Video Games

Bullet Points: L.A. Noire, Part 2

So, I finished up L.A. Noire, at least the main storyline cases.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. The game has plenty of problems and there are a number of elements I wish had been handled differently, but I have to give Rockstar and Team Bondi some kudos for trying something a little different and succeeding where they did. Looks like it took me about 27 hours to finish the cases, handle about half the street crimes, and just muck around in general: well worth the price, and I’ll probably play a little more from time to time until there’s some DLC.

As for where they failed and succeeded, well, I don’t want to get specific. There’s some mostly general, non-spoilery stuff below.

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Television

The Killing: It Ends Up Being Wrong

For weeks, The Killing, to my mind, has been steadily losing altitude, and while the latest episode wasn’t outstanding, at least the series seems to have leveled off and even powered the engines back up a bit. The detectives got to do some long-overdue investigating and interrogating, and their new suspect, though pretty obviously not guilty simply because he looked completely guilty, was at least discounted within a single episode instead of it being dragged out for several.

So, where are we, with only three episodes left?  Bennet is alive and in the hospital (boooo), and Stan has turned himself in for savagely beating an innocent man (and while he’s in jail, Mitch discovers that their bank accounts are empty). Belko is investigated, and while it turns out he’s a violent weirdo creep with mommy issues and pictures of Rosie above his bed (gross), and that he used to hang out in the Larsen’s home when no one was there (yuck), he at least didn’t kill Rosie.

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Video Games

Lady Business: The Traffic Report

(For any newcomers: My wife, Kris, writes a weekly column under the heading “Lady Business”, giving her perspective on movies, television, pop-culture, and in this instance, video games!)

My attempt at playing L.A. Noire ended in tragedy…more than a few times.

I can only really get my mind around two video game controllers. The first being the Atari 2600 joystick, because the thing had a single stick and button. The second being the Wii controller, because if you want to move forward you just push your arm forward. Both are beautifully simple. L.A. Noire for X-box means that I’m stuck attempting to click on a whole host of buttons, all of which seem to be super sensitive.

On Friday night, Chris manned the controller while I made the choices on where to go and what to do. We solved the cases fairly quickly, though I felt squirmy about calling a suspect a liar even though they were clearly lying. Turns out my wussy non-confrontational side calls the shots in video games as well as real life.

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DVD | Movies

Too Many Secrets: Sneakers

Whistler: “I want peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”

Abbot: “We are the United States government! We don’t do that sort of thing!”

Along with L.A. Confidential, which I wrote about here, one of my favorite all-time movies is Sneakers, made in 1992 and directed by Phil Alden Robinson. It’s a light, funny caper film, with a lot of ridiculous but enjoyable hacker nonsense and a great ensemble cast. I first saw it when I was working in a theater pub in Florida, and during its run there I saw twice a night for about two weeks. And that still wasn’t enough: I owned it on VHS and I’ve probably watched it another dozen times in my life. It’s still one of those films that, if it’s on TV, I’ll sit and watch it every single time. Major spoilers to follow.

Robert Redford is Martin Bishop, the head of a security firm who, as a teenager, got caught hacking into bank accounts and computer networks and fled to Canada, leaving his friend Cosmo to take the rap and the jail time. Sydney Poitier is the tightly wound ex-CIA agent Donald Crease, Bishop’s partner at the firm. The rest of the team is comprised of Darryl “Mother” Roskow (Dan Aykroyd), a technician with a head full of conspiracy theories, Erwin Emory, known as “Whistler” (David Strathairn), a blind computer whiz whose sharp ears make up for his lack of sight, and Carl Arbogast (River Phoenix), a young, earnest, yet somewhat awkward prodigy.

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Television

The Killing: Punching A Rock

Okay. I’m going to have to admit that this show is not nearly as good as I’d hoped, and it has gotten clunkier by the week. Still, I’m invested at this point, and I’m going to see it through, and I’m going to pretend I’m still really enjoying it, when I’m only really sort of enjoying it.

This week we got some fairly unsurprising news: Bennet is not a terrorist. Like I had mostly figured out with my huge intelligent brain, what appeared to be some Muslim terror plot was actually a Muslim rescue plot: a little girl was being spirited away to protect her from an unwanted marriage and female circumcision. Bennet is clean, actually, more than clean: he was risking a lot to protect an innocent girl.

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DVD | Movies

Hold Up Your Badge: L.A. Confidential

I’ve been playing L.A. Noire, and what with all the fedoras, old-timey cars, and talk of “bracing” witnesses, it’s put me in quite the mood for one of my favorite movies, L.A. Confidential. I stayed up late watching it again the other night.

There’s a shorthand in a lot of movies, especially cop dramas, when it comes to character flaws. Want to quickly build an anti-hero? Give him a drinking or drug problem. Give him an ex-wife (or a dead wife) or an estranged child. Give him a couple days of beard growth and a crummy, messy apartment. This signifies to the audience that your hero is struggling with demons without having to do all that pesky work of, you know, writing a good, believable character.

L.A. Confidential takes the harder, longer route, and it pays off in spades: the three main characters are all horribly and realistically flawed and thus incredibly compelling. Exley is a overly ambitious weasel, a political rung-climber obsessed with outdoing his father, and happy to wear the disdain of other cops as a badge. Vincennes is a charming sleaze, willing to sell out for fame and headlines and not interested in solving crimes as much as starring in them.

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Internet

Which Bite Wins?

For humans and animals, the best way to make more humans or animals is through sex, or, if you’re really kinky, through cloning. For the undead creatures of horror movies and fiction, the best way to reproduce is through biting. If a zombie bites someone, it makes a another zombie. If a vampire bites someone, you get another a vampire. If a werewolf bites someone, you’ve got a brand new werewolf.

A question that’s been on my mind recently (if recently means the past 16 years) is what happens if a human is bitten by a vampire, a werewolf, and a zombie all at the same time. I tried asking this on Metafilter, and a rousing discussion began but the topic was closed by a moderator before it could really get underway (you can see the deleted thread here.) Since that thread was closed, I’d like to see if I can renew the discussion here, because (I thought) it was fun and interesting.

I know there’s lots of variables to consider, because depending on which movie you watch or which book you read, the undead can follow different rules. There’s also the question of how this could possibly happen in the first place.

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Television

The Killing: Now With Motives!

Last Sunday’s The Killing didn’t do much to advance the murder investigation, focusing instead on the terrorism B-story, the Larsen family’s continuing downward spiral, and some long-overdue business between Linden and Holder.

First, Linden and Holder seem to have resolved their differences, their differences being that I thought Holder was awesome and Linden did not agree with me because she’s stupid. She didn’t trust Holder, because he was flashing wads of cash and having secretive meetings with some guy, and photos of Rosie’s body had been leaked to the press. She tailed him, and it turned out he was in a support group and his sponsor has been doling out his paycheck in chunks because Holder can’t be trusted with money because of whatever addiction he has (maybe gambling?).

Thankfully, Holder didn’t seem pissed that he had followed her. Why was he not pissed? Because, as I’ve said, he is awesome. Hopefully this will all mean they’ll start working together on the case and have some actual conversations instead of just being snippy with each other all the time.

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Video Games

Bullet Points: L.A. Noire, Part 1

Los Angeles. Nineteen-forty-something-or-so. My name? Chris Livingston. I’m a police officer. My name? Cole Phelps. So, uh… forget about the Chris Livingston thing. I got confused.

I’m investigating a murder. It’s not just any old murder. It’s a tutorial murder. Maybe it’s the damn heat, or maybe it’s just this damn city, but tutorial murders are up 23% on my beat. Damn these tutorials! They cost too many lives. Lives this damn city can’t afford.

I find a gun, and take it to a gun dealer to see what’s what. The gun dealer won’t give me a damn thing, except for the fact that he had the gun in his shop, that he sold the gun, the name of the person he sold it to, and that person’s home address. Fine, play it cool, Buster. Let’s see how cool you are when I closely examine all the DECORATIVE WOODEN DUCKS you’ve got in your store. Feel like talking now? Oh, wait, you did talk, and you’ve been extremely helpful. I’ll just put all your decorative wooden ducks back and leave. Thank you for your time, sir.

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DVD | Movies

I Can Never Let It Go

I was going to write a review of the film Never Let Me Go, but the first half-hour of the film featured a scene that distracted me so badly that I’m going to mainly talk about that instead. There are some premise spoilers ahead, though nothing I hadn’t already heard before watching the film.

Never Let Me Go is science-fiction, but it’s “light” science-fiction, which means the science-fiction is really just the backdrop, rather than the center, of the film. The film wants to tell a story about people, and doesn’t try to or need to explain the sci-fi stuff. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who really does need that stuff explained, as I’ll detail below.

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