Metropia

Metropia popped up on my recommendation list because it was dystopian and sci-fi (…kinda).  We watched it and the whole time I was thinking “Oh man this is so bizarre and unique, this will be a great blog entry.”  And then we finished it and… I didn’t really know what to say.  I could barely remember what the movie was about, let alone say anything about it.  It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, and it’s not that it wasn’t unique so there’s definitely some things to talk about… it’s almost like trying to grab on to something incredibly slippery and then it squooshes out of your grasp and out of your line of vision and you can’t remember what you were doing anymore.  I suppose that is appropriate for this movie, though perhaps not intentional.

Metropia is a European movie (Swedish, apparently), set in a future Europe where there is no more oil and vehicles are kaput, so everyone must use the underground rail networks to get around.  The main character finds going into the underground incredibly unsettling, especially since he’s starting to hear voices in his head when he goes there.  Over the course of the movie he discovers that the voices in his head are not imagined, and he sets out to uncover the truth.

That synopsis sounds kind of interesting, but I had to go read the plot on Wikipedia to summarize things because all I can really remember is him jacking off in the shower because of advertising, his wife’s creepy huge eyes, spending entirely too much time establishing his depressing life, his wife almost cheating on him with a huge asshole that was totally not worth her time, and something about a conspiracy involving dandruff shampoo that controls you.

The bit about the shampoo is kind of the whole plot of the movie, and yet it’s the part I remember the least.  I wasn’t even drunk!  Even after reading some synopses to refresh my memory, I’m not exactly sure what the world running out of oil had to do with any of it.  It seemed like it should be a huge part of the plot with how much the blurbs emphasized it, but it was more of a “now everyone uses these tunnels” and that was that. I’m not sure that the plot required them to be in tunnels, though.  And how many people are in this city?  Do they have a single person monitoring each and every one of them?  That seems expensive and impractical.

But anyway, it’s unique and probably worth a look if you like unique things.  The animation is certainly something else.  Wikipedia tells me all of the animation is based off of photographs of random people they recruited off the street.  The result is a highly bizarre and somewhat unsettling “uncanny valley” effect where you’re like “I’m not sure that I like this animation… but I also cannot claim that it is BAD animation…” which probably helps the atmosphere of the movie.  If this were a live action movie I suspect it would be wholly forgettable, really.

In short, I think I liked it?

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Dead Frog Summer Pack

Last year I bought several of the Dead Frog summer pack.  I don’t even know if I can explain what I enjoyed about it… they were just so refreshing when it was hot.  In particular, the lemon pepper flavour was amazing on a hot day; and if you’re like me you probably read that and went “lemon pepper beer what the fuck” but we tried it and it was amazing!

So when we saw this year’s summer pack I was like “ooh!” and we brought it home.  No lemon pepper, and in fact the only flavour I think I recognized was the nut brown ale.  When I opened the box, there was a little slip saying something about how they’ve redesigned all their beers and now they come in brown bottles instead of clear glass because it means it will be fresher and they’re doing a total makeover to make Dead Frog better.  Whatever, I don’t really care about what colour the bottle is.

Unfortunately, it apparently also meant they changed all the recipes, too.  Because the entire summer pack was absolutely disgusting.  Incredibly disappointing.

The refreshing taste of last year’s pack was gone, and every single beer was packed full of harsh hops.  It wasn’t just hops, though.  They were just bitter and gross.  I think I opened a pale ale, which is something I’m not a fan of in the first place because of all the hops, and I got maybe four sips into it and just put it back in the fridge.  I dumped it out the next day because no one else would finish it for me.  I dumped a beer down the sink because no one would drink it.  That has literally never happened to us before.  Even the nut brown ale, which I thought I remembered liking, was really bitter and gross.  It was drinkable, but I wouldn’t say enjoyable.  It wasn’t worth the 150 calories it cost to drink it.

Summer is almost over already (also depressing) but I certainly won’t be buying any more Dead Frog if this is what the “new Dead Frog” is going to produce.

Betty’s Vodka Iced Tea (Peach)

It’s been hot and I’ve been on an iced tea kick lately, including plenty of Twisted Tea (which is great for authentic tea taste, by the way).  We went on a hunt for the elusive new Pacific Kolsch by the local brewery (also great, by the way) which has been sold out all over, but appears to be back in stock, since the store we went to had a whole shelf of it.  While waiting at the register, I picked up a 6 pack of Peach Betty’s Vodka Iced Tea (leaving shit lying by the register really works, people!).

It’s super carbonated (the can says “light carbonated”.  My ass.), which I normally don’t like so much, but it gives it a really “sparkly” feel.  The tea taste is decent, and it’s super peach flavoured.  Probably skipping right past into “cheap overly flavoured” territory, but it tastes really good tonight for whatever reason.  It’s kind of like drinking “Fuzzy Peach” candy, and I love fuzzy peach candy!

And my husband hates peach, so it means he isn’t stealing any of them from me.  Thumbs up!

Elysium

Since it’s so new, I will endeavour to keep this spoiler free… honestly there isn’t much to spoil, but I’ll try anyway.
Sci-Fi movie!!!!  Usually we’re pretty cheap and wait for DVDs, but we loved District 9, and the previews for Elysium looked so good that we went and saw it at the theatre.  It’s not even 3D and we saw it at the theatre!

Elysium was simultaneously really good, and also disappointing. As is typical, my bitching revolves around the writing – the movie was disappointing because it could have been really good, but the writing was just sloppy enough to be distracting in how easily it could have been fixed, god damn it.  I suspect they read the screenplay and were like “Well, we have Matt Damon and Exoskeleton suits, no one will notice.”  I noticed >:(

The premise is that Earth is fucked and super populated and polluted and all those wonderful things we can see in our future right now, so all the rich people built a space station called Elysium and moved there to live in idyllic mansions surrounded by palm trees and swimming pools.

And this is where it starts to fall flat, because the worldbuilding ends there.  All it would have taken is a few more lines of dialogue to tie everything together with a throw-away explanation or two, but instead they leave ambiguous plot ends flapping around and the audience wondering “so… why is that?”.

Elysium residents have access to Med Bays which scan your body and instantly heal each and every thing wrong with it, from split ends in your hair to cancer in your blood cells (how did they design this technology and not solve any of the other problems lying around?  *shrug*).  There was a line somewhere that suggested people are living 200+ years so they also presumably extend your life and keep you young and beautiful forever.  Every single house on Elysium has one of these med bays, and it takes a whole, like, two minutes to cure every single ailment known to man.  For some reason, even though every single house has a med bay and they also have dozens of EMS ships filled with dozens of med bays which are all run by robots so there isn’t even any manpower cost in running them, Elysium refuses to let anyone on Earth use a med bay unless they are promoted to the rank of Elysium Citizen, even pushing it to the degree of needing special identification coded into your DNA before the med bay will activate.

The character development of every single person on Earth is something like this:  “I am sick and will die if I don’t go to Elysium and use a med bay – Therefore I must go to Elysium no matter what the cost.”
The character development of every single person on Elysium is split between “Ew people from Earth are gross” and “I will take over the world.”
That’s as deep as character development gets in this movie.

Unsurprisingly, desperate people are attacking Elysium all the time trying to get to a med bay, which results in things like Elysium launching missiles at them and blowing them all to shit.  Just put a fucking med bay on Earth, and the attacks stop.  WHY IS THIS SO HARD FOR YOU TO FIGURE OUT??  Jesus.  There is absolutely no worldbuilding development that explains why they’re so stingy with their plentiful med bays, other than “Ew Earth people are gross” (not that you need to touch them or see them if you leave a fucking automated med bay on Earth, mind you… and in fact you would see less of them because they wouldn’t keep trying to come to your station to use your med bays), and “We need a reason for Matt Damon to go to Elysium” (undoubtedly the true reason).  It’s so sloppy that it was distracting for the entire movie.
Are they withholding med bays because………. Of limited resources? (Unlikely when there’s a million med bays lying around and people use them for face lifts… but plausible that they want to withhold those resources for their greedy facelifts?  But they don’t explain what they run on or how they work, so…)
Maybe the life extension benefits are too costly when the world is already packed? (plausible, but again, you think they could have mentioned that.  They’re already sequestered on their little space station, why do they care if the Earth stays crowded and fucked)
Because they’re huge elitist dicks? (This seems to be the only explanation, but there are so many other reasons to just throw a token med bay ship down there, like, NOT BEING ATTACKED ALL THE FUCKING TIME).
It feels like it would have worked a lot better if it were a truly alien race living up there on a spaceship with their super crazy technology we can’t understand, enslaving humans to build their robots, but hey they can cure diseases so let’s try to get to those med bays!  … but no, they’re humans, and they’re dicks with no really well explained reason for being so.  Yes, humans are dicks to lower classes of humans, that is well established.  But THE MED BAYS ARE FULLY AUTOMATED.  If only the med bays took fully trained personnel to run, oh look!  A reason to not have them on Earth!  But nooo.  No explanation provided.
I would have been happy with a bad explanation, like any exposition where they were all “Oh no don’t let them use our med bays because we are comically evil and if they use this the med bays will no longer be special and I want to feel special for having one”, but it doesn’t even give us that.

Slightly less distracting is the plot device that requires Matt Damon to use his brain as a flash drive, which makes absolutely no sense, but conveniently makes it so they can’t just solve the problem by shooting him because they need his brain data and it’s not retrievable if he dies.  (Incidentally – this is probably a good reason why a brain is not a good flash drive.  Among other things, which also happen.)

The rest of the movie is people in exosuits brutally punching each other, which was pretty cool… but it’s got some pretty terrible timing because I think everyone will find it pretty lacklustre coming on the heels of Pacific Rim.  Every fight scene I was distracted by the amount of shaky cam they used to cover up the CGI, and I kept thinking again how impressive it was that Pacific Rim didn’t do that.  If I’m thinking about other movies during your action scenes, there might be improvements to be made.

Oh and don’t forget the obligatory contribution of “We are the bad guys so we are going to threaten to rape the pretty girl” scenes.  Don’t forget those!

I’ve done a lot of bitching, so it’s important to point out that I did enjoy the movie, but almost all of the problems I’ve pointed out could be so easily solved with just a little bit of attention to detail.  It’s really kind of a shame.

Oh and then, of course, there’s the fact that everyone on Earth speaks English and Spanish, while everyone on Elysium speaks English and French.  I am deliberately not going to touch the potential allegories going on this movie (because you see, the English/French have good health care and a beautiful clean place to live above the dirty polluted English/Spanish people, so clearly it is a representation of how everyone wishes they lived in Canada.) (arguing about the allorgies is kind of the point of a movie like this I suppose, but you should probably have decent writing before moving to that stage >:( ), but I do want to mention that Jodie Foster has the most irritating accent going on in this movie… I think it was supposed to be French?  I don’t even know, it kind of faded in and out and was really weird and distracting.  Everyone’s accents were distracting. I think it was intentional to show some sort of melting pot society going on, but I can’t say for sure… and if I can’t say for sure, then something has probably gone wrong in the writing/directing department.  It was either an intentional attempt to show something that was a teeny bit too subtle for me because I was so distracted by all the rest of the sloppy writing, or it was just sloppily handled.

At this point it is probably distracting to think about how many times I have used the word distracting, so that’s probably the focal point of this review – there were too many sloppy distracting things going on, and just a little bit of polish could have really cleaned it up.

God, I hope Gravity doesn’t suck.

Papers Please

To be fair, I have only played this game for about an hour, and I lost terribly, but it was enough for me to drop the demo and go buy it full price on Steam and start again.  I bought a game on Steam that wasn’t on sale.  It’s only 10 dollars, but still.

Papers Please is a unique indie game that simulates being a border guard in a communist country, trying to regulate who is legally allowed in and who is a terrorist that is going to blow your shit up.  Meanwhile, you’re making pennies a day (okay, dollars… but not MANY dollars) and you have a decent sized family that is freezing and starving to death.  Do you stop this guy’s wife from crossing the border because she has an invalid passport, or do you take the bribe and hope it’s worth it in the end?  Bear in mind, make too many mistakes (even intentional ones) and your pay is docked, which might mean you can’t afford food tonight.  If your bank balance is negative your ass is in jail and your family will be deported to their eventual doom.  Plenty of people want your job, you know.

The actual gameplay is probably something that will be considered tedious to some people.  A person walks in your booth and hands over their papers, you inspect them and decide if they’re legit.  If you see a discrepancy you highlight it and the game starts an interrogation, from which you can decide if it’s actually legit, if they should be rejected, or if they should be arrested and detained for suspicious behaviour.  A lot of the discrepancies are obvious, assuming you watch for them – expiry dates that have passed, names or serial numbers that don’t match, pictures that don’t match, even genders that don’t match.  Some of the trickier ones are watching for incorrect issuing cities (who the fuck is going to memorize all these city names and the countries they’re from!) or incorrect seal logos.  You have a handy dandy reference book, but you’re paid per person that’s processed so you don’t have all day to leaf through that thing, man, move move move your kid needs some medicine!

The interesting part of the game is in the background narratives.  Some people return over and over again, trying new tactics to get in.  Some people try to bribe you.  Occasionally a terrorist hops the fence and turns your guards into giblets.  Sometimes people slip you notes and ask for favours with regards to denying or approving a future passport.  Can your paycheque take the hit, or should you play it safe and risk retaliation from the seedy underbelly later?  Do you help the rebels try to free the country, or play it safe and try to keep your family happy and healthy with your steady (but shitty) job?

And if you’re not sold yet… you eventually get access to a full body scanner.  The game has a “nudity” toggle which confused the fuck out of me, but once I unlocked the scanner it all made perfect sense.  Bonus:  I confirmed someone’s gender with it!

Don’t get too excited though, the graphics are……… well, let’s just say not great.  It would probably be at home on my old Tandy 2000, with nostalgic CGA style cyan and magenta blocks.  The entire game is 37mb to download (lol) so yeah, don’t expect dazzling textures here.  I’m not complaining though – I enjoy pixel style graphics and it adds to the uniqueness of the game, but I know today’s crowd can be pretty fickle when it comes to things like that, so fair warning.  This is not a game you play for eye candy.

When I lost terribly, the game informed me that I had achieved 1 out of 20 endings.  So there might even be a decent amount of replay in this thing, too.  Unfortunately it seems like the beginning is pretty similar… the same people came through and asked for the same favours, the same terrorists hopped the same fences and blew up the same guards, the kid got sick on the same day…  I feel like it could be a bit repetitive to play a lot in close succession, but then again if you know who to accept and reject in advance you could save up one hell of a nest egg, if you’re that sort of “trial and error” gamer.  Of course, there’s also Endless Mode, which I have not tried, but I assume it will be truly random from start to finish.
[edit] So now that I’ve said this… I went and restarted and it actually lets you pick any day you’ve completed to start from, so the repetitive problem isn’t really a problem until you’ve finished all 20 endings, and by then you’ve probably got your 10 bucks worth. [/edit]

I feel like it’s unique enough that it’s worth the 10 dollar entry fee, but if you want to see for yourself, you can try the beta version as a demo: http://dukope.com/
The Steam version is definitely more polished with more events, and achievements, of course.  I made it to something like day 6 before just going and buying it on Steam – see how you do!

A Dark Room

This is an obscure one, but part of the reason I wanted to babble in a blog is to point out the obscure gems I trip over from time to time.  It’s a browser game called A Dark Room.

There are no fancy graphics here.  This is text, and on a good day some ASCII symbols.  You start out in a dark room (as perhaps you gathered, from the title) and your only real option is to start a fire and keep it going by clicking every so often.  After a bit you can go outside and start gathering wood to stoke it some more.  Every time you click it counts down, so impatient people probably roll their eyes and quit here, but the fun is just starting.  Soon a bedraggled traveller stumbles in and offers to start making traps and buildings for you.  Eventually you will have a whole village built up, with up to 80 people hanging out.  All the resource gathering is a bit slow in the beginning, but once you attract some people they’ll be doing the work for you.

Which frees you up to go explore the countryside.  At this point the game becomes something like a roguelike… there’s an ascii map and you have to watch your resources, making pit stops so that you don’t pass out.  “Dying” results in waking up in camp sans all the equipment you took, so it’s a setback but not the end of the game.  It’s more devastating when you find a haul of awesome goodies and then don’t make it back to camp.  Your exploration progress is not saved if you ‘die’, so a retreat back to camp to ‘save’ is often a prudent option.  You run around, clearing out nests of bandits who are holed up in abandoned towns, go spelunking in some caves, and explore old mining sites.

Then you find the spaceship…

I really enjoyed messing around with the game for a day or so, just leaving it running when I had to leave and coming back to find 35000 wood lying around in my stores because wolves killed all my people and then a bunch more migrated in to replace them and were set to the default wood gathering.  Good times.  It’s too bad I couldn’t make an account and log in from other locations, but the game isn’t really deep enough for a feature like that.

Probably my only complaint about this little time-waster is that I “won” (I think??), and there was no fanfare.  It just faded out and there I was, back in the dark room, stoking a fire and waiting for the builder to wander in.  All my progress erased, nothing to show for it, not even a blurb telling me if I actually did win or if I fucked up, or maybe this is New Game + and I should have kept going to see what was new?

I know nothing about this game.  I don’t know if it’s still being developed, I don’t know if it’s been sitting here for 20 years and I just found it now, I don’t know anything about its past or future.  I DO know it’s an interesting waste of a day or two, though, and you should probably check it out.