And, Just Like That – I’m Back

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Hey, all – if anyone is still reading this blog, you know it’s now 2018 and I haven’t really posted on this one in about four years. This is mostly due to having another blog which I enjoy writing on very much called Away With Words here on WordPress. However, that blog is a very different sort of blog with various personal stories, book reviews, and short fiction along with writing prompts and travel and opinion pieces.

Here’s the thing – I miss doing reviews. Aside from the books, my other blog isn’t really a space for that. So, I am dipping my toes in once again, and I plan to start slow and catch up on some reviews of games and movies and anything else I’ve seen/played since 2014 (sounds like a lot already). We’ll see how it goes. If people like the new reviews, maybe I’ll stick with it. Who knows.

In any case, thank you for the continued interest in this blog to all of you who’ve popped in over the past four years, off and on. I hope the new ones live up to the old.

-Joe

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Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4 – 2018)

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In Red Dead Redemption 2, players assume control of Arthur Morgan – the ornery, unofficial right-hand man to Dutch Van Der Linde (players may remember Dutch from his prominent role in Red Dead Redemption – and, yes – this is a prequel, taking place in between Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Revolver). As Arthur, players will assist Dutch and the gang in various heists and will eventually decide if they wish to be pure evil or become a wild west version of Robin Hood. Along the way, there will be lots of backstabbing, betrayal, and bloodshed no matter which path you choose.

If you’re familiar at all with Red Dead Redemption – you’ll be right at home. If not, then don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities in-game for you to practice different skills and controls. And, if like me you’re familiar with the rest of the Red Dead games – there’s enough changes to keep things fresh and exciting. As Dutch would say – “Don’t worry.”

The game is massive – and that’s not even including Red Dead Redemption 2‘s online mode – which essentially makes the game endlessly replayable. There’s at least 60+ hours of content in the main story alone, with lots of side quests and exploration to do aside from the main story.

Though the game’s online mode is still a bit buggy and the economy is somewhat broken – the online play is still in beta, and it’s said that Rockstar is ironing out a lot of the problems already. Even with the bugs and the broken currency, I’ve still had a blast online getting mercilessly murdered by fellow players for simply walking in their relative vicinity. However, where RDR2 really shines is its story mode  – an epic western which meanders over miles of in-game terrain. Even though we all know what happens to Dutch and the gang via the story we experienced in the original Red Dead Redemption – we don’t necessarily know what happens to Arthur Morgan, which is great because it keeps an element of surprise within the story we already expect, enabling Rockstar to deliver a western tale with much more emotional weight than you’d think, truly delivering on all fronts.

The graphics are amazing, the score is amazing, the gameplay is addictive, and the characters and setting are compelling. The amount of detail that went into this game is unbelievable. Play it, and you surely won’t regret it (unless you hate westerns or open world games for some reason). This is pretty much a perfect game in my eyes.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

 

Saints Row: The Third (2011 – X-Box 360)

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

I couldn’t resist trying this game.

The story takes place in the fictional city of Steelport and you are in control of a gang called the Third Street Saints, eventually rising to the very top. The style of game play is open-ended (and similar to Grand Theft Auto), with a major story arc but lots of things you can do on your own as you battle for control against other gangs in the city and eventually, a militaristic gang-suppression squad called STAG.

I am not a huge fan of the entire series (due to ignorance, not any other reason), having never really played the first two games. Seeing the trailers for Saints Row: The Third, though, inspired me to buy it the same day it came out (though I didn’t make it in time to pre-order, so I didn’t get the cool Professor Genki stuff). I was not disappointed.

I am a spastic gamer, and when I first bought it, it ended up sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a year because, hey, I’m a busy man. I’d created a couple characters (really nice system for that, by the way) and it was fun but I hadn’t really gotten into the game until recently, with THQ being sold off.

It didn’t take me too long to beat the main story arc. It was probably only something like 30 hours, if that. (I take my time)

The graphics were all really nice, the animation was pretty awesome, and the story line was fun (Lots of sex and drugs and violence, though, so don’t let your kiddos play). I didn’t have any expectations of it other than it would be fun, similar to how I think when I go see an action flick.

It’s definitely one of the better titles I’ve played and I will be playing through again at least once or twice more now that I’ve beaten it to unlock everything and get the achievements.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Gameplay Trailer for Saints Row: The Third

Waitress (2007)

Waitress (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: May 25, 2007
Director: Adrienne Shelly

Jenna (Keri Russell), a server who is trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), has a talent for creating amazing pies -which she often uses to mentally escape from her life. A new doctor comes to town (Nathan Fillion) and she finds out from him that she’s pregnant, spurring a series of events that rock her world and force her into action.

Waitress kind of surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie before seeing it. I’d watched the trailer and  liked the look of the cinematography and the narrative voice of Jenna’s character. I love Jeremy Sisto as an actor, and also Nathan Fillion, so it was a natural for me to check out.

The acting was amazing in this movie. I hadn’t seen much of Keri Russel but she played her part very well. Jeremy Sisto was an amazing douche bag husband and Nathan Fillion was, of course, charming as the new doc. This was a very character-driven piece, the plot being secondary. Adrienne Shelly weaved everything together masterfully, though, and it all came together. I enjoyed seeing all the different sorts of pies she made and I rooted for her success. (Plus, we got to see Matlock in a diner)

About the only thing that kept me from giving it five stars was the pacing toward the end. By the time it was starting to wrap up, I had already figured out almost everything that was going to happen and basically had to stick around to see if I was right, at the end. Still, Adrienne Shelly definitely showcased her directing chops with this one. It’s too bad that she was murdered and now will not be able to create any more films. 😦

PS – I wonder if they created a pie recipe book as a movie tie-in. I’ll have to Google that…

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Waitress

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Original Theatrical Release: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) become the winter caretakers of a massive seasonal hotel in the mountains. At first, everything is ideal. Jack has all the space he needs in order to write his next novel while Wendy enjoys the beautiful scenery and time with their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who seems to have a form of autism. However, it’s not long before the Torrance family discovers that maybe they’re not alone in that big hotel, and that maybe it has dark secrets. The family begins to unravel and soon it becomes a fight for survival.

The Shining is scary even by today’s standards because it not only has the supernatural element of the haunted hotel ( who doesn’t think a massive old hotel is creepy in the first place?) but also a writer haunted by his own demons; alcoholism and anger among them. Seeing a family slowly unravel is scary enough but when there’s a little kid involved, most of us become extra-invested. Children are often defenseless against an adult in real life, let alone ghosts, and when your parents don’t believe that ghosts exist? Well, then, you’re outta’ luck, kid.

Jack Nicholson’s performance is right up there for me among the best I’ve witnessed because I’ve SEEN Jack Torrance before. I KNOW guys like that, who get drunk and take out their frustrations on the world around them. I immediately identify and sympathize with the kiddo and his mom. On top of that, we have Stephen King at his best writing the story that the screenplay was adapted from…and you have Stanley Kubrick, an amazing director with all those long, ominous shots (who doesn’t remember the camera going over the car as it’s winding through the mountain roads? Or the long shot of the hallway as Danny rides his Big-Wheel in hesitant fear?) It’s a horror masterpiece, where lots of amazing talent converged. None of the remakes have touched on its original terror.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Shining