were planning to harvest all her organs without clueing in her husband that she was gonna die, and that was sketchy. So like, is the world falling apart at the seams? Probably! But it’s only barely obvious, and even less so that nukes were why.
[3] That’s not fair. It was actually excellent as a cinematic moment, and apparently Max inspired Saw?? But the biker’s dialogue surrounding the moment was wretched.

Gideon the Ninth

On paper[1], Gideon the Ninth seems tailor-made for me to love it. It’s like someone took Rendezvous with Rama, decades of D&D necromancer jokes, and a modern snarky television teenager, and threw them all in a blender, then poured the puree into a puzzle box that is, if probably not solvable for any given reader, at least has a satisfying solution.

And I want to be clear that even though the first few chapters were a slow, uphill start, it turns out I really did enjoy every single one of those elements, disparately and in conjunction. Nevertheless, I have big,complicated feelings about this book, which are impossible to get into without massive story-destroying spoilers. And so, a cut!

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Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice

This is much more what I was looking for out of a horror movie about murderous youths in Nebraska. Please don’t misunderstand me to be saying that Children of the Corn II was good. Honestly, it was almost certainly worse than the original. But it was worse with flair. And by flair I mean a couple of gallons of blood, a pile of creative kills, and a plot that doesn’t make a lick of sense.

Here’s how little sense the plot makes. They added in some hallucinogenic corn mold that children are especially susceptible to, just so their plot could have an explanation for why it makes so little sense! And then they still went back to the “but also there really is something that Walks Behind the Rows,” just as though they hadn’t written themselves out of that corner.

There’s an estranged father / teenaged son subplot that never quite coheres, there’s a killer combine harvester vehicle machine of some kind, there’s an indigenous professor, there’s less nudity than I would expect for a movie from 1992 that was as sex-laden as this one tried to be, there’s an old woman doomsayer[2], and there’s a group of murderous children, because of course there is. It’s even nominally the same group of murderous children, for the most part, since although 8 years have passed in real life, maybe that many days had passed according to the laws of direct horror movie sequels.

Did you know that not counting remakes, there are at least four more of these movies that got made at some point or another? And probably more than that! Truly, it’s a rich and varied world of cinema. …anyway, this podcast had better be worth it.

[1] Now there’s a tagline that is of its specific moment.
[2] Actually, this is noteworthy! The elderly doomsayer that everybody ignores until the body count spirals out of control is almost always a man.

Children of the Corn (1984)

I’m not actually convinced I’ve never seen Children of the Corn before. But if I have, it made little enough impression on me that today’s viewing may as well have been the first. The funny thing is, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to watch it at all, but its sequel[1] wasn’t available on any streaming services, and the first one was, so, there you go.

What I think would have made this a much better movie is if there had been no prologue. Like, keep all the same footage and use it later in flashback. But if you start off with Linda Hamilton and some guy named Burt[3] driving down a country road in Nebraska, and they hit a kid who it turns out had his throat slit before they ever hit him, and there are menacing “watcher” camera angles, and the audience has to figure out what’s going on along with them? That’s a pressure cooker!

That small but major correction is almost everything the movie really needs. Okay, some of the final act special effects are terrible, but it’s basically 40 years old, so, forgiven. Creepy kids menacing you with farm implements in the middle of nowhere, that covers basically everything my suburban adulthood needs to be scared.

Well, one additional correction, maybe less small, is that outside of the flashback sequence, almost nobody dies, and I feel like this should have been a bloodbath. Probably if they had gone the “what is even happening?” pressure cooker route, this would bother me less. But, they didn’t, and it turns out this is just not a very good movie when over half of it is teenagers chasing Burt and/or Linda Hamilton around an empty small town downtown district, while the pacing of the plot makes it impossible to believe either of them is in any real danger, most of the time.

Still, though, it does make me wonder if it was possible, as late as the early ’80s, for a town to just disappear and nobody noticed. Now: zero percent chance. But then… like, I mostly still don’t buy it, especially when they threw in the shot of the 900-something population sign. But if it was less than 200, and basically everyone who cared about anyone who lived in the town currently lived in the town with them, I guess it’s a possibility?

In conclusion, small towns from my childhood are weird.

[1] which I plan to watch because a podcast I want to listen to will treat me as though I don’t care about spoilers[2]
[2] There’s a certain inherent irony to this explanation, I know.
[3] Now there’s a name that’s fallen out of favor.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari

I can say with a high degree of confidence that The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is the first movie I’ve seen that is over 100 years old. I mean to say “seen for the first time”, but there’s a near certainty that it’s also the first movie I’ve seen of that age, period. So that’s something!

Here’s what I like about it: it’s terribly modern. It opens on two men on a bench. The old man says he was driven from his home by spirits, and the young one responds with, essentially, “You think that’s bad? My fiancee and I (here she walks by in a long white dress? night gown?, in a complete daze, as if to emphasize his sentence) were just subjected to a traveling carnival!” And okay, there’s more to it than that, but the whole story of Caligari and his cabinet (that is, wooden box) and the man inside who has been asleep for 25 years and can now tell the future (barkers Caligari, so you know it must be true)  and the series of murders that follows, it’s all told in this dreamlike atmosphere, and on twisted, confusing, dreamlike sets. Sure, you know Caligari is the bad guy and his pawn? accomplice? Cesare is the murderer, but the plot spins in so many directions that it’s possible to continuously speculate about what will happen next.

In conclusion, I don’t think it’s fair to say that all old movies are as good as or better than new ones. But once a movie is still widely known and available to be seen past its century mark, yeah, there’s no surprise that it’s a good one, and that it’s still just as relatable to a modern audience. Pity I didn’t watch the 4K remaster that I understand exists.

Oh, caveat: the music was mostly a terrible fit for the plot and ongoing events on screen, and that hurts a silent film a lot. Eventually I was able to mostly tune it out, at least.