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Friday, July 19, 2019

Cuphead Is Hard

Ever hear of Cuphead? That really cool-looking game with the 1930's cartoon aesthetic?
That game is difficult. Like, really difficult.
I just beat it and reviewed it.
I'm gonna go drink a Gatorade.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Midsommar (Film Review)

2019 A24
Written and Directed by: Ari Aster
Starring: Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Vilhelm Blomgren, and Will Poulter
MPAA Rating: R; Running Time: 147 Minutes
The Nicsperiment Score: 9/10

Dani and Christian's relationship is faltering. Dani, herself medicated for some unexplained mental illness, is under constant stress that her bipolar sister will act out. Christian, tired of hearing about Dani's sister, would rather just hang with his Dani-hating bros. However, just as Christian starts to tinker with the idea of leaving Dani, the unthinkable happens, and Dani finds herself not just down a sister, but her entire family. Now, Christian's got no choice but to stick around, though all he seems to be able to offer Dani's heaving sobs is a pat on the back and a distant stare.
Cut to months later, and the couple are in a holding pattern. Christian (Jack Reynor) is attempting to get back to normal life with his pals. Meanwhile, the traumatized Dani (Florence Pugh, in a tour-de-force performance) spends most days in bed. A chance to change the status quo arrives, in the form of a trip to a remote commune in the forested hills of Sweden. Seems that not only is one of Christian's fellow-grad-student buddy's writing his thesis on just these sort of communities, but another is actually from one, and wants to take his friends back to his Scandinavian home to experience the midsummer celebration. Before you can say, hey, that's a weird coincidence...they're all on a plane to Stockholm.
If you've seen one Ari Aster've seen half of Ari Aster's films. The young writer-director's first film, Hereditary, veered from family drama, with minutes upon minutes of realistic conversation and conflict, into full on horror, with minutes upon minutes of decapitations, reanimated corpses, and demonic possession. Midsommar is something completely different, but Aster is already developing some trademarks:a sublime fusion of hypnotic camera movements and lighting, and an interior mise en scène that at times feels like a wall of cubbyholes, from which a monster or a metaphor could spring at any moment. However, the most pervading aspect of an Aster film is the creator's patience.
Hereditary takes its time exploring and building up the family drama and conflict so that the finally revealed supernatural evils just feel like a logical evolution of already existing domestic horrors. Midsommar not only explores family, but community, empathy, and romantic relationships, as well...and when, instead of monsters, the strangely bizarre and unsettling, though still very hard-R happen, these more extreme events again feel like the natural growth of the themes Aster has already been exploring. I don't really want to talk about that, though. What I really want to talk about, what I'm still thinking and dreaming about, are the pretty pictures and sounds.
When the Americans enter this North Swedish paradise, they might as well be on another planet. The sun never sets, and everything is bathed in golden light. Beautiful music streams organically from the commune's musicians, welcome, yet without warning. All of Aster's film-making elements blend rapturously as a be-flowered Dani dances with a group of white-clad women around a maypole, as just maybe, the empathy-seeking Dani finds a new family. Aerial, symmetrical shots of people gathered around tables feel as orderly as nature. Wind rustles through the grass and treetops, and oh wait, what's that sticking out of the garden bed?

Monday, July 15, 2019

THERE IS NO GOD AND YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE: A Hurricane Barry Staycation Travelogue, Featuring Periodic Alerts from the Weather Channel

This week, my wife went to a work conference in Nashville, Tennessee, leaving my son and I alone in God's soggy boot. That boot thing was only a metaphor, as I don't think God wears shoes, and I mean to say, we live in Louisiana. You might know us from routinely getting destroyed by hurricanes, oil spills, "Most Poverty and Obesity-Stricken State" lists, and as the state where one day in spring, 40 days before Easter, some women will show their breasts for a 10 cent piece of plastic. Yes, we are that state.
I love Louisiana and will defend it with my dying breath as a state only composed of 1% of that bad stuff in the above paragraph, and 99% of awesome. Unfortunately, the 99% of awesome doesn't make for great news headlines. Turns Out," Louisiana is Full of Happy, Relaxed People Who Overeat Spicy Foods, and Have Invented Half the Genres in Modern Music" just doesn't get the same high news ratings.
Ratings like the below will get:

This is the headline I see at the top, front page of The Weather Channel's website, as my wife and son and I sit on our couch Sunday night, watching the revived Press Your Luck, our electricity having never gone out, despite being in the predicted direct path of once Hurricane Barry. Yes, Barry has come and gone, and while we, and most everyone in the region are fine, according to the Weather Channel, LEVEES OVERTOPPED, EXTENSIVE FLOODING, THOUSANDS WITHOUT POWER.
Of course, I'm glad they hyped up a hurricane before it arrived. That most definitely beats August 2005's OH HEY, THERE'S THIS HURRICANE KATRINA, YOU MIGHT WANT TO PREPARE. OH, SORRY, IT'S HERE ALREADY.
However, once Barry got here and proved itself to be a lamb rather than a lion, it was time to ratchet down the panic, and crank up the truth...instead, the Weather Channel ratcheted up the panic to such a high level, my son literally vomited. But let's back up. Like an Instagram influencer, we'll get to the vomit in good time.
Here is a first: a Nicsperiment Travelogue written around not actual travel, but a staycation. And it's, a...wait, there's a Weather Channel Alert:


Well, wait Weather Channel, that's not true, I am writing the travelogue right now. Why would you say such a thing? Anyway, let's begin...

*     *     *

My wife went to work Tuesday morning (7/14/19), but knowing I'd be taking her to the airport at noon, and not wanting to leave my nine-year-old alone all morning in a world where gravity is still just a theory--wait, it's a law? It has three laws? Never mind.
Anyway, I stayed home with my son, fully intending on playing through Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on my Sega Genesis. I then found that my Sega Genesis, like an Instagram influencer, didn't work. I then...
Hold up, I took a writing break here to go to bed, and now it's Monday morning. Let's see what says now (I'll include the date and time in the pic):

Are you kidding me? Still? We are literally all fine! Doesn't the Weather Channel know that people outside the area come to them for information because they are worried about the ones they love? Don't they know that this will make people panic? Don't they care about anything other than clicks, and selling you Progressive Insurance?
I guess not.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, my Sega Genesis was broken, so I finally completed the review of Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside I've been sitting on for five months. By this point, it was time for my wife to come home from work, so my son and I could drive her to the airport. That happened, we said our huggy and kissy goodbyes, and she flew off to the Ville of Nash, named after Sir Steven Nash, who invented cranberries.
I then decided that I would not accept Sega Genesis defeat, and drove to Gameware to get a new one. I almost succeeded, as the College Drive Gameware had lots of nice, not-30-year-old-looking Sega, but no nice not-30-year-old-looking connector cables. So it was off to the Gameware in the mall, but not before getting sodas at the strip mall-sharing Panda Express.
On the way to the mall, my son and I had a brilliant idea. That food in Panda Express smelled good. Why not buy some Panda Express-like food at the mall? It takes us both time to gestate an idea. The ideas cocooned in our heads need at least 40 other idea-butterflies who've already busted out of their idea-cocoons to say, "Hey, we all got out, and it's better to be free and have wings than be in a cocoon. You should bust out, too," before they are free to bust loose. Actually, butterflies come from chrysalis, not cocoons, but saying "ideas chrysalised in our heads" sounds weird and spell check doesn't recognize it. The English language is weird. I'm pretty sure people like butterflies more than moths...poor old, ugly moths...except they've won the verb war!!!
We picked up the Sega Genesis cables from mall Gameware, then looked for a Panda Express and found they only had a Mandarin Express, which is fine by me, as mandarins seem to want to continue existing by evolving to taste delicious, while pandas' entire existence seems like one sad-eyed plea to the universe to "Please, kill us now." Also, besides being a citrus fruit that is enjoyed by many, Mandarin is spoken by 1.2 billion people. I haven't heard of one single person speaking Panda! Panda: the Latin of bears.
I thought we'd just have a peaceful ride home, but then I heard it, like a Weather Channel alert, only accurate:
Holy cow, did that nose start bleeding, a 40-napkin gusher that used up every piece of disposable cloth I've collected from Taco Bell...over the last couple days. I need to go to Taco Bell again.
I've made a rule up to this point to not post any pictures of my child on the Internet, but he's nine now, and just look at this:

This is after he mopped up his face with all those napkins! Bloodsanity!
I told him to stop bleeding, but for some reason, that didn't work. We finally got home, he switched to a towel, and at the point that surely there could be no blood left to bleed he bled some more. But then it stopped. After making sure he was still conscious, I finally got to playing and reviewing Sonic the Hedgehog 2, while he played his current favorite, Super Mario Maker 2.
I then assured myself that my son was still conscious, and also that he didn't look like he had just been exsanguinated by Nosferatu. He didn't, but I still felt like he needed a lot of protein and hydration. I ran to Circle K, thinking they'd have some eggs I could boil, but they only had pre-boiled eggs. Don't buy hard-boiled eggs from Circle K. They taste like gray.
After finding an alternate protein for my son, he did nine-year-old stuff, while I reviewed Spider-Man: Far From Home. Neither of us like to sleep at night, just like Nosferatu, so he played more Super Mario Maker 2, while I played the absolutely dreadful Nintendo 64 title, Yoshi's Story. Being a great, and very responsible dad, at 2:30 a.m., I told my nine-year-old son to get out of my face and go to bed. Then I stayed up a couple more hours and watched (and later reviewed) Us. Despite being the only member of my household who knows how to fire a gun, as well as having taken hours upon hours of boxing classes, and having the largest amount of muscle mass, even more than my nine-year-old, about halfway through Us, I really wished that my wife was home.
The next morning, we prepared to go to Blue Bayou Water Park.
Before my son was born, I hated water parks more than I apparently hate pandas. My opinion of what water parks should do was the same as what the Department of National Parks thinks you should do: take a hike. Since my son's been around, though, I think water parks are the bees knees. What exactly does that expression mean anyway? Why do we place so much admiration upon a bee's knees? What of the bees who have squattier, stubbier knees? Do they live a life of shame?
"Bob, work out those knees, otherwise people will start saying moth's knees!" Poor little, stubby-kneed bee, Bob! Also I made up the Department of National Parks. That isn't a thing.
Anyway, just as we were about to leave, I noticed the sky was grayer than how Circle K eggs taste, so I checked out the Weather Channel, only to have this message greet me:
First of all, I didn't even know the Weather Channel was into rhyming now. Second of all, what? What's a Barry? Why does a neurotic Jewish banker want to kill us? I did some research, and found that Barry was a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and likely responsible for the stormy skies.
"Is our house gonna, flood, daddy?" my son asked.
"I hope not," I answered. "But I'm not sure if today is the best day to go to Blue Bayou. Looks like it's gonna rain." As we'd been planning our staycation water park trip for months, he was adamant we try to go anyway.
The kid's got great instincts. Despite the Weather Channel's dire warnings, it didn't rain a drop, but it seems that everyone else heeded them, as none of Blue Bayou's great water slides had any lines, and we roamed the park at will to our hearts' content for hours and hours, until NOSEBLEED!
Anytime my son gets a nosebleed in public, I have the usual fear of any parent:
That someone will walk up to me, and say, "Hey, did you just punch that kid in the face?!"
Thankfully, no one asked that, and a lifeguard helped us get some napkins. We'd gotten more than three hours worth of wave pool and water slides by that point anyway, and it seemed that this was a nosebleed that ice cream might fix.

It didn't, and his nose bled the whole way home, but "It's all good when you're eating ice cream," says the slogan for the Department of Ice Cream.
We made it home, and I let him play some more of his precious Super Mario Maker 2, while I polished up some reviews. At some point, we took a break, and put on some Weather Channel.
Bad Idea.
announced the Weather Channel.
"Daddy, can hurricanes really give you cancer?" my son asked.
"No, no," I answered. "I don't know why they said that."
I decided we needed to hit the neighborhood bar and grill, George's, to eat some comfort food.
My son asked about 9/11 when he saw the fading "NEVER FORGET" bumper sticker on the door, and the Weather Channel-tuned television over the bar was blasting "Top Ten Most Destructive Hurricanes" like some kind of psychotic, self-actualized cable network David Letterman, with of course my son's greatest nemesis, despite occurring four years before his birth, Hurricane Katrina, taking up the top spot.
After explaining storm surge, New Orleans' below sea-level elevation, and assuring that neither one of those are things in Baton Rouge (just good old river floods and monsoons, but I didn't mention that!) both for the 100th or 200th time since he's been born, someone put on an NBA summer league game, our food arrived, and the relaxingly chill, usual atmosphere of George's took over, as we chowed down on our burger, Philly cheese steak (Louisiana does an awesome spicy version on Po-Boy bread!), and massive plate of fries, and all was right in the world.

We then video-chatted with my wife, ran by Albertsons to stock up on water and batteries, then made it back home. My son went back to his chosen game, and I played and reviewed the singularly unpleasant SNES game, Warlock. Then I put my son to bed, and I watched (and later reviewed) the singularly pleasant film, Warlock.
The next morning, we planned for a fun day-trip to our extra-awesome neighboring city to the West, Lafayette, just a drive across the Atchafalaya, right past the Pocodellamiacarno. I only made up one of those places.
Unfortunately, we caught a snippet of the Weather Channel, which announced
My son panicked a little, but I reassured him, then drove us to the local park, which was giving out sandbags, and by giving out sandbags, I mean there was a giant mound of sand next to a giant mound of empty sandbags, and you had to bring your shovel and fill up as many bags as you could, then get out of the way or leave before you had a heat stroke, which one young woman had about ten minutes into our visit. However, it wasn't too hot for me to take a moment to act like a tool and snap this picture.

As soon as we left, I immediately felt like I hadn't bagged enough, and that we should drop those off at home and go back, but I also noticed that this entire experience was severely stressing out my son, and also negatively effecting me, as I was starting to get snappy with him. It didn't help that the Weather Channel was blasting this update
"How can it do that" sobbed my son. "How can a hurricane bring down the moon?"
"It can't!" I reassured. "I promise it can't!"
"Then why are we getting all these sandbags? We don't even live in a flood zone!"
He's right that we don't live in a flood zone, but when the city flooded in 2016, the Mississippi was at its normal level, and all drainage ditches and bayous were flowing properly into the river. This year, the river's been at flood stage since January. If the media predictions of 24+ inches of rain were correct, our house was most definitely looking at taking on water. I didn't want to tell him that in those exact words, and just said, "It's always good to be prepared." After we unloaded the sandbags, washed up, and vacuumed the Sahara out of my trunk, we made the drive West down I-10.
the weather alert said, before I quickly put on a soothing Nintendo 64 soundtrack playlist so that we could relax on the drive. Once we made it into town, we hit up the Play N Trade, which is a national treasure, and always has cool window paintings like this:

After making some good finds, we decided maybe we should eat something to replace all those calories we burned making sandbags. As great as Lafayette local restaurants are, there is a Quizno's next to the Play N Trade, and the owner is always kind and appreciative of your business, and for some reason Baton Rouge is a Quiznoist, so we went to Quizno's.
Of course, now that we had real food in our stomachs, we had to have ice cream food in our stomachs, meaning we had too go to Borden's, which is the last Borden's Ice Cream Shoppe in the world, and also the best Ice Cream Shoppe in the world because Lafayette has all of the best stuff. I recommend any flavor that they have (Cookies n' Cream and Cherry Vanilla are particular favorites), but it's hard to beat their Vanilla (it's got that beautiful, deep golden color), with chocolate hard shell on top...and maybe a little butterscotch because I'm 100.

That was a pun.
Borden's had stacks of pre-made sandbags ready to go by their doors, and a couple minutes into our drive home, it began to rain.
When we arrived home, we made the mistake of flipping on the telly, as the Weather Channel was still on, and they said
Jeez, rhyming and exclamation points now?! I thought incredulously.
My son started to panic.
"It's okay, I told him," we're going to be okay." We did some video-gaming, I pulled out the venerable Dreamcast, and at my son's request, played and reviewed his first video game, the excellent Sega Marine Fishing. We found a nice, peaceful, comforting cocoon of nostalgia, and after awhile, I could tell my son was exhausted from the day, and despite his protests, needed to go to bed. Unfortunately, when I turned off the video games, the Weather Channel flipped on for a split second before I could hit the "OFF" button, and Jim Cantore turned directly toward my son, looked him in the eye, and said
"What the hell, Jim Cantore?!" I shouted, flipping off the TV, then turning off the TV.
"I don't feel so good," my son said.
"It's okay," I said.
"No," he said, "I think I need to throw up."
"Quick, to the bathroom," I said.
And then, he puked great torrents of vomit, almost all of it into the toilet.
The damn Weather Channel stressed my son out so much, he threw up.
I got him to take a shower while I cleaned up his stray puke, Lysol'd the place, and then put him to bed.
"Is our house going to flood?" he asked.
"I hope not," I said, "But I promise, no matter what happens around us, I will not let anything bad happen to you."
That was enough to at least let him fall asleep, though I laid in my bed, alone and awake into the morning.
We both woke up some time before lunch to an excellent text from my wife, stating that she got an earlier flight, and would now be coming home that afternoon. My son played a little more of his game, while I reviewed the first season of the wacky TNT dramedy, Claws, then we headed to the airport.
Thankfully, my wife's flight arrived on time, and I tried to appraise her of the possible situation with the high river level without alarming her, though I definitely alarmed her. Then we made it home and something miraculous happened.
The local news, who are a part of the community, want what's best for the community, meaning they care more about giving you accurate information and keeping you safe, than making you panic or selling you Progressive Insurance. In fact, local news didn't air a single commercial during their 24-hour coverage. As the day wore on and passed into Saturday, and it became clear we weren't all going to die, I particularly enjoyed WAFB's Greg Meriwether lambasting the national media's panic-inducing coverage, including pointing out the New Orleans Police Department's angry tweet to the Washington Post's breathless lie of a headline story:

Also, I highlighted "factu" because I like it.
Local news also showed outrage when a national reporter mentioned to the Louisiana Governor during an interview that the state hasn't really dealt with anything like this since Katrina, when...
The capital city itself took a direct hit from Hurricane Gustav in 2008, a storm that killed 153 people and caused $8.31 billion dollars in damage. (That one put me out of my apartment for three weeks, relatively minor compared to the severity some experienced).
The state was directly hit by Hurricane Isaac in 2012, a storm that caused 41 deaths, and $3.11 billion dollars in damage.
The state, particularly the capital city of Baton Rouge and surrounding areas, was hit with catastrophic flooding in 2016, which damaged 146,000 homes, thousands of businesses, and caused $15 billion dollars in damage, though none of this was at all reported by the national media because they were too busy getting Donald Trump elected President. Yes, depending on your political perspective, it's either their fault, or you can thank them, but they're the ones who relentlessly fed and still relentlessly feed the troll/fearless leader.
I left out a lot of other treacherous weather events, because I don't want this to top the 50,000 word mark, and also because I don't want to repudiate the definitely accurate opinion I espoused in this piece's second paragraph.
Anyway, somehow, amidst all of the non-existent death and destruction, my wife and I found time to watch the stupidly hilarious Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, then she took a nap, while my son got even more Mario Maker time (he had his dream week, sans all the stress-induced vomiting and nosebleeds), and I played and reviewed the underrated Star Solider: Vanishing Earth for the Nintendo 64. Then my wife woke up, and the three of us watched The Hate U Give, then kept saying, "Let's play scrabble or something," while instead watching copious amounts of game shows, and I finally reviewed Toy Story 4. My wife was supposed to sing and I was supposed to play bass at church the next morning, but church got cancelled, and we just spent Sunday watching more game shows before getting stir crazy, and heading to Mellow Mushroom for some pizza. It seems, Barry was over.
At this point, my son was feeling a lot better, but also very angry at the Weather Channel for freaking him the hell out. He had particular ire for their "local forecast" music, which currently sounds like a fire alarm going off in your skull. At this point, despite us barely getting a rain shower from Barry, the Weather Channel continued to air headlines like
I explained to my son that when I was his age, the Weather Channel was different, and a comfort rather than an irritant. I even showed him some videos of how chill the old local forecast music used to be in the 90's.

He absolutely loved it. When I was his age, and on into my late teens, my farmer father (thankfully, not "former father") had the Weather Channel on 24/7, and my brother and I can get lolled into a nostalgia-induced dopamine coma just hearing the above video.
I think the problems with the modern day Weather Channel stem from this: a. after Katrina, much of the national media felt like it should have done more beforehand. Now every storm gets blown out of proportion, only exacerbated by, b. with the Internet and new digital providers like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime eating into their market, cable channels have to fight for eyeballs. Because of this, the Weather Channel whips every weather event into an absolutely certain apocalypse, in order to attract attention.
It's a shame, not only because it causes people to freak out or panic, but because the Weather Channel used to be THE great source for weather news. But now, because of its exaggeration and exploitation, it's lost my family as viewers, and
Jeez, Weather Channel, give it a rest! Can't you post something classy for once?

Never mind.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Toy Story 4

2019 Disney/Pixar
Directed by: Josh Cooley; Written by: Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton
Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, and Joan Cusack
MPAA Rating: G; Running Time: 100 Minutes
The Nicsperiment Score: 8/10

My reaction to the initial Toy Story 4 announcement was likely the same as most: Why are they making another Toy Story? After all, 2010's Toy Story 3 ended things definitively. The third installment is a near perfect film, dealing with heavy themes of aging and mortality, and it provides a perfect conclusion to the then 14-year-old film series. Also, Toy Story 3 came 11(!) years after Toy Story 2, making it feel even more like an epilogue. Well, Toy Story 3's status as "the final Toy Story" has ended. For $ome reason, Disney has decided that, nine years after the last installment, the world needs at least one more Toy Story film.
Toy Story 4 picks up about two years after the last film left off. Woody the Cowboy, Buzz Lightyear the space ranger, and the now myriad other toys are living peacefully with Bonnie, the young girl they were given to at the end of Toy Story 3. As Toy Story lore goes, the toys are all--unbeknownst to their owners--alive, hanging out and talking in their own society when no humans are in the room. However, making their humans happy is the toys' chief concern.
Woody, the series' main protagonist, is particularly concerned with how anxious Bonnie is about starting kindergarten. Turns out Woody, once star of the toy box, is not Bonnie's favorite toy, or even one she really plays with much at all. As Woody has spent the last three films learning the universe doesn't revolve around him, though, he takes this new development in stride. Besides, he's gained a streak of selflessness that drives him to help Bonnie acclimate to her new school year, without her ever being the wiser.
This task evolves into Woody's new mission in life: keeping Forky alive. Forky, a craft Bonnie made on her first day of school out of a spork and other pieces of litter, has miraculously come to life. Poor Forky thinks he is trash and not a toy, though, and believes he belongs in the trash can. In a montage bit of philosophical comedy that will delight adults and children for markedly different reasons, Woody must continuously save Forky from suicidally jumping into whatever dumpster or garbage bin is closest, all set to a jaunty tune by the returning Randy Newman. It seems that all is right in the Toy Story cinematic universe. This movie is just as funny and enjoyable as its predecessors.
As the toys go on a road trip with Bonnie's family, new toys are introduced that fit right in with the original gang, though they add new angles of humor. National treasures, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, bring a couple of wacky carnival-escapee toys to life. Keanu Reeves even shows up. Forky gets kidnapped at an antique store, and Woody is introduced to toys even older than he is: an ancient talking doll with a busted voice box, and a group of mute and terrifying abandoned ventriloquist dummies.
The film goes into some new thematic territory, exploring what happens when toys no longer have an owner and go rogue. A grand, yet surprisingly small-scale adventure occurs. Everything feels perfect yet again, until a great parting has its intended emotional weight lightened, as the Toy Story series finally meets the crux of cinematically crying wolf.
Indeed, with 20 minutes to go, I thought, this is so charming and fun, Pixar could just keep making Toy Story films into perpetuity. Why not? They're enjoyable, and you don't feel at all bad for enjoying them. But then, Toy Story 4 takes a stab at finality, just like Toy Story 3 did. Knowing full well that "goodbye" at the end of Toy Story 3 did not truly mean "goodbye," I could not emotionally invest in Toy Story 4's ending. I greatly enjoyed Toy Story 4, and yet my heart immediately rejected its conclusion. Maybe, in 40 years, when I start to feel like those antique store toys, and I know for certain that Toy Story 4 was indeed the last tale in the Toy Story saga, I'll be able to connect to its would-be stirring conclusion.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Less Barry, More Nintendo 64 Reviews

I've still got electricity, and that means: here's a review for the lone scrolling overhead shooter for the Nintendo 64: Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Claws: Season One (Review)

2017 TNT
Season One
Score: 8/10

I don't know how I ended up watching Claws. I remember being curious about what Niecy Nash had been up to since Reno 911, and seeing on Wikipedia that Claws was her current gig. I remember thinking about how good Jenn Lyon was in the insane short comedy film, Mario: Game Over, and finding she was on Claws,as well. Maybe that's all it took. Whatever the case, I just watched the first season of Claws.
The show immediately put me off. The premiere's tone veers around wildly. The show focuses on Nash's Desna Simms, who owns both a Florida nail salon in a dingy strip mall and big dreams. One day, she's going to get her crew into a nice place, where they can show their nail art to the world. Unfortunately, in trying to get ahead, she's gotten mixed up with the Dixie mafia. Meanwhile, she's caring for her adult autistic brother, Dean, and the two live in rat hole.
The premiere is extremely heavy on melodrama, mixed with some weird humor, and the two elements seem to clash together. To make matters worse, local Dixie mafia head, Uncle Daddy is...well, he's named Uncle Daddy, and he's way over the top. To make matters worse, Desna's dating Uncle Daddy's nephew, Roller. TNT says they "Know Drama(tm)," but this is all a bit much.
I weighed quitting on the show after that first episode. After all, there are so many options. Why stick with something you don't like?
Then it happened. The plate of Ho Hos.
Late in Season One's second episode, a funeral is held for a major character. It's an extremely trashy funeral, involving strippers and some ridiculous karaoke. Then, a well-dressed waiter passes around a golden tray of Ho Hos. Nobody says, "Oh, I love Ho Hos," or calls any sort of attention to them. They're just there. That's when Claws' tone clicks into place.
Claws is an over-the-top, trashy dramedy, that fully realizes it is an over-the-top, trashy dramedy. It wrings multitudes of laughter out of ridiculously specific details, like the bizarre nature of Desna walking in on someone giving themselves a Neti Pot, or a fake-kidnapping story devolving into an absurd incident involving peanut butter and one of those barnyard animal See 'n Say toys. The show never runs out of these outlandishly creative, Far Side-esque non sequitur details, showing a keen, observational eye and attention to very human mundanity. The rest of the show's wheelbarrows of laughter come from the characters themselves.
Desna's crew is populated by the aforementioned Lyons' loud and loyal Jenn, Carrie Preston's con artist Polly, Karrueche Tran's dimwitted, but sweet Virgina, and Judy Reyes tough and silent "Quiet Ann." All are hilarious, and their relationship and banter is the heart of the Claws. Surprisingly, once the tone settles in, all of these actresses are able to make the viewer not only laugh with, but care about their characters.
Special kudos go to Reyes. Best known for playing the sassy Carla Espinosa on Scrubs, Reyes give a performance on Claws that is mostly physical. However, when she answers a lover's question, "Why don't you ever talk?" with "Words are bullshit," it's clear that opinion has been formed from years of painful experience.
Of course, Nash carries the show, able to be both hilarious and easy to root for when she's facing the ever-present drama of her life. Her relationship with her brother, played by Harold Perrineau, also works as a major emotional vein. Perrineau has always had a strange energy that hasn't always meshed with the roles he's been given, but he absolutely kills this part, somehow not only giving respect to his disorder, but being hilarious and stealing half the scenes he's in. He also has great chemistry with Tran's Virginia.
The most divisive element of this show, though, has to be Dean Norris as "Uncle Daddy." Norris played it straight as the moral center on Breaking Bad for five years, but here he's over-the-top unhinged, with an outrageous southern accent, a mermaid carving hobby, and the propensity to shoot people with little provocation. I had a tough time getting used to Norris' Uncle Daddy performance, but once it sinks in, it really sinks in, and becomes one of the very funny Claws' funniest elements. Norris is particularly great at making Uncle Daddy's periodic genuine shows of emotion hilarious, as they harshly clash with his violent oafishness.
However, as a Louisiana native, I have to say, the true star of Claws is the city of New Orleans, which is shot here for the Florida coast. I've long had a contentious relationship with the Crescent City, which I'll always contend is the weirdest place on Earth. That weirdness permeates Claws, from the shooting locations, to the extras, to the general bizarre vibe spilling into every nook and cranny of the show. For any resident or frequent visitor, it is inarguable:
Claws could not have been filmed anywhere but the Big Easy.

A Review of Sega Marine Fishing, My Son's First Video Game

You never know which of your passions your child will take to, but I think at this point it's safe to assume mine has followed me into the magical world of video games. Here's a review of the first one he played and truly got into, Sega Marine Fishing.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Warlock (Film Review)

1989 Trimark Pictures
Directed by: Steve Miner; Written by: David Twohy
Starring: Julian Sands, Lori Singer, and Richard E. Grant
MPAA Rating: R; Running Time: 103 Minutes
The Nicsperiment Score: 8/10

As a kid, I was taught that witches and warlocks were a very real threat, could fly around on broomsticks, cast spells, sacrifice children, and turn people into animals. Yep, the 80's were a weird time to be an evangelical kid.
One afternoon, in the summer of 1990, I was in Albertsons with my mom, clutching a pack of Topps baseball cards, when I looked up and saw the poster for Warlock. Albertsons had a video rental section in those days, and Warlock was the movie of the week. Here I was just standing in Albertsons, waiting to open my card pack, hopefully pull a Frank Thomas rookie, and then chew my stick of concrete, when all of a sudden a blond emissary of Satan was staring down upon me. I immediately looked away. Flash forward 29 years.
Here I am at my house, playing a godawful SNES adaptation of Warlock(my 2.5/10.0 review right here!), when I think, hey, remember the movie this is based upon? Let's give that a go!
So it's 1691, and this Warlock has been terrorizing the Massachusetts countryside. He's finally been caught by this wild-eyed, fur-coat-wearing, bullwhip-wielding, Scottish-brogue'ing witch-hunter, Giles Redferne. Just when it's time for his execution, the Warlock gets sent 300-years into the future by Satan. The Warlock ends up unconscious through the window and on the floor of the L.A.-to-the-core Kassandra. It's 1991 in the most awesome way possible, with distopian streets, synthesizer sounds, and a VHS sheen.
Before you can say Walkman, the Warlock's made a deal with Satan to find an ancient tome that will unmake creation, and he's cursed Kassandra to age 20-years every night to boot. Good thing for her that this wacky guy with a bullwhip has followed the Warlock from the past to her door.
Warlock is an absolutely charming film, taking the simple plot point from 1984's Terminator, of a hero following a bad guy through time, and running with it in fun and inventive directions. Warlock is billed as a horror film, and there are certainly plenty of eye-gouging, tongue-ripping moments, but the violence is all slightly muted. What's turned up are enjoyably silly fish-out-of-water moments, an insanely rootable hero and heroine, and greet nemesis-chemistry between Julian Sands' dastardly Warlock, and Richard E Grant's laser-focused Redferne. Meanwhile, Footloose's Lori Singer as Kassandra (with a "K!") absolutely steals the show. She's got a brilliant retort for any over-serious exclamation  Redferne makes, and her "this is 1991!" lessons, like how to abuse having a credit card or how to abuse driving a car are nearly worth the 103-minute run-time alone.
With Kassandra's red-tinted pixie cut, NIKE athletic wear, and "what next?" attitude, and Redferne's wacky aloofness and pure-hearted spirit, you've got a protagonist duo so cute, you want to put them in your pocket and take them home. Meanwhile, Sands delightfully chews up the scenery (sometimes literally!) and spits it out (also sometimes literally!). Under Steve Miner's enjoyably light direction, Warlock successfully morphs from a period piece, to a horror movie, to a road comedy, to an action film. Jerry Goldsmith lends a musical score that furthers his well-deserved master status, melding those previously mentioned synthetic sounds with a brilliant orchestral score. Also, the film's low-budget effects only further the fun. Everything just works.
Watching Warlock has been one of the most surprisingly delightful film experiences I've had this year. The movie I thought was a terrifying occult nightmare 29-years ago has actually just been a lovely, lightweight, escapist fantasy this entire time.

UPDATE: Stupid Tropical Storm Barry Slows Down Nicsperimentathon

Map taken from

I've been really enjoying this surprisingly random Nicsperimentathon 2019, but today my son and I had to head to a prep area to make sandbags. The Mississippi River, my lifelong neighbor, has been at floodstage here at Baton Rouge since January. Every time it rains, the water is supposed to drain to the river...but with the river at floodstage, it's had nowhere to go. Now, we've got this stupid Tropical Storm Barry hanging out, promising to dump a whole lot of water on us. Praying and hoping for the best. Got a garage full of sandbags ready. Gonna get back to this crazy Nicsperimentathon, and hopefully enjoy the next 24-hours, then will be on high alert for the weekend. Just want this stupid storm to die.
Die, Barry.

Woohoo, Bad Game Review!!! (the game is bad, and maybe the review, too)...the game is Warlock for SNES...I need a sandwich

Warlock for SNES is bad. Really bad. How bad?