Posts categorized “Of the Month”

Thursday, 5 April 2018

“Of the Month” April 2018

Comic Book of the Month:

Strike Team: Code Name: Diamond Force

Aside from having one of the greatest names in the history of entertainment, Strike Team: Code Name: Diamond Force is a thoroughly entertaining pastiche (not parody) of late-70s, early-80s low-budget action “extravaganzas.” Mike Tanner’s script pairs with Łukasz Kowalczuk’s skate-punk b&w art style to create something that is at once exactly as it should be and completely unique. This book was a Kickstarter project, so I’m not sure how to get your hands on it now if you missed out on that other than to find Mike or Łukasz at conventions (maybe Mike can hop into the comments to let us know?).

Instagrammer of the Month:

@dana_dooodles

My pal Dana (who was at one time a recurring villain in Fools Play Improv) started a drawing-a-day project in 2018, and it has consistently been one of my favorite Instagram accounts since then. Some real gems have emerged in that time:

I don't believe in astrology.

I don’t believe in astrology.

Believe in Yourself.

Believe in Yourself – Follow Your Dreams (I want this on a T-shirt SO BAD).

Pokemon I Invented.

Pokemon I Invented.

Website of the Month:

Botnik Studios

Botnik at its core is a predictive text generator. You input a source of text (for example: every single script for Star Trek: The Next Generation), then you start typing and Botnik will give suggestions as to what word you should enter, and what words should come after that (much like your average text message app). I used Botnik combined with a random-number generator to make my H.P. Lovecraft Halloween Posts last year. Well, I’m not the only person using it, and Botnik Studios compiles some of the best of this machine-assisted content generation. And they make me laugh SO HARD. Like these:

Script for Star Trek: The Next Generation

Script for Star Trek: The Next Generation

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween Safety Tips

They also have a YouTube channel, where they make things that have been scripted by the Botnik generator.

Categories: Of the Month.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

“Of the Month” March 2018

Tweeter of the Month:

Mondo Mascots @mondomascots

You know how in America you’ll see big-head mascots walking around in theme parks like Disneyland, right? Well, you know how in Japan they have big-head mascots for almost everything, like individual towns, festivals, businesses, museums, buildings, etc., right? Mondo Mascots catalogs and displays the many hundreds and hundreds of mascots you’ll find walking around Japan, participating in festivals and running marathons, meeting children, and more! It’s all simply delightful.

Movie of the Month:

Thor Ragnarok

Though Wonder Woman was my favorite movie of 2017, Thor Ragnarok was definitely the most fun I had in a theater watching a movie. This movie has so much exciting energy and intensely stunning visuals, and the excruciatingly gut-busting comedy that no other Marvel movie has even come close to (not even the other openly comedic movies like Ant-Man or GOTG). It’s truly a marvel of a Marvel movie (sorry).

Comic Book of the Month:

The Unstoppable Wasp

Starring Nadia Pym, the secret daughter of Avengers founder Hank Pym (who is currently merged with Ultron and 100% evil because comic books). Nadia was raised in the “Red Room” program that produced Black Widow, but in the mad science division of it instead of the superspy program. Instead of being turned into a programmed killer, Nadia developed a forceful, unstoppable (hence the title) scientific curiosity and somehow managed to come out of it all with incredible optimism. In a comic book world of often dour antiheroes, it’s fantastic to see a character who is the complete opposite (but not in a cheesy way). There’s an earnest sincerity to Nadia’s go-get-em attitude that is seriously infectious. This series is as fun and endearing as its protagonist. You can do it!

Categories: Of the Month.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

“Of the Month” February 2018

Show of the Month:

Jean-Claude Van Johnson

Good lord, I was unprepared for how frikkin’ hilarious this show would be. The general premise is that Jean-Claude Van Damme is not only an actor, but is also a secret agent codenamed “Johnson” (hence the series’ name). The fact that the show frequently flies off the rails into surrealism and supernatural absurdity while still maintaining its veneer of “realistic and gritty” just adds to the hilarity. JCVD has comedic timing that is absolutely flawless. Who knew? Case in point: in the first episode he plays a secondary role as a minor, bumbling henchman (Filip) who resembles JCVD. Later in the series Filip returns, and is conscripted by the villains to impersonate JCVD. JCVD captures Filip and impersonates him in order to infiltrate the villain lair. So to watch JCVD act as “Johnson” doing an impression of a character that he plays is just an absolute delight. The frequent and blatant shout-outs to various JCVD movies are wonderful and bizarre. And then the climax of the final episode hinges on something from the first episode that I assumed was an hilarious throw-away joke. The whole series is brilliant. Part of me wishes it went on forever, and part of me is glad that there won’t be another season, because these six episodes form a wonderful whole that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Video Game of the Month:

Celeste

On the surface Celeste is one of those twitchy platformers in the vein of Super Meat Boy, where you die over and over again until you’re able to utilize the physics of the game to make just the exact right moves at the exact right timing to clear a room and progress. But in its heart Celeste is a very different beast. Rather than reveling in its cruelty and delighting in how frenetic and difficult its levels are, this game does two very important things. For one, it is very encouraging. On-screen messages when you startup praise you for dying so many times, because failure is the best way to learn. Also, its music is (usually) gentle and melodic, almost like music out of Breath of the Wild instead of screeching, heart-pounding music meant to drive up the tension. And two, Celeste slowly builds a wonderful story with compelling and funny characters. This results in an experience that seems more contemplative, almost meditative at times. While you die a couple dozen times in the span of a minute. I am encouraged to continue not only for the satisfaction of solving a physical puzzle, but also so that I am rewarded by getting to experience more of the gorgeous graphics and music and learn more of the story of Madeleine and her journey up a mountain and into her own psyche. This game is getting rave reviews, and I agree.

Album of the Month:

They Might Be Giants: I Like Fun

The 20th Studio album from TMBG! The first half of the album plays it kinda safe, with songs that are mostly in the TMBG-style of power-pop goodness. This is fine, because even at their worst, TMBG songs are better than about 90% of music out there. And these are far from TMBG’s worst songs. But once the 7th track hits (the title track, “I Like Fun”), TMBG busts out of their own weird comfort zone and back into their bizarre, experimental, and out-there offerings that are, again, better than about 90% of music out there. Here’s their latest video, for “The Greatest,” a minimalist almost-dirge sung in Flansburgh’s almost-falsetto. Also, it stars Nick Offerman!!!!

The album ends on a song (“Last Wave”) that has horrifying, depressing lyrics:

We die alone
We die afraid
We live in terror
We’re naked and alone
And the grave is the loneliest place

We die alone
We die afraid
We live in terror
We’re naked and alone
And the grave is the loneliest place

We die alone
We die afraid
Afraid to die
We’re naked and alone
Naked and alone

We die alone
We die afraid
We live in terror
We’re naked and alone
Naked and alone

…until you learn more about it and realize that it started as a bad lip-sync reading of Aerosmyth/Run DMC’s “Walk this Way” music video:

Now it seems more hilarious than ever, a massive in-joke for TMBG’s fans. I Like Fun isn’t their best album, but it is still great to have.

Categories: Of the Month.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

“Of the Month” January 2018

Video Game of the Month:

Super Mario Odyssey

Yes, it is very, very good. No, it isn’t nearly as revolutionary as Breath of the Wild, but it is exceedingly clever in how it gets you to just keep playing it. Instead of scattering a handful of goals across its dozen levels (or “Kingdoms” as they’re called in this game), Odyssey has a veritable bounty of goals, almost over-saturating each area (and later in the game you can unlock even more). After you collect a “Power Moon,” you’re almost certainly likely to see something that will make you think, “I bet if I do this I’ll get another one…” and so on and so on, organically getting you to explore every single nook and cranny of this rather large game. Also, it harkens back to the Galaxy-style of play rather than the more recent 3D-World series of games, and as such it feels much broader and more open. The new “possession” mechanic is a lot of fun, and opens up even more possibilities. Much like Breath of the Wild, this is a Mario game where it seems like you can do just about anything, and almost all of it is a lot of fun.

Book of the Month:

Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line
by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

Many years ago, there was an excellent television show called Veronica Mars about a teenage sleuth. It was cancelled after its fourth season, but then many years later most of the people involved got together and did a Kickstarter to make a movie that took place after the series. Well, now we have a novel that takes place after the movie, continuing the adventures of the now all-grown-up titular private detective. Do you like Veronica Mars and wish that you could experience more of her adventures? Here you go! Oh, and if you want to know what happens after this novel, don’t worry; Rob Thomas has already written another one.

Tabletop Game of the Month:

Diamonsters

A fun bidding/collection game: The entire game consists of cards with monsters on them, numbered one through five. A card is turned face-up in the center of the players and then everyone secretly chooses a card in their hand and puts it face-down in front of them. Everyone reveals their bidding cards at the same time, and whoever played the highest number wins the center card and gets to add it and the card they bid with into their collection (then they draw a new card). If you manage to collect three of the same cards, you win that round. Also, some cards have diamond icons on them, and if you get five of those diamond icons in your collection then you win the round. The trick is, if two or more players bid with the same number, they have to put their bidding card back into their hand and whichever of the remaining players has bid with the highest number wins the center card. What I really like about this game is that it scales very well. You could play an epic game that lasts until a singer player wins seven rounds, or you could play a single round in just a couple of minutes. Also, the fact that if you win a bid you place the bidding card into your collection and then have to draw a random card to replace it means that you can’t rely on having any particular number in your hand at any given time. In fact, you could end up with a hand full of twos and threes for example. It’s fun and fast-paced.

Categories: Of the Month.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

“Of the Year” 2017

Album of the Year:

Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle

There were so very many great albums released this year, and I must apologize to all my other friends who came out with some really amazing work in 2017. But this album just eclipses them all.

A few years ago Mike released Dark Comedy, an hilarious album tinged with anger and darkness. Well, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is kind of the opposite; it’s a dark and angry album tinged with hilarity. And it is SO SO GOOD. A concept album about the now-destroyed Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago where Mike (and earlier, Mr. T) spent some of his youth, BBKSD is a stark exploration of some very big injustices. It’s also at times extraordinarily beautiful. Just listen to “Daydreaming in the Projects” here:

Also listen to the sun-drenched, wistful nostalgia that gushes out of the just lovely “95 Radios” here:

I don’t want to make this album sound like a complete drag; Mike is still as geeky as ever, and there is some genuine hilarity like in “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending it Don’t Hurt),” in which very funny braggadocio serves to illustrate both the toxic environment that induces men to act tough and unfeeling as well as the toxicity of such behavior itself.

Man, this album is smart. The best album of 2017 by leaps and bounds. Also, very funny:

Movie of the Year:

Wonder Woman

I saw shockingly few movies in 2017, far fewer than I actually wanted to see, and almost all of those were somehow under the Disney banner. All except for Wonder Woman. We’ve been getting big-budget Superman movies since the 1970s. Batman movies since the 1980s. X-Men and Spider-Man movies since the early 2000s. But it took until 2017 for Wonder Woman to finally get her own movie. And, oh my, is it goooooooood. I don’t know if I can honestly say it was worth the wait, but thank goodness this production fell into the hands of people who did right by it. Gal Gadot is endlessly entertaining as the main character, and even though the third-act climax kinda devolves into a big CGI power-vs-power mess, Wonder Woman at its heart is a story about being a decent, loving human being (or goddess, as the case may be) in an indecent, hateful world.

TV Show of the Year:

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. wins by being one of only two TV shows that I actually watch anymore (even though I stream it later on Hulu), and the only one that actually airs on a regular schedule and has, y’know, actual seasons. In the shadows of the Marvel movies, this TV show has been churning out some of the most entertaining and comic-booky live-action adventures out there. The show went really gung-ho in its 4th season, with a trio of interconnected story arcs that delved into Ghost Rider and the Darkhold, Life Model Decoy androids, and a stint in a Matrix-style alternate computer reality. And now in the 5th season the cast has been flung into space… and the future! It’s great seeing these characters whom we’ve come to know and love get thrown into all manner of insanity and still keep their wits about them (upon learning that they’d been transported to outer space one character simply grunts, “Space, huh? Makes sense; we’ve done everything else”).

Streaming Show of the Year:

Stranger Things 2

Stranger Things 2 is to Stranger Things as Aliens is to Alien. Sometimes in some very direct ways. It takes the original concept and expands upon it mightily without losing the fan-frikkin-tastic characterizations that you came to love in the first season. Plus, Paul Reiser is in it as a very sketchy and somewhat smarmy individual! A loving tribute to both Steven King and Stephen Spielberg, with plenty of callbacks and references to them both. Also Aliens.

Video Game of the Year:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I mean, come on. This is the game of the year. It’s so good. Just take a look at this:

Daaaaaaaaaaaang.

Daaaaaaaaaaaang.

Categories: Articles, Of the Month, Round-up.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

“Of the Month” December 2017

Video Game of the Month:

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Boy, have I missed Animal Crossing. This mobile app game does scratch an itch. It is fun, funny, and very nice to look at, though Pocket Camp is much more “gamey” than a real Animal Crossing title. Goals are much more clear-cut, including things like leveling-up and timed goals and stretch goals. You don’t just wander around doing whatever you feel like; there are things you’re supposed to be doing. The crafting system is an intriguing addition to Animal Crossing that I actually quite like, and I’m curious if that will carry over into the next full-fledged title. Also, be my friend:

It me!

It me!

Show of the Month:

Marvel’s Runaways

One of the single greatest comic book runs of the current century, Brian K. Vaughan’s Runaways from Marvel Comics had a jaw-droppingly engaging blend of teen angst, comedy, and comic book superheroics. I am sometimes still shocked at just how good it was. This adaptation keeps the core characters but changes the storytelling from a frenetic, straight-ahead adventure to a slow-burn, laterally-expanding mystery. It works best when it focuses on the kids and their interactions. All the actors are great in their parts, even all 10 parents (geez that’s a lot). Ariela Barer is a particular standout as Gert, full of bluster and snark but also awkwardness and hope. The first few episodes have me intrigued enough to keep watching.

Tabletop Game of the Month:

The Oregon Trail

A shockingly-accurate transformation of the classic schoolhouse video game into card format, you and your cooperative team have the unenviable task of trying to survive the Oregon Trail with limited resources and oh-so-many rivers you have to cross. The way the cards form the actual trail is an ingenious mechanic. The only thing this game is really missing is a recreation of trying to shoot a buffalo or bear to get the 100lbs of meat as you could carry (but there’s a hunting expansion, so maybe that handles it). Spoiler: you’re probably all going to die before you can play the 50 trail cards you need to win. Oh, also: You have died of Dysentery.

Categories: Of the Month.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

“Of the Month” November 2017

Hey, sorry this is so late. Having a kid born the day after Halloween means the beginning of November is kinda hectic!

Album of the Month:

Brick Body Kids Still Daydream by Open Mike Eagle

A few years ago Mike released Dark Comedy, an hilarious album tinged with anger and darkness. Well, Brick Body Kids Still Daydream is kind of the opposite; it’s a dark and angry album tinged with hilarity. And it is SO SO GOOD. A concept album about the now-destroyed Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago where Mike (and earlier, Mr. T) spent some of his youth, BBKSD is a stark exploration of some very big injustices. It’s also at times extraordinarily beautiful. Just listen to “Daydreaming in the Projects” here:

Also listen to the sun-drenched, wistful nostalgia that gushes out of the just lovely “95 Radios” here:

I don’t want to make this album sound like a complete drag; Mike is still as geeky as ever, and there is some genuine hilarity like in “No Selling (Uncle Butch Pretending it Don’t Hurt),” in which very funny braggadocio serves to illustrate both the toxic environment that induces men to act tough and unfeeling as well as the toxicity of such behavior itself.

Man, this album is smart. The best album of 2017 by leaps and bounds.

Cartoon of the Month:

Over the Garden Wall

I initially didn’t watch this cartoon when it aired on Cartoon Network a few years ago because I thought it was some dumb cartoon about garden gnomes (understandable, considering it has the word “Garden” in it and the main character wears a conical hat). But the truth is this is a dark and creepy and surreal dive into weirdness and the nature of fear. About two children (well, one teenager and one child) who get somehow lost in “The Unknown,” a very strange and anachronistic forest environment where talking animals and magic are commonplace, Over the Garden Wall is a miniseries of ten 11-minute episodes. So at 110 minutes it’s very possible to watch it all in one sitting, which I highly recommend. Taking place in the days after Halloween, it’s an absolutely perfect show to watch on a dark fall evening with some hot cider and a blanket. You’re going to underestimate this show; you’re not prepared for how good it is.

Show of the Month:

Stranger Things 2

Stranger Things 2 is to Stranger Things as Aliens is to Alien. Sometimes in some very direct ways. It takes the original concept and expands upon it mightily without losing the fan-frikkin-tastic characterizations that you came to love in the first season. Plus, Paul Reiser is in it as a very sketchy and somewhat smarmy individual! A loving tribute to both Steven King and Stephen Spielberg, with plenty of callbacks and references to them both. Also Aliens.

Categories: Of the Month.