The Other Two – Season 3 Review

Well, this marks the end of The Other Two. I’m sad to see the show go, because it never did course-correct after an outstanding first season. Subsequent seasons have been progressively less funny, partly because the jokes haven’t been as strong and, in Season 3’s case, the story has simply become too dramatic. The fight between Brooke and Lance, for instance, was kinda devastating. I love Lance as a character, so it was painful to watch Brooke be such an asshole to him this season. I have similar feelings about Cary and how he treated his BFF, Curtis. I understand that one of the show’s main themes is how show biz ruins relationships, but turning your protagonists into such unlikable and irredeemable monsters is maybe not the best choice. Sure, Cary and Brooke both come around in the end, but the change of heart feels hollow given everything we saw prior in the season.

And, oh boy, this season was all over the place. While it’s true that the story has very serious beats, the humor has gotten way sillier. There were a couple of episodes in particular that were honestly too much. Like, Brooke attends an industry party where non-industry people are literally invisible? I mean, it’s kind of funny, but the sudden shift into cartoony hijinks really took me out of it. Same with the episode that spoofed Pleasantville (and, come on, is Pleasantville that relevant to pop culture?). The only gag that really landed for me was the pretentious theater play that went on for days, and people started showing up in their pajamas or bringing their laptops as they lost interest in the play but felt obligated to still go. That’s the perfect balance of being outlandish enough to be funny but not so outlandish that it breaks reality. Unfortunately, The Other Two forgot how to walk that line as of late, and now the show’s over…

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Review

I’m not a fan of this new trend where they split a story into two movies but downplay the fact that the first movie is only “Part One.” Though I did enjoy hearing half the theater erupt into audible swearing when the credits rolled after a significant cliffhanger. I knew from other reviewers what to expect going in, so it didn’t faze me as much as the rest of the audience, but I still wish studios would be more upfront about this. Or, hey, why not write better scripts that can individually end each movie in a trilogy on a satisfying note! The first Spider-Verse felt like a complete movie, after all. I had no idea we were even going to get a sequel. But I don’t want to dwell on the trilogy-ness too much, because, while the cliffhanger does deflate some of the excitement you might feel immediately after watching the movie, it’s still a pretty fun movie.

For one, I love that studios are finally taking risks with animation and pushing the envelope beyond “stock 3D.” We pretty much have the first Spider-Verse movie to thank for that, a movie that obviously inspired the new Puss in Boots aesthetic. But Across the Spider-Verse goes even harder and plays with so many different styles. Admittedly, some of the action is a bit hard to follow because of it. There’s one character who looks more like a flipbook of sketches that is really cool to see but also clashes heavily with everything around him (and yes, I know, this was thematically appropriate). There are also scenes where Gwen and her dad are talking, and every time the camera changes, the colors and background patterns change, as well. It’s a neat touch but can also be disorienting if you’re not on board with this “anything goes” style of animation.

Story-wise, Across the Spider-Verse is pretty solid, too. Maybe my only complaint (aside from the obvious cliffhanger at the end) is that the movie feels like it has two beginnings. We start with Gwen and spend a long time with her before the movie resets and shows us what Miles has been up to. I understand the choice to do this, because Gwen and Miles basically have equal footing as protagonists now, but it means it takes that much longer for the actual story to get going. You do get to know both characters really well, though, and their motivations and the stakes they face make perfect sense. It’s hard to do multiverse stories right, because the multiverse can be such a cop-out. But the way it’s presented here, how each universe’s Spider-Man must hit certain beats or that whole universe explodes, has been fun to watch unfold.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom Review

I went into this game completely blind, ’cause I’m a Zelda fanboy and knew I’d buy it regardless. So the first few hours really caught me off guard with just how disappointing they were. Then at some point, everything finally clicked, and I got totally sucked in. I’ve now spent over 50 hours with the game and will put in at least another 20 before calling it quits. So, yes, ultimately, Tears of the Kingdom is a great game, and a better game than Breath of the Wild, but the reasons are not so obvious. First, the tutorial area in Tears is a downright slog compared to BotW. It really sets the wrong tone and presents too linear of a structure for a game that likes to tease “freedom.” Even after you touch down on the main world, you still have to follow the story quests for a fair bit to unlock key gameplay elements. I would never want to restart this game from scratch because of it.

The other off-putting thing about Tears was the new Ultrahand ability that lets you build contraptions by gluing objects together. Frankly, Ultrahand is a clunky pain in the butt. I appreciate that many of the shrines are designed to teach you all of the creative ways Ultrahand can be used, but I more often than not just cheesed my way through their intended solutions. If you remove Ultrahand, though, it kinda feels like Tears doesn’t have much more to offer over BotW. They both use the exact same overworld and four-temple narrative, with Tears adding a paltry number of floating islands in the sky. Big whoop. Tears also introduces an underworld, though, that feels both empty and pointless, yet mysterious and full of secrets. It’s hard to explain, but I loved and hated exploring this underworld. It is anxiety-inducing, for sure, but I would purposefully get lost down there for hours just to see what else it might be hiding from me.

The overworld itself adds extra touches in the form of explorable caves and wells, with these often leading to special collectibles that certain characters will trade you for. It’s a better reward system than finding yet another weapon that you either don’t have the inventory space for… or you do, but what’s the point, it’s just gonna break in the next fight, anyway. Unfortunately, Nintendo did little to improve the combat in this game, and I still found it easier to avoid confrontations as much as possible. But there are many other improvements that go a long way to making this a better sequel. There’s a huge amount of actual side quests, a camera that’s used in more interesting ways than just “fill album,” this random dork brain who consistently needs help with basic physics, etc. The amount of content is reminiscent to Fenyx Rising, where there was something to do around every corner. It’s been hell for my short attention span, but in 50+ hours, I haven’t once been bored.

The Last of Us – Season 1 Review

I haven’t played the Last of Us games, which has made following discussions about the show difficult. Every thread is full of comments like, “The actors on the show blink, and the characters in the game blink. They thought of everything!” To be fair, it does sound like the show is a faithful adaptation of the game, but that doesn’t mean much to me. So when viewed as a show first, it’s… okay. The Last of Us is basically what The Walking Dead was like during its post Season 1 peaks. The Walking Dead was never an amazing show, though, and I don’t think The Last of Us is amazing, either. Sure, all of the pieces are there. Great acting (save for one freedom fighter leader who falls a bit flat). Believable apocalyptic set pieces and backdrops. Scary zombies. Tense action moments. And, of course, the classic message that “humans are the real monsters.” Oh, that message is hammered in so hard, you’ll end the show not really knowing who to root for.

And yes, I know, that’s the whole point. I don’t think you are necessarily supposed to like Joel, just understand his motivations given the state of the world. I guess what holds the show back for me is that a lot of the character development we should have gotten with him (and Ellie) is instead given to side characters who often only show up for one episode. You could approach this as more of an anthology series, where Joel and Ellie are merely the connective thread, and that’d be fine. But then the moments with Joel and Ellie that are supposed to pack a lot of weight… don’t. For instance, Episode 3 is definitely a standout episode that follows two dudes finding love at the end of the world. These two only had a passing relationship with Joel, though, and they never meet Ellie, so their story feels abruptly placed and inconsequential. Don’t get me wrong, I liked that episode, and I like a lot of the show’s other “pieces.” I just wish it all fit together better.

Half an Orange – Mostly We Grow Old Trilogy Review

I first heard Half an Orange’s song, “Scared,” a few years ago and liked it a lot. I could never get into the rest of the band’s discography, though. I’d try again whenever “Scared” came up on a Spotify playlist, but nothing ever stuck. However, after they released the Mostly We Grow Old Trilogy that consolidated many of their EPs and singles, I figured I’d give them one last chance. And boy howdy, it all finally clicked. The lyrics in almost every song pine over the nostalgic days of video games and childhood friends. It’s hit me pretty hard, since—as someone nearing 40—I’m constantly looking back on better days myself. I don’t know how old the Half an Orange guys are. I assume they’re younger than me, because Halo is mentioned in the song “Time Travel Kool Aid.” But the sentiment is still painfully relatable.

I know it’s easy to score points with nostalgia these days, though, and the album has more to offer than just that. It’s generally very catchy electropop. I think what originally turned me off was the sometimes overly auto-tuned vocals. There’s so much more going on in each song, though, once you get past that. I can even hear hints of The Knocks and ODESZA at times, which is absolutely a compliment. It’s actually kind of hard to pick a favorite song. “Scared” would have been an obvious choice, but I’ve grown just as fond of “Old Friends,” “Sit Like a Flamingo”, and “Given Up.” The only weak link here is the last song, “End of the Moon.” It’s on the slower side and doesn’t do anything interesting, unlike an earlier song, “Buzz Lightyear,” that’s equally slow but offsets this with some great instrumental moments. “Buzz Lightyear” pretty much encompasses my overall thoughts: come for the lyrics but stay for the beats.

Stray Review

I hate to be “that guy,” but Stray is kinda overrated. The hype surrounding this game was huge. But here’s the thing… what people were raving about—getting to explore a post-human city as a cat—is pretty great. However, all these fans failed to mention that such exploration is only half the game. The other half is dedicated first to running away from flesh-eating aliens, and second to sneaking around security bots. Both of these seem like very weird elements to introduce to a game whose selling feature is “cute cat.” I can’t imagine anybody saw the somewhat misleading trailers for Stray and thought, “I sure hope there are aliens that can eat him!” I understand the aliens are integral to the story the developers wanted to tell, but there’s a way to make their presence known without making them a Game Over-able threat to the player. The alien sections (and, to a lesser extent, the security bot sections) are simply not fun.

Fortunately, the game is saved when it actually delivers on its promises. There are two sections in particular where you get to freely roam through a robot-populated neighborhood and solve environmental puzzles. I loved these moments. Exploring the buildings from the perspective of a cat is definitely fun, but it’s also interesting just to uncover the world’s mysteries and meet the various robotfolk. I only wish the game had double-downed on the cat stuff and not introduced a flying robot sidekick. Once this robot joins you, it no longer matters that you’re a cat. The robot translates and exposits everything for you to the point where the journey is more about him now than you. The developers could have told the same story exclusively through the eyes of the cat, and it would have been amazing. As is, I feel like their insistence on getting you to understand the plot prevents the gameplay from being able to truly shine.