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Titles covered: Paddington 2, The Maze Runner Death Cure, Ready Player One, Annihilation, A Wrinkle in Time, Black Panther, Pacific Rim Uprising, and Tomb Raider

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GenCon 2018

Kathryn and I (and my 3 brothers) just experienced “The Best 4 Days in Gaming” at GenCon and had a blast! We decided to recap the event by reviewing all the games we spent a significant amount of time with. To keep this simple, we decided on a three-tier rating scale: Buy!, Maybe, and No Thanks.

Big caveat here... This is not a list of the best or worst of Gencon. There are literally thousands of games, many of which take an hour to learn and play through, so I only played a small percentage of the games there. Also, I mostly pick events that are free and have cute themes.

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Titles Covered: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Justice League, The Greatest Showman, mother!, Thor: Ragnorak, Hostiles, Wonder, Ferdinand.

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Movie Reviews: All 8 Muppet Movies

So for those of you who missed the big news at the end of last year, I got married. I know... I know... crazy! Anyway, my new wife
Kathryn and I have a mutual love of the Muppets, so we decided to revisit the entire theatrical canon.

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Best Picture Nominees, Ranked

I debated whether to talk about the best picture nominees this year. The ceremony was even more political than usual, which means that I had less assurance than usual that they were actually good, and anything negative I say about these movies can be chalked up to bias. But, against my better judgment, I decided to plow through the Academy's picks to see if they hold up.

Coming in at #49...

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Mar. 6th, 2018

Titles Covered: Blade Runner 2049, Despicable Me 3, Lego Ninjago, The Breadwinner, The Wall, It (2017), Logan Lucky.

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Video game reviews

Titles Covered: LittleBigPlanet, Ni No Kuni, Gears of War, Kameo, Halo 3, God of War 3, Tales from the Borderlands, and The Evil Within.

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Short Reviews for games that I don't have much to say about:

Alan Wake (***)

Weird 3rd-person shooter based heavily on the works of Stephen King. The mechanics and environments are interesting, though the enemy design is very limited, making the game somewhat repetitive.

Shadows of the Damned (***)

Decent-ish collaboration between Suda51 and Shinji Mikami, featuring Resident Evil 4 gameplay and Suda51's awkward sexual humor. Reasonably fun and fairly humorous in parts, but not much of the enemy or level design stood out to me.

Bulletstorm (*** and a half)

Fun, fast-paced shooter that encourages you to get creative with your kills. FPS games can seem all the same, but the super-powers, sci-fi gadgets, and scoring system make this one better than most. Not the most memorable game, but a real easy experience to slide into for some arcade-like fun.

Vanquish (*** and a half)

Another arcade-like shooter, with lots of action and big explosions. It's basically the 3rd-person shooter version of those old-school “bullet hell” space games. I can't remember what the plot was about, but the graphics are great, the shooting is non-stop, and the “rocket slide” mechanic is put to great use.

Fallout Tactics (** and a half)

Take Fallout, remove all the roleplaying, make the combat a bit more sophisticated, and you get Fallout Tactics. The guns and enemies are well designed, even if the difficulty balance is horrendous. Overall OK, but missing the roleplaying and story that made Fallout so great.

Jan. 3rd, 2018

Titles Covered: The Last Jedi, Sing, The Red Turtle, Baby Driver, A Monster Calls, Spiderman Homecoming, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

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And a few short reviews, because I'm way behind:

War for the Planet of the Apes (***)
Fairly interesting continuation of "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" that has some great moments and interesting ideas, but is hampered by excessive length and a lame deus-ex-machina ending. Woody Harrelson is pretty great in it.

13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghzai (***)
Oddly enough, this movie about a highly-politicized event during an election year turns out to be just a standard war/action movie. Still, a pretty exciting movie with some great moments and an awesome chase sequence, so I was entertained.

Murder on the Orient Express remake (*** and a half)
I haven't seen the original, but enjoyed Kenneth Branaugh's over-the-top direction and Agatha Christie's twisty story. It gets pretty slow in the second act, but picks up a lot towards the finale. Great cast, and I'd gladly watch a sequel.

Dunkirk (****)
Odd and haunting war drama from Christopher Nolan. It focuses a lot less on the characters and more on the atmosphere and tone, coming off like a Terrence Malick movie. Overall, a great film, and probably Nolan's best since The Dark Knight.

Titles Covered: Kong: Skull Island, Alien Covenant, Ghost in the Shell 2017, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Wonderwoman, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Bedazzled (original).

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For those of you who don't know, my first full-time job was as a cook at Six Flags Magic Mountain, where I worked from 1997-1999. However, I haven't been in back in 13 years, and haven't been on any rollercoasters for about 6 years. So, I was curious how I'd fair at the “thrill capital of the world,” which seems to be pushing for more and more extreme rides.

In general... park was a lot of fun, though I found that I had a lot more appreciation for the milder family-friendly coasters. We actually ended up skipping a few of the “extreme” rides because I was feeling a tad queezy. On the upside, lines were very short, so we went on our favorite rides several times.

Anyway, our day at Six Flags Magic Mountain:

Roller coasters:

Ninja (*****): I don't care if it's old, Ninja is STILL "the blackbelt of roller coasters". It's a lot more intense than I remember, and whips around the trees a lot. We rode this one a few times. This was one of my favorite rides as a kid, and I still love it!

Superman: Escape from Crypton (****): Funny story here: The original Superman ride had the cars facing forward, so that you were facing towards the sky on the ride. I once joked that they should turn the cars around so that the riders were facing downwards as they plummeted towards the earth. “That's crazy!” said my Magic Mountain co-workers, “That ride would be way too scary, and no one would want to go on it!” How naive we were in 1997... Well, Superman 2.0 is exactly what I described, which I didn't realize until I got to the front of the line. The ride is definitely very scary, but also a nice adrenaline rush. I got off feeling like a million bucks, so big thumbs up for Superman 2.0.

Goldrusher (*** and a half): Another family coaster, and also more intense than I remember it. It's a bit jerky in places, but still fun and has a great spin towards the end. Rode this one a few times, as there was no line at all.

Riddler's Revenge (** and a half): Oof. This is where I started to feel old. The ride is OK, but I found it kinda rough and I felt nausious afterwards.

Twisted Collosus (****): Oh. My. God. This is one of the scariest rollercoasters I've ever been on. Steep drops, high speeds, and crazy turns and inversions throughout. And... you go around the coaster twice on alternate paths, getting a 4-minute long ride each time. Great ride, very smooth, but might be too much for a lot of people.

Scream (***): Fairly standard looping coaster. A bit rough in spots but overall a pretty good ride.

Batman (*** and a half): Like everything in the park, this was a lot more intense than I remembered. Still, it's pretty thrilling and isn't as rough as other rides in the park, so I say this one holds up as a good coaster.

Green Lantern, First Flight (**): This one is... odd. It's structured a bit like a pichinko machine, and the cars spin around freely. I was glad my car didn't spin all the way around, as I found it scary/rough enough as it was. Not my favorite.

Apocalypse (*** and a half): Very fast, very thrilling, but also shakes around a lot. It's certainly a huge improvement on the previous coaster, Psyclone, but may need some adjustment to reduce the shaking. I did like the theming a lot, as it really does feel like you're escaping the ruins of civilization.

Viper (** and a half): This was one of my favorites when I was a teenager, but as an adult I found it excessively rough and hard to fully enjoy. Guess things change as you get older.

The New Revolution (*****): AWESOME. The ride holds up, and the addition of VR elements is an exciting new twist that adds tons of theming and makes the ride a lot more fun.

Speedy Gonzales Raceway (***): OK, you can laugh at us... We didn't feel like going on any more extreme rides, so we went on the kiddy coasters. This one was fun, though Kathryn and I discovered that cramming 2 adults into one car is really tight.

Road Runner Express (*** and a half): Surprisingly good kiddy coaster, with great theming. I actually think this is the same Vekoma coaster in Mickey's Toon Town.

Other attractions:

Justice League: Battle for Metropolis (**** and a half): Um... Since when does Six Flags have Disney-style dark rides? I was skeptical, but honestly, the ride is pretty damn amazing. It's part animatronic dark ride, part 3D motion simulator, and part lightgun videogame. I'd seen rides where you shoot at things (that Buzz Lightyear ride at Disneyworld), but Battle for Metropolis does it SO much better, with guns that handle well, animated lasers rendered in different colors so you can tell which is yours, and scenes programmed to actually react to your shots so that it feels like you're really part of the story. Aside from the questionable animation during the pre-shows, this was a very impressive counterpoint to the Disney/Universal rides.

Kwerk (****): Basically, it's steampunk Cirque de Solei. And it's a hell of a lot better than the shows that we had back when I was working at the park. Wow, Six Flags has a great dark ride and a great show? What alternate universe is this?

Sandblasters (** and a half): It's bumper cars. More or less what you expect.

Wonderwoman: Lasso of Truth (***): Despite the new theming, this is an older carnival ride that's been renamed several times. I enjoyed it at first, but then got really queezy. Damn, I'm getting old.

The Flash (***): Another re-themed carnival ride. Pro-tip: when riding with 2 people, put the larger person on the outside. We did not think to do this. A decent ride all around.

Swashbuckler (** and a half): Simple, but fun swing ride. Rode it once, which was enough.

Buckaneer (*** and a half): Pirate ship swing. Actually enjoyed this one a lot.

Roaring Rapids (****): Really a great water ride, as it combines the thrills of rafting with the unpredictability of spinning around erratically, never knowing who will get drenched. I wish Jetsream had also been open that day, as the water rides are a lot of fun.

Sidenote: They closed Logjammer AND changed Mooseburger into "Sports Bar." Who calls a restaraunt "Sports Bar"?!