You’re A Bland One Mr. Grinch!

As I have said before, the hardest reviews to write are the ones for movies that are just okay.  There is nothing to point out that is poorly done, and there is nothing to laud.  Illumination’s The Grinch is such a film.  It is bright, the characters are cute, and the digital sets are amazing, but it is still the same story stretched over eighty-six minutes.  Which feels about forty minutes too long.

If you have read the book or watched the Chuck Jones original short, you know the story.  The titular Grinch, this time played by Benedict Cumberbatch, hates Christmas because his heart is two sizes too small, so he attempts to steal Christmas from the Christmas loving Whos down in Whoville.  Illumination attempts to add some context, so that we can at least understand why the Grinch doesn’t like Christmas, he doesn’t like it, no not at all.

I will say that at least it isn’t as horrifying as the Jim Carry/Ron Howard movie from 2000, but at least that movie is actively bad, so I can feel some emotion about it.  This 2018 Grinch attempts to delete itself from your memory as soon as you watch it.  It is kind of like paying $15 for sugar free cotton candy.  You probably will not hate it, but you should have spent your money on something else.

The biggest compliment that I can give Illumination’s The Grinch is that my four year old daughter loved it, and I think that is the target audience for this movie, so I guess they hit that mark, but we have been so spoiled lately with animation that works for adults and children, it is hard not to be disappointed with this outing.  If you need to take your family to a movie, and they can’t wait for Ralph to break the Internet, The Grinch is a family movie that exists and is fine, and even better, it is short.  Did you know you can get the Chuck Jones’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas on Blu-Ray for less than the price of a movie ticket?

Microsoft Makes The Internet Mad! But They Shouldn’t Be.

I was going to review The Grinch today, but the internet has been all in a tizzy about Microsoft’s newest studio acquisitions.  Namely Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.  There have been a lot of gifs on the subject.  A few of these:

And probably more appropriately some of these:

And while seeing these major RPG studios get gobbled up by a corporate entity known for buying studios and then closing them after a couple disappointing games seems alarming.  We all need to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.

Both of these studios were having cash problems.  It turns out for inXile making RPGs for a niche market doesn’t provide a lot of cashflow, and for Obsidian, they were also releasing niche isometric RPGs that were doing okay, but their major games like South Park were not doing a ton of business.  As we saw with TellTale, once cash gets low it only takes one mediocre round of funding, and all your employees are walking out the front door with their knickknacks in a box with no severance package.  All of the sudden a major cooperation with a lot of cash and a history of treating employees well seems like a good idea.

Not to mention for most gamers nothing changes in the short term.  Obsidian’s next untitled game is still coming out for all platforms on 2K’s new indie label Private Division, and Wasteland 3 from inXile was partially funded on Fig.co, so Microsoft will have to publish the game on all the platforms that were listed there (Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) to honor its investors.  These games getting finished was probably not a certainty a few months ago.

Now after those two games, I am sure their next games will be locked in to Microsoft platforms, but their games usually don’t push graphical boundaries, so finding a PC able to run them shouldn’t be an issue.  Better yet, so Microsoft can get some ROI we are guaranteed at least one more game from each of these devs.  Which we should all be very happy about.  Even better Brian Fargo from inXile was going to retire after Wasteland 3 came out, but now it sounds like he is sticking around for a while.  It is probably nice being able to just build a game without wondering where all the money will be coming from.

With these purchases Microsoft gains two legendary RPG houses (Even more legendary if you take in to account they used to be Black Isle Studios and Interplay Entertainment.  I mean Microsoft needs to buy the Interplay company branding like yesterday), and it gets to add a lot of games to its upcoming PC focused Game Pass, and at least two exclusive RPGs for the Xbox One X2 or whatever they will call it.  For everyone else, we get four games instead of none, and even if the studios do close, we know Microsoft will treat those employees properly while they look for their next opportunity.  What I am saying is, everyone wins, and sounds like a good deal to me.  Better yet, I am betting we are getting that Halo Universe RPG in a few short years, and that is something to be excited about.

LG OLED TVs Are The Real Deal! (Shmee Reviews An LG OLED 55B7P)

A while back you may remember that I tried to upgrade my tried and true Samsung Plasma (PN59D530) to a 4K Sharp LED (55P8000U).  It did not go well.  I should have known that a $500 TV with local dimming and HDR would be too good to be true.  However, since then I have been waiting for a deal on either a Samsung QLED or an LG OLED TV, and Woot.com came through for me with a great deal on an LG OLED 55B7P.  It has been a much better experience.

First off, it is true what they say, the deep blacks and the high contrast of an OLED TV are amazing.  Being able to turn the pixels off instead of just dimming them makes a big difference.  While this was also true of my Plasma, it could never get near as bright or deliver the razer sharp image the OLED can.  Games running in true 4K and with HDR on this TV look almost real, and Netflix using Dolby Vision for their shows adds so much more depth to the color (even if they make you pay for it).  Since the pixels are producing their own light, that means it all continues to look great from any angle.  Which is a big deal for a room with a lot of off angle seating.

The feature set of the 55B7P is pretty good too.  If you don’t want to hook up a console or a Roku stick to the TV, the built in smart apps are fine, and the interface is easy to use.  It does all the standards: HDR 10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos, and any other standard 5.1 sound spec.  It has a true 120 HZ refresh rate, which means it has a motion smoothing spec of 240, but you should never use it because the native refresh rate is more than fast enough to eliminate jitter and pauses from 24 FPS content (AKA American Movies), or show your sports in full speed.  No need to “Soap Opera” everything.

It does have a few drawbacks.  Since it is the ‘P’ version of the ‘B7’ line that means it has enough internal speakers to technically output Dolby Atmos sound without an external sound system, however they sound a little hollow, so you will still want at least a sound bar to go with this TV.  Also, even though it is really thin at the top, at the bottom where you plug in the connections it still juts out quite a bit.  It is not as thick as a lot of full rear lit LED TVs, but still thick enough that it will not sit flush on your wall if you mount it, and if you plan on using all four of its HDMI inputs, two of them face straight back making mounting even more of a pain.

The plusses more than outweigh minuses for the LG OLED 55B7P, and it was the upgrade I was looking for.  Of course it costs twice as much as the Sharp, so I guess you do get what you pay for.  Still, if you are looking for a secondary TV it may be a bit out of most people’s price range, but for the TV your family will spend most of its time looking at the LG OLED 55B7P is well worth the extra cash.  I am very happy with mine.

Voltron Season 7 Stumbles A Little Heading In To The Final Chapter

Voltron has been one of the better surprises to come out of the trend of rebooting my childhood.  Everything has been great from the cast to the animation, so I was pumped to watch season 7, and for the most part it continues its excellence, especially in the early episodes.  However, a few too many of the fights end with the Paladins being overwhelmed only to have them manage to come together and give even more, or plot ‘twists’ we see coming a mile away.

I mean the second to last anything always has to act as a setup for the finale, and in that regard season 7 was a success.  The stage is set and now it is up to season 8 to finish this series off.  The producers have gotten us this far, so I have no doubt that next month we are in for something special.  An early Christmas gift for us all!  I will be watching that is for sure.  I have my thoughts about who the Paladins are going to have to face, but to quote Luke, “This is not going to go the way you think!”