Brad Root

I’ve been watching season 3 of Westworld, because I watched the prior two seasons, for better-ish (season 1) and for worse (season 2). What a gorgeous, but insultingly stupid, show. I’m not done with the season so I can’t pass solid judgment, but there are writers who can handle deep concepts (like the nature of reality, the self, expansive future technology) without getting all tangled up in them, and then there is whoever is writing Westworld at this point. Yuck, but I’ll keep going…

We watched Belle over the weekend. I’ve been dipping my toes into Japanese culture over the past year or so, not really on purpose, but after playing Paradise Killer I’ve been on a journey to be less close-minded about Japanese stuff like, ahem, anime, JRPGs, little girl ASMR on Twitch (🤮), and so on. I saw that Belle was really well received online by sites that, I’m realizing, make a business about receiving anything well (Polygon, Verge), so I figured I would check it out. It was … okay. Visually beautiful, over-long, and mired further by the (shame on us) English versions of the songs. Wish we had watched it in Japanese; at least the stupid songwriting could be somewhat obscured by vocals we’re unable to understand. Shucks!

We wrapped up Ozark last week as well. This is another situation–like Westworld, like Weeds–where I should have just walked away at some point. With Ozark, hard to remember exactly what season first really started to lose me, I’m not quite sure. The show probably reached its peak when Ruth called Wendy “a bitch wolf” in a fit of angry hysteria. Little did anyone know that from that point onward “angry hysteria” would be the driving force behind many–if not all–of the characters, to varying degrees of outward flailing. What a painfully dumb and disappointing show. To its credit, and I say this as begrudgingly as possible, the show remains consistent up to the very end, despite (I assume) every single person on earth wanting things to go differently for the Byrdes just once.

I watched the Reacher show on Amazon last week. It was actually really good. Felt a lot like a Hercule Poirot mystery, except in this case Hercule is a guy with muscles the size of his head who can beat people to death if he wants.

At one point Reacher says something like, “you better chose your next words very carefully, because they will determine how well your jaw works for the rest of your life,” and it basically paid for the whole show in my book. I’m a simple man: I like seeing dudes who can cash the checks their mouth writes.

If there’s one negative to Reacher, it’s that the show plays it pretty straight for the whole series until the last episode. Then it goes full on cheese-ball and not in a particularly graceful way. I also really wanted to see Reacher slowly beat the bad guy to death at the end. While the bad guy got a decently painful death, I don’t think it was enough. We should have gotten a shot of the bad guy spitting out their broken teeth, missed opportunity for sure.

I felt bad for not going to see The Batman in the theater. My main reasons for not doing so we’re that it is too damn long, and hell is (being around) other people (when trying to enjoy art). Well, glad to say, having seen the film now, I do not regret the decision.

The Batman is a beautiful movie (if, perhaps, far too dark) with some great performances, great set pieces, okay music, and an awful, poorly paced, terrible, no good, very bad screenplay. In a way it feels like someone tried to take a stereotypical terrible Marvel movie and dress it up to appeal to film buffs. Well, I’m sorry, I didn’t fall for it.

The movie really starts to take a dive around the time Catwoman kisses Batman for no apparent reason whatsoever. After that moment, the clumsiness of the movie is on full display. I can’t really remember all the moments that made go “this makes no sense”, but there were several, and the movie did not land it’s finale in any way.

There’s a lot of stuff to like about the movie compared to other Batman films. (Like: a true detective Batman, and a Batman with a decent character arc.) I think it was a lot better than the Nolan movies. But I still think, in the end, it was just another dumb superhero movie. Matt Reeves and Warner Bros really wanted to make us think this was some sort of high art take on Batman, but it really wasn’t.

I’m about 20 hours into Valhalla. In my circle of friends, I talk A LOT of shit about Ubisoft’s open world formula, probably the result of brainwashing by Yahtzee, but I am having a really good time. I find myself having trouble putting it down to play other games, which is a good sign.

The game smartly lets you set, to some extent, how much Ubisoft-style handholding you want. You can’t turn it off entirely, but you can tone down the icon fatigue quite a bit. I see they are positioning this type of thing as “accessibility”, and that’s a good thing: it’s no longer being forced on True Gamers™ like myself, who loved Elden Ring until it got too difficult.

However, Valhalla is annoyingly buggy when it comes to Quick Resume. It’ll resume and then say it’s unable to save, then if I quit to the main menu it forgets that it’s running in HDR mode, and I have to close the entire game and re-open it. Just annoying, makes the console experience feel like playing on Windows PC, which totally invalidates all the compliments I paid to the Xbox the other day.

I got an Xbox Series X last week. I’m not entirely sure why, as my PC is perfectly fine, but they went in stock at Walmart and I already pay for Game Pass Ultimate, so… why not?

I’m glad I did. It can run some recent games better than my PC can, and it runs them on my living room television at 4K in HDR which makes a very big difference. I’m not a fan of Windows in any way, and gladly the Xbox software doesn’t feel like Windows at all.

I haven’t owned an Xbox since the original, and this feels like an appropriate leap forward in time (all 21 years of it): Quick Resume, Game Pass, a fully digital game library, … this feels like the future of gaming for sure. I love my PC, but at the same time we’re at a place with technology where a console is finally beating out the PC in terms of ease of use and graphical power. Though, in some respects, that’s due to cheating: Microsoft is assuredly selling the Series X at a huge loss.

I’m really in love with this song. I’m not sure what is about young men writing songs about being with girls who have boyfriends, I assume it’s some sort of machismo thing. I should create a playlist of the ones I can think of…

I’m rapidly approaching 100 hours in Elden Ring. It’s impossible, due to its popularity, for me to say anything remotely original about it. I will repeat something I said elsewhere: Elden Ring is video game methamphetamine: soaring highs (“It feels so great to kill shit!”) to crushing lows (“I hate this fucking game and I hate myself and I hate everyone else”) back to soaring highs again.

In comparison to the MMOs I have been playing for the past two years, and even other recent games like the Final Fantasy 7 remake, it is genuinely refreshing to play a game that hasn’t gotten all the difficulty buffed out of it to ensure that even the dumbest gamer could play it without suffering from bad feels.

That said, at times I become extremely mad and doubt I will ever beat it. Then I’ll go somewhere else in the game, do some exploring, and come back and conquer whatever it was that was making me mad and it feels really good. For a first timer to the Souls formula, I’m having a great time.

I finished reading Station Eleven last night. I had watched the show, and was very confused by its gradual dive into complete nonsense, cratering into the ground with a tremendous force by the very end. I ended up reading a pretty negative review of the show that touched on how different it was from the novel, so I figured: the novel must be better. And… you know what… it was a lot better. It made the show a lot worse, and the show was already really bad.

The show’s creator, Patrick Somerville had previously written for The Leftovers and created Maniac, two of my all time most favorite TV shows. So, how did this happen? How did he completely bungle this adaptation? The show got rave reviews, but I don’t understand how or why. Were people just so blinded by the first excellent episode that they turned off their brain for the rest of the show?

Paradise Killer, one of my all time favorite games, with the all time best game soundtrack ever, is out today on next gen consoles. It’s a bit like an open world Phoenix Wright and Danganronpa, but significantly more interesting in just about every way.

The new West Side Story is very good. Not only is it visually gorgeous (the “America” sequence in particular is a tour de force) but it’s nice to be able to watch West Side Story without all the brown-face…

Some good new music this weekend.

Bodega sounds like a lot of bands, like some monstrous amalgamation of every New York sound you can think of. It’s a little hard to pick just one song off Broken Equipment because the goods one are all pretty different from each other.

I’ve got a big soft-spot for sing-speak bands, and Sprints is floating around in that vicinity, with nervy anxious punk… so, so, so good. Both their EPs so far are fantastic: A Modern Job and Manifesto.

This is a pretty crazy video of an officer(s) involved shooting from last week in San Diego. I think it’s worth watching just to see how different from the movies things like this are. Both how the officers are just normal people who don’t prepare for the worst case scenario, and how when someone is shot they don’t flail around dramatically. One second they’re there, and the next, they’re not.