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‘Play It Again, Dick’ Eps. 7 & 8 Review

The final episodes have hit the web! Watch ‘em before you read–spoilers ahead!

Watch Play It Again, Dick episode 7 on CW Seed.

Now watch episode 8.

piad7

Episode 7 opens with a behind-the-scenes testimonial from Daran Norris (Cliff McCormack) talking about how wonderful it is to work on this labor of love for such a close friend. The camera pulls back to show Ryan behind him offering directorial coaching on the next take. Daran calls him a “fuzzy little prick,” does some voice over-style talking and leaves.

When we enter the Private Dick episode, we’re thrown into a sex scene, this time with Rose McIver’s “horny mourner.” It’s not nearly as funny as the earlier sex scene with Madison. Post-coitus, Dick gets a vision of Beaver–at this point it occurs to me that he only sees Beaver after seeing beaver, which is a sneaky sort of joke to pull. Beaver mentors Dick on how to solve the case which boils down to locating the corner pieces of the puzzle.

Walking by Weevil’s place of death, Dick notices tacos from room service waiting half eaten outside the door. He does that finger-test-taste thing and determines that these are “Tacos de los Muertes.” Cut to Ryan explaining he got a Spanish coach for those lines to show cultural respect. Then cut to a dense parody of badly-dubbed martial arts movies. Oh, irony.

Dick goes to the kitchen where three Asian men are working. Two leave in a dubbed hysteria while the third readies for hand-to-hand combat. Here’s where we discover Daran was used for the voice acting, though clearly the actor playing the Asian fighter speaks perfect English. I’m not even half the authority on tropes of martial arts films that I might claim to be on film noir, but that’s not a requirement for the scene to be funny. As Dick gains the upper hand in the fight, his opponent hits the floor and Dick repeatedly punches him. The-Silence-of-the-Lambs-hannibal-lector-5080698-1020-576The low angle of the shot is reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs.

But then the episode pulls the first of its Scooby Doo reveals. Dick pulls a plastic mask off of the Asian cook to reveal Kane Software’s muscle man, Clarence Wiedman. Dick demands to know why Wiedman killed Weevil and Keith. Wiedman says, “You already know. You’ve always known.”

Cut to actor Christopher Duncan (Wiedman) finding out he’s not getting paid and leaving the set.

Episode 8 picks up directly after the reveal in the kitchen. Veronica arrives at the bed and breakfast and is greeted by Madison, who pulls a gun on her and starts to fire. In an acted slow motion, Dick jumps in front of the bullet, saving Veronica. He is not shot–did she miss at close range? No, Madison has been shot–did the bullet ricochet off of his holstered gun? No, Wallace shot her from the unseen next room. He’s gone all gangsta, just like Percy wanted.

But wait, Dick reveals that Madison also wears a plastic mask, revealing Celeste Kane underneath. She gets some villainous explanatory lines, but it doesn’t matter. Then Dick goes to Wallace and begins to explain that he isn’t actually Wallace. “Whitey say what?” Wallace yelps while his face begs to keep the ownership of the gangsta-style shooting. But no, underneath the Wallace-mask is Duncan. Except Duncan is being played by Ryan Devlin, season 3’s serial rapist Mercer. Veronica is overjoyed to see “Duncan” again, and there is heavy sucking of face between them.

Cut to Devlin talking about how his previous role would have prevented his casting as Duncan, but, hey, he got to kiss Kristen Bell! Being one of many fans who felt the whole serial rapist storyline in season 3 was distasteful at best, I had mixed feelings about this twist, and it soured the ending of the show a little bit.

piad8Then, finally, we get the dance number. It goes on too long, but the song choice of “No Mediocre” is ironically brilliant. After all, Private Dick is awful.

The final scene is back in the CW board room with the producers. They pass on the show saying their demographic is accustomed to…competence. Ryan, heartbroken, leaves.

Then we get the credits dance sequence which is also set to “No Mediocre” but now features all of our beloved Veronica Mars cast members getting their groove on with Ryan. The brief moment of Ryan dancing with Ken Marino made me laugh out loud.

All in all, I was underwhelmed by the final two episodes. But the series as a whole was fun if a bit forgettable.


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Book Review: The 100 Greatest Console Video Games 1977-1987

The 100 Greatest Console Video Games 1977-1987 by Brett Weiss

There have been many top 100 books before, but rarely one like this. Here are the best of the early video games, shown in over 400 color photos and described in incredible detail in the entertaining and informative text. Each game’s entry features production history, critical commentary, quotes from industry professionals, gameplay details, comparisons to other games, and more. This book celebrates the very best of the interactive entertainment industry’s games from this highly crucial, fondly remembered decade. This pivotal period was marked by the introduction of the indispensable Atari 2600, Odyssey2, and Intellivision, the unleashing of the underrated Vectrex, the mind-blowing debut of the next-gen ColecoVision and Atari 5200, plus the rebirth of the industry through Nintendo’s legendary juggernaut, the NES. Whether you’re young or old, new to the hobby or a hardcore collector, this book will introduce you to or remind you of some of the greatest, most historically important games ever made.

This is a masterwork of scholarship in a field we’re only beginning to recognize the need for.  While on the surface it looks like many other X best Y’s and while the average gamer might have her own list of ten or even twenty, Brett Weiss has thrown down a gauntlet with the kind of intertextual support typically unseen outside of Oxford University Press or more recent Tolkien ephemera.

These probably actually are the one hundred greatest console games of the period.  Not your favorites, not the most popular, but objectively.  The burden of proof is now on everyone else who might disagree.  They’ll need ten citations and a cross system comparison in addition to personal testimonials just to begin that debate, though.

I’m sure I excluded some cartridges that many gamers – including you, constant reader – hold in particularly high regard, and for that I don’t apologize.

Rather, I hope my perceived oversight makes your blood boil (or at least simmer), forcing you to fire up the respective classic console, plug in that old favorite that I neglected to include, and extol the virtues of that game to anyone who will listen online or in person.

It’s bold, but aside from forgetting a title you might be especially nostalgic about, you needn’t worry. No matter what you loved, more than one of your favorites will be in here.

The years covered include the Second Generation, The Great Video Game Crash, and the beginning of the Third Generation.  The selection is omnivorous, with games for the Arcadia 2001, Astrocade,  Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, ColecoVision, Intellivision, NES, Odyssey2, Sega Master System, and Vectrex.  If any of that isn’t familiar, it will be by the time you finish the book.

Each entry includes original box art, publication data, and one or more of the following: screenshots, cartridge photos, instruction manual art, box back, and ad copy.  In addition to descriptions of the games, entries are heavily sourced with reviews from contemporary publications and current enthusiasts.  None of this is just Brett Weiss’s opinion.  You’ll also learn about how to play the games, or variants, on modern systems.  And the entries end with an interesting fact about the game and a one sentence “WHY IT MADE THE LIST.”

The selections are system specific.  If a game was demonstrably better on the Intellevision than the Atari version, Weiss explains why.

Some of the games are ubiquitous.  Combat, sold with the Atari 2600 (VCS) made the list.  Others are so obscure only serious retro gamers have even heard of them. “Most Gamers who have actually played Bounty Bob Strikes Back love it.”

Some stand out for other reasons.  Centipede was the first shooter to appeal to women and a recognized and remembered classic even on the 2600, which is noted here but justly not included in the praise for the 5200, Colecovision, and 7800 ports.

The original was programmed by Dona Bailey in 1980.  Check out what happened and note how little has changed in more than three decades.

“When asked if things changed once she programmed Centipede, Bailey said, “yes,” but not necessarily for the better.  “There was a lot of surly attention after that…people just started, you know…the typical kind of thing people would say was, either it was a fluke or I didn’t really do it, somebody else did it.”

Since the book is well researched and clearly referenced, I was able to find the original interview.  Bailey’s experience was both disappointing and unsurprising.

Yes, but I’m not sure it was for the better! There was a lot of surly attention after that. It’s not always popular to do something [like] that — the first thing that happened, I was not ready for at all, and I still haven’t figured out how to deal with this part — people just started, y’know… the typical kind of thing that people would say was, either it was a fluke or I didn’t really do it, somebody else did it. I’m a very peaceful person, and I felt sick of fighting, so I really just disappeared, and I haven’t had contact with the industry for at least twenty years.

Sounds disturbingly familiar.  The gamergate movement is apparently upholding a tradition in its fourth decade when it attacks game developers like Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu.

A few entries made me want to expand my collection.  Shark! Shark! for the Intellivision is all about fish who eat fish.  Brett Weiss loves it because it was an early example of power leveling your avatar and killing sharks.  It’s another game programmed by a woman, this time Ji-Wen Tsao.  Its initial print run was 5600 copies versus supported titles that released 800,000.

Some of them are true loves, possibly in despite the consensus rather than because.  Rambo: First Blood Part II for the Sega Master System is lovingly described even as its criticisms are fairly presented.  Weiss wants to spread the word so much he includes theWarlords screen cheat codes for the game, without which it’s unbeatable.

My favorite console game of the era, Warlords,  finally appeared at number 96, with “some of the best party-style, four-player gaming ever created, regardless of the era”.  Something of a hybrid between Pong and Breakout,  it was the first game whose coin-op version derived from the console game rather than vice versa.  And it was programmed by a woman, Carla Meninsky.  Her first game, Dodge’Em, also appears in the book.

With a foreword from Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day, an
appendix of one hundred honorable mentions with brief descriptions, a bibliography (including websites), and a title based index, this book is indispensable for collectors, enthusiasts, and researchers.

Recommended for Ernest Cline, retro gamers, and would be Kings of Kong.


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On Breaking the Fourth Wall

Breaking+the+Fourth+Wall.The phrase “breaking the fourth wall” finds its origins in theater, where the actors must imagine a wall between them and the audience to maintain the illusion of reality in their fictive actions. If an actor responded to someone’s cell phone going off in the audience, the illusion of their staged narrative would crumble and the audience would be pulled out of the action. (Of course, a cell phone is going to pull the audience out of the action anyway, which is why some actors have thought it perfectly reasonable to reprimand theater goers who can’t figure out how to silence their phones. Note: Hugh Jackman did so in character.)

In traditional theater and film, the director works hard to maintain that illusion of what’s on stage or screen being a reality. But there have been occasions where that illusion has been broken on purpose–to create comedy, to shock or surprise, to indict the audience as part of the problem, or even to deliver a message on how to view the film or play.

Press Play, purveyor of fine video essays on film, offers this supercut of breaking the fourth wall by Leigh Singer. Warning: it does have some NSFW language. But it’s awfully fun.


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Early Observations about “Breaking Glass”

Well now we know, they can’t let Frozen go.  The references begin to weave a tangled web of their own.  And flashbacks become shipwrights.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

Frozen

Apparently the excuse I’ve been making for not finding more Frozen is entirely legitimate.  When Arendelle of the past isn’t featured in the episode, they shift into referential overdrive.

The Frozen staircase appears on the title screen.

Elsa Staircase

Elsa bridges a chasm between herself and the illusory Anna with it.  You can see a side by side comparison at a-world-of-our-very-own.tumblr.com.

Emma and Regina get to revisit Olaf’s, “Not sure if this is going to solve the problem, but I found a staircase that leads exactly where you want it to go.”

Elsa’s chained down by the Snow Queen much like she was in the castle by Hans.  Her emotional control is once again the key to her escape.

The explosion effeElsa Explosionct when she breaks free is similar to the image in her bedroom during the “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” sequence.

Of course, the Snow Queen also says, “I’m going to build a snowman.”

COMBO! Emma’s whole approach this episode, and especially her confessional at the end, is equivalent to, “We used to be best buddies, but now we’re not.”  Elsa counsels her through it at the beginning and again in the end.

Elsa: “You don’t give up on the people you love.  If there’s one thing my sister taught me…”  Even if they send a giant snow monster to chase you away.  Tidily references Anna’s theme that’s been carried forward in most of the episodes and the movie as well.

Regina: “Oh, now you’re a magic expert?”  It’s a bit of a fixer upper, but we’ve been waiting to hear about love experts; so we’re taking it.

David: “Wait, what?”  They’ve been doing this all season, but it’s so innocuous it took me awhile to catch on:

Bonus: Emma and Lily finishing each other’s…

Thor

Last seen in Henry’s hands, Disney (Marvel) property Thor got a brief mention when David flippantly referenced falling through a portal to Asgard.  It’s cool, Charming is also Fandral.

In a nice nod to the frost giants, the Snow Queen’s ice viking regrows a shattered arm with effects similar to those in the film.

Peter Pan

Lily.  Possibly Tiger Lily.  Especially with the star mark on her right wrist and the addition of a “Second Star to the Right” wrist of young Emma.  Who knows if they’ll use her in any meaningful capacity, but the reference is definitely there.

“Fantasia”

Speaking of stars, it’s probably no accident that she’s sporting the symbol plastered all over the Sorcerer’s hat, currently sitting in the back room of Gold’s pawnshop.

“The Snow Queen”

It’s a terrible burden bein’ right so often.  The Magic Mirror was working for the Snow Queen.  He did lead Regina into a trap of sorts.  And she is planning to use the goblin mirror.

Snow’s back in black.  David’s in Grey.  Hallelujah!  On their night off they should be in charming colorful ensembles, but Mary Margaret’s pretty much in a spider web.  And she’s making all the wrong assumptions.

Paradise Lost

While the inverted perception is a feature of “The Snow Queen,” a particular aspect of it derives from Paradise Lost which was featured in the voiceover of the season 4 ComicCon trailer:

“Out of our evil seek to bring forth good, Our labour must be to pervert that end, And out of good still to find means of evil,”

David: If the outcome of his escape is that you found a part of yourself again I’d say he earned that pardon.

Harry Potter

They’re stretching the timeline a little bit when Lily says, “like Harry Potter,” in a scene set in 1998.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone would have just come out around the time she and Emma had their adventure.  While it’s somewhat unlikely it would have been the cultural touchstone it’s taken to be or that homeless Emma would have read it, you’d be better off complaining that the PopTarts boxes are, in fact, not historically accurate.  It’s meaningful to us, and that’s what matters.  We’ll be seeing her again.

Philopseudes

I’m throwing this Greek forerunner of “Fantasia” in a s a possibility.  Weaving Sidney into “The Snow Queen” story was a natural choice, but her relative disinterest effectively cuts him loose.  In Philopseudes, the Sorcerer’s place is filled by an Egyptian named Pancrates.  There’s a chance they’ll use this connection to keep Glass relevant in 4b and maybe show us some Agrabah.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swantumblr_ne30hmGR2a1rsayido1_250

Because of a late arrival at home, we missed the first few minutes of the episode. I thought this might have been a Hook-bereft episode until the final scene. But that was not the case, thank the powers that be.

  1. During the opening (missed) scene, Hook takes Henry out boating for some quality time and responds to Emma’s mama-worries with a peck on the cheek.
  2. More importantly, however, in the final scene, Hook shows up to comfort a reflective and sad Emma. There is leaning on and hand holding, and Emma opens up a bit more of herself to Hook by sharing the remnants of her childhood. To be honest, this kind of open caring and sharing is exactly what I’ve been missing in this season’s treatment of Captain Swan. Watch the full scene here.

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Swan Queentumblr_ne2ye7Qe7s1tmd0w0o2_500

  1. The strained emotions of Emma trying to be Regina’s friend and Regina dodging all attempts of Emma to assuage her guilt, as she sees it, is prime fodder for the Swan Queen fans. Lots of tension, lots of emotion, makes lots of passion.
  2. Their two powers together are the only thing that can defeat the Snow Queen’s ice viking! They must come together to save Storybrooke!
  3. The parallel flashback story of Lily and Emma was also charged with the magical connecto-tension that fuels shippers everywhere. But don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a ship-worthy relationship in and of itself. This was a tumblr_ne2ye7Qe7s1tmd0w0o1_500direct mirror of the Regina-Emma relationship, wherein Emma realizes the position Regina is in trying to forgive her and pushes once again to breach that protective wall. This time, at the end of the episode, Emma makes some headway, getting Regina to at least admit that she no longer wants her dead.

Snowing

  1. David pushes Mary Margaret to leave baby Neal with Belle for an hour and go out for a walk. They stop by the sheriff’s office for the walkie-talkies and find that Will has escaped, sending them on a good-ole manhunt. Mary Margaret ends up finding Will and thinks that David must have set the whole thing up to help her regain her old adventurer’s mojo. When she reunites with David, she gives him a big, sexy kiss.
  2. David later reveals that he set up nothing, which means that Mary Margaret pardoned Will without justification, but David thinks Snow getting back a part of herself that she had lost touch of is worth the trade.

 


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Once Upon a Time “Breaking Glass” Previews and Predictions

 Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×05

CAUTION: clips, chatter, and a spoiler warning

“Breaking Glass”Regina reluctantly teams up with Emma to search for the Snow Queen after Sidney, who is once again Regina’s prisoner in the mirror, discovers her whereabouts and agrees to lead her to the location. With Belle babysitting baby Neal, a nervous Mary Margaret and David prepare for their first date night away from their child and find themselves on a mission to track down Will Scarlet, who has escaped from the town jail, and Elsa sees Anna in the Storybrooke woods. Meanwhile, back in the past, young Emma finds herself a kindred spirit when she befriends a girl who, like her, is a runaway orphan, written by Kalinda Vazquez & Scott Nimerfro and directed by Alrick Riley.

Here’s the promo that aired after last week’s episode:

Once again we’ve got two sneak peeks this week.  In the first, Elsa exits the vehicle to investigate a voice in the fog.  There’s something shimmering…

In the second, Regina, at her wits end unable to help Marian, turns to the Magic Mirror for help finding the Snow Queen.

We’ve been reflecting on the use and placement of mirrors since the first episode of the season.  In “Rocky Road,” it was hard to miss them in Any Given Sundae.  I’ve been suggesting that Sidney’s working with the Snow Queen as a result, but it’s been sort of intertextual fanfiction.  However, it looks like even that can point in the right direction.

Snow Queen Compact

This still from the promo shows The Snow Queen holding something in her right hand.  Something that looks a lot like a compact pocket mirror, which would be incredibly convenient if you wanted to communicate easily with Sidney Glass on the go.

It might also shine strangely in the fog.  We’re fairly certain the Magic Mirror isn’t so much helping Regina as leading her into a trap.  And Elsa definitely should have stayed in the car.

Given what we see in the sneak peek, though, who can blame him?  He’s been trapped in the mirror again and now Regina’s reneged on, “it’s only temporary,” and resorted to further threats.  It’s pretty much exactly the same stupid mistake Hook made with Rumple.  And look where that got him.

Emma and Regina teaming up, even or especially under duress should shake out the a heart to heart Ms. Swan’s been trying for since the party at Granny’s.

The voiceover for the promo is, “When darkness falls and terror rules the night, magic springs from cruel desire and evil comes to light.”  It sounds a bit Thriller to me, but then I’m seeing Jackson everywhere this season.  Still, this is more or less the Halloween episode.  Masks will come off and secrets will be revealed.

We should get flashbacks exploring Emma’s history with the Snow Queen hinted at over the last two episodes.  The credits list Idun and Adgar, so here’s hoping we discover their relationship to her as well.


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Star Wars Saturday: Star Wars Universe Invades Toronto

Thomas Dagg is a photographer after my own heart. His geeky tendencies have inspired his art–one collection is titled “I Want to Believe” (a reference to my beloved The X-Files) and depicts people directly before alien abductions.

Now he’s constructed a collection of photographs where elements of Star Wars invade Toronto. 2014-10-23-thomas-dagg-01The photos are black-and-white realism and absolutely convincing. An AT-AT amid mundane buildings, a rider and tauntaun on a snow-covered street. In more than one, I had to search a bit of the Star Wars invasion and felt deeply satisfied when I discovered it.

The effect is postmodern pastiche–a blend of genres and worlds. It suggests the type of mind that lives in the mundane but clings to the fantastic, or alternatively sees the fantastic in the mundane.

I absolutely suggest taking the time to look through the collection. It is amusing and surprising.


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Frozen Friday: Multi-Platinum Blonde

This week, an article in The Guardian suggested that 2014 would be the first year without a million selling, or platinum certified, album.  Every year, it seems, the music industry is dying.  I’m pretty sure I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t.

What’s really happening is that the music industry is changing.  They were talking about single artists.  One album is outselling everything else by a wide margin.

One album has managed to sell over a million copies so far this year, but it’s a soundtrack. The ever-popular Frozen soundtrack may slowly be working its way down the charts, but it is by far the best selling collection this year. Though it doesn’t have any marquee names on it—those that are usually expected to sell the best—the soundtrack has managed to move 3.2 million copies so far, and with winter coming, that number is sure to rise. (Forbes)

The sales numbers for the  Frozen soundtrack are incredible.  The next four best-selling albums  in 2014 are, in order, Beyonce’s Beyonce, Lorde’s Pure Heroin, Eric Church’s Outsiders, and Coldplay’s Ghost Stories.  Frozen‘s triple platinum sales exceeded all of those, put together.

I’m only surprised by the sort of enormity of the difference.  I imagine almost every parent who sees that just nods.  Our toddler knows good portions of “Love is an Open Door,” “For the First Time in Forever,” and, of course, “Let it Go.”  And consequently so do we.

Here’s Frozen reimagined in the idiom popular when cassette tapes were killing the music biz:

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