Daredevil Review

 

dd_vertical-bloodyknuckles_us-main

Forget Ben Affleck. Netflix’s foray into a comic book franchise is a home run. Daredevil is a completely bad ass crime drama (That just happens to be about a superhero).

Ok, wow… I was honestly just going to not watch it. I read a few of the Daredevil comics back in my Marvel glory days, but I was mostly a Spiderman/X-Men kinda kid, so I could tell you that he’s a blind ninja with super hearing and no fear, but I couldn’t tell you how many of his girlfriends have died over the decades (It’s all of them I think). With my 8 year-old’s recent obsession with CW’s The Flash (unwatchable as far as I’m concerned), and that damn horrible Ben Affleck movie I sat through 10 years ago… I was less than enthused when I saw a reboot of DD was out.

But it’s Netflix, so when my brilliant wife suggested it, I said “sure, why not?” I figured what else am I gonna do on an Friday night? Watch Dateline?

Well, needless to say it was great. That Guy From Boardwalk Empire (Charlie Cox, minus the Irish accent) does a bang up job of capturing a uniquely complicated character, and coming across as both a likable lawyer and a fierce crime-fighting ninja at the same time. His smirk and his sunglasses are exactly what I remember from the late 80s Marvel era. It’s kind of a Law and Order: Superhero. dbfc67b8554757a0d65bd5c1e2215b94f4f99c12During the day we get cops, crooks, and everything in between… And at night we get non-caped crusading at its bloody best. Daredevil’s fighting style is vicious. It’s exciting to watch, like something exploding… A mix of boxing and what looks like jujitsu make for very hard-hitting, Bane-esque moves.

The show takes place in post-Avengers New York, specifically Hells Kitchen, and so far there have been more than a few tie-ins… But this is not Agent Carter, or even Agents of SHIELD… This is a bloody, and brutal window on the Marvel universe. The son of a boxer, Matt Murdock and partner/lawyer Foggy Nelson are fledgling local boys turned defense attorneys, and in the first episode they stumble across a murder case involving True Blood‘s Deborah Ann Woll and a local mob front she happens to work for. The dialogue is witty and the characters are well realized… And Cox shines as the troubled vigilante who can’t outrun the choices he has made.

daredevil-netflixDaredevil is Marvels answer to Batman, and creator Drew Goddard (Lost, Alias) capitalizes on this. It practically screams The Dark Knight with its long shadows, tall buildings, and nameless henchmen. The story is good, the characters fleshed out and funny, but what really sets Daredevil apart from any other Super Show around is the choreography of the fights. I haven’t seen hand to hand combat like this outside of a movie screen ever. There’s a particularly cool hallway fight in the second episode that looks like it was peeled straight out of The Raid, 1 or 2.

One of the things that bothers me the most about PG-13 “comic book movie” violence is that way it glamorizes that violence. From lone super heroes taking on armies of computer generated bad guys with all manner of destruction and yet no blood or death. It teaches kids a completely unrealistic, and frankly dangerous view of violence: that it’s safe. IMG_2575In Daredevil the violence is disturbing… As it should be. Daredevil gets beat, stabbed, and thrown around A LOT, and these aren’t safe fights by any means. Instead, it’s as if we’re really watching two (or more) men pound the shit out of each other… They get tired, they bleed, they collapse, they die. How very anti-Disney of Disney…

Anyway, I’m impressed… And I’m totally in. It’s about time we had an action show worth it’s salt. Plus the opening credits are the coolest thing I have ever seen.

 

Advertisements

Cutting the Cable Cord: Week 2

poltergeistWell here we are, 8 days after turning all of our cable boxes in and telling Comcast to take their $130 cable bundles and shove em… And I’ll be Mayan’d… The world didn’t friggin end! Yet.

The true cord-cutters test will come this Sunday evening when we have friends over to watch the Walking Dead and we’re able to pull it off without a hitch. On the other hand, I am starting to believe that I was only afraid of losing cable because cable wanted me to be afraid of losing it. With the set up we have going now, and thanks to some late-night homework on my part, I believe I’m more than prepared for any of my family’s audio/video entertainment needs.

house-of-cards-posterThe name of the game in cord-cutting is cover your bases. You know there is a show you like and you know when it’s on and what channel, there are ways to get those shows as early as 15 minutes after they air. There’s the standards, like Netflix, which has become the cord-cutters banner for streaming media. Seriously, they have about two-thirds of any TV show, movie, or cartoon you could ever want to watch… for $8 a month. Sold. The most exciting thing about Netflix is their original programming. We watched House of Cards a few weeks ago, and it was exceptionally compulsive television. Produced and directed by David Fincher, one of the most talented filmmakers on the planet, Netflix made the bold move of releasing the entire season at once. They plan on doing the same thing for their next original show, the resurrected Arrested Development. However, besides original programming, they don’t add newer content ever… So Netflix is really good for a video library of all the old stuff you love and maybe want to watch or catch up on… But new episodes of Breaking Bad won’t be on until a year after they air.

imagesThen there is Amazon Instant Video. I’m not 100%, but I think these guys get most their new episodes the next day, in full HD (except for HBO, and I’ll talk about that later). Although I have not tried it yet, this is a great option. I hear Hulu Plus is good, but no AMC, no money from me. I can get it elsewhere. Then there is iTunes… But with Apple, I love their technology, but I hate dealing with them in any way, shape, or form. I’m sure I’m missing a few others, but only because I want to get to the meat and potatoes of my point here.

xbmc1My point is XBMC, which I find amusing because it comes from the Xbox which I’ve never owned, and often bashed for its lameness. If I wanted a Wii or an Xbox I’d buy one, but I’m a serious gamer. XBMC is a FREE multi-media player that runs on your computer and organizes all of your movies, shows, music, games, all in one place… and then you plug in your TV as your monitor and GO! I took an “old” Dell Optiplex 960, while not the best machine, still has a few cores to work with, and I simply ran an HDMI cord from the back of the PC to our plasma screen in the living room. Then I tucked it out of the way, turned it on, and let it know where my audio and video files were. Then it sprang to life.

navi-x-08XB uses online databases and scans your library, then throws it all together in a nice user-friendly format that’s completely customizable. You don’t like the way the cross-media bar looks or works? Change it. There are websites full of skins for it, and all of them have individual settings you can adjust to make it how you want it. Then the features! It allows you to use “add-ons” that let you access all manner of live tv, streaming video, all from sites like Hulu, Amazon, Comedy Central, any place that has their shows online for free, you can watch through XB. Instead of going to ABC.com to watch Once Upon a Time, it serves it for you. There are also add-ons that link to material that is slightly less than legally streamed, but it’s not against the law per se to watch, depending on your morality stance and your patience with non-HD content. xbmc-ios-remoteI tried one for academic purposes only and watched the latest episode of The Americans 15 minutes after it aired on cable. Whoever is streaming these shows is on the ball.

Then there’s the remote. Guess what? It’s an app. It’s a really cool app. It not only has the remote as a touch-screen on your phone but it allows you to browse your library on your phone as well. Want to watch a movie? Pull up your XBMC remote, look through your library, then hit “play.” It’s that easy. Oh, and did I mention Air Play? WITHOUT APPLE TV. Yes that means all you suckers who paid hundreds for your fancy little boxes got just that… Fancy little boxes. I can be looking at the IMDB app on my phone, see a trailer I want to watch, and throw it up to the TV from anywhere in my house. If I’m watching or listening to something on my phone I want to put on the plasma screen I tap one button. I love it.

There’s also a nice little app called Splashtop 2 for the iPhone and iPad that will stream any (wirelessly) connected computer to either device. I’ve had this awesome app for a year now, it lets me play Eve Online while I’m not sitting at my computer. It lets me control the Dell from the couch… Or the shower for that matter. So if XB dies I just open Splashtop, start it up again, and go! I’m still working out the kinks, but so far it’s worked fairly seamlessly. photo 3We tried it again last night for academic purposes, we chose a cool add-on program called “Navi-X” that hosts a ton of streaming content. There are a few dedicated genre playlists that people have created, and of course we found ourselves looking through the Sci-Fi movies. There was practically every popular contemporary science fiction movie in that list. My wife had never seen Solaris with George Clooney and Natascha McElhone (Karen from Californication), so we gave it a shot. The best part? All of them are 720p, high-def streams!

Well technology wouldn’t be technology without a few hiccups, and of course 10 minutes into the movie it stopped and we couldn’t get it started again. So with a little ingenuity I was able to find a copy within minutes and we were back up and running… And that seems to be the way it is without cable. Cable is a product, served up for a specific reason and has been updated, perfected, and worked on for decades. It’s designed to bring you TV and movies seamlessly, and it does. The issue is that mega-corporations that truly don’t care about anything other than the bottom line supply that product. Game-of-Thrones-Season-3-Posters-jaime1All of this new technology is only a few years old, there are still a million bugs to work out, so it’s expected that not everything is going to work 100% of the time… But it better come Walking Dead time I tell you!

Game of Thrones starts next weekend, and I’m curious as to how soon I’ll be able to get HD episodes from Amazon… Since HBO wants everyone to use their HBO Go app now, and you can only use that if you have a current cable package with an HBO subscription. Why doesn’t HBO simply make their Go app a stand alone product? Some of us can’t afford to fork over hundreds a month just to get one show! I’d gladly pay HBO a flat fee a month to be able to watch their brilliant programming… But they are so in deep with their cable company partners they can’t even rock the boat without fear of losing what? Their bottom line. I think they could more than cover their losses by making HBO Go a subscription-based service, and bring it to the millions out there who have to pirate Game of Thrones because there is no other way to watch it.

photo 1Long story long, between the PS3 and the XBMC, I think we’re covered. I can get any show just a few hours after it airs, live TV broadcasts, March Madness, and tons of other stuff. So far, cutting the cable has worked okay, however it has only soured me even more for the cable companies. It’s not a jealousy thing either, it’s a have-and-have-nots thing. If we could occupy Time Warner I think it would be a great idea… But what are the options? Pirate movies? Oooo, that’ll show em. Protest? That only gives them more ammunition. I suppose grass-roots legislation, but I’m fairly sure they’ve got their backs covered on that one.

Cutting the Cable Cord: Day 1

cable_cord_byAlyson_Hurt_flickrccHow much is your cable bill? How about when you let it slide for a few weeks? Ever pick it apart and read the fine print? Now let me ask you this: Do you know what Stockholm Syndrome is?

You know, the one where the hostages lose their minds and start to feel a bond with the kidnappers? It’s like the story of the frog in the pot. The water’s warm, it keeps getting warmer, it feels great and relaxing, and then it’s frog soup.

Well this analogy can be used for anything in our society today, from the inability of our government to function on even the basest levels, to the Doritos Cool Ranch Taco at Taco Bell, the water is boiling… and we’re too relaxed to notice we’re about to be soup… But I’m talking about cable television.

infographic-cutting-the-cableWho knows this game? Your bill is too high so you call up Comcast and say you need to cut back some services and possibly switch to Dish… The representative pretends he or she hasn’t played this game every 5 minutes for the last 5 years  and gives you free HBO for six months and a boost on your internet speed… and maybe if you’re lucky will cut your bill down enough to make you feel like you’re empowered, like Comcast really cares about your business and wants to keep you as a customer.

I played this game for over 10 years and I can’t do it anymore. So as of today, as painful as it might be, my family has “cut the cord.” I turned in all of our cable boxes and gave up the charade of cable television. After literally months of back and forth, pros and cons, and swearing “this’ll be the week…”, tonight we are free. We can watch whatever we want without the constraints of “the guide.”

Let’s face it Comcast, “the guide” is the same crappy blue boxes you implemented 20 years ago. I’ve been staring at the same unresponsive menus and horrible interface for the better part of my adult life. Well, all of it actually… And yes I know that says something about my lifestyle, but I assure you, I do all things in moderation… ESPECIALLY moderation. While they might have added HDTV programming and On Demand (which now completely sucks because there and commercials and you can’t fast forward) to the mix, it’s still the same 25-year-old technology they’re selling us as next year’s model.

the-cable-guy-tbi-1Our last bill from Comcast was $601.00. That’s six hundred dollars, and that’s not a typo. That was also the last straw. Yes, it is three months worth of bills cause of their stupid bill-in-advance system, but still… $600??!! We had an HD-DVR in the living room, an HD box collecting dust, and an old black Motorola doing the same… Plus HBO (half price) and Showtime (half price) and a myriad of shit channels we don’t EVER watch. So I packed them in the trunk, went down and took a number in line, and stood there watching Netflix on my iPhone just to say “F you Comcast.” It would have been a much more satisfying experience if the dude at the counter hadn’t been so damn cool. So that plus internet works out to $200 a month. That’s $2400 a year. Are you beginning to see the water bubbling?

We’ve got 2 PS3s, 1 Sony BluRay, a Wii, a half dozen i-devices, and an HDTV antennae. We’ve also ordered the Boxee, which will be here Tuesday. It uses an internal HDTV antennae to record live TV, DVR-style, and stores it on a server without a limit to how much you store. Did you say no-limit cloud storage? We’ve got Amazon Prime, we’ve got Netflix, and we’ve got resourcefulness.

photo_610x357I’ll admit, it was a little overwhelming. Simply because cable has been such a part of my life, especially HBO and lately AMC, but now I can just BUY those episodes when the day they air anyway. Then I’ll own it! In the next month, two of my favorite shows return, and even if I have to pay $40 for an HD season of Game of Thrones, $40 for Mad Men, $40 for True Blood, etc… That’s still less than one goddamn Comcast payment! And it’s a cost that’s spread out over a few months, and lets me add my favorite shows to my video library!

cord-cutting-cableIt’s time to change the channel from cable television… To boldly go where no one has gone before and all that… Huzzah!

To be continued…

The New ‘Copyright Alert System’ Takes Aim at the Wrong People

fbi_seal_large_verge_medium_landscapeWith the new Copyright Alert System, the MPAA and RIAA are dropping the hammer… On the wrong people…

Internet Service Providers, the MPAA/RIAA, and the Federal government have all teamed up and decided that they are going to fix the problem of internet piracy and copyright infringement. They’ve worked for years, struggling to come up with a comprehensive solution to such a horrible and thoughtless crime epidemic. Piracy is corroding the soul of America, let’s face it. Multinational Corporate-Run Motion Picture Studios work extremely hard to distribute a product that they can make a profit from, and despite the fact that the box office just had its best year in a decade, the scourge of internet piracy has to be stopped.

WarOnDrugsInfographicLike the equally important and equally effective War on Drugs and War on Terror, the War on Piracy has become one of the most important wars of our age… Symbolizing not only the great struggle for the morality of this nation, but for the very souls of our children as well. For what are we if we teach our kids that theft is acceptable? What are we saying about our society if we don’t let our most important corporate citizens set an example for what is and what isn’t appropriate economic responsibility? And now, after years of work, countless man-hours of thoughtful analysis, finally the policy makers AND the government have given the Corporate-Run Motion Picture Studios have a weapon they can finally use to target offenders… Education.

Internet-PiracyAlso called the Six-Strikes Program (just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it?), the Copyright Alert System was finally rolled out this last week, and citizens can sleep a little easier at night knowing that the intellectual property of their beloved Multinational Corporate-Run Motion Picture Studios is safe at last. The copyright owners have tried for a decade now to stem the tide of illegal file-sharing, and since going after the source of pirated movies and music (the downloadees) hasn’t worked, it’s only logical that the next step is to go after the downloaders.

And the best news? It’s not TOO unconstitutional!

anonymous-maskBut seriously, with the new system, if a major motion picture studio invades your privacy and detects that you have illegally downloaded copyrighted material, they now have the ability to let your internet service provider know that this breach (that is the breach that YOU have made) has occurred. The ISPs can then send you a pop-up or alert with educational tips about the importance of copyright law and possible consequences for future theft can be. How about that? A private coalition of corporations can watch your activity and report it to other corporations so that those other corporations can take away some of your freedom! This is truly a step forward in privatizing our liberty.

Let’s say you want to know if the new Green Day album is worth buying or not (Cause let’s face it, at this point in their career, and in this economy, you can’t afford to go spend money on an album that is going to suck and you’re never going to listen to), so you go to your local peer-to-peer network and find an illegally distributed copy of their new album for free. Now you download that file and listen to it. Sure enough, your hunch was right, the new Green Day is worse than whatever a Bruno Mars is. So you don’t buy the album. Now little do you know the Recording Industry Association of America is the one who put that copy on that peer-to-peer network… As bait… That’s strike one. The RIAA has been watching the network, and now they’re watching you. You might not have been on the list, but now you are.

pirate-bayHowever the more likely situation is this: You’re a good consumer. You work, pay taxes, go to the movies, buy iTunes songs AND albums of bands you love, you buy video games, BluRays, Netflix, Amazon streaming, etc… You’re the prime example of the modern media consumer. However you’re hiding a dark and terrible secret, you’re also a downloader... As a movie fan, you love films, but you’re also not rich, so you can’t afford to pay for every single movie you want to see. You don’t go to the movies with video cameras, you don’t upload your screener copies of awards considerations, you don’t even upload CDs you buy for others to get… You’re simply A CONSUMER… Just like the MPAA/RIAA wants you to be. You grew up with your parents teaching you how to hook two VCRs together to record a crappy copy of Tron for pity’s sake.

torrentWould you be surprised to hear that this new Copyright Alert System might just violate a few federal laws? Like primarily that one that says a person is innocent until proven guilty? Or that a person has a right to due process? Or that these coalitions of corporations and internet service providers completely blocked all subscriber/consumer representation from the drafting of their “system?” Or that this whole process runs without any kind of oversight whatsoever?

Or that the Constitution of the United States of America gives CONGRESS sole right to enforce copyright laws and that only our federal courts have the right to punish violators?

Guess that makes this whole Copyright Alert System work-around as shady as it sounds. Watch your back, and call your congressman. Seriously. Here’s the link to find out who is your representative in congress and tell them how you feel about this draconian, privatized law-enforcement system.

Dead Space 3 Proves There’s Still Plenty of Life Left in Sci-Fi

Isaac_DS3Let me tell you a quick story. While it may be one you’ve heard before, I won’t keep you long…

Not long ago, Isaac Clarke was just a clever engineer on a rescue mission to save his girlfriend. This is in the future, after the human race almost caused its own extinction by using every resource it could get its hands on. This is after the Concordance Extraction Corporation (or CEC) unveils the colossal USG Ishimura, the ship that became a symbol of mankind’s endurance and will to survive. Not only was it the biggest ship ever built, but the first “planet-cracker” as well, using gravity tethers to pop giant chunks of rock from the crust of lifeless planets. CEC, and the Ishimura were almost solely responsible for bringing humanity back from the edge of extinction and jump-starting space expansion.

Deadspace_CrackedNearly a century later, our hero’s scientist girlfriend Ellie is stationed in the Ishimura‘s medical research wing when it is dispatched to CEC’s not-so-legal mining colony on Aegis IV. You see in the 26th century, the dominant religion is Unitology… A faith based on the belief that mankind was created by an alien race through the power of an all-power object known as “the marker.” This isn’t one of those flower-holding religions where you’re accosted in the airport, this is the “death is only the beginning” kind where followers adamantly believe they will be reunited with their alien architects after death and their leaders ascend to the highest levels of military, business, and government.

Dead_Space_Vs__Alienware_by_DarkCrash100The Ishimura is sent to Aegis IV to retrieve “the red marker,’ an alien object which is believed to be a holy object and the source of life in the universe… However not long after the marker is discovered, the colonists start to suffer from hallucinations, outbreaks of irrational behavior, and violence. Once the Ishimura arrives at the planet and the marker is brought up from the surface, all hell breaks loose, and all communications are lost.

Unitology_010With religious zealots scheming to bring about the “evolution” of mankind, greedy corporations who are only after what they can exploit, and a REALLY gross alien virus that reanimates dead tissue and turns your dearly departed into twisted monsters called Necromorphs… It’s up to you to help Isaac Clarke and his suspiciously gun-like engineering tools to save the universe.

Dead_Space_3_Ice_Demo_01Welcome to Dead Space… Welcome to science fiction horror gaming at it’s best… Welcome to a silent universe, where new planets are always lifeless, and where only the scuffling of razor-sharp claws in the ventilation ducts is there to keep you glued to your controller at 1:45 in the morning. I’m talking NASTY critters here, the kind your girlfriend is going to hate this game for. The kind that have to have their arms and legs blown off to really slow them down at all. The kind that send you screaming into controller-throwing frenzies when the limbless corpse of your digital hero goes tumbling through a darkened corridor for the fifth time in a row.

This is also really fun.

dead space barrel

I haven’t finished Dead Space 3 yet, EA‘s latest installment in the blockbuster, multi-platform franchise released last week on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC, but that’s because I’m deliberately going slow. Normally I cruise through Dead Space games, including the original, the sequel, the spin-off Dead Space: Extraction, and even the two animated movies (available on Netflix). I eat it up like chocolate, pulse pounding and palms sweating… But I always end up completing these games too fast… And while my first inclination is to run through these horribly scary environments as fast as I can, I’ve made the right choice. Visceral Games has given us something worth taking our time.

dead-space-3-ice-planetThere are enough reviews of Dead Space 3 out there right now, so I won’t go into too much detail, suffice it to say that the game has its faults… But you barely notice them. One of the biggest complaints for this iteration is the action-heavy theme this time around. Making Isaac more maneuverable, able to duck and roll and climb ladders, the significant jump in ammo count, but these aren’t just thrown in… I was never happy with the Resident Evil-style slow-walking Isaac from the first game, with his stiff movements and unconventional weaponry. These “changes” feel more like fixes to me, but that’s just my opinion. They haven’t turned Dead Space into Mass Effect… This game is straight up terrifying… And I like horror. I live for the thrill, the jump, the yelp. Dead Space takes it to a whole new level. See, one thing other reviewers are missing is the bigger picture here… And I think it’s because a lot of reviewers have a quota. dead-space-3-pc-1343203492-020They have to rush through and finish 3 or 4 times to test out what most consumers can take weeks, even months to savor… And that’s when I realize that Dead Space, while action-packed this time around, is meant to be savored.

It’s a feast for the senses. A gruesome, suspenseful, and epic sci-fi adventure that takes Isaac and his crew across the galaxy chasing the origins of the marker conspiracy. It looks bright and colorful on my LCD, and nearly flawless on the plasma screen. The crowded corridors and giant machinery of the environments are all accented by the scariest soundtrack I have ever heard in my life. Seriously, turn up the levels on your surround speakers a little and it practically drops you into the game. Noises like creaking ducts, slamming doors, awesome weapons, and all manner of beeps, blips, and alarms fill the scene… But it’s the whispers that truly freak me out. Dead-Space-3-PS3-610x400One of the main aspects of the plot is how the marker gets into people’s’ minds and seeps poison that drives them to insanity and murder. These whispers make you want to turn the game down, it’s that creepy.

I want to stress how visually stunning this game is. It’s easy to forget the graphics in a horror game where everything is dark and gory with disturbing monsters jumping out of nearby air ducts to surprise you as you walk down a seemingly safe passageway… But in Dead Space 3 there is a moment in the first few chapters, when Isaac must use his engineering smarts to fix up a 200-year-old space ship from a floating junkyard in orbit… This is genius level designing… Various half-wrecked hulks and abandoned space stations all connected by a handy little taxi system that lets you explore a staggering amount of free-roaming space… And the best part? It’s all in zero-gravity.

DeadSpace3-4

When Isaac emerges from the taxi to see the ancient spaceship graveyard for the first time, standing on a flimsy metal platform that overlooks the never-ending debris field that orbits a mysterious and stunningly rendered planet… It’s nothing less than poetry. It’s a special kind of magic that only video games can give you, and that’s when you forget you’re playing a game. It’s when you’re transported into the screen. Isaac and EllieWhen you’re actually standing on that flimsy metal platform, with the abyss of space before you. You can feel that first step off the platform…  The vertigo is real… The suspense is maddening. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of pop art that deserves more praise and analysis than I can give. With an intricate plot, professional acting, outstanding graphics, intense gameplay… However it ends I know it’ll leave me wanting more. This is Dead Space.