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Hello! For some context, I will begin with the following points for your consideration.

1) With a baby/little one in the house, it's always hard to take time off for ourselves. Both because it requires a babysitter, and it requires us to free us from the guilt of leaving him alone when he already spends so much time in day care anyway. So naturally, our filmgoing has been reduced.

2) In addition to the above consideration, we've had to prioritize our chosen hobbies in other ways. I've opted to mostly use my personal time for video games. Maria mostly uses hers to read books or listen to audio books. So really, movies aren't even at the top of our list anymore, which means we often opt not to see things on video, ultimately.

3) On rare occasions, Maria and I will see things without one another. Sometimes we'll take turns, but more often, this leads to one of us seeing something that the other skips. I didn't care that much about Joyful Noise or Men in Black 3 at the time of their releases, but Maria cared enough to go. On the flip side, Maria couldn't have cared less about hitting the theater for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance or Skyfall. And these are but a few examples.

Despite these points, we did all right in 2012. We saw our fair share of movies. What movies did I personally see which were new releases in 2012? All of these:

Big Miracle
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
John Carter
The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman
(x2 viewings)
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Dark Knight Rises
The Bourne Legacy
Resident Evil: Retribution
Taken 2
Pitch Perfect
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
Wreck-It Ralph
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II

2012 releases not seen until video:
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
The Hunger Games
The Cabin in the Woods

DTV New Releases:
Justice League: Doom
Superman vs. The Elite

That's not so bad for someone with a new baby, but we did skip some things we wanted to see because they came ever-so-close to not making it past our "We REALLY want to go" justification sensation, or weren't available to us anymore once we finally had the time to go out to them.

As for 2013, well. We might see all of the movies below, or we might not. We might even see some things that aren't on this list. Sadly, there's not a lot of originality in this list: We've gotta stick with relatively sure things these days to avoid even more guilt from leaving our son, so we have many familiar franchises below. Regardless, here's what I'm keeping on my radar for the new year... so far.

February 1: Warm Bodies - This is a "zombie romance" that looks truly hilarious. It's based on a novel, and the trailer really got us both excited about this. Might see.

February 14: A Good Day to Die Hard - There's no question that I have to see the fifth Die Hard film. To date, this is a rare franchise that I don't feel has a single bad entry. Might wind up going with my dad, however. Either way, will see.

March 29: G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Another must-see for me, and another one that Maria will likely skip out on. Yo Joe!

March 29: The Host - Do we care about Stephanie Meyer's "adult" (read: "sexful") alien invasion/possession love triangle story? Maybe. All those Twilight movies were alternatively silly fun/unintentionally comedic with dashes of genuinely exciting engagement, so I'm kind of interested in seeing how her other story pans out. I'm not sure?

April 12: Evil Dead - This is definitely one I'd wind up seeing alone if I bother to go. Nobody else wants to go with me to this freaky-looking remake of the horror-focused classic. I consider this a "maybe" leaning towards the "yes." It looks like it might do justice to how unsettling the original is...

May 3: Iron Man 3 - The Mandarin emerges at last. Yes, we're going. No question.

May 17: Star Trek Into Darkness - We're almost certainly going to see this, too, given how much we enjoyed the initial reboot, but man, I wish summer movies were more spaced out, because...

May 24: Fast Six - The first in a two-part saga about Letty's return! PROBABLY another given attendance, because I usually enjoy this series and I've always LOVED the even-numbered sequels, but man, I need a break now.

June 14: Man of Steel - Yeah, looks like they dropped "Superman" from the title. And it's another absolute, no-question, I will be there and so will Maria.

July 26: The Wolverine - Thanks for the break, Hollywood. The X-Men saga finally moves forward in time after The Last Stand with this story of Logan in Japan. We'll see it; it's another certainty.

August 2: 300: Rise of an Empire - It's a "maybe." As fun as the original 300 is, I'm not sure if we were clamoring for a side-quel about a simultaneous naval battle, and c'mon, no Gerard Butler? But... not even in a flashback cameo, maybe?

August 16: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters - The first one is one of my favorite Harry Potter movies, so YES.

September 6: Riddick - FINALLY. SO ABSOLUTELY YES. God this list is starting to sound long.

October 4: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - My feelings on this start out sounding the same as my opinion of the 300 side-quel. "Yeah, the first is great (and I like it more than 300 really), but I don't know that I want more of that." Now add to that the fact that this one contains a new story written by MODERN Frank Miller, who is one of the worst and most hateful writers I've ever tortured my senses with. And this falls down a bit lower for that. It's kind of an "eh, I dunno."

October 25: The World's End - Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost team for their third and supposedly final genre-fusion comedy, where a group of guys decide to go on a pub crawl that ends at a pub called "The World's End" on the very night that the world is actually friggin' ending. Sadly, as excited as I am to see this, I don't know if it'll be enough to get me in the theater for it... but I think it will.

November 8: Thor: The Dark World - It's Thor. Y'know. Thor, Loki, NatPort, etc. We'll be there.

November 22: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - I bet we'll see this with some of our local friends.

December 20: Anchorman: The Legend Continues - I'd love to go with my pal Holly to see this, given that she was there when I was introduced to the first one. In reality, I dunno if I'll make it to the theater for this, but it makes it on the list anyway

That list is little too long for comfort - 18 movies in total - so I figure we'll skip out on some of the above with impunity, or wait for video on a few of the lesser entries. But now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
15 November 2012 @ 08:46 am
I'm very lucky to have what I have RE: my family, but it doesn't leave a ton of time to do other stuff. I manage to work in a halfway-decent amount of video gaming. But of course, I don't have time for much else. Posts like that last one I did? Back in freaking July? That took a week to write, and it was a bit of a stretch to pull *that* timetable off.

What I'm saying is "I don't post as much as I used to." And if I did post more, it'd probably mostly be about how much I love my wife and my son. I know people on the Netz get tired of that kind of stuff. And in all honesty, I've never been one to blog as much about my personal life as I do about geeky stuff. That's really what I talk about: video games, movies, comic books. Rarely do I come here to discuss my life.

Even so, I'll take a moment to do that now. And then I'll move onto the geeky stuff again.

Oliver's walking and damn near RUNNING without help, and he's even eating solid food. He's exhausting, but so incredibly adorable and rewarding. In many ways, he controls our moods: If he's happy, we're happy, and if he's grouchy, we're grouchy. I never thought I'd have a kid of my very own, but I also don't regret the decision. He is SO smart, SO cute, SO sweet, SO clever and SO busy!

Even so, I'm pretty sure we're done here: one is our maximum, because this is just so tiring and difficult to pull off. It's a lot of work to keep him happy and safe; kinda like having another full-time job. I have no idea how people survive having more children. Two kids? No one should really have to endure that, but I have much respect for those who can pull it off. Three kids? I hope you're hiring a full-time nanny service for that. Four or more? I should probably just lock you away, for clearly you are some kind of crazy person.

Maria is such a champion for putting up with the messes that Ollie and I make. She has to work so much to keep the house running, and I always offer to help, but there's precious little she'll allow me to do. I'm forbidden to do laundry for some reason, and this is merely the beginning. Yet she does everything the house needs with a smile on her face while listening to her favorite audio books, because she's the rock star queen.

Ollie's current favorite foods include animal crackers and Chic Fil-A. His favorite toys include the clacking alligators and anything we're holding that he probably shouldn't play with.

He's so incredibly busy that we have to watch one-hour TV shows over the course of like, two and a half hours. I can't really play many console games anymore until he goes to sleep, but I managed to squeeze in quite a few before it came to that. In fact, I'm going to talk about a couple of the last few console games I played... right now!

A while back, I played "Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon" on my Wii, which is about as Japanese a game as has ever Japaned a Japan. It's anime-style, it's got a nonsense title, it's full of esoteric spirituality, and, oh, did I mention it's relentlessly depressing? That last part's not really Japanese in particular, but it does suck out any feelings of personal pleasure about as thoroughly as Silent Hill 2. It's a tale about a 15-year-old boy who was born after a mysterious apocalypse. He travels through Japan in the hopes of connecting with some sort of live human being, but mostly encounters ghosts and occasional service robots. You find lots of artifacts from people's lives that will tell you about their personal trials as well as how they died, and that's both the most interesting part of the game and its most harrowing. As a parent, "tales of dead babies and dead toddlers" is not really something I'm looking for in my video games anymore. Plus there's more backtracking than any game, ever, and our hero can't even run, so it's super-slow go8ing. Artistically? It's very engaging, but seriously, who wants to endure this? Pass on it.

When I was done with that, I moved on to Rainbow Six Vegas 2, which is one of those games that infects your brain after a while. You start thinking about the most tactical approach to any situation, not just in the game, but in LIFE. If I want to buy a bag of Granny Smith Apples, what's the most effective way to maintain secure coverage while I approach the produce section? Hmmm, I should tell one of my squadmates to throw down a flashbang and then take cover on the right side of the apple display, while the other one secures the southern end down by the meats and fishes counter. Better tell them to only return fire when fired upon, just to be sure - some of these Hy-Vee patrons look like civvies.

Shortly thereafter, however, it became clear that it was harder and harder to play games on the TV. Ollie's needs more time and attention the older he gets, and I'm sure as heck not going to deny it to him. I've managed to work through some shorter titles like Journey and Battleship, but I primarily do most of my gaming on portables during my lunch hour at work. Hey, whatever works! This is a good way to stay on top of my favorite hobby. I've been playing a lot of my shiny PlayStation Vita lately. I utterly loved Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Resistance: Burning Skies and Silent Hill: Book of Memories. The last one had an especially awesome system of moral karma and a really engaging storyline that was told in a minimalistic way. Very clever little dungeon crawler. Now I'm onto playing the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot, which is pretty rad thus far, but I'm not too deep yet.

Around August or so, it occurred to us in Casa Skiles that we could be watching DVDs of movies we haven't seen before. So Maria and I watched Morning Glory over a few nights. It was DELIGHTFUL. Harrison Ford has had a pretty lousy streak in recent years, but I think his salvation may lie in playing a soft-spoken angry asshole for the rest of his life, because it's pretty much Premium Entertainment, right there.

Also wonderful? Cabin in the Woods. Joss Whedon wrote it, and he didn't manage to make me enraged before the end, so kudos on having a good year with me, Mr. Whedon. Seriously, Cabin in the Woods is SO clever in about five ways. I imagine I'll be referencing it for years to come. (Especially when next year's Evil Dead remake comes out.)

Maria and I still manage to sneak out and see movies at the theater on occasion, although it's rarer than before. Thanks to a combination of Redbox rentals, taking turns going out, and using occasional babysitters (mostly my mother), we've managed to take in such sequels as Taken 2 (surprisingly strong), Resident Evil: Retribution (really, really disappointing) and Silent Hill: Revelation (almost equal to the first).

Most recently, I went with a visiting dontevenknow just last Saturday to see Wreck-It Ralph. I walked out thinking that it probably wouldn't stick with me long. However, it's already stuck with me longer than I expected. I've managed to consider its implications every day since Saturday. It's really cute, it has a lot of geek reference in the first 20 minutes, and Vanellope sticks with you. She grows on you like a fungus that you want to spray off at first but then you kinda like it after a while because you've been driven insane by its presence, and it... deserves to live too? Okay, that didn't really make sense.

That's a rapid summation of my life at current, but I'm sure I'll have more to say in the future. I'm going to try not to go QUITE this long without posting again. Maybe I can shoot for monthly, at the very least? That'd be nice.

I've got so much to say about Prometheus that it's hard to know exactly where to begin. My mind has been boiling with thoughts ever since I left the theater, and it's hard to stop thinking about it sometimes.

Rest assured that I'll start off vague, then I'll warn you when we get into some basic plot spoilers, and then I'll warn you again when I get really spoiler-heavy.

For the first day after the film, I pondered if it was worth such heavy analysis, or if it was really just thin. The deeper I dove into what I saw in my own mind, the more I felt satisfied that it was definitely worthy of the time to dig down into the movie's juicy core. This movie is the antithesis of the paper-thin heart found at the core of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

Ultimately, this is a movie that's all about subverted expectations and the classic concept "getting what you thought you wanted, but not the way you wanted." This extends even beyond the film itself. People seem to have gone in with ideas of what this movie would be about, and it seems to have defied many of those, for better or worse. However, that core tenet is really a major part of the story as a whole. Every character has some kind of expectations for this mission or their lives as a whole that didn't/doesn't go the way they planned. Nothing about the mission of the Prometheus turns out as its leaders or greatest detractors hoped, and that extends well into individual backstories and characterizations. It feels like Ridley Scott, now in his 80s, is probably bringing out some of his own demons through that theme.

Okay, you're already getting that I'm inclined to dig pretty hard into this flick. It's more than just a raw piece of entertainment in my mind. There are really three levels to the movie: The core entertainment level, the textual level that deals with what the narrative is trying to say about life and its origins, and the metatextual, thematic level where Ridley Scott seems to be saying something about his own perspectives. That's not even talking about how this movie surely plays differently for the Alien fans than it does for the newcomers. In short: This is some Inception shit, people. We're going DEEP.

But let's start with the beginning: I remember how frustrated and disappointed I felt when Ridley announced that the Alien prequel would now be a standalone film titled Prometheus that might deal with some of the same basic tenets, but wouldn't really lead into Alien proper. I believe I even posted about my disappointment here. Yet as time went on, it became clear that Ridley was definitely going to be exploring the "Space Jockey" creature that we saw dead in that biomechanical starship way back in Alien. However, as that became public, we still weren't sure where this would fit into Alien continuity, if it even fit at all, and we certainly felt pretty strongly that we shouldn't expect to see a capital-A "ALIEN" in the movie. (Or a "xenomorph," if you prefer.)

As the movie approached, a viral campaign began that revealed Guy Pierce would be playing the new head of Weyland Industries, Peter Weyland. At this point, I cut myself off from the viral campaign. I didn't want to learn too much or get too hyped. Truth be told, I lacked faith. I hadn't liked or even cared about much of what Ridley Scott did for the past 15 years or so. I had little idea of what this movie was going to be, but I didn't expect suspense or action.

As the movie got closer, I of course stumbled across various tidbits via commercials, theatrical trailers and the occasional snippet of info. Of course the movie was going to deal with humans traveling to a distant world in an attempt to find aliens they believed created humanity on Earth - creatures they called "Engineers" but whom fans already knew as "Space Jockeys." But from there, the rumors conflicted: The movie would contain zero xenomorphs, but it would show how the ship crash-landed on LV-426. Wait, no, it wouldn't show that at all, but it would indeed hint at the origin of the xenomorphs. But then again, maybe we'd never LV-426 OR any alien. Or maybe we'd see a facehugger, but not a full-grown alien. Or nothing at all. Wait. What?

In the end, all we knew was that this wasn't really an Alien movie. It was something else in that same world, something with grander aspirations.

Finally, I had to see the movie to really find out what was up. I walked in aware of what the trailers showed me (which sure looked like horror/action to me), the fact that Guy Pierce played Peter Weyland, and the fact that Michael Fassbender played an android.

When I walked out? I loved it. In fact, I was glued to the screen from roughly 15 minutes in on forward. Over the past two days? I've grown to be more frustrated with some elements than others. But ultimately, I still think this is a huge victory for Ridley Scott.

Now, this is a movie more concerned with questions than answers. That's really one of its strongest assets - the fact that you can interpret and/or intuit much of what you see - and also one of its most frustrating elements. I love how many questions are left wide open without really leaving plot holes. You can see various potential answers, and you can even intuit the clearest ones. But you don't know for sure, and I dig that.

On the other hand, I think the film's weakest aspect is that the opening sequence never quite makes sense based on what we learn in the film. This is obviously by design; Scott and the screenwriters want us to talk it out. But I feel like that one question may be a step slightly too far.

Okay, we need to get into some basic plot spoilers.

Click to go even deeper.Collapse )
22 May 2012 @ 10:21 pm
I got a job offer today. It's a job I know I can do, with a supervisor who I really liked during the interview. It's even a raise over the job I got laid off from!

I feel very lucky that it only took me a month to find a new position. The last time I lost a job, it took me seven months to get back into my field — at a pay cut, no less.

I don't want to brag about this. That's not what I'm trying to do. I just... am feeling relieved and grateful. So much weight has been lifted off of my shoulders as well as Maria's.
26 April 2012 @ 03:00 pm
Applying for jobs full-time is exhausting. I'm about ready to crash over here. It really has a draining effect on one's energy.

I'm very tired, but I've covered a ton of ground. I've got my Unemployment lined up, I've applied to 14-17 jobs (depending on what you consider "applying"), I've got a counselor at KansasWorks going to bat for me, and I'm putting my information onto job sites I previously didn't even know existed.

This is only day three, so I feel pretty good about the headway I'm making.

We're also cutting back on spending. Things were always a little tight before the new job came into play, but now they're understandably tighter. Hopefully we won't be a single-income household for very long, but we're trimming everywhere we can.

I'm trying not to act like a soul-sucking pit of despair. For my family's sake, of course. It's best to remain optimistic and try to put on a brave face; even so, it's hard not to be stressed out. I think we all are. Even Ollie probably senses it.

Let this period of struggle pass as quickly as possible.
23 April 2012 @ 04:02 pm
Do you know anyone who's looking for someone with writing/editing/management skills? Feel free to let me know, because I got let go from my shiny new job today. Department restructuring, apparently.
21 February 2012 @ 08:30 am
Hi all! So I'm alive. I've got some big news, but I'll have to put that in a friendslocked post after this one. For now, I'll give some other updates.

Oliver is doing so well. He's so good at grabbing things, he's so smiley, his neck is so strong now. He especially smiles a ton at his gorgeous mommy. He likes to hold his little stuffed tigger and play on his play mat. Oh lord, when he grabs the monkey hanging from his little play pad... he can yell at that monkey for a good long while. Like a persistant, adorable yodle. "AAAAhhhaaaaAAAHHHaaaaAHHHH!" That baby is so cute and so sweet and frequently so zen! He tends to be quite peaceful, and we're very lucky for that. Of course, when the crawling starts, we'll be beside ourselves with panic, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. He's just barely trying to "scoot" during his tummy time right now. He's got a little practice ahead of him yet.

I've been successfully updating The Daily Backlogger every day from Monday through Friday. It's good practice for my dream of being a video game journalist someday, and it's also a good way to keep myself writing no matter where life may take me. I don't know if many... or, well, any... people are really following it, but I'm enjoying the challenge.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance was a good guilty pleasure. It was entertaining and far from boring, yet I feel bad for liking it because I sincerely hate the whole "requel" thing. The notion of a reboot that's also a prequel/sequel just sounds like someone's lame excuse for how they couldn't be bothered to watch the previous movie(s), and yesterday I saw an interview with the directors where they confirmed that, despite all of their badmouthing of it, they never saw even five minutes of the 2007 Ghost Rider. Note for the future: If you publically badmouth a movie without ever watching it, you immediately go on my "douche" list. (Yes, Robert Rodriguez, this means I've had to downgrade you to "douche" for how much you've trashed the Alien vs. Predator movies prior to finally admitting that you never saw either one.)

I'll do that other bit of news behind a friends post now.
27 January 2012 @ 12:53 pm
I have a huge backlog of video games, and I love to talk/write about them. That's why I made my new blog, The Daily Backlogger.

Every Monday through Friday (and sometimes other days), I'll be posting something over there about video games, usually focusing on what I've been playing lately. Sometimes it'll just be a review, like the ones I've done this week. Sometimes it'll try to be funny, like my Mario vs. Donkey Kong post from earlier this month. Sometimes it'll just be a reaction to the latest news. Whatever it is, I hope gamers out there enjoy it. I'm having fun with it.
I've been playing Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem on my DS - mostly by squeezing in a few levels here and there in the middle of the night while I'm rocking my son to sleep. MULTITASKING!

I have some good news: It's MUCH better than (and much longer than) "Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2," which felt like it was slapped together in a weekend by someone who was half-asleep.

Ignoring its quality, though, I want to take a moment to reflect on how utterly bizarre this franchise's path has been. I mean, Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the GBA was a great platformer with puzzles to it, a game where Mario was chasing down Donkey Kong because DK stole a bunch of "Mini-Mario" wind-up toys. The title becomes misleading in the sequels, however, as Mario barely shows up. Instead, he just appears long enough to wind up the Mini-Mario toys and send them marching in one direction - towards Donkey Kong - and it's up to you, the player, to remove all obstacles in the toys' path so that they can exact their mindless, accidental revenge upon the poor ape. How utterly insane is that?

Imagine if someone made a game where a hero battled pirates because they stole tons of gold, and the sequel was about the non-sentient gold coins accidentally rolling their way into bonking the pirates on the head as punishment for their transgression in the first adventure. Clearly, someone at Nintendo said "What if the sequel to Mario vs. Donkey Kong was the most passive, ludicrous revenge tale to ever star a bunch of inanimate objects?" And someone ELSE thought this idea was GOOD.

Of course, the sequels aren't just about revenge; they're about getting back Pauline. Yeah, Donkey Kong is falling back on old habits, and is STILL kidnapping Pauline, the girl from the original Donkey Kong whom Mario is still hanging around with! And based on how Pauline's voice actrees delivers all of her lines in an overtly sexual fashion, it's obvious she still has it bad for chubby midgets of the Italian persuasion. It's hard to NOT suspect that Mario is tapping that. Is DK kidnapping Pauline as some sort of attempt to get Mario to 'fess up to Peach about his two-timin' ways?

What happens in the Mushroom Kingdom stays there, baby. You're my only girl in THIS dimension.

Further comedy is provided by how little of a damn Mario gives when his ex-girlfriend/secret lover is abducted. In the first game, when toys are stolen? It's ON. In the sequels, when a friend is taken by a rampaging gorilla? Eh, fuck that bitch. Mario winds up some toys that mindlessly march towards the ape, then leaves to grab a drink. He does this at the start of each "world" - not even each stage! - so he makes like 8 appearances in the whole game, just so he can wind up some toys and walk off. Then it's up to you to make the toys administer their mindless justice while Mario goes off and saves his ACTUAL girlfriend, perhaps, or maybe just drinks a coffee and reads the paper.

Steal my toys? It's GO TIME, motherfucker.

Steal my ex-girlfriend? Well... sucks to be her.