Films of the Summer 2020

I watched some movies during our quarantine, which luckily didn’t last very long, and after as there was a week or so when I had to the house all to myself and could watch…. bad things. And so, I did.

I do not watch a lot of movies, and have very little interest in drama films because why not just go watch My Dinner with Andre again instead? My taste for films is definitely on the trash side and I think if you don’t enjoy trash films, you are rarely going to find anything worth watching. All of the films on this list are trash except the last one. There’s a vast amount of films that lie between amazing art films and trash that is not worth bothering with. Mission Impossible with Cruise are trash, and they are awesome films. Dredd, trash, totally awesome. John Wick, trash and amazing. I encourage filmmakers to make trash films above all else. In these films, humanity will find their redemption.

Let’s start out with a favorite out of the lot: TROMA’s WAR.

Within minutes I was absolutely hooked on this film. Shitty effects, tits right away, dead bodies, snappy dialog, cliche 80’s characters and then the killing begins and it is amazing. This must have been incredibly fun for Kaufman and crew to make, and they invite you INTO the fun with them. Absolutely highest recommendation and if you watch one movie off this list, this is the one.

Return of the Living Dead

To be perfectly honest, I wanted to watch this again to see the naked dancing part, which effected nearly all teenage boys in a positive way in the 80’s. The outfits and manner of speech seem odd these days, but when I saw it in the theater as a kid, they did not– at all. We can talk at length about Lena Quigly’s naked body and about how she is never fully dressed after that scene, but the rest of the film deserves just as much attention. When I first saw this, I think it was on HBO, I was a little depressed at just how nihilistic it was, but that grows on you, especially through the horror films of the 90’s that all seem to have some sort of happy ending. Just an absolute classic that should be watched every Halloween at least. Red Letter Media did a long retrospective on the movie and I don’t want to repeat them here. Despite it’s humor and that it is a basic zombie horror film, at the end of this you will feel great melancholy.


KUSO
KUSO is a film by Flying Lotus. He set out to make a film by a black writer and director that wasn’t about black folks rising up out of the ghetto in yet another cliche movie on that subject. He wanted to show that a black director could something different and holy shit he did. This is Naked Lunch 2, without anything held back. While this is harsh and quite grotesque, I really enjoyed this movie and I think you should give it a chance, it’s beautifully shot, the acting/casting is excellent, and all the individual parts are carefully directed. The only description of it I can give to try to make sense of it is that after an earthquake in L.A, rifts to different dimensions open up as well as cracks in the earth– letting loose cross-dimensional beings that seem just as lost, benevolent and malevolent as we are. I don’t want to say much more because it’s quite an experience (much like Naked Lunch). Lexington Steele should do more uhh…normal films. His speech cracked me up and he had the best line in the film. This is trash that becomes high art (ala Gummo). “Hello Dispatch.” At the end of this you will feel great melancholy.


LAST AND FIRST MEN
This is a film by Jóhann Jóhannsson, the guy who did the music for Mandy (which you should see as well), Let the Right One In, Sicario and the Arrival. If you like sci fi and Brutalist architecture, this is certainly a film for you. It has only narration by Tilda Swinton and no other actors or characters. Certainly a unique visual experience, interesting story and the music is fantastic. Everything Johannsson did was fantastic and his early death more tragic for it. Don’t do cocaine is a lesson here. The film is based on a book from 1930 by the same name, which now I have to go and read. At the end of this you will feel great melancholy.

More by Johann Johannsson if you’re not convinced yet:

Total War Attila: Dane Campaign

Both because Sweden won Covid and I’m bored with Stellaris at this point (great game, just played out after 100 or so hours) and have gotten back into my true love: Attila Total War. Why do I love it? It’s a FUCK FEST. If you play on HARD (which you should), any faction start difficulty level listed as ‘normal’ or above is going to be a knife fight in a phone booth. I wanted to play one of the Nordic factions, either the Geats or the Danes. While the Geats start in what was Southern Sweden, I went for the Danes which have one of the best special abilities in the game, just beg to be played. They are considered to have a ‘hard’ starting position and it really, really is. I think they have the hardest start of any faction in the game.

The Danes have absolute trash starting units (these are many hundreds of years away from when they were viking), no way to create more cavalry in the beginning of the game and a pretty mediocre fleet. They also do not start with a walled city, but a mere village right around where Copenhagen is at. It appears at first that they are more protected than the Saxons, who are surrounded by enemies, but what I’ve found is that the AI factions seem much more afraid of the Saxons (which they should be) than the Danes, and attack constantly. I was in 3-5 wars constantly. The piling on the AI did when I was already beat down by another faction was amazing to see.

Later game, the Danes do not have great units either. They have good close combat infantry, but SHIT cavalry. Except for the special power of no sea attrition, Danes are like a shit version of the Saxons due to the lack of medium shock cavalry (Saxon Lancers) in a game that is all about cavalry.

The one thing they have going for them is that Danes do not give a fuck about being on the ocean for any amount of time. That means they don’t have deep sea attrition nor do they get sea sickness in battles when they attack from the sea. This means, pound for pound, you can destroy any army from any faction on the ocean and you can subsist with a massive army anywhere on the seas. For example, if food is short and your armies are taking massive attrition, just put them on some boats! This allows travel to strange places on the map no other faction from Northern Europe could get to and raid, pillage and subjugate. Think that many of the satrapies of the Sassinids are weak and soft and weakened by the Huns? They are– go sail there and kill them!

In many Total War games, you sort of sit back a bit, maybe make an opening aggressive move and then pounce on your neighbors who sort of sit there waiting for you to attack. Not so in Attila. There is massive pressure on all the AI factions to destroy nearly everyone nearby because of the threat of the hordes (Vandals, Ostragoths, etc.) even before the Huns even arrive in force. You have to be very careful. If you leave your capital undefended or take the L in a large battle that leaves your army decimated, others nearby will immediately attack. In this way, Attila is closer to Shogun 2 than the other Total War games. You make a mistake in Shogun, you get hammered.

I had like 4-5 starts with the Danes, sometimes attacking the Geats, who have a major city, sometimes attacking the Jutes (who are mostly friendly and get steamrolled by the Angles or Saxons) and sometimes taking out the northern German/Polish factions (Varnians and Rugians). ALL lead to destruction by one of the bigger factions nearby so that I needed to horde up (factions that lose their last city can horde up) or was just eliminated from the game outright.

sucks to be that guy.

This last game where I actually survived FTW. I immediately attacked the Varnians to the south, subjugated them (a mistake) and the Geats instantly attacked my capital and didn’t just take it over or loot it, they RAZED it to the ground, putting my remaining fleet and army into Horde mode on turn 3 or so. The Burgundians instantly took over my new subject (the Varnians) so I was left floating in the Baltic with a pretty big army and medium navy but nothing else and no territory. Instead of quitting I said “Freya’s bryst!” I’m going to see if I can make this work. I sailed all the way over to northern Scotland where a completely empty Pict city sat (right around modern Lairg) ripe for the taking. I snagged it quick and lo and behold I could recruit actual units that weren’t total shit! I made friendly with the Caledonians to the south as there are larger fish to fry in England, Ireland and Wales before squabbling over parts of Scotland.

This is where it got odd but fun. There’s a lot of water between myself and the Geats and Rugians at this point and one figures they would be too busy fighting themselves to come at me. Yet, a few turns later two stacks of Geats and their navy show up and land in my new Pict-provided province in Scotland! By this time, I have a city and a couple army stacks so they don’t attack– they raid around and I am able to catch their armies apart from each other and destroy them. Just as I am done sweating the Geats, the Rugians show up with the same thing! I rushed my fleet back which had been scouting the situation in Southern England as Rome collapses: seeing that both the Franks and Saxons had destroyed the remaining Romans on English soil already. I barely got my armies back together enough to make the Rugians siege but not attack. They sat outside and froze for a couple seasons and then set to raiding like the Geats did. I baited them with a small army and got their armies separated and then separated their heads from their bodies in the same fashion.

Meanwhile, I sent my fleet over to check out what was going on in the Nordic countries and someone had been very naughty. After the Geats razed my province and came to attack me in faraway Scotland, someone had attacked them and razed their province! Razing cities is a very rare thing to do for any AI faction other than the Huns, so someone must have been very angry at the Geats, which were now a very weakened horde that I would deal with in time.

So there I sat, with the Geats gone, the Rugians defeated, for now and of course, the next turn the Ebdanians (Irish) declare war. I have dealt with these guys before as the Saxons and they are nasty, but can’t hold up well to heavy infantry or massed cavalry, relying instead on hiding and TONS of archer units.

i do enjoy the simple pleasures.

I tried to sneak around the West side of England with a large force, only to have the Ebdanians show up marching through the Caledonian lands to the south right towards my city. While they didn’t siege the city, they destroyed some buildings and then I had to chase them down through the Scottish highlands for a few turns before slaughtering them. Now, I was mad. I took everything I had and headed across the sea between Scotland and Ireland, caught the Ebdanians king and trapped him in a city which I seized and occupied, on the same turn crossing back to Wales and driving the Ebdanians out of there as well.

The Ebdanians had been busy and had exhausted their armies taking out the Saxons and Franks in southern England with both London and let’s call it Canterberry all controlled by the proto-Irish. It usually takes a huge fight to get London as England is a mosh pit of Romans, Saxons, Franks, Jutes and Angles until someone settles it down by sword point, but I was able to sneak in and capture it against the weakened, Kingless Ebdanians. At this point I have taken Ireland, most of Southern England, Wales and the northernmost tip of Scotland. Unless the Franks or Saxons come calling, I should be able to mop up or ally with anyone that’s left, which, after having been routed out of Denmark by the northern German tribes and backstabbed by the GEATS, is quite a come back, which is what this whole game is about. From this point it’s just about keeping everyone else away and building up a super strong economy in England while the continent burns due to the Huns and the hordes. Once things settle down a bit, as long as you can cripple or destroy any invasion fleets that come near, you can invade pretty much anywhere on the continent and walk over everyone. The rest of the campaign, while moderately exciting from time to time– isn’t worth detailing as it’s just wait, build up the economy… and crush.

Next up for me is the Himyar. They have the crazy Age of Sigmar masks!

Total War on easy mode: Conquer England (or Spain).
Lady Victory

New Mutants, what happened!

Maaaaattt and I tried to go to the movie theater Friday and it was great: we were just spaced out and had to wear masks when going into the theater itself. If we skip the masks, it would be a fucking AWESOME experience as it is a completely non-crowded theater by design. I recommend going to see movies now before things get back to normal as you will not have crowds.

However, our attempt to see New Mutants failed as Mother Nature had other plans. A GIANT supercell went over the top of the movie theater before floating angrily out over the lake and knocked the power out all over the area, including the theater.

And, of course, it was right when the movie was starting to get interesting.

As far as I can tell seeing only about half the fim, New Mutants is a horror movie with super heroes, which due to my love of BPRD (Hellboy), Call of Cthulhu and CMON’s The Others, is right up my alley.

And who is not a fan of Magik?

FUCK OR FIGHT.

Dr. Squatch is damn good soap

This is not an advertisement, but it’s going to read like one. I will readily admit, I totally fell for the Dr. Squatch video ad years back fronted by comedian James Schrader as it was hilarious and subsequently started up a small soap subscription. I want to say a couple things because I think it’s an EXPENSIVE but excellent product.

First, I don’t think about soap, well not until now. I grew up with Irish Spring, Ivory and Yardley’s of London soap as a kid as an adult I would just get those bottles of ‘soap’ from a pump and never thought about it.

Of course, special soaps were for womenfolks! When you see the little soap places at the mall or at county fairs or farmers markets, it’s ALWAYS marketed to the women. Therefore, I never thought about this type of soap as a guy except as gifts for gals and me mum –and it all smells super girly anyway. The Squatch stuff is marketed specifically, and humorously, towards men. Never having thought about it before, I figured, what the heck. This turned out to be a good marketing ploy to fall for, the shit is GOOD and I did give a few bars to my mom even though they are MANLY SOAPS.

The Dr. Squatch stuff showed up and smelled great. I used it for a week or so and while still thinking about soap, called it already as the best bar soap I’ve ever used. Skin doesn’t feel all dry (I never noticed before that it was, but it was) after or later in the day. It has great lather, and a good variety of (manesque) smells. All of the bars were great, but the Pine Tar made everything in the shower black for a bit, so I wasn’t the biggest fan of that one. Some of the bars last longer than others, but generally they last awhile. It sorta depends who else is using your shower. My kids get in there and I think they lather up with the shit for a LONG period of time because that’s what this soap wants you to do: lather the shit out of yourself, which, thinking about soap for probably the first time in my existence, is likely the mark of good soap.

That said, it’s 6$ PER BAR. This is expensive. Realistically I’d like to be paying about 3$ per bar of soap, but I really cannot fault the quality of this stuff. Try it– and you probably don’t ever need to think about soap again.

Lastly, this is a gaming blog so for me to take the effort, as fucking lazy as I am, to post about soap, I have to say I REALLY like the soap and when I use of my favorite scents down to a nub and it falls to the floor of the shower, sometimes, I feel sad. Otherwise, I pretty much will never think about soap again other than which scent to grab next.

Virtua Fighter 5 turned 10 last month

Wow. 10 years. I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface yet with this fighter and I have played it a lot. I still ALWAYS have my Xbox 360 connected to a TV in the house for this game alone (and a few others). Granted, right when this came out I had my second kid crawling around, so there hasn’t been much time for serious fighting game play or practice.

I first played Virtua Fighter 2 in the arcade at the University of Florida (and later at the arcade in Madison, WI) and waited EAGERLY for it to come out on consoles. I could never get anyone to really play it with me a ton, and in the later 90’s we had TOBAL 2 which eclipsed everything. While I followed the series, I didn’t get into it again until VF4, which is amazing. The Kumite mode in that game really pushed it over the edge, where you go to different arcades and compete in different tournaments and the AI of the players follows the styles of various real people!

To put it in the most basic terms: VF5 is the greatest fighting game ever made.

  • It’s very easy for new people to pick up (it only has three buttons!!!) and at the same time it is by far the deepest fighter I’ve ever played. Please see this essay on closed and open stances if you disagree.
  • It’s not combo heavy. Like King of Fighters / Samurai Shodown, it’s got combos, but they are difficult to pull off and don’t dominate play.
  • Every character is like a new world of gameplay. The difference in playing even Brad Burns vs Jacky, which in many other games would be almost palette swaps, is like the depth of the ocean. Let alone exceedingly different characters like Aoi and Wolf.
  • It’s not a defensive, footsy game. Tekken and Street Fighter are footsy games. They are good games, but the footsy is really an annoying part of the game to me, especially in Tekken where you can full screen combo off a low kick.
  • There are no tiers. Certainly there are character tiers at high level play, but you, my friend, will never notice them. If you get good with a character, you will be able to fight vs every other character. The last tournament I watched had a Jeffry (low tier) vs Akira (highest tier) IN THE FINAL.
  • It has not been eclipsed by any other 3D fighting game. DOA and Tekken, while of course more popular at this time, are SHADOWS compared to Sega’s masterpiece. I like DOA 5 and 6, I think they are way more fun than Tekken, but I did the TASTE TEST with my kids and some neighbor kids and VF won out 100%. The only game that came close, for me (and notable others) was, of course, Tobal 2.
  • It’s fast and it’s high damage. Rounds can last awhile or be over quick. This isn’t due to people being caught in endless combos like the Anime fighters, but due to general high damage of all the characters. Again, like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown.
  • Creative play. The core thing about Tobal and VF compared to a lot of fighters is their ability for players to play a single character in many different ways. Watch a mirror match up in VF and you won’t see the same play-styles or even the same moves. It’s insane and very different from a lot of the 2D fighters where you have your bread and butter comboes that you see constantly (and supermoves)
  • NO meters, no super moves. Only one character has a meter-equivalent and that’s Shun, who gets drunk. All a character’s moves are available to use at all times otherwise. VF proves you don’t need that shit (though it is fun in 2d fighters) to have the best fighting game ever.
  • Counter Picking – this is a big thing in King of Fighters and Street Fighter. Ryu beats Ken, Ken beats down everyone else. This is also a big part of Tekken. This has no part in VF, again, because VF effectively has no tiers.
  • It has only three buttons

People still play, there are tournaments going on even now. This is from just the other day.

Watch in high level play in VF that the players keep their characters right near each other at all times. Look at ANY other fighting game and there’s a lot of long/medium play and when characters get close in it usually means someone is instantly full screen comboe’d. This is because the players are testing their Yomi vs what the other players will do with the whole guard, attack, throw rock paper scissors.

Platforms. VF5 has not been officially ported to the PS4 or XBONE. You can play it on PS Now (yuck) or buy it on the XBONE as a backwards compatible game. I believe most competitive play is on the PS3 still. So like Tobal 2 (the subject of another post) this is a game you have to work at getting to play.

So get your PS3, Xbox 360 or Yakuza on the PS4 and play some Virtua Fighter!

Great article by Virtua Kazama

“The Shimabara Rebellion of 1637” by Takato Yamamoto.

Shimabara Rebellion – The Christian Uprising that wasn’t One

Excellent essay on the Shimabara Rebellion– I became interested in this based on the painting by Takato Yamamoto, of which there is no complete online version to look at.  Needless to say, the pieces that are out there are amazing.  Where is this full art? Private collector?

[AF030LP] Remixes

There is a lot of good electronica out there, too much to consume really (and of course, a lot of crap). If you are looking for a good compilation, the AF030LP (great name hey?) from the Analogical Force label is excellent with a track from Wisp, and one from Venetian Snares. Both of those are great, but they are not even the best tracks on the record!

Link to buy or take some sample listens.

I found the best new name for the Redskins

The Washington Warbonnets.

I don’t give a shit about football. I’d convert all the football stadiums into soccer ones or better yet, Australian Rules Football if I could. Football is boring, commercial driven and so very static (but has a good draft system, I’ll give it that).

However, in this era of let’s call it political overcorrectingness, people are offended by everything and the Washington Redskins fell to the offended mob recently. They are working on a new name. I get it, at first blush it certainly seems offensive– but then you see interviews with Indians that don’t mind the name at all and especially the logo and branding, which is frankly REALLY fucking cool. Indians interviewed like the representation of native Americans in professional sports. I think they should have it, just like the Celts, Vikings, Saxons, Trojans, Spartans, on and on.

This is so badass…

So in coming up with the name, I thought at first it was imperative to follow what has worked in the past really well: pick a TRIBE name like the ‘Noles or Fighting Illini. We all know the Comanches, the Iroquois, the Apache and the Araucanian (look them up, geez), among many others, have become LEGENDARY in their ferocity as warrior cultures and would fit perfectly as team names. We yell GERONIMO! when jumping off stuff. This is homage to great warriors and a term of endearment and great respect. Every time a kid asks “why you yelling that” and you explain it to them, it retains in our cultural memory the history of these great and terrifying people and their story and struggles against the early forces of globalization.

But which tribe do you pick? The Blackfeet were involved in the original logos, but what about all the tribes in the DC area? The Pohantan empire was there when the first settlers arrived, there’s the Mohicans, Delaware, Sioux, Cree, on and on and on. I think for this team, it’s too tough to choose just one and we need a logo and name that is more general, but also isn’t perceived as racist in our current ULTRA sensitive climate.

And aside from all that, we want a cool name and a cool logo. I found it when driving up north last week. I saw a road called Warbonnet road and there it is, simple, effective, iconic.

WASHINGTON WARBONNETS.

Problem Solved.