Vikings – Season One
This show had been sitting around the middle of my backlog for quite some time. I remember seeing trailers for it, and it looking like a combination of Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy, but I never really got around to checking it out. Some of that was knowing that since it was on History Channel, the violence and language would be toned down, and part of it was that no one was really talking about the show. It’s been flying under the radar, and that’s honestly a shame, because Vikings is a pretty badass show. Props to my dad for being the person to finally convince me to give it a watch.
Season one wasn’t perfect; I felt like the story went in too many directions early on and wrapped up plotlines too quickly, but it’s definitely fun viewing. It can be hard at times to keep track of characters, due to the weird names and some harsh accents. Even for a seasoned fantasy fan like myself, I was still lost at times when off-screen characters were referenced. Overall, Vikings is a great option for fans of fantasy and action, but don’t expect something with as much depth or character growth as the shows mentioned above. I’m also worried that the show is working through its plotlines and characters too quickly, but maybe the writers know the show won’t go more than a few seasons are therefore aren’t worried about killing too many people off.
I’ve been looking forward to Firewatch for quite some time, as evident by its inclusion on my “First Person Experience Games to Watch” post from last year. I’m not going into my whole tirade against people who look down on games like this, I’ve done that several times already. I’ll just say that if you aren’t interested in games like Gone Home or Journey, then you can safely skip Firewatch. However, if you enjoy character relationships, interesting settings, and weird sci fi, then Firewatch might be worth checking out.
Without spoiling anything, the story of this game ended up being very different than what I expected (in a good way), and the ending ended up being very different than what the gameplay caused me to expect (in a bad way). But despite the bad taste the lackluster ending left, the majority of the game was beautiful, contemplative, and full of choice. Not choices like who to save and who to let die, or which planet to rescue, but simple, more character focused choices like how to respond to a particular question, or how far to pursue a relationship with a woman you’ve never met in person. The writing and voice acting in the game is top-notch, and the gorgeous art direction does wonders to make you feel like you’re really exploring the wilderness. If you like this kind of game, it’s worth investing the four or so hours.
Pitch Perfect 2
I’ll admit this up front, I wasn’t as big a fan of the first Pitch Perfect as most. I thought the concept was great and the cast was mostly funny (and who doesn’t love Anna Kendrick), but something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. It kind of reminded me of Big Bang Theory, where it was the writers laughing at a subculture rather than laughing with it. Overall I thought the movie was decent, even if Rebel Wilson annoys the crap out of me. How people find her funny, I’ll never know.
Well, the cast is back for Pitch Perfect 2, and if you missed the first movie, don’t worry, because this is mostly the same exact thing. It has basically the same cast, they do basically the same things, they face basically the same obstacles, and they even sing most of the same songs in slightly different ways. If you’re completely obsessed with the first movie, chances are good that you’ll find something to like here. There were still several laugh out loud moments, but the whole thing just felt like a lazy sequel trying to cash in on the popularity of the first movie. Pitch Perfect 2 also made terrible use of Pentatonix, the best and most famous a cappella band out there right now. There are currently plans for another sequel, and I seriously have no idea where you take it from here without it being yet another big competition where the girls are underdogs.
I remember when the Academy Award nominees were announced, a lot of people “in the know” were surprised that Sicario wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. To be honest, when I first saw trailers for this, I thought it was going to be an average at best kind of movie that no one would see or talk about, like The Town or Jack Reacher. Not saying either of those is necessarily bad, but they came out and were immediately forgotten. I was ready to completely ignore it, but after hearing a lot of praise and being bored on a Saturday, I finally checked it out. And I have to say, if I’ve ever seen a movie that made me feel more tense, I certainly can’t remember it.
While I find Emily Blunt to be a great actress, I’m not sure she was given enough to do in this movie. Benicio del Toro definitely stole the show with his complex portrayal of a former cartel hitman seeking revenge on his family through working with US agencies. All of the characters have so many levels, and you never really know their motivations until close to the end of the movie. The score is also used to dramatic effect, heightening each scene by creating tension that made me need a shoulder massage afterwards. There are just so many instances where the music and camera just holds, so that you’re waiting for shit to pop off. And what makes the movie so brilliant is that sometimes it does pop off, but other times that tension and build leads to nothing. It constantly keeps you guessing. I will say that while I found the ending to be highly dramatic, it wasn’t completely satisfying. Several characters were kind of left off, to where it almost felt like the penultimate scene was missing. Overall, though, Sicario is a very well directed, acted, and scored film. I’m definitely joining the ranks of those surprised that it didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination.