Closing shop

Well, after five years of blogging I think I’m ready to end it. I have enjoyed posting the reviews, articles, and previews/recaps of sports games, but after all this time at it, I think it’s time to move on.

I’d probably still continue if this blog had a respectable following. Alas, it never did. My Twitter gets far more hits than this blog ever did.

I might start a Youtube channel. I might not. If I haven’t by the time the 2017 college football season starts, you’ll know my decision. In either case, I’m never leaving Twitter.

It’s been a fun five years. So long and good luck.

As a courtesy to my readers, this blog will be taken down no earlier than July 20.

Angry Birds

Mobile gaming has been a video game revolution. These kinds of games are polarizing in addition to being popular. Some see them as a healthy, simple, cheap alternative. Others dismiss them as lesser gaming.

Me? I do think these games are very simple. What’s wrong with that? Simple can work in a basic, primal way. Like why Whack-A-Mole was so popular back in the arcade era. Besides, it’s been so many years since pure gamers first raised fears that these kinds of games would destroy the so-called “hardcore” games. Hasn’t happened. Of course, similar fears were raised about the Wii and PS1 when they were on the market. No doubt some are saying this about the Switch.

One of the pioneers is Angry Birds. Is it the classic that the pioneer status implies? Despite being kind of polarizing, basically yes.

Plot: 1 out of 10

OK, this is definitely the weak link. Angry Birds has no plot. I don’t mean that the story is shallow or bad. I mean that it doesn’t exist. All that seems to be going on is enraged birds flying head-first at disembodied pigs.

The pigheads play fort.

By the way, you’d think the popularity of this game and many another plot-light games (Pac-ManSonic the HedgehogStreet Fighter, ect.) would give pause to those who suggest that those with an irrational hatred for video games have a point by citing the shortage of great game plots. ‘Cause it’s the plotless games that often end up penetrating the mainstream. I know some think I’m being an apologist and “standing in the way of progress,” but I just got done pointing out that it’s the die-hard gamers who least like this type of game by far! What other conclusion can you draw?

Graphics: 9 out of 10

OK, that might seem kind. But this isn’t a console game. It’s a game intended to be played on a phone. Cartoonish violence when the birds you launch at pigs and their surrounding protective structures is extremely satisfying, as are the backgrounds.

Sound: 8 out of 10

Sounds and songs fit the cartoony but PG atmosphere. They do much to capture a struggle for survival between the birds and pigs, even without a real story.

Ready… aim…

Gameplay: 8 out of 10

The way the controls work is you using the touch screen to launch the birds with a slingshot at the pigs. Oftentimes, they’re using what seem to be abandoned structures to protect themselves. You need to either get rid of their protection or better yet, cause these structures to collapse and take the pigs down with them. You lose if you run out of birds with still at least one pig left alive.

What’s their cooling secret that keeps ice cold outdoors?

Getting back to the point I was making, this is simple but fun stuff. You can get a kick out of destroying pigs and structures. That makes this game a great experience. Could use a tad more variety, but alas…

Challenge: 10 out of 10

Starts out easy but gradually becomes quite difficult. This is the perfect range of difficulty, the perfect learning curve.

“BANZAI!!!”

Overall: 9 out of 10

Lack of plot aside, this is possibly one of the most entertaining games ever. It may not be hardcore, but it sure is fun!

Dumb and Dumber To

Yep, they’re still breaking the mold of comically stupid characters having redeeming ethics. No, Lloyd and Harry are pretty much assholes!

Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas
Jack Daniels as Harry Dunne
Rob Riggle as Travis and Captain Lippincott
Rachel Melvin as Penny Pinchelow
Steve Tom as Doctor Bernard Pinchelow
Kathleen Turner as Fraida Felcher

Yes, twenty years after the original Dumb and Dumber, they made a sequel. Well, it’s at least surprising if you ignore the atrocious Dumb and Dumberer, which we all do anyway. Maybe there is hope for the sequel that the last scene in Super Mario Bros. promised after all. But I hope not.

The target audience of that one.

The way this starts out is kinda illogical. The original ended with Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne without any money or a vehicle and walking the countryside somewhere in presumably Nevada or Colorado (I’m assuming they got to another state before their motorcycle broke down). Twenty years later, we see that they did in fact get back home somehow. Harry reads a letter (actually, he’s had it forever, he’s just negligent as Hell) that informs him that he has a long-lost daughter in El Paso, Texas. It just so happens that Harry has a medical condition that requires a kidney transplant. Since it’s optimal for that to be a direct relative, he’s got all the more reason to find this daughter.

Although his movies since his comeback a decade ago haven’t been great, Jim Carrey shows here that he is still a great comic actor. His energy and timing are both perfect. Jack Daniels is again almost as good as the other supreme moron of these movies. Although so much time had passed since the original, the chemistry hasn’t lessoned one bit! Members of the supporting cast do their jobs well, although the lack of Texas accents in El Paso tarnish things. At least Rachel Melvin plays a dumb brunette to a T.

Well, she is said to be Harry’s daughter.

Although the plot has a familial twist, it goes the same way as the original. Like the original, this is a road movie. Like the original, a sinister plot is hatched by bad guys who think Lloyd and Harry know more about what’s going on than they do. Like the original, Lloyd and Harry have a falling out. And like the original, that falling out doesn’t last long.

We even see the blind kid who Lloyd conned in the old movie and Fraida Felcher this time as a character in her own right. There’s also a number of gags that are modified versions of old jokes or outright repeats. I realize that Dumb and Dumber fans are your audience, but this movie is not going to dissuade those who think Hollywood can’t come up with anything original.

There is the matter of Harry’s daughter, Penny, but they even f*ck that up with a cowardly, non-committal twist.

Dumb and Dumber To, despite it’s lack of originality, has a strong first hour. when the setting changes to El Paso, it’s all downhill.

Not unlike Lloyd and Harry’s taste in vehicles.

That is why you don’t review a movie until it’s finished. some are V-shaped or hill-shaped. Alas, the sequel to the 1994 classic falls into the latter category.

Overall: 5 out of 10

Warriors skewer Cavaliers, raise questions on LeBron’s ultimate legacy. NBA Finals recap.

Warriors win NBA Championship!

I’ve been had. I actually thought this was going to redeem the worst, most lopsided NBA postseason in a looong time! Because I thought Cleveland had enough talent to hang around for six games, though I always figured that they’d lose in the end. But no, it turned out that the more technocratic predictions from Vegas and data nerds had it right. Golden State wins in a 4-1 slaughter that wasn’t even that close!

How did Golden State do it? Well, the terrible trio of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green is extremely difficult to beat, as is the Warriors’ powerful bench. But was it really all about Golden State?

I overheard some people last year calling Kevin Durant overrated and predicting that he’d be lost in the crowd in Golden State. Swear on the basket.

Before I begin, here’s an issue of accountability. I was not alone in my prediction of a competitive series. Indeed, all it took was a Cavs victory in Game 4 that improved them to an enviable 1-3 in the Finals for “Cavs in 7” to trend on Twitter for hours!

And don’t think it was just emotional and irrational fans talking like this either. As LeBron James is a media darling. I guess that lead pundit after pundit to quarrel with 538’s 90% chance of a Golden State Championship. In particular, ESPN big shot Stephen A. Smith called that “disrespect” to Cleveland and the talents of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and especially LeBron. Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd went a step further, claiming that Cleveland had a “better bench” among other advantages. You can tell that neither fully believed what they were saying because they did not flat-out pick the Cavs to win, but they sure as Hell implied it by innuendo! It will still be so hilarious to see the likes of them flip-flop on Cleveland’s projected talent, though! Many on social media said much the same, except they would predict without the burden of public images.

So it’s been very revealing to see LeBron supporters on Twitter suddenly talk as though the Cavs didn’t have anybody else. My favorite excuse was offered by Cowherd. Alleged critic of political correctness that he is,  he got butthurt over the standard LeBron is held to while some are saying that he’s every bit as great or better than Michael Jordan! I’ll address this insult to our intelligence later, but if that’s the standard, why shouldn’t it be consistent?

Shorter Cowherd.

The one unimpeachable piece of evidence in favor of LeBron is that throughout this series, he kept scoring like no tomorrow! This overlooks that there are some players who are highlight reel machines and will scribble a lot on the stat sheet regardless of how good their performances are. For example, the 2016 Carolina Panthers’ defense (NFL) was top-tier in sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles, yet still allowed a lot of points.

Stats vs. great QBs as follows. Matt Ryan: 48/33 pts., 3/4 sacks, 0/0 picks; Drew Brees: 41/20 pts., 1/3 sacks, 1/1 picks; Derek Carr: 35 pts., 1 sack, 1 pick, Russell Wilson: 40 pts., 3 sacks, 1 pick. Good except at what counts.

With that in mind, I’m finally ready to explain why the Cavs got beat so badly. I agree with the more objective analysis that while LeBron did help a lot to keep Games 3&5 in reach, he also seemed lost in the crowd in the last two or three minutes of these games. Misleading stats aside, this series really is on him. If LeBron keeps LeBronnin’, Cleveland wins those games… and now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to seize the day in home court.

Frankly, I’m beginning to understand why some call him “LeChoke.” As much as I would love to say these last-minute vanishing acts were a shock, that’s not the case. As a Hawks fan I was of course happy to see my team be one of the few to post a winning record against the Cavs this season. And yet, I can’t in retrospect give us too much credit. Why? Because LeBron displayed the same inconsistency as was seen in the Finals. It started with LeBron leading his team to the near elimination of an 18-point, third quarter deficit heading into the fourth before… they stalled out. I will allow that him and his teammates getting blown out of home court by our second-stringers (the A-team was hurt) was an “any given night” kind of thing, but what excuse is there for them blowing a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter shortly afterward.

The only time we lost to Cleveland was when we were blown out for something like 80% of the time yet only lost by 5 in the end. In other words, a very ugly win. Watching the Finals made me think, “it wasn’t us. It was LeBron.”

And then there are the elimination games in the past in which LeBron has missed critical shots in the clutch. I still think he’s one of the top 10, at least top 20 best ever, but he has the following kryptonite that other greats do/did not: when it becomes clear that the game will come down the last minute or two, he seems to get nervous, missing shots, getting contained, passing to the wrong guy, letting guys on the paint, you name it. If you want someone who can put a game away in the first quarter, there’s nobody more qualified, but man shall not live on blowouts alone.

Whoever originally made this won the Internet!

And that is why he’s probably well below Magic Johnson. Jordan? Non-comparison.

Magical playoff run ends. Stanley Cup Finals recap.

Preds lose!

At this point, I must be a glutton for punishment. I root for many teams in many leagues and have seen three lose championship games in half a year. First Alabama football’s quarterback plays awfully, causing the defense to get tired from being on the field most of the time and blow a sizable lead in the National Championship, then the Falcons choke away an even bigger lead in the Super Bowl, and now the Predators have lost the Stanley Cup Finals because their goalie, Pekka Rinne seemed to lose whatever he had in the playoffs.

Now I know how Bills fans felt…

After the three rounds of looking like the best goalie in the NHL, Rinne suddenly played awfully in Games 1 and 2. What happened? Quick goal bursts were allowed in both games that proved the deciding factor. Sure we only scored once in Game 2, but that’s probably because Rinne’s bad play sapped our confidence.

Rinne seemed to return to form in Games 3 and 4 at home, but then we had a epic meltdown in Pittsburgh. We lost that one 6-0. We finished this up by losing a defensive masterpiece in Nashville. I wasn’t surprised. While both Rinne and Matt Murray were brick walls in this game, I noticed that Rinne was being forced to move about to stop the puck a lot more than Murray was.

I’m not going to blame the refs. There are some who will and have. But while I generally view “you can’t leave it to the zebras” as an excuse for the corrupt (and don’t even think you trust the sports pundits who will always lie about the importance of the preseason for ratings’ sake on this), the reality is that we’d have just been slaughtered once again in Pittsburgh where Rinne protected the net about as well as cartoon security guards protect banks. That is what really lost us this series.

But just so we’re clear, this should have been a goal.

Rinne was inconsistent throughout the regular season, so perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. He has had hip problems throughout his career and will turn 35 next season. That’s not too old, but combined with a bad hip… while Rinne is still a solid goalie, you gotta wonder how much longer he can go. Juuse Saros better be ready soon just in case.

Despite this disappointing outcome, I am optimistic that we really have begun a Cup window. Yes, despite the heartbreak my teams have given me.

Still proud of what they accomplished!

Just one thing for this team’s newly passionate fanbase, though: we seem to have subpar regular seasons and good postseasons, so don’t worry about it if we come out flat next fall. Just keep calm and hate Chicago and Dallas! Welcome to Smashville!

Super Mario Land


The Game Boy. You should’ve been on this blog years ago.

Or maybe it’s that Final Fantasy XV is taking awhile to be completed, so I’m reviewing another retro game in the meantime. Take your pick.

Anyway, when Nintendo decided to expand its empire into the realm of handheld gaming, the pack-in (remember when a console came with a game free of charge) was actually not a Mario game but Tetris. However, Super Mario Land was still an important release for the Game Boy’s first year on the market simply by association with the Mario franchise. Alas, it doesn’t begin to hold up today. Even factoring in the release date and what handheld gaming was like back then, it’s very bland.

Plot: 4 out of 10

This is the rare post-Donkey Kong game in this franchise for the leading female to not be Princess Peach but Daisy, the (what else) Princess of a country called Sarasaland (I often mistook it for “Sarasalad” as a child, which would’ve been a lot funnier). An alien named Tatanga kidnaps Daisy and hypnotizes all the people of Sarasalad. Mario arrives to save the day!

 

A Decoy. Tatanga you magnificent bastard!

So basically, it’s the same story, but with a different supporting cast. So… what was the point of these new people? It should be noted that Daisy has only appeared in spin-offs since and Tatanga has never shown up again, period.

Graphics: 5 out of 10

I get it. This was an early game boy game. That’s a system that couldn’t do colors and is said to have been lambasted by the consumer magazines because of the lack of color compared to the competing Atari Lynx and later, the Sega Game Gear. Just ignore that the Game Boy’s much longer battery life enabled it to overwhelm all competitors despite a lack of power.

Hills created by pairs of lines. Ingenious.

There’s still no excuse for the poor shades of black in white on some characters leaving them looking less authentic. Not everything is drawn badly, though. It’s a mixed bag.

Sound: 6 out of 10

Mostly pedestrian, unmemorable music and sounds. The bosses do yelp out authentic squeals of pain when they are hit, though. That’s pretty impressive for this system.

Yep, it’s the bridge battle from SMB but with a different-looking boss.

Gameplay: 4 out of 10

Actually, the gameplay isn’t literally below average. The classic Super Mario Bros. controls and types of levels are recreated here. Some of the enemies are different and in place of the fireballs is a Super Ball, which is unfortunately a bit harder to use effectively. But the big issue is that this style of play is for a game that went out of date very quickly. Floaty jumps that don’t allow much control once your well above ground did not exactly have a long shelf life, for instance. Neither did disallowing backtracking.

You might think switching to the scrolling shooter genre for a couple levels would be worth a 5, but you’d be wrong. This was a pretty pedestrian, dying genre even in 1989.

Challenge: 5 out of 10

The difficulty isn’t particularly low or unbalanced, but the game lasts only half as long as the original SMB. This pads the point I’ve been making that this is a very dumbed-down version of another game. Say what you will. The new Super Mario Run on your phone is longer and more unique despite disappointing some, and it costs a fraction of what SML originally did.

So Mario CAN drive vehicles as opposed to running and jumping.

Overall: 4 out of 10

If a handheld Mario game comparable in any way to Super Mario Land (the far superior sequel is another story) were to come out now, it would be hated! But in 1989, when short, wire-framey, quick to “burn out” Tiger handhelds, were the standard of the on-the-go video game experience, SML was good enough. Today, though, it’s just not fun to play. It’s not bad, it’s just lifeless, boring, and definitely not “Super!”

Drunken Master


Jackie Chan as Wong Fei-Hung
Yuen Sieu-Tien as Begger So
Hwang Jang Lee as Thunderleg
Lam Kau as Wong Kei-Ying
Linda Lin as Fei-Hung’s aunt
Jing Tang as Fei-Hung’s cousin

Believe it or not, Jackie Chan has played a character who isn’t an unequivocal good guy. Much, much, earlier in his career, Jackie played at least one flawed character. That was a spoiled rich kid in Drunken Master.

The Snake form is pretty much the opposite of the old “Whacking Day” episode of The Simpsons.

Wong Fei-Hung is the son of nobleman Wong Kei-Ying. But Kei-Ying is less of a father than a businessman, for Fei-Hung has a tendency to do immature things like play pranks on Kei-Ying’s assistant martial arts teacher. Fei-Hung finally crosses the line when he tries to take advantage of an attractive girl who turns out to be his cousin. Kei-Ying comes to realize that he can’t properly teach his son, so he sends him away to an eccentric sensei known only as Beggar So. So is everything Fei-Hung is not: low income and living a hard life. And he seems to have a twisted sense of humor, taking great pleasure out of putting Fei-Hung through seemingly torturous exercises. But does So’s training serve a greater purpose than sadism?

The performances are great! Jackie plays a spoiled kid in this movie and does it well. We can also believe his change in attitude as the rough training he gets teaches him discipline and humility. Yuen Sieu-Tien does a good job as the wise mentor with a sense of humor. Like most of these chop socky comedies, Drunken Master has a villain. Although, as Thunderleg, he’s not incorporated into the movie in the best way — more on that later, Hwang Jang Lee plays a pretty good one — cold and ruthless.

At least he’s not grumpy and yelling at thin air.

The characters and plot are also well-written. Whether it’s Fei-Hung maturing under So, So demonstrating his humor and surprising wisdom, or Kei-Ying getting mad and disappointed at his son, we can see the characters grow. Additionally, the plot has many twists and turns.

The soundtrack is very underrated. Great music helps us get into the movie a great deal. This wasn’t the only 1970’s movie with an awesome soundtrack. GodfatherStar WarsSuperman: the MovieThree MuscateersDrunken Master… they must not make movie music like they used to.

Beware the finger!

But I mentioned earlier that Thunderleg isn’t squeezed in very well. His chance encounters and eventual climatic battle with Fei-Hung are set up too conveniently by half. And while the action is choreographed fantastically, almost all the fights are extremely one-sided. All but two fights are ass-stompings in which the loser is lucky to ever land a blow. What is this, the NBA playoffs?

Regardless, Drunken Master is definitely one of my favorites in both the comedy and action genres. It’s just far from perfect.

Overall: 8 out of 10