Category Archives: Jumping the Soapbox

Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2017 (Part 2)

Are you ready to close the book on 2017 once and for all?  I certainly am, and with this last look back at the games I played for the first time that year, I can not only close that book but toss into a fire and then kick it a few times for good measure!  But hey, I guess not EVERYTHING was bad that year; even if half the games I’m referencing in this list are from different years altogether!  Heck, even the bad ones managed to distract me from the nonsense going on in the world every freaking agonizing day, so why not take one last look at them to see what we can learn from them?  Let’s get started!!

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Sonic 06

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Developed by Sonic Team

Here’s the thing about this game which I played for the very first time in 2017.  As much as it has the reputation of being THE WORST GAME EVER, it honestly isn’t THAT bad of a time.  It’s not GOOD by any stretch, but I never found it to be flawed enough to be more than just boring which is STILL better than offensive garbage like Hatred or Call of Juarez: The Cartel.  Heck, on a fundamental functional level, I actually found it to be sounder than something like The Evil Within which ALWAYS felt extremely uncomfortable to play; like it was some sort of facsimile of a video game made by people who had only ever heard of such a thing.  Sonic 06 is absolutely terrible, but in the pantheon of bad games I find it to be more amusing than painful which I GUESS is an achievement of sorts; just ask Tommy Wiseau!  Sonic is always a fascinating character to think about as there’s something… engrossing about him and the myriad of stuff that has built up around him, and maybe it’s this weirdly unique identity that has allowed it to preserver despite numerous setbacks like this game, Sonic Boom, and even the rather poorly received Sonic Forces.  The fact that ANY character survived the monstrosity that this game ended up being (even if I don’t think it’s THE WORST thing ever) is a testament to the longevity of Sonic’s success and the way he managed to connect with fans.  It’d be impressive if it weren’t for the fact that it basically let Sega get away with releasing such terrible games with impunity.

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Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2017 (Part 1)

I tend to play a lot of video games whenever I’m procrastinating on whatever movie review I desperately need to get finished, or whenever I need to settle the existential panic of the world collapsing around us in some horrifying slow motion train wreck that many of us have been cheering on for terrible reasons and everyone else is trying desperately to prevent.  Needless to say that this was a VERY good year for constant escapism, but that’s not all that video games are good for considering how many great can be just as life changing and inspiring as any movie, television show, book, or other creative work!  Some games I enjoyed this year, others I hated, and most of them didn’t actually come out in 2017, but I’m gonna talk about all of them anyway because it’s the start of a new year and we ALWAYS have to take just a few looks back before we can head into the future!  Let’s get started!!

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Cuphead

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Developed by StudioMDHR Entertainment

I don’t get it.  I don’t get how THIS game, which truthfully is pretty good, managed to be yet another hill for the ETHICS IN BULLSHIT crowd to rally around for whatever perceived grievances that supposed haters had with the game.  I’ll tell you right now that, while I love the art direction and think the game play is solid (if not OVERLY inspired), the difficulty is a legitimate detriment to the game.  Never in my life have I heard people defend so vociferously the idea that a game being overly frustrating isn’t an actual flaw in the experience; especially since that’s basically been the consensus  for over a decade now when it comes to critiquing retro games.  Just look at any given AVGN video and chances are you’ll find that one of the major breaking points for the guy is an unforgiving difficulty!  Maybe this is a conversation that NEEDED to happen regarding accessibility (especially for those with disabilities) and how much a potential lack of inclusivity should impact how we evaluate and rate games which will hopefully be one positive outcome of this whole fiasco.  To me, the problem could have been sidestepped entirely if they bothered to have an ACTUAL easy mode instead of the fake one in the game right now where you CANNOT PROGRESS IF YOU USE THAT MODE!  I would have been annoyed if the game just had the one level of difficulty (which is extremely hard), but the fact that they put in a mode that the developers clearly have no respect for (why else would they gate keep progression?) is what got my blood to boil and made the whole experience that much more miserable.  This is a really solid run and gun game with amazing bosses and a very cool art style (which in and of itself is a conversation worth having that the gamer babies were up in arms about), but I can say with absolute confidence and certainty that the game is worse for not having difficulty levels so that players of all skill can enjoy it.

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Jumping the Soapbox: Halloween and Chill! 5 Awesome Specials for a Stress Free Playlist!

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The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

Halloween is the season of frights, monsters, cheap movies, and a hedonistic approach to eating candy, but while I do enjoy all of that stuff immensely, I’m feeling a bit mellower this time around and am not in the mood to get fully immersed in the seasonal excesses.  Maybe it’s the never ending horror show of a year we’ve been having so far, or maybe it’s because I’m already seeing scary movies on a regular basis for review purposes, but the thrill of hunting down the most obscure and blood drenched VHS horror camp isn’t doing it much for me right.  Not all is doom and gloom however for those that aren’t feeling the frightful mood as I’ve compiled a list of a few Halloween themed TV specials that you can easily chillax to that will hopefully get you back into the festive mood!  Oh, and obviously Treehouse of Horror episodes are great choices for a list like this, but neither the prospect of narrowing them down or filling up the entire list with them seems like a worthwhile endeavor; especially considering how well known they are at this point.  Anyway, let’s get started!!

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3rd Rock from the Sun – Scaredy Dick (S3 E5)

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Dick Solomon, the high commander of a team of aliens in human disguises trying to learn about humanity, is now faced with a new emotion that he’ll have to find a way to deal with; IRRATIONAL FEAR!  To keep his job as a university professor he’ll need to take a physical, but for some reason he becomes extremely terrified whenever he goes into the doctor’s office.  Not helping matters is that this problem JUST SO HAPPENS to crop up right around Halloween and since he can’t deal with his ACTUAL fears, he starts being afraid of everything around him; including what appears to be a ghost haunting the apartment.

This show is one of the best sitcoms ever made and while SOME of the episodes don’t hold up (the family reunion episode has some VERY off-putting and creepy moments), the ingenious premise that allows the phenomenal cast to explore all the messy facets of humanity feels like the benchmark of what sitcoms SHOULD be striving for.  The Halloween episode is another great example of that as Dick Solomon who is played by John Lithgow is acting like a child with how fearful he becomes of everything which is hilarious to watch but also has a degree of poignancy to it with how our internalized fears and shortcomings can bleed into other aspects of our lives.  This storyline also has the benefit of focusing on Harry Solomon who is played by French Stewart (another member of the alien crew) and the way that he and John Lithgow complement each other’s vaudevillian comedy chops.  I’m not all that thrilled about the subplot with Sally and Tommy played by Kristen Johnston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (the two remaining crew members) where they’re house sitting for a coworker of Dick’s (Dr Mary Albright played by Jane Curtain) which is… FUNNY I guess, but it feels a bit too lightweight when compared to what Dick and Harry are up to at the apartment; especially when we get to the reveal of what’s ACTUALLY been haunting them.  Last time I checked the show is no longer on Netflix, but the box sets of these are INCREDIBLY cheap at this point and I’m pretty sure you can find the whole series for a measly twenty bucks, so do yourself a favor and watch ALL of the episodes, but make sure squeeze this in on the big night!

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“But what if it’s an ALIEN, Dick!?”     “Well we’re aliens too, so I’m sure we can reason with it.  Not if it has acid for blood!!”

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Jumping the Soapbox: Top 20 Episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Part 2 (10-1)

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Welcome back to my list of the best Aqua Teen Hunger Force episodes of all time!  We covered some great episodes last time, but the best is yet to come!  Well, at least what I think is the best, but then I’m always right about everything and my opinion should DEFINITELY be taken as fact!  Anyway, let’s get to it!

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10) Space Conflict from Beyond Pluto – S1 E6

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Frylock establishes contact with alien lifeforms and is invited onto their spaceship to barbeque and share a six pack.  However, the nefarious Plutonians have other plans in mind once he arrives!  Not fully thought plans, but they tend to involve melting people!  Frylock, realizing that the life he’s come into contact with may not be intelegent, beams off the ship but not before Master Shake somehow finds his way aboard; giving the Plutonians a much less perceptive target to unleash their evil schemes upon!

As I’ve said before, the incompetent conquerors from Pluto are two of the best characters the show ever came up with and this first appearance of them is one of the high points of the entire series.  It’s not just great for establishing the Plutonians and their shtick with the show concept being the melting room which also serves as some sort of holo-deck for Master Shake to explore the wonders of a sea filled with pizza as well as a horse’s anus, but it’s also a fantastic Master Shake episode on top of that with the scam he tried to pull on Carl being sharply written and laugh out loud funny.  The only thing I can say negatively about this episode is that it is in fact an early episode of the series and is at a point where Carl didn’t quite sound right which is a bit distracting, but other than that it’s a great deal of fun and a wonderful introduction to these villains.

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“Pepperoni!?  I wanted pineapple!!”

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Jumping the Soapbox: Top 20 Episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force – Part 1 (20-11)

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Aqua Teen Hunger Force and all the images you see in this editorial are the property of Adult Swim

If you were growing up right at the turn of the millennium, Cartoon Network was probably as influential to you and your taste in entertainment as YouTube is to everyone else nowadays.  The ingenious thing about that network is how seamlessly it managed to keep its audience intact for YEARS after you’d think they’d drop off simply for having such good transitional programming for those who were getting older.  It started with Toonami which brought anime and somewhat serious drama for those who were getting tired of silly stuff that the likes of Gendy Tartakovsky, Craig McCracken, and Maxwell Atoms were churning out (not to say those shows weren’t substantive; just that tweens aren’t exactly looking to those kind of shows to feel grown up), and then it led seamlessly to Adult Swim which had the naughty shows on that you craved when you were getting old enough to stay up that late.  The greatness of Adult Swim and its monumental effect on animation really cannot be underestimated, and while it’s shine has faded somewhat in recent years, we’re gonna reach a point where it’ll end up with a whole generation of animators inspired by those shows the same way that many of the creators OF those shows were inspired by Warner Bros, the Fleischers, or even Ralph Bakshi.  I really could go on about Adult Swim and so many of its shows, but today  we’re talking about probably its most enduring creatin; Aqua Teen Hunger Force.  Now sure it wasn’t among the FIRST run of series for Adult Swim (it’s somewhat a spinoff of Space Ghost Coast to Coast), it’s one of the shows that gave the programming block its identity and made it a cultural phenomenon.  In fact, it’s such a massive series with so many great episodes under its belt that I couldn’t simply make a list of the ten best episodes of the series!  No, I had to do TWENTY, and we’re gonna start with the first half that list right now!!

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20) Bible Fruit – S5 E9

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Frylock makes some new friends online and invites them over to the Aqua Teen house.  When they arrive however, he is surprised to learn that not only are they fruits but  that they have a dark past that they are trying (and failing) to overcome.

What better way to start this off than with the most disturbing fruit since those Claymation California Raisins?  In an episode that’s actually quite ahead of its time considering Sausage Party wouldn’t come out for another eight years, this hilarious and often unsettling episode looks at three fruits compensating for their problems with drugs and alcohol by having faith in a higher power.  Now the big guest star here is David Cross (along with Kristen Schaal and H Jon Benjamin) under the pseudonym Sir Willups Brightsly Moore who previously had a guest spot all the way back in season one as Happy Time Harry in the episode Dumber Dolls.  While that episode is really good and was just barely cut from this list, I feel that Cross’s performance as Bert Banana in this one is by far the better of the two.  He may have done a great job as that sad and useless piece of shit Happy Time Harry in Dumber Dolls, but the character didn’t have much depth to him and so Cross’s performance is somewhat one note.  Here, he’s given SO much more material to work with as someone TRYING to hold it together but is quick to succumb to his worst instincts.  Now I’m not sure if Cross himself has a history of alcohol dependence (his first book is called I Drink for a Reason which may just be titled that way for a goof), but his feelings on religion have been made VERY clear in his standup comedy and it almost feels like the role was written with him in mind because of that.  It may not be for everyone as making light of people with SERIOUS addition is not the kind of humor that everyone can enjoy, but it’s easily one of the best episodes with a prominent guest star and manages to find that right balance between tragedy and hilarity.

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“I did THREE of those God Damn chipmunk movies!  I’VE EARNED THIS, right Mr. Wrench!?”     “That’s right Mr. Banana!!”     “Burt, you’re talking to yourself again.”     “You know what will help with that?”     “Is it booze-”     “GET THE BOOZE!!”

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Jumping the Soapbox: Angry Joe’s Baadasssss Vlog and the Realities of Producing Content Online

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The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

With a video game media landscape full of ANGRY YOUNG MENTM screaming about women trying to take their toys and Ethics in Bullshit, Joe Vargas, (AKA Angry Joe) is one of the few voices out there I genuinely respect that positions themselves in the TRUE GAMER archetype; one that is filled to the brim with toxicity to which he’s somewhat of an anathema to.  Sure, I can’t say that I’ve agreed with EVERYTHING he’s said and done (and being THE LEAST AWFUL in that field is a pretty low bar to clear), but for all his faults he’s never come off as a bad guy or a hateful reactionary like so many of his peers; not even when he gets into ANGRY RANT MODETM.  What I’m here to talk about though, whether you like the guy or not, is bigger than this specific case and it’s an important conversation we need to have  regarding the drastic shift in the last few years of how we consume content and interact with their creators.  Okay, I PROBABLY won’t be breaking a lot of new ground here, but considering how bad Joe has gotten it in the last few months, it’s clearly a lesson that many of us could use a refresher course on.  Before we can get into that though…

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WHERE’S MY REVIEW!? – The hiatus that broke the internet

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So Angry Joe has been making videos on YouTube pretty much non-stop for a decade now, but in the last two years his channel has blown up significantly as has the content he’s producing; uploading Let’s Plays, first impressions, and (GASP!) movie reviews, to go alongside the Angry Reviews he’s known for.  Now while the production of Angry Reviews hasn’t slowed down in any significant way (2014 had thirteen reviews, 2015 had fourteen, 2016 had thirteen, and 2017 has had ten so far with the only real outlier being the twenty three reviews done in 2012), he was getting quite a bit of backlash from his subscribers about the rate at which he was releasing them and eventually he had to take a break for his own mental well-being so he can recharge his batteries and come back stronger than ever.  Now I don’t know the dude personally and really only have his own videos to go by, but considering how many reviews he’s made and the way he describes his work hours, the dude has been living on a Crunch Time schedule for the last decade and we’ve been reaping the benefits of that endless grind, so the idea that people will get upset that he’d go on vacation for a bit (even though he’s STILL producing content during it) seems ludicrous… but here we are.  He’s published four videos since December of 2016 about the growing frustration coming from this segment of his fanbase1, but none of them have done much to mollify the situation; one in particular seemingly making it worse.

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Jumping the Soapbox: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The One Where Dennis Leaves the Show

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The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

One of my favorite shows of all time is Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia which I actually came into pretty damn late into its run.  I was always aware of its existence, but I never really had a reason to sit down and watch it until around 2013 when I was stuck in bed for like two days due to a minor surgery I had and I needed something to watch to kill the time.  In an effort to fix that problem, I booted up Netflix, saw that it had like eight seasons, and figured why not?  To this day, I rarely go a week (and usually no more than a single day) without putting it on in the background of whatever it is I’m trying to do at the time which is more often than not writing stuff for the site (I’m watching Mac’s Banging the Waitress as I’m typing this… though less likely to be watching it while you’re reading this).  Sadly though for fans of Sunny, the latest season ended on a rather bittersweet note as it may in fact have been the final appearance of Glenn Howerton’s Dennis Reynolds who is STRONGLY considering leaving the show, despite it getting renewed for at least two more seasons.  Now as much as I’d hate to see him go, I don’t necessarily begrudge him for doing so considering they’ve already done twelve AMAZING seasons, and I hope he has all the success in the world with what he plans to do next which looks to be a show with Patton Oswalt where he plays a disgruntled and malicious high school teacher.  So what does this mean for fans of Sunny?  I have no idea!  Maybe they’ll hold out for him on the off chance this new show fails (the thirteen season has already been pushed back a year), or maybe they’ll try to solider on without him; hoping the remaining four members of the crew can somehow manage the burden of his absence.  For me though, this is a perfect chance to do some fun speculation on possible replacements for Howerton to either fill the void he left or to possibly even turn the show into an entirely new direction.  That is why I have listed my top five BRILLIANT ideas of who they should get to be the new fifth member of the crew, though unfortunately Schmitty is not one of them.  The ranking is mostly in terms of how much I want to see this person (or even persons) show up in the series, but I TRIED to keep the list as practical as possible.  As amazing as it would be to get Nicolas Cage, Scarlett Johansson, or Denzel Washington to be fifth member of the crew, I doubt they’ll be picking up Rob McElhenney’s calls anytime soon.

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5) Topher Grace

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Probably not the first name that comes to mind when trying to fill in an enormous gap on one of the most ingeniously crafted shows of all time, but hear me out!  We all know he played nerdy Eric Foreman for a decade and that he wasn’t all that great in Spider-Man 3, but his filmography since then has been, if not STERLING, at least interesting.  He’s REALLY good at playing slimy characters like in Predators and American Ultra which is more or less a requirement for a show like It’s Always Sunny, but what really makes him seem like a perfect fit is that he naturally exudes a sense of weakness and apathy in his performances which I know doesn’t sound like a complement but fits perfectly with the ethos of the show.  Everyone in that bar, except maybe Frank, has no direction in their life and is living in a perpetual state of denial about everything around them with Mac thinking he’s tough, Charlie thinking he’s quirky instead of a creep, and Dee failing to understand why she’s never achieved her goals (fear of rejection keeps her from making a whole hearted effort at anything).  Look at his performance in the recent Opening Night where his level headed cynicism is clearly a mask for his own insecurities and how the wackiness of everyone backstage continues to push him further and further over the edge.  Now imagine it was the crew that was pushing his buttons the whole time!  The guy seems to be getting regular work in films just outside the mainstream (his most recent role was in a Netflix movie) so I doubt he’s looking to tie himself down to a TV show, but that kind of character coupled with the horror show that is the crew at Paddy’s Pub could make for an interesting dynamic.

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