Review TV

TV Review – Upload, Season One

I haven’t watched The Office or Parks and Rec. It’s a weird way to start a post about a totally different show, but Greg Daniels is the mind behind all of them, so I thought I’d toss it out there. Upload, Daniels’s newest creation, is a sci-fi dramedy set in a near future where, when you die, you have the choice to have your brain scanned into a digital afterlife. If you can afford it. Nathan Brown, played by Robbie Amell, has a self-driving car accident and ends up in the hospital. His rich girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) pushes for him to go to Upload instead of surgery. Nathan ends up inside the digital afterlife called Lake View, modeled after a swanky resort in the Catskills. He’s helped out by Nora (Andy Allo), the “Angel” whose job is to ease the transition to Lake View.

Nathan and Nora, who is able to visit virtually thanks to VR tech.

The humorous elements are there from the beginning. Gamers will laugh and be horrified in turn at the idea of microtransactions in the afterlife. There’s a boy who was uploaded at 12 who hasn’t aged physically in 6 years. It’s played for laughs, as he acts like an obnoxious 18 year old, but then you see that his mother had him put there and he’s got no recourse, no control over his life.

There’s also a mystery surrounding Nathan himself. He’s missing memories, especially surrounding his work. He was running a startup but can’t exactly remember what for. The plot thickens when some of the corrupted memory files are moved by an unseen force. Is there more to Nathan’s death than his girlfriend is letting on? Aren’t self-driving cars “safe”?

I enjoyed Upload a lot! It’s an odd science fiction/comedy/drama/mystery but my wife and I were both sucked in. I’m definitely curious to see season 2 whenever they are able to make it. It’s on Amazon Prime, and if you need a free trial, click the image below.

Review TV

TV Review – Amazon’s The Tick Season One

I mentioned this when I talked about the pilot episode, that it amazes me that The Tick keeps getting chances.  The latest show, on Amazon, is the third time the hero has appeared on our screens.  Not bad for a hero that was created a mascot for a comic book shop.  The comics that came from that, and the original 3 seasons of cartoons on Fox helped launch creator Ben Edlund’s career.  He’s written, produced and directed some of nerd-dom’s favorite projects, including Supernatural, Angel, Firefly, the Venture Brothers and more.

Branding is power.  – The Terror

This version of The Tick is a bit darker and dare I say grittier than the previous televised versions, while at the same time skewering dark and gritty comic shows.  The Tick himself doesn’t know who exactly he is, other than being The Tick.  Arthur, too, has some mental issues stemming from a traumatic childhood.  He saw The Terror kill both his father and his favorite heroes.  So yeah, pretty dark, but don’t worry – there’s plenty of the trademark humor to be had.  They even manage to make product placement funny, with the The Terror intoning “Alexa, play ominous music!” at one point.  They parody Superman and the Punisher (who’s been a frequent target of Edlund’s in the previous Tick incarnations), and there’s even a giant naked guy just wandering around.  Ms. Lint, one of the primary villains, still lives with her ex and the relationship definitely recalls the American Maid/Die Fledermaus interplay.

If there’s a negative, it’s that the humor may not be for everyone.  The show definitely leans into the absurdist nature of universes populated by talking super-dogs and hundred year old villains.  It’s also a bit jarring to see the level of violence in a show about The Tick.  The suit looks terrible in the pilot episode, but that was fixed for the rest of the series (and doesn’t pass uncommented).

I had some trepidation about this but by the end I was fully on board.  Peter Serafinowicz is a great Tick, Griffin Newman and Valorie Curry work well as Arthur and Dot, and the rest of the ensemble do their part.


Marvel Joins Amazon Prime Reading

Just a head’s up for anybody who likes to get their money’s worth out of their Amazon Prime subscription, Marvel is now partnered with Amazon to have their comics show up there (as well as some selections in Kindle Unlimited and Comixology Unlimited).  Those are cool if you already pay the extra subscription fee for either service, but even if you don’t, there’s some very good stuff to check out in Prime Reading.  Here’s my favorites:

Star Wars, Volume 1 and Darth Vader, Volume 1:  When Marvel got the license to publish Star Wars comics, they went big.  Assigning some of their best writers and artists (Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Salvador Larroca, John Cassaday, Adi Granov, and others).  These comics both follow on straight out of A New Hope, and they go a long way to re-establishing Darth Vader as the pre-eminent menace in that galaxy far, far away.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1:  If you haven’t read this yet, there’s no excuse.  Kamala Khan matters more than ever in our current political climate, a daughter of Muslim immigrants who fights crime not because of some great tragedy, but was inspired by other heroism in the world.  And the story is a ton of fun, to boot.  G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona made a great creative team (along with Stephen Wacker and Sana Amanat editing and helping to create the character).

Hawkeye, Volume 1:  I’ve evangelized this series before, so hopefully you’ve already read it, but here’s yet another chance.

There’s also some Iron Fist, Deadpool, the first volume of Alias (Jessica Jones), and a few other solid comics.  If you are already subscribed to Amazon Prime, there’s no reason not to use Prime Reading.

Review TV

New Amazon Pilot: The Tick

The Tick is both blessed and cursed by TV.  Blessed because very few comics from such an obscure source would get not one, not two, but three tries at a series.  Cursed, because the first two attempts were both on Fox and had plenty of network interference/mismanagment.  The third try may just be the charm, though, as as Amazon has produced a new pilot for The Tick as part of their current ‘Pilot Season’.

The specifics behind The Tick vary from the various comic books and shows, but in general he is a dimwitted but nigh invulnerable superhero who ends up protecting a city named “The City” from various silly supervillains from a Man-Eating Cow, a million-billion ninjas, to the Terror – an elderly villain most famous for punching out Teddy Roosevelt.


The new Amazon pilot focuses, at least to start, on Arthur.  Arthur is usually portrayed as the sidekick/straight man to The Tick but he’s the driving force here.  He’s had a terrible childhood – the non-Quinjet of the not-the-Avengers superteam the ‘Flag Five’ crashes on and kills Arthur’s dad, and young Arthur comes face to face with The Terror, who eats his ice cream (seriously).  An iconic, Time Magazine-ish photo is taken of the moment.  Fast forward to adult Arthur, and he’s obviously still suffering from that moment.  He’s obsessed with The Terror, who everyone else thinks is dead, but Arthur is convinced is still running the criminal underworld.  His investigations are what brings him into contact with The Tick.  They try to set up a “is The Tick even real?” question, but I think it’s pretty clear he is – but Arthur, with his mental illness isn’t sure he’s not imagining the whole thing while off his meds.

I won’t say the pilot is perfect, as the tone shifts suddenly, but Peter Serafinowicz is actually really good at delivering The Tick’s weird monologues and quips.  Griffin Newman has some real depth as Arthur, too.  I’d complain about the strange over-textured suit but I’m fairly certain that’s a parody of every recent Superman suit where the filmmakers can’t stop themselves from putting some wacky design on it.  I guess the best thing I can say after 30 minutes of the new series is, I want to see more.  If you do too, go to this link and vote.

Console Games Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Oni

Beat ’em up games have a long history, whether in the arcade or on your various console systems.  From Renegade to Double Dragon to River City Ransom, this style of game was a fun diversion from my RPG and Sim game-filled life at the time.  You might consider Oni a logical extension from those games.  Made by Bungie, Oni is a third-person perspective beat ’em up based in a near-future dystopia, with character design heavily influenced by Anime.

The story has Konoko, working for what amounts to Big Brotherish police force finding out she’s been lied to/finds corruption, and goes on to fight it.  Or something, I’m a little hazy because all I cared about was beating the shit out of dudes with the melee fighting system.  There are weapons, but you can only carry one, and if you run out of ammo, they’re no good.  But I didn’t buy Oni to use the weapons, I wanted to fight hand to hand.  That system was fun, with combos and special moves.  It would flash a different color based on how impactful the move was, or if it was blocked, and felt very fluid if your old machine could handle it.

On the negative side, I know many people were dismayed at how few and far between the save points were.  The devs also overpromised and underdelivered a bit, as people were expecting LAN multiplayer and a giant mech (based on one of the trailers).  Still, I had a blast punching, kicking and throwing my way through some pretty large (but fairly spartan) environments.  Tons of crates, too, if you’re into classic shooter level design.

Oni was available for PC, Mac, and PS2.  Your best bet would be a used copy from one of the sources linked at Amazon, there, if you are interested in trying this out.

Featured Media

Ender’s Game – Might it FINALLY Happen?

If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge Orson Scott Card fan, with my favorite book of his always alternating between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead.  The idea for an Ender’s Game movie has been in Hollywood for years, at one point looking like Wolfgang Petersen would get it done.  But that didn’t happen, and the story took another spin around Hollywood, until it landed in the lap of Gavin Hood.  Hood’s main claim to fame is directing X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and acting in the Patrick Swayze version of King Solomon’s Mines.  I liked Wolverine more than most, but the most important part of this adaptation is getting a script together that Card will like.  He has stayed very hands-on to ensure the adaptation is true in theme to the books.  If you want to read some of the casting call stuff, head over to io9 but be advised there are massive spoilers if you’ve never read the book.  And if you haven’t, get thee to an Amazon (or B&N).

Update:  Not only might it happen, there’s a release date:  March 15, 2013.  Wow.


InterGalactic Medicine Show

If you are a fan of science fiction, you should check out Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, which is an anthology of stories from OSC’s web magazine. Two friends of mine have been published there (Ty Franck and Scott Roberts) and would make the compilation well worth it.

Boring site stuff Software

24 ways – Performance On A Shoe String

Drew McLellan has posted a very good run down of how to improve blog (and general website) performance. It covers caching, outsourcing of feeds, and using something like Amazon’s S3 to host large files, just as an example.

Heck, there are (amazingly enough) 24 different articles on the 24ways site that deal with all sorts of web design quirks. Very good stuff there, check it out.

Life Sci/Tech

PriceDrop – Firefox Extension

Here’s more fun found at Lifehacker: PriceDrop. It lets you track items on Amazon for price drops, and the advantage is all the details are stored locally, not on an external website. Very useful to keep an eye on items for price guarantees. There’s a somewhat similar web-based app called PriceProtectr that works for a multitude of stores.


First Babylon 5 – The Lost Tales DVD Released

Woohoo! Babylon 5 – The Lost Tales is out today! It’s already #6 on the DVD sales chart at Amazon, which has the best price I’ve found so far. I must have it!!