All posts by Anjel Saez

Graduated Columbia College Chicago with a BA in journalism. Long time dork, avid game player, sports fan, and all around life enthusiast. I've cut my teeth at a young age blogging tech for now defunct sites and find myself coming back for abuse every time.

Thank you for reading, we’re still in the waiting room.

Thanks for taking the time to check us out. We’re definitely a work in progress but here’s a toast to the future.

Here’s some stuff we said you might’ve missed through the week:

The NFL is here and it’s gloriously fucked up already

There’s just something about the NFL. Something about setting aside three hours of your time for two hours of commercials followed by an hour’s worth of actual play chronically interrupted by referees rendered helpless now that they cannot properly decide what genuinely constitutes a catch (a sad fact that even needs to be debated in the first place). The NFL semi-officially kicks off with the Hall of Fame week, where we have the inagural game that doesn’t mean anything, a bout between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinal’s B-squads.

Granted, I know we’re talking about pre-season here but boy, shitty things have happened already. I’m not even going to touch the offseason stuff, I’m talking about since the doors opened for business.

  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is, at least as of now, out for the season thanks to an already damaged ACL now a totally being damaged ACL. Tannehill is seeking a second opinion and the team refuses to say he’s totally done. However injuries like this rarely end well, so it’s fair to say Tannehill is off the table.

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  • Things are somewhat dysfunctional within the Seattle Seahawks camp, with pass-rusher Frank Clark instigating a fight with offensive lineman Germain Ifedi. According to sports reporter Gregg Bell via Twitter,

You’re likely either excited these guys are so eager to get violent with each other so soon, or your disappointed they’re eager to get violent with each other so soon.

  • Speaking of Cowboys, the first NFL pre-season game wrapped up with a 20-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Dallas backup QBs Kellen Moore and Cooper Rush both logged touchdowns, with receptions by TE Rico Gathers and WR Uzoma Nwachukwu.
  • New York Jets owner Woody Johnson has been named U.S. ambassador to the U.K., who will most assuredly attempted to push more sub-par North American football teams (coughJetscough) onto unsuspecting Britons. You poor bastards.

At the Movies: The Dark Tower

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Among author Stephen King’s more whimsical stories (in as whimsical Stephen King tends to get), The Dark Tower follows young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a troubled young boy with ominous visions of a tower keeping evil from spreading unchecked in the world, children being tormented by the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) using their essence to destroy the tower, and a mysterious Gunslinger (Idris Elba) who can stop this Man in Black from destroying the tower. The Dark Tower follows this plot-line pretty religiously, but this movie is a case of the journey being much better than its destination.

We establish everyone believes Jake to be troubled, and rightfully so. His father died in a fire, his mother is now smitten to a man seemingly trying to get rid of him as quickly as possible, and his constant visions of the Dark Tower is driving his mother into depression. However Jake knows deep down inside he isn’t crazy, and he begins seeing his visions in real life.

People with lose fitting skin seemingly wearing it as a costume are hunting psychically gifted children to harvest their energy to destroy the Dark Tower protecting infinite Earths. During a daring escape, he follows his visions to a strange house that transports him to a different world: one broken by evil forces. It isn’t until he finally finds the Gunslinger does he know his visions are true.

Truth be told, most of the power this film holds is in the fast developing relationship between Jake and the Gunslinger once you slog past the rather slow intro. Their journey to battle the Man in Black hits a pretty by-the-numbers route through the film’s middle segments. Granted, the action scenes and locales were cool haunted locations, a strange amalgamation between magic, technology and the Old American West.

The Man in Black, who really should just be known as McConaughey with dyed black hair, played it with very little enthusiasm. It felt he put more work into those Lincoln commercials they he did with the albeit very simplistic Man in Black. He has no ulterior motive other than being an evil prick bent on world domination. He has totally dominion over all men, conveniently except for our Gunslinger and to some degree even Jake.

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The movie comes to something of a halt once we reach the climax, the finale duel between the Man in Black and the Gunslinger. While certainly CGI filled, its conclusion filled me with this flat sense of “meh”. On the one hand, I had enjoyed the film up this point. On the other, I had wondered if this was really the end. I found myself enjoying the fantasy world they were inhabiting more so than the people in it. Frankly, I didn’t give much a shit about them to be honest. I was more sad we couldn’t spend more time amalgamating modern New York into the twisted vision of mid-Earth, but I’m good with what I got.

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The Dark Tower isn’t quite as epic as it hopes to be, even if what’s at stake is the fate of multiple Earths. It feels flatter than it does appropriately epic, which it’s set-piece moments certainly called for. Elba played the quite straight man well enough, Taylor played the precocious child-hero well, and McConaughey could’ve been anyone else really. In fact, I spent a decent amount of time going through a roster of alternate villains who could’ve really provided the character the presence it sought. Maybe this one was a job for Mel Gibson? Certainly was fire and brimstone enough.

I had gotten this vibe that they wanted to leave enough room open for a sequel, but I feel pretty confident this one’s wrapped up. The Dark Tower was a fun romp but didn’t really leave me wowed. I wanted to be, the idea seemed cool, the stakes were plenty high, and Elba did a good job being a gun-slinging badass. Just a shame none of it really added up.

I think a lot of people are going to shit on this film, which is not totally fair. The Dark Tower was a lot of fun in spite of a few things, and I’m grateful it aimed high trying to cram quite a bit into an hour and a half. Something shit like, oh I don’t know Transformers still hasn’t learned. For that, I give The Dark Tower a thumbs up at least.

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Pic Sources: http://www.thedarktower-movie.com/site/galleryhttp://stephenking.com/darktower/

TV Theatre – The Belko Experiment

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To put it in its most simplest terms, The Belko Experiment is a film about violence for the sake of violence. It will probably share a similar audience to the likes of Saw or any slasher that gives the filmmaker an excuse to show over an hour’s worth of gore non-stop. The set up is an international group of people put together in a bizarrely nice building in the middle of nowhere Columbia.

They all work happy corporate lives until one day a voice on the intercom tells them they have to start killing people or they will die at random. Who these people are, the cast, the antagonists, whomever it’s all irrelevant. People have to die when the voice says, so sayith the voice.

In fact, there is little plot here anyway to make these characters relevant. Not that the film is concerned with it. No, the prime focus is to get you sitting on the edge of your seat ruminating how the next sucker is going to die a shitty death. Because that’s why you came to see this movie: stupid people dying shitty deaths.

This movie probably will share a lot of similarities to the 2000 classic Battle Royale, but unlike Royale, The Belko Experiment invests no serious time on its cast and spends more keeping the body count going as fluidly as possible. Which is cool if that’s what you were expecting coming into this movie like I was.

To that end, the violence is pretty amusing and even at times somewhat thrilling, even if everyone is moving at a very by-the-numbers pace. At no point are you going to be genuinely surprised by anything. The movie sometimes tries to pull at emotional strings that just aren’t there. Instead, it’s at its best when it stops trying to talk and just lets the rage fly.

At the end of the day, if your thirst is for a horror movie more concerned with being grossly violent than genuinely scary, then yeah, The Belko Experiment can help with that. In fact, for just that purpose it’s pretty good. Just maintain that level of expectation and everything’ll be alright. Maybe just maybe don’t eat spaghetti or something with tomato pasta. Or do, if you’re sense of humor is that morbid. Again, this movie would probably be for you.

Just like this little review, the movie ends somewhat abruptly leaving you with the feeling they want to build a fuck load of sequels to this because Saw did it. If nothing else, it looked like this movie was a lot of fun to make for the actors.

Preview – Agony (PC, PS4, XOne)

The product of Kickstarter, developed by MadMind Studio and to be published by PlayWay, it’s clear from the onset this is an indie project. Once you fire up the trailer, though, that thought immediately goes out the window.

Like, what the fuck was that? Look, if that didn’t rustle your jimmies then I don’t know what the hell your problem is. Get it? Hell? Oh shit, I can do this all day.

What stands out most about Agony is how horribly good it looks. It’s showing off the beautiful (maybe grotesque in this case?) shine the new-ish Unreal 4 engine possesses.

Played in first-person, so far the concept is navigating puzzles while occasionally possessing demons to keep eventually find a way free from this. The trailers have painted Agony in similar ranks to Outlast, which is fine company to be in.

Currently there is no release date for the game outside of a vague Q4 2017 listing. Regardless, this one is worth keeping on your radar. Or if nothing else, now is a good time to get those much needed upgrades to make games like this really pop. This is probably also not a good game for people who do psychedelics. Just saying.

Like seriously, what the fuck?

Game of Thrones Station: The Queen’s Justice

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As per the usual there’s a lot to unpack, especially tonight, so let’s just dive right into this filthy beast. This one is going to be a long one, grab a drink.

Tonight’s episode opened once again on Dragonstone, as Jon Snow touches down on its shores with Davos alongside. Awaiting is a troop of Dothraki with Tyrion and diplomat Missandei in tow. The uneasy greeting is made easier once Jon and Tyrion pick up conversation, however quickly become uneasy again once the Dothraki take Jon’s boat and weapons (provided voluntarily).

Varys sees Melisandre hiding among the cliffs watching Jon Snow arrive. Without a second’s hesitation, he begins prodding at her intentions. If it was so important for Jon Snow to meet Daenerys, then why wouldn’t she be present during his arrival? She confesses bad history with both Jon and Davos, and that her presence would cause more problems. Varys warns Melisandre she should leave and never return, however she makes a veiled threat both her and Varys are destined to die in Westeros. Varys is rightfully troubled by the shit she’s saying.

Jon and Daenerys finally meet face to face, though it would be a mostly awkward experience for Snow. While Missandei lists Daenerys many titles, Jon and Davos are awestruck as what to do. Awkwardly, Jon looks to Davos to say something. Davos can only utter out, “This is Jon Snow. He’s King in the North.”

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Daenerys immediately questions Jon’s claim as king, saying he’s only a lord until he bends the knee to his true queen. She cites ancient agreement to which the Starks owe loyalty to House Targaryen. Jon Snow refuses to bend the knee, but instead pleads there isn’t time to debate. The Night King is on the march and there will be no world to rule if the Night King wins.

Daenerys stands firm, feeling disrespected by the albeit too blunt Jon Snow. She refuses to give him assistance until he bends the knee, and Snow refuses. Davos attempts to plead to Tyrion the seriousness of the situation and how much Jon has personally sacrificed to fight the threat, including taking a knife to the heart. This particularly catches Daenerys attention, though Jon side eyes Davos to stop talking further on it.

The meeting concludes poorly, with both sides clearly standing firm on their beliefs. She warns that if Jon refuses to bend the knee and continues to be called King in the North, she considers it an open act of rebellion against her. Jon immediately finds himself in a dangerous situation, trapped within Dragonstone’s halls. In the nick of time, Varys arrives with grave news. This shakes Daenerys to where she immediately concludes the meeting, saying he is a guest of the island for the time being, though Jon knows he cannot leave. He asks if he is a prisoner, to which she replies, “Not yet.”

Varys informs Daenerys of Ellaria Sands’ and Yara’s capture and the destruction of her fleets. She asks if all of them have been captured, to which we cut to Theon being fished out of the sea by a loyalist ship. The sight of Theon upsets the men, asking him what has happened. Theon tells them Yara is dead and that he tried to save her. The lead soldier is disgusted, replies why is he still alive if he tried? Theon can only look down defeated because Theon is this program’s Jerry (little reference for ya).

Meanwhile, Euron Greyjoy parades Ellaria, her daughter and Yara through the streets of King’s Landing. The crowd is cheering his successful campaign and he can’t help himself but bear a shit-eating grin, mocking Yara of Theon’s cowardice. He marches them into Cersei’s throne room, where Ellaria is thrown to her knees before Cersei and The Mountain. Euron gloats of his capture, pushing further his desire to wed Cersei. She says he will have what he wants, once the war has been won. Jaime is obvious upset by this.

Euron takes the time to mock Jaime in front of cheering crowds to his ear, poking how he is going to have Cersei. He prods far enough to where Jaime wants to outburst but silences him, reminding him of where they are. Euron leaves smiling with Yara in tow. Ellaria and her daughter are thrown into a dungeon to await their fate.

Which didn’t take long, because the next scene is Cersei playing with Ellaria like a cat playing with a dead bird. Cersei is saving every second of this scene, pondering out loud the many ways she’s dreamed of killing her. Instead, she opts for the most sadistic option she could think of: kissing her daughter with the same poison used by Ellaria on Cersei’s daughter. She realizes mid-kiss what she’s done and squirms in her chains. Her smarmy number two, Qyburn, gives her the antidote to the poison, sealing Ellaria’s worst fears as to what’s happened. Cersei tells Ellaria she is going to ensure she stays alive to watch her daughter die her slow horrible death. She walks out very satisfied.

This gets Cersei extremely riled up, because in the very next scene she is banging the shit out of Jaime, who initially wasn’t having it after being upset over Euron, but she very quickly changes his mind. She also makes their affair public again by allowing a chambermaid to outright see them together. Jaime chuckles, but seems conflicted by this.

She receives news she has been visited by a representative of the Iron Bankers, the same organization that bankrolled Tywin Lannister’s wars. He has come to collect on Tywin’s debt though he offers something else. He offers to fund Cersei’s war against her enemies. Knowing there’s no alternatives, she asserts their investment in her will be well placed. She now has the gold required to fund her war against pretty much everyone.

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We return to Dragonstone, where Tyrion and Jon talk privately. Jon is frustrated over the day’s events, however Tyrion isn’t willing to let this potential partnership fall apart just yet. He convinces Jon to make a more reasonable request, since “Give me an army to fight zombies you’ve never seen before, I swear it’s true” doesn’t quite ring with much confidence. Jon heeds his advice and instead asks for just the dragonglass.

Tyrion next approaches Daenerys to make the arrangement solid, and convince Daenerys that an alliance with Jon Snow would be valuable. Daenerys is still puzzled by Davos’ comment on Jon taking a dagger to the heart comment, though Tyrion brushes it aside as Northern imagination. She appears unconvinced. Jon and Daenerys meet privately, and this engagement goes more fruitfully. Daenerys is convinced of Jon’s intentions and agrees to allow him to mine the glass. Jon asks if she believes him about the Night King, to which she replies “You’d better get to work Jon Snow.”

The next scene returns to Sansa at Winterfell, where she is acting lord of the keep in Jon’s absence. Littlefinger walks amongst her inner circle helping her manage the day to day operations of the keep. Littlefinger comments how command suits Sansa, though she quickly replies to any of his comments with barbed quips, and probably rightfully so. Except today Littlefinger drops knowledge on Sansa, telling her his secret to strategy. How he fights every battle against everyone, be it friend or foe, in his head. And that is how Sansa will keep alive, that she will need to outwit her opponents at all times. Sansa is at a loss for words at the advice.

However the moment is interrupted by the arrival of Bran to Winterfell. It is the first meeting of Sansa and Bran since season one. Sansa is moved to tears while Bran is emotionless. Sansa reminds Bran he is the last living heir to Ned, meaning he is now the keep’s true lord. Bran refuses, saying he cannot as he must be the three eyed-raven. Something he cannot explain to Sansa, except by giving her descriptions of her wedding night he never saw. This severely bothered Sansa, who leaves their reunion early, quietly in tears.

The next scene follows up Samwell’s attempts to cure Jorah Mormont via surgery. He manages to successfuly peel every bit of greyscale off with precision, curing Jorah of the affliction. He is freed from the Citadel, where he says he will return to Daenerys. The two shake hands and part ways. Following, Samwell is slightly chewed out by his superior but was given a commendation for doing a damn fine job. However he is also then punished for his recklessness.

Daenerys humors the idea of flying in by herself with her three dragons and exacting immediate revenge against Euron and his fleet. They are also awaiting news from their campaign against Casterly Rock, which the Unsullied are currently en route to invade. Grey Worm heads the attack, managing to sneak into the island and mount an offense despite suffering losses. Tyrion knew a secret entrance to the keep which would allow for a sneak attack, which succeeded.

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However Grey Worm realizes at the conclusion of the invasion that keep fell too easily. In that moment he reailizes it was a trap, and the Unsullied are now surrounded by fleets of Euron’s navy, trapping them on the island. Grey Worm realizes this all too late, and can only watch his ships burn from Casterly Rock. The bulk of the Lannister force was sent to invade the Tyrell’s lands (with a familiar face, it’s Bronn) to kill Olenna Tyrell. Her keep is taken effortlessly and she is confronted by Jaime.

Jaime has words with Olenna, of whom warns he is blind to Cersei’s madness. Jaime confesses he truly does love her and won’t betray her. He says he’s convinced Cersei not to execute her barbarically but instead offers her a different choice: to voluntarily poison herself. Without hesitation, Olenna drinks the poison and tells Jaime how saddened she was to see Joffery die viciously. In that moment she reveals to Jaime it was Olenna who killed Joffery, and let Cersei think Tyrion did it. Olenna, smiling, tells Jaime to send a message to Cersei: “Tell her I did it.” Like that, Olenna went out like a G. Jaime is horrified and quickly leaves probably to tell Cersei.

Drop.the.fucking.mic.

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Review – Strike Vector EX (PC)

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Strike Vector EX is about one thing and one thing only: high-speed dog fights. Flashy, bright, colorful, dizzying dog fights. EX offers a basic, but addictive package with a decent single-player campaign and addictive online modes. Technically while EX is a re-release, with the original version released in 2014 to mixed reviews, I’m reviewing it on its own merit. EX feels like an amalgamation of Ace Combat and Star Fox Zero, which is a compliment.

Piloting your vector (those fancy jets) involves two modes: stationary and fast. This probably sounds obvious and stupid, but the ability to stop on a dime and make impossibly fast turns is a huge element to this game. You can also zoom in when stopped at snipe at enemies, but obviously in a game like this staying still for too long is you begging to be shot down.

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There’s a pretty reasonable amount of content here, from a cheesy, but fairly meaty single-player that’ll help you hone your skills, to the real jewel: the multiplayer. You can include bots if you’d like (they’ll join your matches by default if not enough humans are around which will happen unfortunately more often than I’d like), but the real joy is being locked in a tense fight with other human pilots thirsting for your blood.

The customization options available are relatively shallow. You have your choice from a small number of weapons ranging from the conventional gatling gun to the more irritating homing cluster missiles. You can also separate yourself from others by coloring individual elements your ship (head/body/wings) with a wide array of colors, most needing to be unlocked through play.

The modes are pretty standard: death match, team death match, capture the flag, demolition (two teams must destroy each other’s bases target by target),  bounty hunter (accrue more points than other plays by collecting coins or killing players), and king of the hill where two teams compete for the designated territory. While not genre defining, they’re good modes for a game built on a pick-up-and-play premise.

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The thing about Strike Vector EX is that as it is, there’s a lot of good in it that justifies its very soft price tag ($11.99 USD). While there aren’t a whole lot of flashy modes and baubles to distract, it’s core gameplay is more than solid and can get addictive. It’s fast, easy to grasp, and more importantly makes me feel like I’m really involved in a high-speed mecha dog fight. At the time of writing the online community is quite shallow, but the game is also young. I’m optimistic more will see the light of this very shooter.

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