The Last Man on Earth – Season 2

Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth is like the Walking Dead of comedies: a post-apocalyptic story with a lot of promise that it only occasionally reaches. I was hesitant to even give Season 2 a chance, considering how quickly Season 1 devolved into a generic sitcom. I’m glad Season 2 remolded Phil’s personality, though. He’s no longer the huge jerk bent on having sex with every woman in town. In fact, the best parts of Season 2 were the episodes that didn’t feature “the group.” When the season started out with just Phil and Carol together, I was really hoping it would stay like that. It would have been a great way to reboot the series and make up for last season’s shortcomings. But then they went crawling back to Tuscon/Miami, and the sitcom material started right up again.

Fortunately, Season 2 got a great sub-plot in the form of Phil’s brother, Mike, trapped in space. Every shot of him alone in the space station was so sad and so well executed. It was like watching an entirely different movie. The episode where he finally fell to Earth was just as fantastic and really took advantage of the whole “last man” theme. It was worth sticking through the season just for that. And I’d like to think that’s the show the creators want to make, but it’s the studio executives who keep dragging it down. Not surprisingly, then, once Mike shows up in Miami, we get a stupid prank war and a ridiculous Will Forte haircut that drags on for way too long. And, in the end, Jason Sudeikis’s guest star role went to waste, and The Last Man on Earth continues to squander its potential.

Minions

Minions

The Minions movie represents everything I’ve grown to hate about modern animated films. I fully realize a kids’ movie is for kids, but a good kids’ movie can also be fun for the adults. I recently enjoyed Zootopia, after all, so I’m not totally immune. But, man, the Minions movie was so annoying. The plot felt like it had no purpose, the characters were bland, and the humor could be broken up into two types: simple-minded slapstick or obvious British/pop culture references. I think I laughed once through the whole thing, and the one gag I did like I can’t even remember.

To be honest, I just don’t find the minions very amusing. While their design is cute, their personalities are obnoxious, especially in large doses. The gibberish talk in particular is really grating; I feel like they would be funnier if they were silent and relied purely on physical comedy. A movie about a thousand little Harpos running about would have been a delight to watch. Instead, we got a “prequel” that does more damage to the Despicable Me universe than good and kind of ruins who the minions are when you stop to think about it. Oh, but it’s a kids’ movie. No room for thinking, right?

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

The story of The Jungle Book has traditionally been pretty thin. The plot can basically be summed up as “tiger hates boy but takes his sweet, sweet time doing something about it,” so I was ultimately watching the movie for the spectacle itself. And on those grounds, it was good. The CG animals were very convincing (much more than, say, Noah), and the scenery was equally captivating. I also liked this rendition of Mowgli, because he didn’t come across as a little brat (like I remember him from previous versions) and was actually useful to the other animals. In fact, kudos to Disney for finding a child actor who acts like a child!

I was not so impressed with the rest of the “cast,” however. Most of the voice acting felt really off to me, which is usually the case when big budget cartoons hire famous people who aren’t necessarily great voice actors. Honestly, The Jungle Book is already a well-known tale, especially under Disney’s care, so why the need to bring in names like Scarlett Johansson? I can’t imagine anyone buying a ticket, because they heard she was in this (for all of five minutes, by the way). Bill Murray as Baloo was about the only one that I didn’t find incredibly distracting. You can always count on old Baloo…

But being a Disney movie, they also slipped in a few musical numbers. And this kind of ruined the tone, since everything else about the movie’s presentation was so down to earth and even dark in places. Granted, hearing Baloo sing his trademark song still worked, because it fit the character, but why did King Louie keep his musical number? He was revealed to be a mobster of sorts, and then he starts singing “I Wanna Be Like You,” and… just… ugh… Disney needs to be more willing to shut off its history and do something new, because the best parts of this movie were the things that weren’t trying to remind you of the 1967 cartoon version.

Cornerstone: The Song of Tyrim

Cornerstone

This is the kind of game that’s frustratingly shy of being great. With just a little more polish and a slightly bigger scope, it could have easily become my Game of the Year. As it stands, Cornerstone is merely “good.” It’s another island-based adventure game that will undoubtedly be compared to Wind Waker, which is also why I’m so enamored with it. I can’t stress enough that Steam needs more Zelda-like games, although Cornerstone does more to differentiate itself than the other indie homage I recently played, Oceanhorn. But it also amplifies some of the same shortcomings.

For starters, it’s easy to get lost. Not every task is put on your “to do” list, making it feel like the game has glitched out when said list turns up empty, and yet you have no idea where you’re supposed to go next. Blaming it on glitches is totally valid, by the way, because Cornerstone is full of them. Tyrim will randomly start grunting like he’s stuck on a wall, and one boss in particular had a habit of disappearing from the fight, never to return. The controls aren’t great, either, and the combat system is about as simple as it gets. Block, parry, repeat, only with the added confusion of weird button mapping choices.

But enough with the complaints. I do like the way they’ve set up the world/islands and how everything revolves around crafting from four set materials. Swords, shields, bombs, and parachutes are all conjured on the fly and can wear out and break over time. I only wish this aspect of the game were stronger, because the most enjoyable part of Cornerstone is finding a new crafting recipe and experimenting with what it gives you. I even liked the story, which is rare for me, though the way dialogue is presented is rather stale. Again, this is so close to being a truly awesome game, but even a less-than-stellar Wind Waker “clone” is still pretty cool.

Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

Oceanhorn

Steam has an abundance of almost every game genre now, but one thing that PC gamers are still missing out on are good Zelda clones. I seriously don’t understand why these types of games aren’t a dime a dozen. I suppose if they were, though, then Oceanhorn would not be as charming as it is. Basically, this is Wind Waker if Wind Waker had been done by an indie studio. Depending on how you feel about indies, that probably sounds awesome or terrible to you. I will admit, the game is a little rough around the edges. Your character’s movement is clunky, and some of the models and animations are cheesy. Nonetheless, this is a great homage to the Legend of Zelda series.

Well, you could argue that it’s more of a rip-off than an homage. So many things are pretty much copy and paste, right down to the silent protagonist, inability to jump, dungeons with master keys, bomb and arrow pickups, heart containers, and real-time sailing between islands. But it actually does some things better. Sailing isn’t as tedious, the achievements are fun, and the game doesn’t hold your hand nearly as much as Nintendo likes to. Sometimes I felt like I was stumbling across the right path by accident, although I kind of liked that approach. The number of islands you can explore—and the way they are introduced—help Oceanhorn feel like a true adventure. It’s still a bite-sized adventure, but any Zelda fan turned PC gamer will enjoy it.

The Walking Dead – Season 6

The Walking Dead

Yep, I’m done. This formula just isn’t working for me anymore. The Walking Dead has always been the occasional burst of awesomeness followed by a lot of feet-dragging, but the ratio of good-to-bad moments has gotten pretty intolerable. The numerous extended runtime episodes aren’t doing it any favors, either. This show really needs to cut back; a shorter season would do wonders. But AMC clearly loves to milk it, and the writers must have finally gotten onboard the studio’s train of thought, because Season 6 was obnoxiously manipulative. It’s like they’re more concerned with generating buzz than telling a good story anymore. The fake-out death near the beginning of the season was already bad enough, but then we got several more cliffhangers along the way and a major “screw you” at the end.

Maybe this was the season where the comic actually hurt the TV show. There was a lot of anticipation towards Negan’s arrival. I did like what little we finally got to see of the character, though. The Saviors were pretty terrifying in the finale, but they would have come across as even more dangerous if Rick’s group hadn’t steamrolled over them in every other confrontation. Rick & Co. have been reaching levels of invincibility—no major deaths this season—so watching Negan take one of them out would have really helped to raise the stakes again. But that godawful cop-out just makes me think the writers haven’t even decided who to off yet and are waiting to cull through the fans’ responses. It’s like when The Simpsons left the fate of Flanders and Krabappel up to a vote. That’s about when I quit that show. I think it’s time I did the same for this one.