The Good Bits: February 2017

February was full of fun, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. March is here now and has a lot to offer, mostly in terms of film, but also in terms of a certain type of media I haven’t mentioned on here yet: video games. I love gaming, but I’m not normally playing any games considered current. But, now that I’m newly equipped with an Xbox One, that’s beginning to change, so I’ll be adding a Currently Gaming category. On that note, if you ever have free time you want to kill, why not watch myself and my fiancée play Diablo III together? Head over to The Co-op Couple on Youtube and get watchin’!

Iron Reagan, Crossover Ministry (Relapse)

iron-reagan

I’m not sure why, but in the past I haven’t been as interested in albums with twenty plus songs ranging from thirty seconds to three minutes. This is the case on many thrash/hardcore/crossover thrash albums, and the only reason I can think for avoiding them is that I lean more towards progressive albums with nine or ten songs ranging anywhere from six to fourteen minutes. I also get more bored by thrash than I used to; there aren’t many newer bands in the subgenre to catch my attion. But I have enjoyed Municipal Waste in the past, and I’ve seen both them and their offshoot Iron Reagan live before and thought they put on a hell of a show. I can’t remember ever just sitting down with an Iron Reagan album before, but there hasn’t been much to catch my attention this month. And I mean really catch my attention. I threw Crossover Ministry on in my car just because it was new and two minutes later I was pumped. It’s a short album that can be finished under half and hour, but I had a lot of fun listening to it, so much so that I put it on again the next day.

 

Arrival

arrival

Arrival is a perfect example of a sci-fi film that doesn’t feel the need to resort to action in order to be great. Don’t get me wrong, I love my action sci-fi movies, but why do movies involving Earth and aliens always have to be a horror show or an explosive set piece? Why do we assume that the first thing aliens want to do is destroy Earth? Arrival bucks this trend with aliens showing up in multiple ships around the globe and then just kind of loitering. So it’s up to Amy Adams, a linguist professor, and Jeremy Renner, a theoretical physicist, to figure out who the aliens are and why they’re on Earth. What follows is a perfectly paced sci-fi drama that leads to much discussion and debate.

It’s hard to talk about this movie without getting into spoiler territory, and I really think this is the kind of film where you should go in blind to get the full impact of the story. Suffice it to say that the film manages to sidestep any M. Night Shyamalan nonsense when it comes to the central twist. It makes sense within the plot as well as thematically and there are hints dropped here and there that, if you’re really thinking and paying attention, you can figure it out just before the reveal. That, in my opinion, is the best kind of twist, one that leaves you actual breadcrumbs and ties into the whole rest of the story rather than being a simple pulling back of the curtain.

Director Denis Villeneuve’s next film is Blade Runner 2049 and he’s also slated to direct a new adaptation of Dune. If you are excited for either of those films, watching Arrival will give you hope as Villeneuve demonstrates his virtuosic ability. And if you don’t care about those movies, Arrival is still worth your time, so much so that I would go back to my top five of 2016 and put this in.

 

Get Out

get_out

I have been pitching this movie to the uninitiated as Rosemary’s Baby meets Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. If that’s a combination that piques your interest, I assure you it’s worth your time. The movie is about a black man, Chris (Kaluuya), who goes to visit his white girlfriend’s family. They’re a little strange, but not as strange as the few other black people Chris meets. What follows is an expertly crafted comedy horror film that provides not only a subversive take on black protagonists, but highly relevant social commentary that we kind of need.

Don’t let the label of comedy horror fool you; this film is thick with tension and you never really feel at ease, which is my favorite kind of approach to horror. Sure, there’s one or two minor jump scares, but the atmosphere is the star of the show here. Every now and again the tension is broken to deliver much needed laughs, usually from Chris’ best friend played by Lil Rey Howery, whose character is meant to channel your typical horror audience (“I told you not to go in that door!”) to hilarious results. It’s a great dichotomy, and allows the tense atmosphere to stay potent without being overwhelming and the comedy never feels overdone.  I’d rather not spoil the film (surprise surprise) but suffice it to say that it’s a solid horror film in its own right and it’s relevancy when it comes to race issues both in Hollywood and the world as a whole make it a horror film you can actually learn something from.

 

Books:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

do-androids-dream-of-electric-sheep

I’m going to flat out say that Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? may be one of my new favorite books, and not just in the sci-fi genre. I may be late to the party, but I just can’t get over how a book that’s nearly fifty years old can be so refreshing to read. I read it before watching Blade Runner, the cult classic film that I had so long neglected. Now, both are different mediums and both excel in different areas, but if we’re going by overall level of enjoyment, I’d have to give the nod to Dick’s original vision. The writing is snappy and well-paced, never getting boring or diving into too much backstory. If you’re a fan of Blade Runner, I’d highly recommend picking this up to see where it all started. Meanwhile, I’m going to give the film another run sometime before Blade Runner 2049 comes out this fall.

 

Currently Reading

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

dune-messiah

Dune was yet another 60’s sci-fi classic I’d yet to read until last year, and I loved it. So I picked up the next book right away, but I’ve sat on it for a while because of my extensive reading list. Now I’m about halfway through, and so far it’s a welcome return to Arrakis.

 

Currently Gaming:

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Xbox 360)

As I said above, Lizzy and I have been playing co-op in D3 for a while now and we’ve been recording our progress. We only just started posting the videos, but in real life we’re at Act V!

Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (Xbox One)

Dishonored 2 (Xbox One)

 

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