Super Mario Replay: Super Mario 3D Land

I’ve already reviewed this game here, and I mostly stand by what I wrote about this game more than a half decade ago (dear god). Now as then I find it to be a near perfect execution of the Mario formula. Now, though, I am a little more forgiving about how much of a formula the series uses, and how much of a departure this game is from that formula.

Playing it all again, the tight design of this game shines. It starts off probably too easy. That is a common complaint with this game, though an over blown one. It is easy, but Mario games are for everybody. It eases players into things to give new players a chance to learn the ropes. That is a good thing. The counterargument is that many people grew up loving Mario games started with games that are much harder than this one. That is true, but it also misses some crucial points. One is the greater degree of competition for young players attention. Super Mario Brothers might not have been the only game in town, but it was one of only a few when it came out. Super Mario 3D Land faces a lot more competition, with children more likely to turn the game off forever if it is too frustrating. Also, 3D games are more complex than 2D games, and it would naturally take a new player longer to learn to play those than of the original Super Mario Bros. So 3D Land walks a fine line, and maybe errs by being a little too easy, by making a game playable for new players but with enough bite for veterans. It definitely does have that bite at the end; the last few of the special worlds are pretty devilish. So yes, the game makes you wait a little too long before getting to the good stuff, but that stuff is good enough to be worth the wait.

Super Mario 3D Land continues the trajectory from Super Mario Galaxy of bringing the 3D games more in line with the 2D games, with smaller, more inventive levels. Super Mario 64 turned the levels into open playgrounds, and Super Mario Sunshine continued that. The series retrenched after that. In many ways, SM3DL is as much like Super Mario Bros 3 as possible. That is clear in how much emphasis it places on SMB3’s signature power up, the racoon tail. While it doesn’t work quite the same way here as it did there, it is an excellent power up as balanced. It gives an inexperienced player a cushion for ill-advised jumps. But it also gives expert players a lot of tools. The only problem with it is that its ability to break blocks is kind of necessary at some points.

Super Mario 3D Land is one of my favorite games in the Mario series. It is the game that sold me on the 3DS and remains maybe the best game on the system. It is only an incremental movement from the Galaxy games, but it is a meaningful evolution.


Now Playing February 2018


Monster Hunter World – I’m not really done with this, but I have essentially beaten it. I will likely have a good, long post coming in a few days/weeks about it. It does a great job of updating the series without losing its appeal. Removing the transition sections from the maps and letting the monsters wander wherever they want makes the world feel more real, and the only thing it loses is the exploit of ducking to the other side of the load screen to heal up. It also has a pretty interesting roster of mostly new monsters. I do hope they bring back some classic monsters through DLC, but it is an early frontrunner for game of the year.

Mario & Luigi Partners in Time – Post coming soon. This is a real good game.


Monster Hunter Stories – I’ve only just started this, but I like it so far. It is fun to get another perspective on a Monster Hunter setting that what is usually there in the games. It is a bit simplistic so far, but hopefully it will develop some as it goes.


Radiant Historia Perfect Chronology – I loved the original release of this game, and I am eager to revisit it and see what new has been added.

Terranigma – I’ve got a Raspberry Pi and I’ve got all my ROMs on it. I plan to play this first to test it out before moving on to some PS1 games or something. I know I’ve had this in the ongoing before, but I think I’m going to have to start over, so I’ve got it here.

What I Read in February 2018

I finished Oathbringer after reading it for a couple months. I also fell behind at in my reading for class, so I don’t expect to keep being able to get stuff read in the next few months. We’ll see. I hope for at least one book a month.


Brandon Sanderson

I have been a fan of Sanderson for sometime now, but I am coming to the conclusion that this series isn’t really my thing. Not that there is anything specifically wrong with this book, but am finding it hard to maintain an interest in this setting. I really don’t remember much from one book to the next, which is something I am usually really good at.

This book has the conflict of this series coming into focus. It focuses on Dalinar, the oldest of the protagonists and goes over his long history as essentially his brother, the former king’s attack dog. He was good at fighting and that was what he did. It makes for a hard transition as he tries to build a peaceful coalition as they try to fight the voidbreakers. The other characters get some development as well, with Shallan struggling with coming into her power and Kaladin building a small army that follow in his footsteps. I want to have more to say about this book, but the only parts that really spoke to me were Dalinar’s flashbacks. I really like that conceit, with seeing a character in the present before jumping to the past to see how they became that person. I liked it in the first two books with Shallan and Kaladin, and I liked it here with Dalinar. There are other interesting or cool things that happen in this book, but I bounce off of them like I don’t with Sanderson’s Mistborn books or some others. I wasn’t reading it thinking it was terrible, I was reading it thinking that this kind of book might not be for me anymore.

The Dragon Reborn

Robert Jordan

Oathbringer had me wondering if I still liked epic fantasy. I had also stumbled on a Wheel of Time reread that I really liked. So I pulled out my favorite book in that series. I still love this series and I am pretty sure I still like fantasy, I just don’t know that the Stormlight Archive is going to be a favorite of mine.

What stood out to me the most on this read of The Dragon Reborn is how Jordan does perspective. He uses a very close third person that really gets the reader into the head of the character. To use that perspective effectively, the writer really has to know his characters. It also leads to people who do rereads and podcasts to import the opinions of Jordan’s characters onto the writer himself. It is one of the things I like best about the series. Not the mistakes, those are frustrating, but how well Jordan gets the reader into the characters’ heads.

What I Watched February 2018


Mute – This feels like a personal project from director Duncan Jones, so it hurts to say that it really isn’t very good. It has a lot of good, interesting ideas and pieces, but they don’t fit together in any sort of a satisfying way. The whole thing ends up feeling muddy and unfocused, with flashes of brilliance scattered throughout. **

When We First Met – A new Netflix movie starring Adam DeVine and Alexandra Daddario. It is a time travel romantic comedy that almost works. It frequently does work, but it kind of sits in this odd area between attempting to be touching and being funny, never quite fully succeeding at either. Still, its not bad. But there is so much potential in the high concept that doesn’t really feel like it explores that well. ***


Kakegurui – This is an anime about a school that is all about illegal gambling. A new girl is both great at gambling and gets off on betting. Her lack of concern, especially while exposing cheating student council members, about the consequences causes a lot of upheaval at the school. It’s fine. I’m not sure why I watched it.

The Gifted – There is a lot of good stuff in this show, but there are also a lot of strange decisions and wasted time. For the dilema it ends up presenting its characters, it has pushed things along the mutants hated and feared line too far for it to really work. A peaceful solution is nonsense when mutants are being actively exterminated. It wants both the drama of the peaceful/forceful resistance arguments and the action scenes, but they can’t both exist in the world the show has created. The show also spends way too much time with the Strucker family, who are all almost wholly uninteresting. It makes for a strange show that doesn’t live up to its promise.

The Punisher – The bloom is really off the rose for these Marvel Netflix shows for me. I found this almost unbearably dull. I don’t have much to say about it.

The Shannara Chronicles – I think I might be alone in really liking this show. In a lot of ways it is not good, but it is trying and ends up being really enjoyable. Manu Bennett is a delight as the taciturn wizard Allanon. It has a diverse interesting cast that has some resemblance to characters and concepts from the Shannara books. It also doesn’t waste the viewers time. Plot points that would take half a season on many shows are dealt with in maybe one. It loses some nuance, but it is such a rollercoaster ride that it is hard to care. It won’t make my best of list, but I am glad I watched it.

Electric Dreams – Amazon Prime gets its own Black Mirror, this based on Philip K Dick short stories, which influenced a lot of modern sci-fi including, if only indirectly, Black Mirror. With an anthology like this, the quality varies from episode to episode, but mostly these are really interesting and good.

What I Read in January 2018

I managed to read three books while on break from school. It was a good start to the year. Maybe I’ll keep some of that momentum going into February. I hope to at least finish Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer.

The Incrementalists

Steven Brust and Skyler White

The first of the books I got for Christmas that I managed to read. I read a Brust book a few months ago and liked it, but this is something completely difference. The Incrementalists is about a secret society that can save their consciousness in a mental garden and after they die combine it with an new person to live on. They try to make the world better by making small, incremental changes. First, the protagonist Phil finds a someone to take his lover Celeste’s consciousness. Then there is a mystery about how exactly Celeste died and why her memories didn’t come through. I liked the idea and the characters, but really wished the book had done more to show what this secret society does. Other than argue with each other, I guess. It is a lot of drama within the group and everything else is kind of vague.

As You Wish

Cary Elwes

This is not a book that I want to give a harsh review to. There is nothing bad about it, there just really isn’t anything there. It is Cary Elwes recounting his time making The Princess Bride. While that is a great movie, and there were a lot of interesting people involved, his recollections are pretty low impact. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy reading it; I love the movie and liked learning every little bit about the production that I did. But this book lacks something to make it into anything other than a curio for super-fans. I guess it is good to learn that making the movie seems to be as positive an experience for the cast as viewing it was for everyone else. It is genuinely heartwarming to read these recollections, but that doesn’t mean the book doesn’t lack the drama that would make it something really memorable to read.

The Beggar King

Oliver Potzsch

This is the third book in Potzsch’s Hangman’s Daughter series. It has some of the same rough spots as the previous two books, the dialogue has a lot of modern turns of phrase for a book set in the 17th century and characters frequently come off as unreasonable. Whether that is on the writer or the translator I can’t say, but those are pretty consistent flaws in what is otherwise an enjoyable adventure/mystery.

The Beggar King starts with Jakob Kuisl, the hangman, going to the city to help his sick sister. When he gets there, he finds her and her husband murdered and he is framed for killing them. While he sits in jail, his daughter Magdalena and her lover Simon fun afoul of people in their hometown and run away to her aunts and to start in a new life in the city. There, they find out the fate of her father and get embroiled in the machinations that led to his arrest as they try to free him. It is a fast moving, fun adventure that goes some strange directions. I don’t know that I’ll remember the details by the end of the year, but I enjoyed reading it.


Christophe Arleston and Alessandro Barbucci

This comic has a fun gimmick, even if it did turn out to be a little more risque than I expected. It stars a woman who finds out she is her aunt’s heir in a fantasy mirror world. She is joined by the man who just so happened to be sitting next to her on the plane that she was transported out of. In the world of Ekho, Fourmille, the main character, is possessed by the spirit of those who were murdered until she figures out who killed them. In the first volume that is her aunt. After that, she and her friends move around to new places. They are pulled to new areas in her job as a talent agent. She also moonlights as part of her secretaries burlesque show. It mostly seems to be an excuse for the artist to draw fantasy versions of what he wants, from Marilyn Monroe to Paris, France. Also, boobs. There are lots of boobs. It is a light, fun affair. If new volumes go on sale on comixology again, I’ll likely pick them up. It was fun enough.

Now Playing January 2018


Super Mario 3D Land — post coming soon.

New Super Mario Bros 2 — post coming soon.


Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time — I’ve made a little more progress and should finish soon. I still really like this game and will have a full post once I finish up.

Final Fantasy XV — I played the first hour or two of this. It is interesting, but I can’t tell if I like it or not yet. I’ve barely gotten started. I will say that Cindi is one of the most ridiculous character designs in a series full of ridiculous character designs. It is a sensible concept ran through some kind of insane porn filter. It is just completely out of place.

Etrian Odyssey V — Barely any progress, but it is still the game in my 3DS.

Monster Hunter World — Another game I barely played, but this one only because it just came out. It feels like a little more than the slight updates that the last few Monster Hunter sequels have been. And maybe I just haven’t seen the content yet, but it also feels like a much smaller game than them in terms of number of monsters available to hunt. I’ll be writing more about this early game of the year favorite.


Celeste & Iconoclasts –– I will likely pick up one of both of these for a weekend of fun in the near future. They look great.

Super Mario Mario Galaxy — I am really looking forward to this, assuming I get the chance to actually play it.

What I Watched Jan 2018

The Shape of Water see review here. *****

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle see review here. ***1/2

Goon: Last of the Enforcers — The original Goon was a really fun sports comedy. This sequel doesn’t really have much to offer. Everything that worked in the first movie either doesn’t work here or is so diminished that it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t offensively bad or anything, but it really doesn’t have a reason to exist. **

The Polka King — Between this and Bernie, Jack Black is kind of cornering the market on playing weird criminals. Here he plays a Polka musician who dreams big, and takes investment money from some old people fund tours for his polka band. He is not really a bad person; he genuinely believes that he will be successful and be able to pay everyone what he owes them, but he obviously can’t, as is made clear as it inevitably falls apart. It is funny and sad. ***1/2

Mary and the Witch’s Flower — see review here. ****

Step Sisters – This is a small cut above this usual sort of sports/dance movie since it at least tries to have something to say. I don’t know that it actually does; I might be giving it too little credit because I am really not the target audience, but at least it tried. It is well made, but largely familiar. ***

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters – I love Godzilla, but I didn’t like this at all. It is ugly and slow and mostly really boring. I realize more is coming, but this felt more like a mediocre first chapter than an actual movie. **

License to Wed — I like the people in this movie; Robin Williams, John Krasinski and Mandy Moore (I guess). But the movie misses the mark in just about every way, coming off as creepy and deranged rather than funny and relatable. *

A Futile and Stupid Gesture — This is so close to being really good, but it doesn’t quite come together. It feels like it is telling the story to people who already know it. It name drops a lot of people, but it doesn’t really tell you anything if you don’t already know to who those people are. It is still mostly amusing and well made, but it is a little too scattered. I guess that fits for the guy behind Animal House and Caddyshack. ***

Michael Clayton — This movie is really good, just an intense, perfectly thriller. I kind of want to write a full post about it. It is just so good. *****


Psych — I don’t have much to say about Psych right now, other than that I am glad it is available streaming again. It is my ideal background noise show; I love it.

The Office — Another old favorite that rewatched chunks of. It holds up. Seasons 2 and 3 are some of the best TV seasons ever made, and the rest never falls below pretty good. The show never really develops the warmth of something like Parks and Rec, but it remains really funny and occasionally touching.

Top of the Lake — I heard good things about the second season of this, China Girl, but I decided to watch from the beginning. It’s good. A slower, more thoughtful show than I really wanted to be watching, but it is quality stuff. I don’t know that it really succeeds as a mystery, but it works as a character study. I’ll get to the second season sometime.

Runaways — Hulu’s entry into the superhero genre. Well, kind of. The comic this is based on is excellent; one of my favorites. They got the characters and the look right, but they changed up the story. The changes make sense in a lot of ways, the comic does sort of lose its focus after the parents are dealt with, but it fell into the trap that Marvel’s Netflix shows have increasingly fallen into; the show is impossibly padded. There are just long stretches were nothing happens or it repeats plot points. My complaint is essentially that in a show titles Runaways, the kids don’t actually run away until the last episode.

Great News — I will have a blog post about this show sometime, especially as it appears to have aired its last episode. It is a great follow up to 30 Rock, one of the greatest sitcoms ever made. This season was strong all the way through, though it did have the misfortune of following the sublime Good Place, which sucked up all the attention. This season fleshed out the secondary characters and brought its central story to what can be looked at as a satisfactory conclusion. This show deserved better.

One Day At a Time — The second season of this Netflix sitcom frustrated me like the last season. There is a lot that is good about it, but I doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. The show combines very old fashioned structure and format with very forward looking subject matter. The latter works for me, but I have never been a big fan of the former. My favorite shows have almost all been single camera sitcoms that had no laugh tracks. There is nothing wrong with that format, it just doesn’t really work for me. At least it is well written, unlike the similarly formatted Fuller House, which is a complete pile of shit.

Trollhunters — My love for Guillermo del Toro’s Shape of Water got me to go ahead and watch the cartoon he created for Netflix. It takes some time to get going and build its world, but it turns into a really solid adventure. It shares a lot with Stranger Things (not just a bully named Steve who isn’t as bad as he seems), playing out like that show explicitly aimed at kids. I mean that as a big compliment.

CW Superhero shows — Black Lightning is coming on strong, Legends still hasn’t returned, Supergirl is coming together and The Flash is managing to remain light even though Barry is in jail. I am going to have a longer write up of these shows soon, so I am not writing much here.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first movie from Studio Ponoc, a successor to Studio Ghibli.  A few years ago, Studio Ghibli made some announcements that suggested that, with Hayao Miyazaki’s latest retirement, they would cease producing feature films, prompting some of its members to go their own way. This film is their first release and it shows that they are mostly carrying on the spirit of the previous studio.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi, director of Ghibli releases The Secret World of Arietty and When Marnie was There, directed Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It follows in that line of adaptations of children’s books that includes Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Arietty. It ends up feeling a bit like a Studio Ghibli greatest hits. That makes it sound worse than it is, this is frequently a touching and enthralling movie, but it never quite reaches the heights of its inspirations.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower follows Mary, a girl who feels like she is bad at everything, who moves in with her aunt in the country. She fights with a young boy her age and befriends a few stray cats before finding a mysterious flower in the woods. The flower gives her the ability to do magic. She finds a magic broom that whisks her away to a magic school in the sky, where things aren’t exactly what they seem.

I don’t want to spoil much of the movie, but it hits a lot of Ghibli notes. There is a young girl flying on a broom, like Kiki’s Delivery Service; there is a castle in the sky, like Castle in Sky. The movie also has echoes of films from Princess Mononoke to Ponyo.

The only real problem with the movie is that it doesn’t really have a resolution for its villains. They aren’t redeemed at all, but neither are they punished. They kind of learn the error of their ways, but it more that they just sort of fail. It is a real problem, the movie largely lack narrative stakes. It all just sort of happens.

Still, there is a lot to like in Mary and the Witch’s Flower. It ends up feeling much like Arietty; a little slight but otherwise enjoyable. It is a pleasant, enjoyable movie that doesn’t really have anything push it from being good to great.



It is time for the early year dumping ground, where studio toss out the junk movies that didn’t quite turn out while they try to direct viewers to the wide releases to last year’s award bait movies. As such, there really isn’t a lot in Jan-Feb that looks really good, honestly nothing in January, other than Liam Neeson’s The Commuter, looked interesting to me at all. Things pick up some in March and April before heading into what looks to be a packed summer. (At least they did before recent schedule adjustments.)


Black Panther – Marvel had an excellent year last year, and Black Panther appears to be distinctive visually and from a story perspective. Hopefully it is not just another

Annihilation – The only thing that gives me pause about this movie is that it is billed as horror. I don’t do horror. It is a weird sci-fi premise with a great cast. I could see this being really good. I could also see it being too scary for me. I guess we’ll see.

Game Night – I like the cast, the premise is interesting. I have doubts about its ability to pull the story off, but the trailer was good enough for me to give it a shot.


Red Sparrow – A spy movie starring Jennifer Lawrence is enough to get me interested. There are some other interesting people in the cast, like Joel Edgerton and Jeremy Irons, but I really don’t know a lot about it other than the trailer looked pretty good. It seems worth a shot.

Death Wish – I don’t know why I picked this out. The old Death Wish movie have aged like fine milk and I can’t remember the last time I saw Bruce Willis in something when he seemed like he cared. At least it appears to have terrible politics.

A Wrinkle in Time – It looks really interesting. I am not really familiar with the book, but this had a really good trailer. It is another of those YA adaptation that aren’t really for me, but I might be persuaded to give this a shot.

Tomb Raider – Video games movies have been, taken together, terrible. This one might be terrible as well. But I like Alicia Vikander, and Tomb Raider at least presents the possibility of some Indiana Jones like fun.

Pacific Rim: Uprising – The first movie was a delightful spectacle that showed it emptiness upon repeat viewings. I don’t mean that as a slam, I level the same complaint at The Avengers which I still really like, but while Pacific Rim was fun, it was about as deep as mud puddle. This movie seems to be at least bringing the spectacle again, so I am excited.

Ready Player One – It is directed Steven Spielberg, which makes it worth watching in my book, but the book is kind of the problem. I didn’t much care the novel this movie is based on. Plenty of movies have fixed problems with their source material, I hope this can turn that into something genuinely entertaining. I am not very optimistic.


Rampage – The Rock in a movie with a silly premise. It might be Baywatch, or it might be Jumanji. Hopefully it is more like the latter, or at least Central Intelligence, but it might also be crap. Still, The Rock is fighting giant monsters. Despite my reservations about

Super Troopers 2 – The first Super Troopers was a favorite of mine in high school. Returning to it more than 15 years later fills me with as much trepidation as it does joy. Once upon a time I loved this movie, but comedy sequels aren’t often good and I don’t know that my sense of humor is the same now. I’ll still be going to see, because I can’t not.

The Disaster Artist Review

The Disaster Artist is a glorious celebration of dreams and aspirations, I guess. Or mocking the the delusion of dreams that far outstrip the talent of the dreamer. It finds what is admirable in delusion. The Disaster Artist is the story of the making of The Room, a beloved film frequently cited as one of the worst ever made. It is that, but it is also bafflingly watchable. It is like watching a car race than ends in a train crash. This movie tells the behind the scenes story that is just as crazy as the movie that it produced. It works, managing to be heartwarming, funny and as true as any story is.

The Disaster Artist walks a difficult path. It is a comedy about real, still living people. It wants the viewer to simultaneously laugh at and admire these people. That is not an easy task, but The Disaster Artist pulls it off. The story is told from the perspective of Greg Sestero, who meets Tommy Wiseau at an acting class. While Greg is somewhat closed off in his acting, Tommy is shockingly free. They become friends and together move to Los Angeles to make it in Hollywood. The ambition of Tommy and even Greg is admirable. They aren’t going to let anything stand between them and their dreams of being actors. If no one will cast them, then they will write and make their own movie. Luckily, Tommy has a mysterious source of money, which he uses to fund their movie.

There aren’t too many great surprises, there is friction on set because Tommy doesn’t know what he is doing. There is personal friction because Greg gets a girlfriend. The movie goes to great lengths to recreate scenes from The Room, to great effect. Just seeing that weirdness recreated is entertaining. The big emotional scenes work well enough, but maybe didn’t quite engage me the way I wished it would. There is a courage to art, that as an artist you are putting yourself out there for people. This is something I, as a writer, frequently fail at. I’d often rather keep my stories hidden rather than have them rejected. The movie starts lauding that bravery, but when their dreams fall apart in front of them, it shows them recovering by embracing the ridicule. It is just kind of an odd story.

The only place I would say the movie fails is that it doesn’t really examine the obvious lies and flat non-answers that are behind a lot of Wiseau’s life. This brushes up against being a biopic that doesn’t make any effort to find out who its star really is. He claims his vague, eastern European accent is cajun, and while this is patently untrue and played for a joke in the movie, the fact that it is not true is not engaged with at all. At one point Tommy and Greg have an argument, but it is resolved without actually resolving anything. The movie can’t help but show the falseness of just about every claim Wiseau makes about himself, but it is not at all interested in the truth; the story is good enough. It isn’t a big deal, but it is an obvious blind spot in the film.

The Disaster Artist is a treat. It is a thoughtful, meaty comedy like we never get.