Stories on the edge of familiarity

Monthly Archives: July 2016

The Art of Goofing Off: Episode 7

The Art of Goofing Off: Episode 7

Big news: On August 5th, I’ll be starting a Kickstarter for my next book, Like Mist Over the Eyes. For more information (and a handy reminder for the big day), RSVP to the Facebook event.

Now, to our regularly scheduled programming (this episode contains movies, TV shows, and video games):

Stories on the Big Screen (Movies)

Monsters vs Aliens

Sometimes you just want a fun movie. This is one of those, and quite a genre-savvy one, too. If you’re familiar with sci-fi movies, you’ll be delighted (as I was) by the copious references. The Close Encounters of the Third Kind one had me laughing so hard I had to pause the movie until I could control myself again.

What’s even better was that I thought this would just be a ridiculous movie mostly made up of action sequences. Aka, I judged the movie by its title. As it turns out, the plot is complex and well thought out, the characters are hilarious, and the movie knows exactly what tropes it’s dealing with – as it simultaneously follows and subverts them. Not only that, but the character arc for Susan, the main character, had me cheering for her all the way through.

The title is enough to tell you the main story of the movie. It really is about monsters going up against aliens.

It also happens to be a whole lot of cleverly crafted fun.

 

The Wedding Guest (Barefoot)

How do you get Thea to watch romantic comedies? Well, sometimes, I’m in the mood for them, so romantic comedies it is. Other times, I’m not in the mood for them, so you pull out a premise like this:

“The “black sheep” son of a wealthy family meets a young psychiatric patient who’s been raised in isolation her entire life. He then takes the naive young woman home for his brother’s wedding.” (description from IMDB)

“Psychiatric patient?” Thea says. “As a fake girlfriend to bring as a wedding guest? This guy’s plan is a mess.” Thea pauses. “A psychiatric patient. I have to know what happens.”

Yes, the plan is a mess. And Daisy, the psychiatric patient in question, is delightful.

It’s these two pieces together that make this movie worth watching.

 

In Your Eyes

OKAY OKAY, I give. I really like psychological movies. This, The Wedding Guest (above), Lars and the Real Girl (episode 3). I love them.

How is this a psychological movie? Well, it’s about two people from different parts of the US who one day figure out that they’ve had a telepathic connection their entire life. Sort of. They can experience what the other person experiences, but they can’t think at each other. Which means they talk out loud to each other.

Which results in everyone around them thinking they’re crazy. The thing is, the people in their lives aren’t great people for them.

For some reason, Netflix thought I wouldn’t like this movie (it thought I’d give it two and half stars or some nonsense like that). The thing is, I loved the premise enough that I read some reviews to double-check the quality of the movie, and some people really disliked it (which, yes, is usual for movies of all kinds). So, the first time I watched it, I picked at it even as I enjoyed it and wondered if my taste had somehow been compromised and here I was enjoying this substandard movie.

Upon second viewing, I loved it again and decided that I didn’t care what other people thought.

Upon second scrolling through the reviews, it’s clear to me that I’d been paying too much attention to the bad reviews. There’s a ton of positive ones.

I’m sure there’s a connection to be made to the movie’s plot in there somewhere :)

 

Stories on the Silver Screen (TV Shows)

Dark Matter

Best sci-fi show I’ve seen since Orphan Black. Which isn’t to say that it’s like Orphan Black. Orphan Black is the Bjork of Canadian sci-fi – it is its own, highly unique thing.

Dark Matter is also its own unique thing, minus the heaping helping of wtf. Actually, maybe a better comparison to this show is Firefly, with the crew of a ship doing legally questionable things in a galaxy controlled by some darn powerful organizations. Except they’re not taking on the organizations like in Firefly. They’re more trying to survive them – this is a Canadian sci-fi show, after all. Canadian sci-fi isn’t about going into the unknown to make things fit our dream. That’s American sci-fi. Canadian sci-fi is about figuring out how to make our lives as they are work in universe filled with forces interested in other things (the Stargate franchise, which is an American thing made by Canadians, falls more under this category while also trying to be American at the same time. The only part of it that’s purely American in outlook is the original movie, because that one wasn’t made by so many Canadians).

I could write a lot more about Canadian sci-fi, but my main point is that it’s a) awesome and b) awesome for completely different reasons than American sci-fi.

Dark Matter is about a crew of a ship who wake up one day with no memories. They then have to survive together while they figure out what happened, who did it, and why. The characterization is fantastic and drives the show far more than anything else, and the mysteries surrounding them are revealed in drips and drops – just enough to keep you glued to find out what will happen and if these characters you love will ever be happy.

 

Dramaworld

Do you like K-dramas? Do you ever wish you could go inside your favourite K-dramas to make sure that the right people end up with each other?

Even if you haven’t watched many K-dramas (like me), have you ever wanted to go inside TV shows to, you know, gently make sure that your ship sails?

Dramaworld is what happens when a K-drama superfan gets pulled into Dramaworld – the place where all K-dramas happen – because the story is broken and it’s up to her to get the right people together by the time the credits roll.

Each episode is short, so it’s easy to watch the whole season in one evening and laugh with this hilarious comedy.

 

Interactive Stories (Video Games)

Cogs

You know how games often have achievements or side quests that you can miss the first time you play through? If you’re like me, every time you finish a game and find out that there’s more you could to do to really complete it, you tell yourself “Yeah, I’d like to go back through and finish all the things.”

Except you never do.

Well.

Cogs is a steampunk-themed puzzle game where you move around tiles to line up gears and steam pipes in order to power little machines. My brother, when I showed it to him, said it’s like someone took a minigame and made it into a full game.

The first day I played it, I went through all but one of the puzzles in inventor mode. All of them. One of them took me an hour to figure out. I stayed up until at least 2am working through these puzzles because I apparently love this game that much. And, instead of stopping there and never coming back, I proceeded to, over the next couple of days, complete all the challenge mode puzzles. On Sunday, I’ll be at it again, trying to get all the gold medals in inventor mode.

This is the only game that I’ve ever done this with.

Maybe it’s the steampunk aesthetic. Maybe it’s the problem-solving. Maybe it’s both. The two Portal 2 themed puzzles at the end are also a nice touch.

I think, though, that a huge part of it is the 3D spatial reasoning component. This isn’t Candy Crush-esque puzzles, where you line up items of the same colour, while new things appear with every move you make. These are puzzle boxes, puzzle machines, complete in all their jumbled components, and they take some thinking ahead to get working again.

It’s like a much cooler version of unravelling knots, which is something I love to do (seriously. Give me a huge tangle of yarn, electrical cords, or jewelry, and I will happily spend hours unsnarling it).

You may not love puzzles as much as I do, but if you like them in the slightest and find the idea of repairing little steampunk machines charming, then you’ll like this game.

Note:

If you’re running Windows 8.1 or 10 and try to go to full screen, things might go weird. Like this:

Cogs fullscreen issue

If that happens, go to where the game is stored, right click on it, and open up Properties:

Cogs fullscreen issue, step 1

Check the box beside “Disable display scaling on high DPI settings”:

Cogs fullscreen issue, step 2

And everything will show up just fine:

Cogs fullscreen issue, fixed

 

That’s it from me. Go forth, have fun, and make sure to RSVP to the Kickstarter. :)

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