The Ill Communication

Overview for television

Fist Like a Bullet

November 24, 2015 | 22:18 | Written by: snake911

It’s official: Into the Badlands is a great show.

I was wondering if beyond the pilot, every episode following would be a downhill slide in quality. Heck, even The Walking Dead’s second episode was kind of a snore fest. But it was the opposite for the second episode of ItB. Things are building up pretty well in terms to adding complexity to the story, so we are seeing more characters being introduced and others more fleshed out, including crossing into the Widow’s territory.

M.K. runs into Matilda, the Window’s daughter, while escaping from Baron Quinn’s fort. She decides to help him out by taking him to her place to hide for a while, but the Widow is suspicious of M.K. and is also looking for him because she knows of his special powers, which she is planning to use as a tool to take down the other barons. The thing is she doesn’t know if M.K. is the person she is looking for. At the same time Quinn learns some important information regarding his health and puts pressure on Sunny regarding his loyalty to server him. All of this is setting up for what should be an awesome episode three.

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The Fort

November 18, 2015 | 21:49 | Written by: snake911

While catching up with shows I missed during the last two weeks, I added a new one to my list: Into the Badlands.

I’m still holding judgement and keeping my expectations in check because only the first episode has aired, but I like what I’ve seen during the series premiere. If you’ve watched the trailers for it, the setting is like a weird blend of timelines from different parts of the globe smushed together and formed into this time period that takes place hundreds of years in the future. With it you get a mix of 1800s Southern United States that include things like barons, plantations, and Antebellum styled buildings; 1930s urban Chicago living and vehicles; and East Asian combat where both sword fighting and hand-to-hand battles fill the actions scenes.

After some great war that occurred, a few people helped rebuild civilization but barred guns to prevent from what happened in the past to happen again. These people are called Barons and each has a kingdom of sorts that they rule over. The story follows a guy named Sunny, a Clipper, which is a sort of like an elite soldier, who has access to just about everywhere so we can see how both the privilege and those at the bottom live.

There’s a lot of mystery to the show and I loved how each block of the first episode had something that keeps you interested so you won’t change to another channel during a commercial break. Hopefully this feeling of intrigue will last throughout the season. As of now, I think you can watch the first episode online for free without needing to have an account or a cable subscription. So watch it while you can.

As for the title of the show, the badlands refer to the areas outside of the forts where the Barons rule and keep everyone safe. Everything outside in the badlands is up for grabs and anything goes. I’m guessing the majority of the show will take place there, so a lot of action should show up in the coming episodes. Obviously there were a lot of character introductions during the premiere so there wasn’t a whole lot of fighting, but when there was some, boy howdy was it cool.

AMC is playing it safe by having the first season be short with only six episodes, so I’ll be watching the rest of it since it won’t take too much time to invest in. It’s very much like a comic book (I thought it was based on one like The Walking Dead is until I checked) so if you’re into stories like that then I think you’ll enjoy this show. But remember: I’m keeping my expectations in check.

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Back to the routine

November 17, 2015 | 22:27 | Written by: snake911

The dust has settled with moving and now I can finally take a breather and catch up on some shows. Who’d of thought missing just 2 weeks of TV would have you be so far behind. One of these shows is the special, Intruder 2, currently airing on Toonami.

Geez, what a bad time for the Intruder to come back. 15 years since the original aired and I had to move the week it comes back. Oh well, viva the Internet and on demand services which allowed me to catch up on it. It’s just been two episodes but I’m digging what I’ve seen so far. Love how it’s mirroring some aspects from the original and glad to know that the Intruder, whatever it is, is still an organic being rather than a robot or something similar.

Though I do wonder if this will be a Total Immersive Event where we the viewers will have any interaction with the event that affects final outcome. Like the original Intruder, we got to vote on what new pair of engines the Absolution received. If there was an interactive part of this, it would make sense to include something that comes from that Toonami app that hit the app stores shortly before the first episode aired. In addition, I still need to check out the comic that stars Tom 4 and his crew.

Oh yeah, love how the bumps are also affected by the Intruder event. All the vids have a scrambled signal while alarms are squealing in the background. Really ties everything together. The next few weeks are going to be great!

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October 12, 2015 | 20:12 | Written by: snake911

Love looking at this cutaway of the Simpsons’ house, showing the layouts of the first and second floors. I love it so much that I’m reposting it here.


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Channel surfing through the tubes

September 29, 2015 | 19:40 | Written by: snake911

I noticed about a week ago that PlayStation Vue currently has a 7 day free trial for checking out the service. I was always curious to see how stacks up as an alternative to traditional cable television services from the likes of Time Warner and Comcast. This free trial offer benefits me now more than ever as my roommate, my brother, may move out soon, and in its wake have my financial responsibilities take on an extra weight of bills. Since I like watching TV, I need to compare the services out there to see if I can still keep this in my life, otherwise I’ll be joining the increasing group of cord cutters and ditching my cable TV subscription.

So without any further ado, here’s my review for the PlayStation Vue.

And to get this out of the way: I live in the Los Angeles region, so your options may differ from what I received.

I didn’t know what to expect with PlayStation Vue. When comparing it to other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, they all varied in quality in terms of UI and stability during their early existences. And after a period of time, each improved on performance and menus to make them the great services they are today. If anything, I figured PS Vue would be no different from those other streaming services.

I was wrong. In terms of tech, PS Vue is very impressive right out of the gate. The service launches quickly, the guides are snappy, buffering is an absolute minimum, and going from channel to channel is just as quick, if not quicker, than when I change channels with our current cable TV provider. Performance is a very important factor for me as that can seriously hamper the experience. If it were clunky to navigate through menus, or if it buffered a lot, or if the quality of the video increased and decreased all the time, then I’d cancel the service immediately. Luckily that wasn’t the case with Vue.

The video output streams to a high quality and looks just as good if I were watching a show on traditional cable. I didn’t notice any artifacts or degrade pops as I might sometime see with Hulu or Netflix (which gets rarer as those services mature). When I need to bring up the info guide, it’s as simple as pressing down on the d-pad. With it, you get a clean interface with options laid out across it. Although I will point out that it’s hard to get to the episode description. It’s no problem to bring up the show’s description, but that’s kind of useless -- no one really cares for that. It’s the episode details what most people are looking for.

When it comes to live TV, it holds about 5 minutes worth so you can jump back anywhere within that span of time, which I believe it saves to the hard drive of the PS4. I haven’t seen if there is an option to increase that to 10 minutes or greater, but I definitely would increase it if that were available -- 5 minutes feels a little too constraint for my taste.

Pressing the Options button on the controller will bring up the menu guide for displaying the upcoming shows and times. For what it is, it’s a very clean look, but for a minor change, I hope a future update will have a small window in the corner where you can view the show currently playing behind the menu. Right now, you can hear it but not see it until you close the guide.

When you want to “record” a show (in quotations because you’re not really recording anything to a hard drive) you highlight the show from the menu guide or by simply pressing the R1 button when watching the show. This will add the show to your favorites list which you can then view by pressing L1. When you select a show from your favorites, it will not only note the upcoming date and time when it will record the next episode, but it will also have previous episodes listed that the service has already recorded. I really like this method of blending both DVR functionality and the on demand service and rolling it into one feature. A small shame that you can’t keep something you’ve recorded indefinitely like would you with a traditional DVR, but whatever. Compromises need to be adjusted for an all-in-one service such as Vue.

The fat negative, however, comes from this weird thing where shows can’t be aired on Vue. In my case, I wanted to watch Seinfeld on channel MyNetworkTV, but instead I got a message that read: “This program is unavailable. Don’t worry -- your device and PlayStation Vue are working properly, but we have not been granted permission to stream certain programs over the internet.” I don’t know if this is coming from Sony or channel MyNetworkTV, but this was a big bummer for me. At first I thought Hulu might have bought exclusive rights to show Seinfeld over the web when they introduced the show to their service a few months ago, but that theory was bunked when I was watching Seinfeld on TBS over Vue. This gets me nervous because what other shows do I watch where I can’t over Vue because of rights issues like this one I ran into.

Vue is currently limited to only certain regions because what they are doing is adding local affiliates of the big networks like CBS, NBC, Fox, and MyNetworkTV to the channel lineup. I really like this because that means I can watch the local news for where I live at. Since I’m near Los Angeles, I get the LA feed (which is what we get with our cable TV), but Vue is currently available in 7 areas including: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. They’re slowly rolling out Vue to other large metropolitan areas in the US so hopefully in time they will blanket a good portion of America the coming years. In addition, they need to get ABC on board, too.

The glaring omission for PlayStation Vue is that it doesn’t have a native app for the PlayStation TV. THAT’S DUMB, RIGHT?! How can a device with the word “TV” in it not have the service that streams cable television? As of now, Vue is only available on the PS3 and PS4. And yes, I tried Remote Play from PSTV to PS4, but it blocks the service when I launch it. Boo. This is a negative for me because I have the PS4 in my bedroom, and the PSTV in the living room.

When it comes to a contract, there is none! You pay by the month and cancel anytime. For what channels you get, you can pick from 3 tiers: access, core, and elite. The channels you get on what tiers might depend on the region you’re in. For Los Angles, the access tier includes 52 channels and includes a good selection to start with. Core seems to mostly add sports channels while elite rounds things off with secondary networks like MTV Hits, Velocity, and FXM. Access starts at $49.99, while core is $59.99, and elite with $69.99. The price is fair for what you get, but it would be a lot sweeter if they were all 10 dollars cheaper. Just sayin’.

It’s small now, but there are some a la carte channels to pick from such as Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus. I’m sure HBO will be there soon enough along with a few other movie networks, but in the meantime, its slim pickings here.

For what it offers, PlayStation Vue is an excellent alternative to traditional cable. You get a number of services like on demand and DVR, local broadcasts from major networks, and a healthy listing of channels to pick from. And running under the hood is good tech to keep performance running high so hiccups aren’t seen (or rarely). Although, there is room for improvement, mostly software related and minor cosmetic changes to the guides, but overall not a bad service. Oh yeah, and that black boarder that surrounds the picture should go too (couldn’t find a setting to adjust that). Hopefully Sony will continue with improving on Vue because this is an awesome service for anyone still interested in watching live TV, but don’t want to commit to contracts with cable or satellite providers.

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A short story

August 25, 2015 | 20:15 | Written by: snake911

Time sure does fly. I can’t believe it has already been two years since I got a copy of the DVD, The Best of International Rocketship. It’s a compilation of 12 animated short films from the animated film production company International Rocketship Limited. I originally found out about this DVD months after someone posted that he received a letter from the studio’s founder Marv Newland that he created a limited set for sale.

Figuring he was out of stock by the time I learned about the DVD, I sent Marv a letter to let him know how his shorts are a very memorable part of my childhood. No foolin’ too as his animated shorts were shown constantly on Nickelodeon in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Kids from this era probably know what I’m talking about.

If memory serves me correctly, his most played shorts on Nick were Sing Beast Sing, Dog Brain, and Waddles. These shorts normally ran after a show ended, but when there were still a few minutes remaining before the next show started. So instead a cramming more commercials for kids to watch, Nick had the cool sense to show instead neat animated shorts like from International Rocketship.

Although, not all shorts were from IRL and some were odd and probably not a good idea to show to kids. For example, The Killing of an Egg was one that spooked me out as a kid and I never understood the extreme amount of hate Mr. Johnson had towards the cat from The Cat Came Back.

Anyways, back to the letter. In addition to the shorts shown on Nick, I reminisced about going to an annual show called Spike & Mike's Festival of Animation and seeing a bunch of shorts from independent studios that were in the same vein that IRL did; to which some were created by people who used to work at IRL!

When I sent the letter, I wasn’t sure if he had anymore DVDs, but I was just happy to let him know what an impact his shorts had on my childhood and how the rocketship in the IRL logo is so memorable and etched into my brain. A few weeks later, and to my surprise, not only did he have a DVD to send my way but he also enclosed with it with a small handwritten note! So cool!

I also questioned him about seeing the rocketship logo on a short I saw back in 2000, but I couldn’t remember the name of it. He knew exactly what I was talking about and replied back with the answer: the short was called Deadly Deposits. Two years ago this short didn’t exist online, but now you can watch the entire thing on Canada’s National Film Board’s website.

The DVD itself contains 12 short with a total running time of about 53 minutes. All the shorts were digitally remastered from their original 35mm camera negatives and cover nearly a span of four decades, with a concentration during the 1980s. All the ones I mentioned earlier like Sing Beast Sing that were shown on Nick are all here too.

Some shorts were a big surprise to me. For example, I didn’t know Danny Antonucci (the creator of Ed, Edd n Eddy) worked with IRL to create a few films. One of his shorts called Lupo The Butcher was even picked to be used as a commercial for Converse during the ‘90s. I remember the commercial but I didn’t know/forgot it was something that came from the mind of Danny Antonucci.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers some of these shorts. Marv Newland and his production company sure did foster a lot of creativity and I’m sure had to have inspired many kids to go in animation and media in general. Some shows airing today may have been sparked from minds who grew up watching some of his short animated films. If you haven’t watched any films from IRL, then I recommend checking some of them out! Oh, and by the way, not all of the shorts from IRL are kid friendly. Keep this in mind when viewing some of them. You’ve been warned!

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