Making Football Nerdier

I would like football better if more teams abandoned repetitive, predictable plays in favor of zany carnage backed up by solid math. (Link via The Morning News.)

Short Movie Review: The Lookout

The directorial debut of veteran screenwriter Scott Frank (*Minority Report*, *Out of Sight*), *The Lookout* is a neat little thriller that centers around a young man, Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who was left with a moderate brain trauma after a car accident. While outwardly, Chris might look fine, his injury makes it hard for him to do simple things like cook dinner or talk to girls—he has trouble putting things in sequence. After a seemingly chance encounter with charismatic Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) and a beautiful woman (Isla Fisher), Chris gets embroiled in a risky scheme. There’s a slew of excellent performances here, from Gordon-Levitt, who has become an extremely versatile leading man (if you haven’t seen *Brick*, you’re missing out), and Jeff Daniels, as Lewis, Chris’s blind roommate. This could have been a paint-by-numbers kind of flick, but it ends up being an interesting portrait of a disabled character, without veering into weepy, maudlin territory.

Short Comic Review: 100 Bullets

It was a rainy day this past Saturday, so I figured I’d pass some time rereading the most recent volume of 100 Bullets. I ended up rereading the entire series, more or less in reverse order by volume. This is not uncommon for me, the release of each new volume prompts me to go back and reread everything before and I’ve easily read the first several books 15 times. For me, 100 Bullets is effectively to comics what the Wire is for television; there is always something more for me to glean from it with each new reading/viewing.

100 Bullets presents itself at first as series of strange morality tales. An operative for an unknown agency, Agent Graves, approaches a person who has been greatly wronged and presents them with a briefcase containing a gun, one hundred rounds that cannot be traced, and carte blanche to proceed as they like. Early stories explore the different ways people deal with Grave’s offer, but the series quickly expands beyond that to explore questions concerning the origins of Agent Graves, who employs him, and how/why are people chose to receive this offer. Through these avenues story of 100 Bullets rapidly transitions to explorations of mass conspiracies and complicated plots of vengeance between an ensemble cast of characters with murky pasts. Brian Azzarello’s writing does a great job of providing distinct voices for his many characters and shows a level of planning with regard for a slowly revealed plot that I personally have never seen in comics before. (At a planned, and almost completed, one hundred issues this series mandates an intense commitment to the concept.) Eduardo Riso’s art never fail to impress and seems perfectly suited for the noir/pulp themes the stories explore. I’ll be sad to see this series end but I’m very much looking forward to the answers to questions that have been building for years.

The penultimate volume come out at the end of September, and with only 5 issues left the series will reach its end soon. Definitely one of the best series going, and even with the stiff competition from DMZ this is my favorite current Vertigo title.

Short Movie Review: Death Race

Death Race is stupid fun. Director Paul W.S. Anderson (Mortal Kombat, Alien vs. Predator, Resident Evil) and star Jason Statham (The Transporter, Crank, War) were already my go-to people for stupid fun movies so having them do something together is really just an all around time saver.

The premise is explained with a few lines of text that intro the movie: the year is 2012, stuff is bad, people yearn for new blood sports, thus convicts complete for their freedom in the Death Race. Everything after that is cars racing/shooting/exploding. Because the Death Race is the most popular televised sport of the near-future there are many elements of the sport that are simply explained as a tool for boosting ratings, which works as a great excuse for putting crazy stuff in your movie without worrying about whether it makes sense. A great addition for my overall Death Race experience was the inclusion of the trailer for the next Fast and the Furious movie beforehand (4 Fast 4 Furious?) If you are looking for explosions and cars with machine guns this is a fun movie, though it would likely not fare well on Jason’s “Would this be better as video game” test.

Speak Up, Hero

There’s something jarring about a playing a game that is trying its damndest to look like an interactive movie but just drops the ball where it counts the most. A game might feature an immersive setting, detailed character designs, and an elaborately branching plot structure, only to suddenly stop all the action whenever somebody talks—and suddenly you’re unable to respond. Sometimes, at best, you get to read what you should be hearing. Suddenly the game ceases to feel like an immersive world, and reminds you that using voice actors is quite expensive and time-consuming.

This has been changing, but not quickly enough. One of the greatest improvements to narrative games in recent years, to my mind, has been the expansion of spoken dialog. That’s why it’s so frustrating when game developers downplay this step and try to take us backwards.

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