Shmee Investigates The Haunting Of Hill House!

Like everyone else my wife and I have been watching Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House, and while I was not as blown away as others, I will say that it is still a pretty good horror TV show.  Of which there are very few out there.

The basic premises of the show is, what if the demons that destroy a family are real and external not just emotional and internal?  Though there are still plenty of personal demons to go around.  I have heard it called This Is Us but with ghosts, and at first it seems that way, but it evolves in to something different, and it is nice that the story wraps up in just one ten episode season.

There are also only two time lines to keep track of.  The current day Crains who are dealing with a lot of emotional trauma, they mistrust each other, and their issues keep them separated.  Then there is the timeline with them in the titular Hill House trying to fix it up so they can flip it and build their forever house.  The older, broken, Crains are going to have to deal with their issues, each other, and of course Hill House.

What really elevates this show is how well it is made.  Most horror is made cheaply to shock and titillate its audience.  That is not case here.  The producers have a story they want to tell, and they lovingly crafted their episodes.  Episode six in particular is a masterwork of filmmaking.  I don’t want to spoil it, but it is almost worth watching the show for that episode alone.

It is not all perfect however.  The early episodes are too long, and not all of the story really hangs together, but due to the dreamlike quality of horror stories that is a common problem for the genre.  Its ending also wasn’t super satisfying.  Don’t fear however, it ends the Crain’s story, but it just didn’t have a lot of impact.

The Haunting of Hill House has a great cast, good direction, fine story telling, and amazing production values, so the overly long episodes and some gaps in the story are not enough to not for me to not recommend it.  If you are looking for something creepy to watch during these long fall nights, The Haunting of Hill House will do quite nicely.

The Diablo Immortal Controversy Is Everything That Is Wrong With Fandom!

Blizzard teased that something big would be happening with the Diablo franchise at this year’s BlizzCon, and of course fans jumped to the conclusion that Diablo 4 was going to be announced, or at the very least info on a new expansion, but that of course was not the case.  What was announced instead was a new free to play (F2P) mobile game being done by an outside studio.   The game is called Diablo Immortal.

This sounded great to me.  Diablo on the go?  Why not.  As long as the F2P stuff is optional.  I mean Pokémon Go, PUBG, and Fortnite have all shown that games can be F2P on phones and still be fun.  Hardcore Diablo fans on the other hand raged.  Don’t go anywhere near Blizzard on twitter or any of the Blizzard franchise Reddit pages.  It is just hundreds of angry gamers lashing out at anyone who works at Blizzard/Activision with toxic vitriol, and what is sad, is that this isn’t surprising.

Lately whenever a developer or any other media company does something fans don’t like, fans feel it is their duty to lash out, to get things changed, or to get the people responsible fired.  Look it is okay to be disappointed.  To have a large stage show in front of the most hardcore of hardcore fans that paid hundreds of dollars to be there live and fifty bucks to watch virtually then announce a mobile game was not a smart move on Blizzard’s part, but while it is okay to be disappointed.  To out and out rage is not.

Blizzard has several F2P games, and I am sure they thought one based on one of the their biggest franchises would big news.  It was, but not for the reasons they were hoping, and the fact this rage has lasted all weekend long with no signs of slowing down is saddening.  We as fans need to be better about this.  If you don’t like the game, don’t play it (though everyone is going to).  Also, I am not saying not to voice your displeasure.  Please do, but be respectful.  It is much different to say, “Blizzard is a bunch of greedy a$$h0!es!” versus, “Man I am bummed we didn’t get any new mainline Diablo content.”, or “Why use BlizzCon to announce a mobile game?”.  Two of those statements get our points across, and might even get read by Blizzard employees.  One makes us look like a bunch of jerks.  I will let you decide which is which.

We should all be true to our feelings, but taking them out on the people that make our games and movies is not helpful.  It is upsetting that so many fans feel like this is okay.  It makes it hard to call myself a gamer knowing that so many of us act like entitled brats about little things that don’t matter.  What’s worse is that we all know Diablo 4 will come out sooner or later, Diablo fans are just mad they feel they were bait and switched, and even if they were to some small extent, this is not how it should be dealt with.  We should all take deep breaths and be grateful for all the great content we have and that is continuing to be made.  Not pitting ourselves against the people that are making it.

Shmee Has A Good Time At The El Royale!

Bad Times at the El Royale is the type of movie that actors love, and that audiences are mostly indifferent to.  The roles are meaty and have lots of great dialog, but because of that the movie can feel slow and plodding.  However, if you enjoy watching actors ply their trade, you will find a lot to like at the El Royale.

Bad Times works best if you know nothing about it.  The trailers, as sparse as they are, give too much away, but the title is discriptive enough.  A small group of people check in to a run down motel called the El Royale, for mostly doubious reasons, and they do not enjoy their stay.

There is a lot of talking and well earned mistrust in Bad Times at the El Royale, and actors enjoying talking and mistrusting each other.  Dakota Johnson in perticular seems to be happy with something interesting to do, but if you had just finished making three Fifty Shades movies, you would probably be happy with a real acting gig as well.

It is not just Dakota Johnson having a good time, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman and Chris Hemsworth are all seemingly having the times of their lives with this script.  Hemsworth in particular you could tell was very exctied to be playing a villain instead of a straight laced norse god.  The real standout however was newcomer to the silver screen Cynthia Erivo.  While she has made a name for herself on Broadway, she is now a movie star in the making, and she more than holds her own against all this top teir talent.

The only disapointment I had with this film was that the directing, while fine, was just there to serve the script.  The trailers made it seem like it was ozzing with style, but in fact it has more of a dingy film noir look to it, which is fine, but even then, a movie with this much talking could have used a little directoral razzamatazz.

I enjoyed Bad Times at the El Royale quite a bit, but I am not sure you have to run out to theaters to see it.  It will be just as good at home on the streaming service of your choice.  Also, if you need a little more than good acting in your movies, Bad Times are probably what you will have at the El Royale.  However, for film buffs like me who like quirky, talky character flicks, you will probably want to check in to the El Royale.

Shmee Destroys Great Britain In Forza Horizon 4!

If you read my Forza Horizon 3 review, you know that FH3 was/is one of my favorite games of all time, and guess what?  Forza Horizon 4 is more of what made Forza Horizon 3 great!  So, if you loved Forza Horizon 3, you will probably find a lot to love in Forza Horizon 4.  It is not a re-invention of the franchise, but no one wanted that anyway.

In Forza Horizon 4 you are no longer the ‘boss’ for the Horizon Festival, you are just another racer, so you are no longer trying to level up Forza event locations.  What are you trying to do is win all the races, so you can become a British Real Estate Tycoon.  Which is to say that without event locations, you need to buy houses for fast travel locations, and the houses you buy come with perks like more wheel spins, fancy clothes or extra cars, so you want those houses (and castles).

You also need those houses, story wise, to stay in because you now live in England through the changing seasons, and if you are going to live in the UK for foreseeable future, you will need a few places to lay your head and store your cars.  The seasons are fun: Things are frozen over and thick snow blocks your progress in the Winter, mud and rain ruin your traction in the Spring, conditions are perfect in the Summer, and you get Spring with leaves in the Fall.  It is always a challenge to retune your skills with each change of the season (seasons change every week).

The other big change is that Forza Horizon 4 is online by default now.  Instead of Drivatars racing around, they are real people, and they are also ghosts.  Spooky!  It makes sense, you don’t want people purposely being able to grief each other while going from place to place, I mean that is what the races are for.  It is fun to watch other people screwing around at least as much as I am.

Besides the Forza Event locations, the only thing Forza Horizon 4 lacks from 3 is the event Blueprint system.  You can’t plan out your own jumps or speed traps anymore.  All you can do is tweak existing races.  I am guessing this had to be done so the game could always be online, and I don’t really miss it that much.  Mostly because I am leveling up all the time, and I don’t just mean my overall level, but you level up in types of races, car collection, photo mode, skill points and just about everything else.  I am pretty sure the only way not to progress in FH4 is to just sit still, but even then, there must be some bar going up somewhere.

Mostly, FH4 is just more Forza Horizon, and I love it.  I love driving a Lamborghini off a cliff and in to a pond below, or racing a Willys Jeep across the country.  If I don’t want to do any of that, I can just mess about, and the game pats me on the head and tells me I am its favorite and hands me some points.  It is all so good.  Even if some may call Forza Horizon 4 an expansion for 3.  It is a vast expansion with a lot to do, and it expands on a wonderful game, wonderfully.  Buy Forza Horizon 4 (or get it with Game Pass) it is more fun than just about anything else out there.

Shmee Enjoys Getting Lost With Hilda!

Kids these days have no idea how lucky they are.  They have so much quality TV to watch at any given moment, and for all age groups.  They don’t need to pretend that the original runs of He-Man, Transformers and Voltron were good.  The remakes actually are good, and that is not fair.  I have seen more than my fair share of poorly animated nonsense/advertising.  If Hilda had been around during my childhood it would have been the best show on TV, and not just comparing it to other animated shows, I mean all TV.  Period.  Still, even with today’s grand glut of quality TV Hilda should be watched, and not just by kids seven and up.

The premise for Hilda is that all the Scandinavian myths and folklore are real, and that the modern world (not too modern, no cell phones) just accepts that magic, monsters and fantastic creatures exist.  Hilda has grown up in the woods outside the city of Trolberg, and she loves going on grand adventures all day long, but then after a series of unfortunate incidents she is forced to move to the big city.  While she no longer has free access to the woods, she finds there are still plenty of adventures to go on in the city, and more importantly, new friends to meet.

The show kind of works a little like Scooby-Doo: Hilda and her friends investigate some weird monster or strange occurrence and then figure out what is goin on, except that the monsters are real, and it is way better than Scooby-Doo could ever hope to be.  Sadly, Hilda lacks a cool van.

Everything about Hilda works.  It is incredibly charming, the characters are amazing and they have real motivations, the mythology the show follows is interesting and it is drawn and animated really well.  It looks like if Charles Schulz co-created a Miyazaki film, but in the best possible way.  The only knock against it is that it can be a little dark and scary, particularly in the later episodes.  My four year old had no problems with it, but I would say it earns all of its Y7 rating.  However, that really isn’t a problem, just something to be aware of.

If you have Netflix, you should at least give Hilda a try.  It is well worth your time, and I am super excited that it has already been given a green light for season 2.  With Voltron ending soon, Hilda is more than up to the task of insuring there is quality kids programing on the streaming service.  If you don’t have Netflix, maybe you should get it for a month.  It will be worth your $10.