Evan's Thoughts On Movies, Games and TV

My name is Evan Ramirez and this Tumblr is for anyone who's interested in movies, television, video games and occasionally music. I'll post my thoughts on current or past TV, review films and discuss video games.

My New Website Has Launched

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Hello everyone. I wanted to let you all know that I created a website that is now live. It’s www.cobess.com. My goal at Controlled Obsession is to provide readers with news and reviews about movies, TV and video games while providing insightful analysis. For those of you in Los Angeles, I’ll be providing new articles every day highlighting movies I think you should see that are playing around the city. If you have liked my work here on my Tumblr, I hope that you’ll follow me over to my new site and spread the word . Thanks a lot, and enjoy!

Awkward. Creator Announces She’s Leaving After Season 3

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It’s sad when a great series is on a network that’s often mocked. In the case of Awkward., the reputation that MTV has garnered over the past few years hasn’t given the shows’ fans an easy way to convince their friends to give the comedy a chance.

While certain viewers haven’t caught on, MTV seems to have faith in the show, most notably when it provided the series with a 20-episode season order, in comparison to the twelve which its first two seasons got. However, good news doesn’t last forever, and today it was announced that creator Lauren Iungerich is set to leave the series after it wraps its third season tomorrow.

The series, which follows the life of a teenager as she struggles to overcome an embarrassing stigma, has grown into one of the TV’s finest teen comedies, as well as the best display of facial expressions on television. Just a few weeks ago the series ended the first half of its season with a stunner of an episode, and time will tell if Iungerich is able to wrap up her involvement in the series in the way she wanted to.

The second half of the third season is set to air in October, and while Iungerich’s absence will be missed if there is a season four, which seems likely as MTV is actively seeking a new showrunner, at least fans have ten new episodes to look forward to under the creator’s guidance.

Steam Greenlight Game ‘Routine’ Receives Oculus Rift Support

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On the same day that the four person development team over at Lunar Software released a new alpha gameplay trailer for their first game, Routine, some other big news came from the team. Designer and artist over at Lunar Software, Aaron Foster, tweeted out today that Routine will be supported by the Oculus Rift. For those unaware of what the Oculus Rift is, it’s a virtual reality display that you wear as goggles to be used with video games.

When the Oculus Rift was announced, people of course sent in lists of games they wanted to see supported, and horror games always seemed to pop up. It’s a bit surprising, but honestly, it seems like the perfect kind of game to show off the product. Horror games are often the most atmospheric and easily the most creepy, so to be fully immersed within a game due to the Oculus Rift seems like a truly one of a kind experiences.

Routine was one of the first games to pop up on Steam Greenlight, and has since provided gamers with something to look forward to based on screenshots alone. It turned out to be one of the only horror games to stand out amongst the crowd.

Now an have a alpha gameplay trailer has been released, and it looks just as promising as said stills. It’s unclear if the game will make it to any consoles, but seeing as Sony has opened their arms to indie developers, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see it pop up there on the PS4 if the developers were willing to port it.

Gameplay footage: http://youtu.be/iAcAd1fUiy8

Paul Giamatti to Appear on “Downton Abbey”

After a very shaky third season which saw the departure of several key actors, the hit import drama Downton Abbey just received a bit of a boost and a slight nod to those fans that might have been ready to check out. It was announced that Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti will be joining the cast. While a seasoned actor and a familiar face might give hope to some, the series track record so far, which is to say minimal, hasn’t been great in utilizing star actors.

The shining example came last season when Shirley MacLaine arrived for the wedding of Matthew and Lady Mary. Whatever potential was there for that guest role was completely missed, as there was simply too much going on to really care about her appearance, especially while a storyline was unfolding that many fans had been waiting two years for.

Nonetheless, Giamatti’s acceptance of the role, where he’ll play Cora’s (Elizabeth McGovern) brother, seems like a step in the right direction. Currently it sounds like he’s set to appear in the season four finale, and whether that leads to a recurring role in season five is anyone’s guess. With a role in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and simply being a star of his caliber, it seems unlikely.

Top Blu-ray Release of the Week – 6/25/13

For film and television fans, Tuesdays are often the best days out of the week. The day brings new releases of TV seasons and movies, and the wide variety of said releases from smaller distributors are allowing consumers to pick up a wide variety of content on a weekly basis. For the week of 6/25/13, a cult classic from the early 60s pops up overseas.

My top pick of the week comes from the UK and one of top specialist labels out there, Arrow Video. The film in question is Jack Hill’s Spider Baby, a wonderful slice of 60s cinema. I caught the film last September at an Academy screening where it played on a double bill with Carnival of Souls, and I couldn’t have been more enamored by both.

What might have been most impressive about both screenings was the fact that the new 35mm prints that the Academy were showcasing were absolutely stunning. Early reports regarding the Blu-ray give top marks in the video department, and if Arrow utilized that new print, I can honestly say that I’m not surprised.

The film is really one of the oddest pictures you can find, and to see it available on Blu-ray makes me very happy. Lon Chaney Jr. gives a fascinating performance in a movie that many will consider over the top (and rightfully so). The film doesn’t have some deep meaning, but rather provides a fun time for those that simply embrace the out-there nature of the entire picture. The disc is Region B locked, but if you have a region free player, I highly suggest adding Spider Baby to your collection.

"Battlefield 4" - Frostbite 3 Trailer Impressions

Today DICE and EA released a trailer of sorts that demonstrates and showcases some of the innovations that the Frostbite 3 engine has in store. The trailer was similar to what Infinity Ward put out about a month ago for Call of Duty: Ghosts, expect it features certain aspects of the game that might actually appeal to gamers and not be turned into memes right after it hits the web.

While many will be sad that there’s no fish AI present in the trailer from DICE, there is a feature that they’re calling “dynamic ocean combat”. The engine allows players to see “the same wave in the same position at the same time.” It’s a pretty remarkable feature when you think about it, as it’s something that could drastically effect your gameplay in ways that you might never have even considered.

In the same way that the best use of 3D immerses the audience within a movie, such as Life of Pi or Avatar, it seems like that’s what DICE are going for here. They’re calling it “seamless reality”, and it fits that description perfectly. This aspect of the engine seems to tie into what was discussed before, involving the ocean combat.

For example, in the video they talk about having a jet fall into the ocean, and the ocean reacting to that by creating waves. That simple action blends those two aspects that DICE seem to be striving for, and in turn, help highlight both in ways that might very well provide players with new experiences that not only provide something nice to look at, but something to react to.

Currently “Frostbite 3” is trending on Twitter, and none of top tweets mention anything damning in the way that came with the Call of Duty: Ghosts video. Gamers will call you out if they think what you’re presenting is a joke, and at first glance it looks like no one’s thinking that here. Time will tell if all of these aspects highlighted in the video will come to fulfill their early potential and prosper in-game, but as a teaser it looks to be worth the price of admission.

E3 Discussion (The Games)

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In the next couple of days I’ll post a companion article to this piece that primarily focuses on the new consoles. I know that’s a hot button issue but there’s still a lot to be discussed, and outside of the new hardware, there were a lot of great games showcased at E3 this year.

I’m going to select a handful of games that grabbed me the most. What’s surprising is that going through this list now, it’s interesting to see how similar some of their trailers are. Whether it be in the actual structure of their trailer or the game itself, there are some similarities that can’t be denied.

The Division (Multiplatform)

In the last two years there have been two games that seemed to have galvanized audiences the minute they were shown, and in ways that other games didn’t. Last year the game in question was Ubisoft’s Watch_Dogs. That game was still present at the conference, but this year, Ubisoft dropped another bomb on us that was also a new IP, The Division.

The game capped off their press conference, and what a way to end it. The graphics were one of the clear standouts of the game but the gameplay itself also looked solid. What might have been the most impressive aspect of the onstage demo was the UI. The map itself, as well as the way the player’s names were displayed, all looked incredibly clean and polished for a game that was being shown to the world for the first time.

One of the most talked about aspects of the gameplay presentation turned out to be the voices that appeared while the demo was being played. It had people wondering if they were in-game or just regular people chatting. It’s come to be known that it was just normal people, but the way they sold it really worked. It’s still a bit unclear if Ubisoft is going to sell The Division as an MMO or just another multiplayer game, but either way, what has been shown so far has been extremely impressive and a scene stealer in many regards.

Rain (PS3)

Rain (pictured) might be one of the more striking games presented at E3 this year. If you’ve seen it before it can be easily recognizable based on its appearance alone. The style will draw anyone in who’s tired of the rather simplistic color pallet that seems to be present in a lot of games, or even for those who are looking for something that offers a change of pace by simply providing a game presented in black and white. It’s a simple thing to give to an audience but it’s so rarely ever seen in video games that once it’s actually shown you want to see more.

The uniqueness in the overall look of the game makes it seem like said uniqueness could be present in the entire game as well. The gameplay looked unlike almost all other titles being shown off at the con, give or take a few (specifically Contrast). The thing that leaves the biggest question mark is whether the gameplay is able to match the clear-cut style of product.

Transistor (PS4 & PC)

Like Rain, another game that has been known about for a little while is Transistor, the newest product from the creators of Bastion. While there’s gameplay videos out there, what really grabbed me was the two-minute long trailer featured in Sony’s press conference.

It featured the musical talents of Ashley Barrett, who will be providing the soundtrack for the rest of the game. During the trailer the music never overpowered the gameplay on screen, but rather complimented it in ways that seem to be difficult for games to do. If Supergiant Games can walk that tight rope and create a truly special experience that relies heavily on music, I think audiences will be in for something special.

Much Ado About Nothing (2013) - Movie Review

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There’s something pleasing about having a movie like Much Ado About Nothing get made in what, from an outsider’s perspective, is the product of a love from a filmmaker who truly wanted to create it from the start. I guess after seeing movies so often go through many difficulties on their way to being released makes it refreshing to see a movie like this get made in two weeks time from an idea that a husband and wife had.

It’s simple when you think about it really. Decide that you’re going to use your vacation time after a seventh month shoot to film a little movie with a group of your close friends (many of whom just happen to be actors), and shoot it in a familiar place. The end product oozes with familiarity, whether it be because of the comradery between the cast and crew or simply because you might know these somewhat unknown actors. Due to that aspect of the picture you’ll end up feeling more connected to them.

Much Ado About Nothing is a modern retelling of the famous story about two couples who have very different views about love and relationships.

Anyone who isn’t that familiar with William Shakespeare might have a little trouble getting acclimated early on in the picture. However, after the first two scenes, chances are you’ll have a hold on the dialogue. Whedon gives into the play and with good reason, as it’s nearly perfect in many regards. The film is driven by these two “couples”, yet it’s often the antics surrounding them that make for the most enjoyment.

There was no need to divert from the original text and thankfully Whedon doesn’t do that. It’s a simple setup, as there’s really only one major set to film at. However, he does update it and provides a bit of a modern twist, though there’s nothing overtly contemporary about it. Only a few things like a wedding photographer or music being played via a stereo pop up, but outside of that, nothing of that ilk ends up affecting the story, thankfully.

There are a lot of things going for Much Ado About Nothing. Right off the bat is that there’s a fan favorite director doing something completely different than what he’s normally known for. Couple that with the fact that he’s coming off one of the biggest movies ever, The Avengers, and to think that he made this only weeks after filming wrapped on that makes it even more difficult to fathom.

What’s most pleasing about this is that there’s a feeling of happiness for those who are fans of Whedon’s work. It’s a sense that allows them to rest easy knowing that he still has time and, most importantly, interest, in these smaller projects. If there were ever a doubt in your mind about that, Much Ado About Nothing will rid you of those fears.

Secondly, there’s the enjoyment of watching all of these actors who, if you’re familiar with Whedon’s work, you’ll be to recognize many. One of the strongest attributes of Whedon’s projects are that they’re oftentimes filled with many of the people he seems to trust and like. In turn, he usually gets fantastic performances out of them.

It’s definitely the case here, and it’s such a joy to see someone like Amy Acker get a leading role. She’s wonderfully playful as Beatrice and she utilizes Shakespeare’s dialogue so well that you can do nothing but smile when she goes off on her little tangents about marriage.

That could actually be said for the entire movie, and is equally as effective when Alexis Denisof does it as well. The final product makes you end up feeling like you’re just sitting back with a group of friends, watching a play unfold in front of you.

It’s a hilarious movie, though it does have some pretty heavy scenes, most notably Hero and Claudio’s wedding. The film is at its best when it focuses on Beatrice (Acker) and Benedick (Denisof), and the scenes where the others are trying to set the two up without them knowing it are among the most enjoyable parts of the movie.

There are a handful of truly wonderful scenes. Among them involves something as simple as a party, yet with the inclusion of imagery like trapeze artists hanging from up above, Whedon takes us through the party to the various characters, and we just get to listen in on their conversations.

The stark use of black and white works beautifully in the night scenes, and overall it’s highly effective in the same way as another recent indie film, Frances Ha. Both utilize it as an aesthetic choice in a way that never comes off as pretentious, but rather fresh and pleasing to the eye in a time where audiences too often beg for more action.

I know it’s a crazy thing to hope that current writers can emulate what Shakespeare did, but something like Much Ado About Nothing is just spot-on in almost every aspect, and thankfully Whedon’s adaptation is able to handle it. It’s the perfect kind of romantic comedy, and all of the actors do a tremendous job of bringing these wild characters to life in a way that’s refreshing and not boring.

If Much Ado About Nothing is an indication, I hope Whedon continues to make huge blockbusters in hopes that he keeps creating small, indie Shakespeare movies after each major blockbuster with the people that he works so well with.

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAMsDP_DMHE

Much Ado About Nothing is in theaters now.

Why Hannibal Is One of the Best Series on TV

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While it has only aired ten episodes, Hannibal (pictured) has quickly cemented itself as one of the finest shows on television. In the countless years that I’ve been watching television, I can count on one hand the amount of times that I’ve been so instantly engrossed by a series, and not since Community’s first season has that happened.

While it was on the bubble for the longest of any of the network TV shows, its renewal came as a joyous announcement for those watching the series as it aired. Those who have been watching it know of its problems in the ratings department, and with such an already devoted fanbase, they didn’t want to have another early cancellation on their hands, only to see it become a massive hit that somehow only produced a handful of episodes, ala Firefly, after the fact.

The cinematography in Hannibal is largely touted as it’s single greatest aspect, at least aesthetically wise, and while there’s no arguing against that, it’s much more than a pretty picture. Though, while were on the subject, the way the show is filmed makes it, without a doubt, the most most beautiful series on the air.

It’s odd to say that a series that focuses on something that we’ve seen many times on TV before, that being a police procedural focusing on serial killers, is somehow gorgeous, but it really is. When the show isn’t focusing on crime scenes, what could be looked upon as rather mundane and dreary sets, such as Hannibal’s office, are often some of the most interesting of the sets that are in the show.

While shows like Game of Thrones might have the better scenic locales, the way rather normal scenarios are presented in Hannibal are so impressive that you’ll often forget you’re watching a TV series and not a movie.

It’s a vicious series that will have you questioning how showrunner Bryan Fuller was able to get Hannibal on network television. When the first episode premiered, and even months before it aired, skepticism was high.

Another show focusing on a serial killer had already aired earlier in the year (The Following), and to disastrous reviews. While it got those bad reviews it had monster ratings. And what do you know, the complete opposite is happening with Hannibal.

Regarding the network television aspect, the worry wasn’t so much on the content as was the ability to correctly do it right on one of the major four channels. Truth is, it’s actually working perfectly fine on NBC. I don’t really see how different it would be, outside of a few longer, lingering shots (according to Fuller) on certain crime scenes, but outside of that, I doubt much would probably have been changed.

What might be my favorite aspect about the show is the way it has balanced Will’s (Hugh Dancy) perception of reality while intertwining vivid hallucinations. It’s a truly amazing thing to watch. It reminds me of an equally ambitious series and one that, in a way, mirrors a lot of what Hannibal is doing. Awake, which was in a very similar situation as Hannibal last year, saw its main character having a problem in that same vein.

It’s in those scenes, which can often dominate an episode due to how visceral they are in nature, where everything is firing on all cylinders. The most previous episode, for example, entitled “Buffet Froid”, was a Will-heavy episode, and in turn, featured a lot of him struggling with lapses in time, as well as perceiving what was real and what wasn’t.

The greatest example of these lapses in time, as well as hallucinations, came in last week’s episode. The most effective involved Will gutting a fish, only to find himself transported to a crime scene where he’s holding down a bloodied girl. After figuring out where he is he struggles to get up and finally comes to his senses.

This scene, along with the another scene in that episode, where Will finds himself in the woods after heading back to the previous crime scene is simply entrancing. He begins to repeat a phrase that Hannibal had taught him in hopes of grounding him in reality, yet he still tries to grasp how he even got there.

Dancy’s performance is strong, and he brings a new dimension to what might be considered a cliched archetype, that being the struggling, flawed outsider that’s looked upon as being an unstable liability. As good as Dancy might be, the entire cast is just as strong. Mads Mikkelsen will be appearing to many Americans for the first time, and is diving in head first in what many consider a role that has already produced one of the best performances ever.

He’s brilliant in his own way, and makes it completely separate from what Anthony Hopkins did in The Silence of the Lambs. He’s much more calm and laid back, and it’s not nearly as theatrical. You often forget that he’s the center of the show simply due to how strong his performance is, and one that will no doubt get him an Emmy nomination.

Fuller has mentioned how he has a seven season plan for Hannibal, and hopefully it will come to be fully realized. I can also say that I’m happy that it got a thirteen episode pickup, and not a full 20-plus episode order. Not only will it most likely be able to maintain a higher quality due to this, thanks to tighter storytelling and less room for filler, but it also provides a bit of a nod to those who wish it were on cable, mimicking the amount of episodes that’s most common for shows on cable.

It’s stunning to see a show that I had virtually no interest in hit me so hard right from the start. It’s a series that has certain qualities that are unmatched by other television shows, and oftentimes, even movies. Fuller and his crew are providing massive amounts of detail to everything going on behind the scenes, and it shows in the end result.

Hannibal is a stunning piece of television and a truly audacious and challenging psychological thriller that has been able to avoid various pitfalls and cliches that tend to plague so many other series currently on the air.

42 - Movie Review

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The bad thing that often arises in a film like 42 is that it tends to go over a lot of things that have already been covered in various other movies. Sports films by themselves are amongst the most cliche-ridden in cinema. The fact is, 42 doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the pack.

42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson and his historic signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

When you watch a live sporting event, you don’t often think about the direction. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that’s rarely ever talked about, yet it’s still there and contributing largely to the overall enjoyment that people get out of it. It’s funny to think about that when you then go see a sports movie that’s also so largely dependent on direction, yet that’s on your mind more so than in the other instance.

The acting in the film isn’t particularly noteworthy, though Alan Tudyk, who’s most well known for his work with Joss Whedon, gives the most surprising performance. Part of his scene (and his character) feels like it’s done for shock value, but it’s also one of the most compelling scenes in the movie. Simply put, he just goes for it, and in a film that’s too often stiff, it’s a welcome sight.

While Jackie Robinson is a towering figure in sports and, as the entire point of the movie is, in society as well, the overall product that’s presented amounts to too much that has already come across our movie screens.

Oddly enough, the scene that garnered the strongest response from me wasn’t really a scene at all, but rather a single shot. It was during Jackie’s first major league game, and as the national anthem is being sung, we get a rather conventional shot (if you watch baseball), of the teams lined up outside of the dugout.

This was different, however, as the stark contrast of Jackie’s presence was highlighted as he stood between dozens of white men as a single black man. It’s more powerful than many of the speeches that pop up throughout the film, yet it last about five seconds.

The film is structured like any biopic, and doesn’t really try to do anything new. It’s a shame, since something innovative could have easily been presented. Sadly, it feels like biopics are falling into the same traps that romantic comedies do, the most glaring being the predictable structure of the entire movie.

Honestly, 42 is just an average movie. It doesn’t do anything egregious to warrant attention, yet it doesn’t do anything innovative to turn heads. It’s simply a film that’s just in existence, and one that will most likely end its days in reruns on cable.

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Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hww-Xxbud0

42 is in theaters now.