Posts categorized “Of the Month”

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

“Of the Month” October 2017

Show of the Month:

Comrade Detective

Did you know that in the early/mid-80s in communist Romania, there was a limited-series television show that was part cop procedural and part communist propaganda? It was called Comrade Detective, and it was thought lost to the dust of history… until now! Of course it’s all fake. It was filmed last year on location in Romania with all Romanian actors, and then dubbed into English by Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Nick Offerman. Let me tell you: this is my favorite type of satire, one that is so uncannily accurate that unless you’re in on the joke you almost wouldn’t know it is satire at all (see: Paul Verhoven’s Starship Troopers). Everything is played absolutely, 100% straight, and it is only the occasional scenes that go just a bit too far (such as the bumper segments that open each episode with Channing Tatum talking to an “historian” about the show) that peel back the curtain and let us laugh with the show’s creators rather and simultaneously at the very nature of popularized propaganda itself. Also (unlike Starship Troopers) the Comrade Detective show itself is thoroughly entertaining (though very NSFW) even beyond the satire. Apparently the show was created when Channing Tatum asked the producers to bring him their very worst idea. I think that’s brilliant.

Album of the Month:

Doom Wop by Prom Queen

Two amazing albums came out in September, but alas I can only have one Album of the Month per month. And since Prom Queen’s Doom Wop is more thematically Halloween-ish, it gets the slot in October (sorry, Mike, but don’t worry, your album will definitely get November’s slot). Doom Wop continues Prom Queen’s (A.K.A. Celene Ramada, A.K.A. Leeni) forays into the dark, lush aesthetic of late-50s and 60s pop. Think of The Flamingos’ version of I Only Have Eyes For You and you’ll instantly know the genre of which I speak. The lyrics on this album pretty much all touch on a theme of existential dread, and the music is lovingly crafted to fold into the dreamy 60s sound (though “Manic Panic” slips a bit into late 90s girl-power-pop (think Dressy Bessy)). Everything sounds like what velvet looks and feels like, and even the slightly fuzzy vocals sound like they’re coming out of a vintage amp. It’s all of a type, and if you like this genre (I happen to love it) then this is a wonderful dream of an album. These songs would fit right into a David Lynch movie without batting a fake eyelash.

Video Game of the Month:

Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

A gothic castle base. A tormented sort-of-undead antihero. A sickle and cloak. Dark magic. Lots of skeletons. How could this not be my Video Game of the Month in October??? A prequel to Shovel Knight: Shovel of Hope, Specter of Torment shows the tragic origins of Specter Knight and how he recruited the Order of No Quarter for the Enchantress. It manages to be completely familiar to anyone who has played the original Shovel Knight game, while simultaneously being a thoroughly inventive and fun platformer. The jump-and-slash conceit of the gameplay is very intuitive, and makes for some refreshing level design. You also gain a new special item after every level (assuming you collected enough red skulls), though Specter’s sickle is so powerful and versatile that I wasn’t able to really discover the full usefulness of each item. I kinda just used the healing one a lot. And since the game is non-linear (you can choose in which order you’ll defeat each level), each level is designed to be able to be beaten without having to use any special item. It’s a very minor quibble in an otherwise excellent game.

Categories: Of the Month.

Friday, 8 September 2017

“Of the Month” September 2017

Show of the Month

The Tick

I’m surprised at just how well the Tick always seems to work. There have been 4 iterations of the character and premise and they’ve all been great (though later comics that weren’t written by Ben Edlund didn’t quite grab the mustard as mightily as they might’ve). This latest version on Amazon Prime has much of the same absurdity and humor as the other versions (see: Very Large Man), and Peter Serafinowicz’s performance in the blue suit is full of the blind, enthusiastic gusto that you expect from the Tick. But this is the first version where there is actually deep, psychological development of some of the more “regular” characters, especially Arthur. For the first time these characters aren’t just send-ups of superhero tropes (though they are still that), but they’re actually fully-developed characters that have real lives. I’m also very surprised that Edlund decided to go for a much more mature-rated program: there is lots and lots of realistic blood and quite a but of foul language. But somehow the contrast between the Tick himself and this more-realistic world makes the character even more himself. Also: I <3 Dangerboat.

Link of the Month

I Went Gaming

A pair of people, the Lundy brothers, who make video games. They’re in the midst of a “game a month” spree throughout 2017 (though they’re a month behind). Are the games any “good?” It’s… hard to say, but the appeal lies in their absurd and funny themes and aesthetics. All the art is hand-drawn by Laramie Lundy (the Olive Fool of Fools Play Improv) in his signature disturbing style (he’s one of the artists behind The Abyss art book that came out last year). There’s a menu-based street fighter game, a punk Guinea pig racing game, a door-to-door knife salesman game, a game about joining a cult, and the like. They’re completely unpolished and rough, but there’s something irresistible (for a few minutes at least) about the worlds that they create.

Podcast of the Month

The Official Steven Universe Podcast

This podcast, all about the best TV show on the air right now, is actually recorded at the Cartoon Network offices and hosted by an intern there. As such, it has unprecedented access to all the people involved in the show; they mostly work literally just outside the room where this is recorded. It’s full of amazing insight and anecdotes and behind-the-scenes work about making the amazing Steven Universe.

Categories: Of the Month.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

“Of the Month” August 2017

Video Game of the Month:

Mighty Gunvolt Burst

A while back, two of the people who were the driving forces behind the Mega Man and Mega Man X franchises created their own video games: Mighty No. 9 and Azure Striker Gunvolt respectively. The first one had… problems. The second one was pretty good. Well, now they’ve been combined in an 8/16-bit game that truly does feel like you’re playing a brand new Mega Man game. The main difference is that you don’t gain specific weapons by defeating bosses; instead you gain weapon configuration options by finding hidden modules throughout the stages. These let you craft your own weapons: trajectory, speed, # of on-screen bullets, etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum. Seriously, the sheer number of configurations you can do is insane. The only problem is that the menu system UI is not user-friendly, and since there is no instruction manual it is pretty difficult to figure out how to navigate it. But the game itself is a lot of fun, especially to me since I do so heart the original Mega Man series of games.

Show of the Month:

Castlevania

Lemme ask you a quesion: Do you like the writing of Warren Ellis? If you do, then this show is for you, because it was written by him and is full of the kinds of touches that he loves to include in his works. This “series” is really just a feature-length pilot episode inexplicably broken up into four parts. I don’t know why they bothered to do that. It serves to introduce us to (most of) the main characters based on the video game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (my favorite of all the Castlevania games). It is surprisingly well-done for a video game adaptation, and the inclusion of a corrupted church as the real villain of the piece is an inspired (and very Ellis) choice. The characterization of Trevor Belmont as a disgruntled former hero who is now basically an alcoholic is great. There are a couple of great, well-choreographed action scenes that let you see just how much of a badass Trevor actually is, and towards the end of the series when he rallies townfolks and shows them just how you defeat demons is a great moment where you really see, holy shit, this guy is something. I do wish the show took place in more than one location; the Castlevania III game has sprawling, varied settings, from swamps to forests to caverns and clock towers. You get some hints of that in this pilot, but I do hope the actual series coming later expands the setting to include all of the crazy, wacky things that you can find in a Castlevania game.

Comic Book of the Month:

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur

A comic book about an absurdly intelligent little girl, Lunella Lafayette (in recent issues it was discovered that she is actually the single smartest human being currently in existence), who gets bonded to an enormous, pea-brained dinosaur. Most of the fun of the book comes from playing off Lunella’s immense frustrations with the fact that because she’s just a kid she doesn’t have any of the resources or freedoms to take advantage of her huge intellect. She’s often railing at the sheer stupidity and lack of understanding that surrounds her, from her well-meaning-but-clueless parents to the idiocy of the superhero community that she gradually becomes a part of (she develops crime-fighting gadgets and eventually the superpower of being able to swap minds with Devil Dinosaur). It’s a great read, Lunella is a fascinating character, and the art does a great job of expressing the emotions going on in this preternaturally gifted girl.

Categories: Of the Month.

Monday, 3 July 2017

“Of the Month” July 2017

Album of the Month:

Steven Universe: Soundtrack (Vol. 1)

It’s SOOOO GOOOOD. I already wrote a post about it, so go read that.

Show of the Month:

GLOW

A (very) fictionalized account of the origins of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) TV show and promotion from the 1980s. This is a raunchy, hard-R comedy about a struggling actress (played by Community’s Allison Brie), whom nobody likes, trying to find her place in this group of crazy and hilarious women. Standout performance by Marc Maron as the show’s director: a sleazy, insensitive man with a heart of more sleaze. It’s very funny and the 80s aesthetics are spot-on. There’s some great tension between wondering if this whole GLOW thing is empowering for the women involved or exploitative. Full disclosure: I’ve only watched the first 2 (of 10) episodes so far, so maybe the series sucks after that? But somehow I doubt it.

Organization of the Month:

Metropolitan Development Council of Tacoma (MDC)

In their own words:

MDC is a vital community resource for Tacoma and Pierce County. Founded in 1964 as a non-profit Community Action Agency. For most of our more than 50 year history, MDC has responded to community needs by providing services that address the needs of low-income families. We have introduced national model programs such as “Housing First,” “Healthcare for the Homeless,” “College Bound,” and the “Educational Opportunity Center,” which, in turn, have improved lives and given hope to thousands of residents. Known by many names in the early years (e.g. Tacoma Pierce County Opportunity and Development, Inc.), our legal name is Metropolitan Development Council. We are currently doing business as MDC.

These are good people doing real good for the people who need it. Donate today to help out.

Categories: Of the Month.

Friday, 2 June 2017

“Of the Month” June 2017

Album of the Month:

Great and Powerful by The Gentlemen of Leisure.

A wonderfully eclectic EP, featuring influences from soul, smooth R&B, hip-hop, and even surf rock, Great and Powerful is the debut release of a group that just so happens to include some very close, personal friends of mine. I’ve posted about them a few times before; now get off yer duff and get this album. My two favorite songs are the lovely “Please Know” and the frikkin’ hilarous “Don’t,” the latter of which includes one of my favorite lyrics in recent memory:

Y’all gonna make me go off and smack somebody
These hands right here are rated “E” for “Everybody”

Take a listen:

Show of the Month:

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return

It’s back! One in a long, seemingly endless line of shows and movies from the past that are being revived in some form or another, MST3K is back with a whole new cast (though some of the same characters) but the exact same format, one that worked so well for the original series. So why change it? Did you like the original MST3K? Then you’ll like this new version. Jonah is an engaging host, Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt are inspired choices to play the mads. Sometimes during the screenings the bots’ and Jonah’s voices are just a bit too similar and it’s difficult to tell which of them is saying what, but it’s all really funny stuffs.

Tabletop Game of the Month:

5-Minute Dungeon

A harrowing and hilarious cooperative card game in which your team has to play cards from your hands to match symbols on the dungeon cards in order to defeat them. If you defeat all the dungeon cards, you then have to defeat the boss of the dungeon in order to emerge victorious. The cats (as the name of game spoils) is that you only have 5 minutes to defeat the whole dungeon and the boss. And there are a LOT of dungeon cards to get through. The result is some of the most hectic and frenetic card-playing I’ve ever seen. It’s a lot of fun, but it can get harrowing as you watch just how slowly the dungeon deck seems to deplete while the timer (a phone app you can download that includes dramatic music and a narrator marking your progress) counts ever further downwards. It’s not unusual to win with only a couple of seconds on the time… or not to win at all. But since each game is only 5 minutes long, you can just play again!

Categories: Of the Month.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

“Of the Month” May 2017

Album of the Month:

Lookout by Fine Prince

A fun an extremely-hard-to-categorize album, this poppy gem is full of great hooks, funny lyrics, and some very nice polish. It is really hard to describe Fine Prince’s music without using metaphor. This album is a warm summer breeze in the hours before dusk. There, howzat? They call it “sunshine pop” and I dig it. Seriously, listen to all of the things in these songs: overflowing buckets of harmony (male and female), cool synths (two keyboard players), sometimes a brass section, even a choir in “Nostalgia.” It’s all very charming and hard to resist. Buy it. Support these guys and gals so they can record more, ’cause I wanna hear it.

Artist Of the Month:

Felicia Chang, AKA Little Kumiho

Little Kumiho has a fashion-y animé style that I find very appealing. It also sometimes feels like what Mike Allred’s work would look like if he pushed just a little into the animé milieu. Bonus: She’s very local, so there’s actually a good chance I’ll meet her someday!

Video Game of the Month:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

In an unprecedented move, I am making something an “Of the Month” for two months in a row. Why? Because I’m still playing this game two months after I got it. Almost every day. And it is still just as awesome as the first day. Just take a look at this:

Daaaaaaaaaaaang.

Daaaaaaaaaaaang.

Categories: Of the Month.

Monday, 3 April 2017

“Of the Month” April 2017

Video Game of the Month:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I mean, come on. This is most likely the game of the year. It’s so good, and I’ve been very good about avoiding as many spoilers as I can, so I won’t spoil anything for you, either. Except just take a look at this:

Daaaaaaaaaaaang.

Daaaaaaaaaaaang.

Album of the Month:

Rain City Blue by Electric NoNo

After almost a decade of stripping-down their sound to the two-man guitar/drums duo of their previous two releases, Drunken Hillbilly Fight Bar (2012) and The Zoo At Night (2014), this latest release sees them re-incorporating more soundscapes for a lusher, spacier feel. Literally spacier; more than half the songs are either directly about space (“Jupiter” and “Blue Planet”) or have spacey themes to them (“Spin Spin” and “Magician’s Dying Wish”). It’s a good set of songs, though some of them run a little long at over four minutes. The best of the EP are “40 Foot Tall” and “Blue Planet,” which are both impeccable masterpieces (and very different from one another). It’s just a little frustrating that it took three years to record only seven songs!

Show of the Month:

Southpaw Regional Wrestling

This is perhaps the greatest thing that the WWE has ever done. A short (4 episode) webseries of “discovered” video from the 1980s about a now-defunct wrestling promotion. Remarkably, it features absolutely no wrestling whatsoever. But it is a spot-on parody of the highest order, and some unbelievably good comedy from all the wrestlers involved, John Cena in particular (I know; I was surprised, too). You can watch them all right here:

Categories: Of the Month.