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by Ethos

Mr. Sunshine – “Heather’s Sister” Review

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

What a great episode.

Mr. Sunshine had a solid pilot and has since delivered two excellent episodes; each one better than the last. Tonight’s episode perhaps was less fun during the climax than it was during the ride to it, but it was the most I’ve laughed out loud while watching television in a long time.

Surprisingly, the best character of the first two episodes, Crystal, was played down this time and Roman got his turn to bring the biggest laughs.

Well, check that, biggest laughs tied with the very most awkward and hilarious blind date I’ve ever seen on television.

In fact, I was giddy almost the entire episode. Heather’s ability to put Ben on edge with her combination of being incredibly sweet and creepy is continuously amusing. Alice’s ambition plays off Alonzo’s sense of superiority well, and Crystal is just always just insane enough to provoke laughs.

I was mildly annoyed that they didn’t really seem to wrap up the fact that Heather was supposed to be leaving last episode along with the fact that Roman set a golf cart on fire. Maybe we were supposed to connect a few dots on that one, but a small reference would have been nice.

Still, Heather’s Sister was a fantastic episode with a great guest to play Ben’s blind date. If Mr. Sunshine continues like this, it is shaping up to be the best comedy this year over the not-as-impressive-as-season-one Modern Family.*

SCORE: 9/10

*Of course this doesn’t count Community, because Season 2 of Community will forever go down in history as one of the greatest seasons of any television show in existence. How have I not reviewed an episode of that show yet?

Scatter Storming. Issue #044

Friday, February 11th, 2011

It took until the horrible month of February, but Scatter Storming is back! Let’s see if I remember how to do this.

I Caved and Bought StarCraft II

Yup, it finally happened. Of all the eSport-worthy games I’ve watched Pogo play – CounterStrike, Warcraft 3, Modern Warfare 2, and StarCraft II – this is the one that got my attention enough to make me want to play it.

Yes, I’m aware that MW2 is too broken to be called an eSport-worthy game, but I’d seen too many hours of it to not count it.

Anyhoo, I’m really trying to watch my cash when it comes to games for the next little bit, but I have no regrets. Just means the 3DS will likely have to wait; it’s definitely the least urgent of the upcoming goodies.

The point is that I’m horrible, but the game is very fun. And very stressful. But it’s satisfying to feel like I’m getting better. Very slowly, sure, but mastering something is one of the finest and most satisfying experiences in life. I’ll keep you guys posted once I exit the practice league and enter the real online ladder.

Ethos’ Confession #3:

Despite being a Zelda fanboy, I have never completed a console Zelda game released prior to Ocarina of Time, and have never completed a handheld Zelda game released prior to Phantom Hourglass.

Modern Family: “Bixby’s Back” Review

Just saw the most recent Valentine’s Day-theme episode of Modern Family, so I thought I’d do a quickie review.

It started off quite weak. Some poor acting, contrived writing, and a non-compelling scenario. I’m glad I stuck it out though, all four stories wrapped up very nicely, and the episode finally started delivering a lot of laughs past the halfway point.

It’s great to see Mitch and Cam continue to drop the “let’s not offend each other” shtick and have some of the better moments. But once again, Gloria wins moment of the episode with her equally oblivious and poignant ridiculousness. Even if the “twist” was a little expected, the delivery was excellend.

I’m a little tired of Phil’s fool/stud/fool rotation. I think this season is missing more interactivity between the families. At least we got Manny with Haley.

The summation? Good save with this episode.

SCORE: 6.5/10

Ethos’ Confession #4:

I’ve never properly played a Resident Evil game.

Ethos’ Confession #5:

I never beat any optional bosses or got Knights of the Round in Final Fantasy VII. Hell, I didn’t even get Vincent.

New Trophy War

The Trophy war I had with Abe80 ages ago obviously died out. Plus, I’m destroying him. But a new challenger enters! Eric J., another former Lusipurr.comian and I have started a war of our own, and it seems to be a much more heated battle.

He best sums up how it started on his site, but now we’re in the midst of coming up with a prize for the winner and/or a punishment for the loser.

We toyed with the idea of the loser moving to the other’s location, but that ended when I came to terms with the fact that I would never move to Michigan. Also that he’d be getting the way better end of that deal. Toronto is a world class city. But we still want a significant prize/punishment. Ideas?

That’s it for now! It feels good to be back. This year is going to be fucking insane for us gamers. It is the calm before the storm.

Mr. Sunshine – “Pilot” Review

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

These people are a LOT crazier than they look

I can’t really say “Matthew Perry is back!” because he was never really a force to be reckoned with before. He was the best part of the lukewarm smash hit Friends, and a general failure at the box office after that.

But it appears he has taken that exact sentiment and transformed it into a very promising concept for an off-kilter single camera sitcom.

Perry plays Ben Donovan, the manager of operations for a second-tier entertainment arena. He hits his 40th birthday surrounded by an insane boss, Crystal, a friends-with-benefits co-worker, Alice, and an appropriately diverse set of minor characters for Perry to bounce off of.

In terms of shows currently on television, Mr. Sunshine seems to be stylistically and thematically most similar to 30 Rock. It has snappy dialogue, a setting in which pretty much anything can happen, an eccentric boss, a moderately successful main character in their 40s starting to realize their own pitiful existence, and a potential for sincerity among all the complete weird.

For a pilot, I was particularly impressed with how well the episode introduced the premise, characters and their relationship to Ben so quickly and efficiently. Sometimes pilots can feel too calculated or introductory, but Mr. Sunshine worked at a brisk pace. It was able to set everything up and have its own sitcom-worthy plot.

There are the usual staples of two people destined to be “just friends”, but otherwise the dynamics seem relatively fresh. Even the comparisons to 30 Rock are largely superficial.

I mean, you’d never see Jack Donaghy sing a song with the lyrics, “all the blacks, the whites, and the asians” to a group of children before hurling one into a crowd of clowns with axes. And I have a feeling that Crystal Cohen is just getting started and might be the real star of the show.

We’ll see how the season develops, but it’s a promising start, and the setting of an arena means that there are many, many possibilities for crazy shit to happen every episode. We’re already promised lingerie football, so…

SCORE: 8/10

Modern Family – “Mother Tucker” Review

Friday, November 26th, 2010

It’s a relief to see Modern Family picking up the slack after a largely lackluster start to its sophomore season.

“Mother Tucker” surprisingly reuses some situations and even exact lines from last season, and I’m sadly getting a little sick of Mitch and Cam’s rinse-and-repeat dynamic this year, but despite those complaints it’s a great episode with a lot of genuine laughs.

The main plot follows Haley’s apparent final breakup with Dylan and the subsequent mixed emotions for Haley that come with having to face moving on from your first love. Of course, the situation is almost as distressing for nutball father, Phil, which is still funny, but I was disappointed to hear him reuse his “What? No!” line in response to the news when it didn’t seem like an intentional nod to his hilarious delivery last season. In any case, I’m really enjoying the show’s focus on Haley this season. It’s adding layers to her previous “dumb teen” personality and setting her up for great dynamics in the future. It may come at the cost of diminished screen time for already-complex middle child, Alex, but she’ll get her due.

Mother Tucker

Phil's "I wrote a song" joke is funny too.

Digressions aside, it was nice to see Haley and Dylan mature from daily “breakups” to a – admittedly still highschool – breakup that actually caused some real introspection from both parties. Also, after some great and not-so-great parenting moments from Claire this season, Phil took over the role perfectly by hanging out with Dylan behind Haley’s back yet coming through and being a great Dad when Haley truly needed him.

In other families, Mitch and Cam have been riding the “Mitch and Cam don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings” train far too hard this season, and it’s getting very tired. The show even seems to recognize this slightly by giving the couple the most number of guest stars in the disappointing Nathan Lane appearance and tonight’s passable introduction to Cam’s mom. I miss when the two would interact more often with other characters. Mitchell and his father was hilarious in season 1 as was Cam’s episode with Gloria. At least Mitchell and his sister had a scene with their consistently strong dynamic, but the rest of the couple’s storyline was cookie cutter and gimmicky at worst and pleasantly amusing at best.

But back to things that this season has been doing well, namely Jay and Gloria. Last year was all about the family’s reaction to their age difference and the cultural clashes they faced with their son Manny. Now that the couple isn’t so new, it’s more about how they actually get along as a family, and their stories have often been the high points of every episode. “Mother Tucker” saw Manny and Jay indulge in some mild internet hypochondria while Gloria called them pussies. Instant recipe for laughs. One of the things Modern Family does best is not place too much importance on predictable plot twists, and even if the plot goes the entirely expected way, the show opts to find humour in the characters’ genuine reactions and not the “unexpected” ending or twist.

I’ve been breathing a sigh of relief the past few weeks as Modern Family has been sinking back into a consistently funny and well-written show that grows with the characters. I’m worried about Mitch and Cam, despite their excellent performances. They were often the strongest part of the first season and they’ve gone downhill fast.

SCORE: 8/10

Modern Family – “Halloween” Review

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Before saying anything else, I should mention that I’m generally apathetic about Halloween and I’ve been a little underwhelmed by Modern Family this year overall. Last year I would say with confidence that Modern Family was the best show currently on television, but I’m more inclined to give that narcissistic honour to Community which has made leaps and bounds from last year. More to the point, however, despite the focus on the holiday, “Halloween” thankfully follows in the footsteps of the premiere and previous episode to make me remember why I love the show.

As usual, the show follows three storylines from the three sub-families, and two of the plotlines are excellent. First is Claire’s obsession with Halloween countered by Phil’s growing paranoia of suddenly being left by his costume-crazy wife. Claire is at her best when she’s stressed, and she’s actually been a surprising highlight of this season by depicting more realistic fights with her two teenage daughters. This episode is no different as Claire’s stress level rises the more things don’t go according to plan, and her reactions to Haley’s slutty costumes and Alex’s reluctance are very amusing.

The sarcastic hardened ol' "Gargle"

Her usually ever-helpful husband ends up being a thorn in her side, however, as their neighbour is devastated by his wife leaving him and this is apparently a novel thought for Phil. Phil and Claire have always been such a secure couple that it was nice – and hilarious – to see Phil have legitimate concerns for the security of his marriage. Not only are his clingy antics and self-fed paranoid rants really funny, but the show does a good job of actually making you bite your nails just a little bit as you can relate to Phil being terrified of being alone and losing the family he loves so much.

Next was Jay and Most Improved Character, Gloria. I remember thinking that I would hate Gloria when I first started watching the series, but she slowly went from annoying to amusing to completely hilarious, and she’s been the best part of season 2. “Halloween” does not disappoint in the Gloria department as she’s at her ridiculous and defensive best when she discovers that she’s not quite as well understood as she thought under her thick accent and dramatic yelling.

The episode – like the season so far – under-uses Manny, but Jay’s attempts at diplomacy with his much-younger wife provides enough laughs for the storyline. I’m also appreciating that Jay and Gloria seem more like a loving couple this season with the honeymoon stage wearing off and the two being forced to make understanding compromises.

The final storyline was the most disappointing. Mitchell and Cameron are usually the most consistently hilarious, but I did not enjoy their plot at all. Mitchell thinks his new workplace encourages wearing costumes – which he adores – but it ends up that only losers dress up, and the boss really hates it to boot. While Mitchell sneaking around in a Spiderman costume is amusing, and I’m reminded of great moments from Arrested Development when he’s forced to wear his suit over the costume, the story seemed gimmicky with no real resolution.

More disappointing, however, is Cameron’s trauma over Halloween. I know that Cam’s a drama queen, but his reasons for abandoning Halloween seem contrived even for Cameron standards. Especially considering that this would be a holiday the writers could have ridiculous amounts of fun with for his flamboyant character.

Despite those disappointments, this is a promising episode with some fantastically hilarious and well-written poignant moments that the first season made the show known for. Coupled with last week’s strong offering, I’m hoping that those other three episodes were just growing pains as the writers need to find new conflicts for the lovable, funny, and believable characters.

SCORE: 7.5/10

South Park – “Insheeption” Review

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

So, how many of you have seen Christopher Nolan’s summer blockbuster, Inception? Quite a few of you? Good, because if you haven’t, much of the humor found in the latest episode of South Park will be lost on you. As you know if you follow the site, I loved Inception. I loved it a lot, and anyone who dares spoof it better do a damn good job. Thankfully, South Park did a damn good job.

The episode begins as a spoof on “Hoarders.” Or that’s what I read after the fact, at least. I’d never heard of Hoarders, so I had no idea a spoof was even taking place. Our friend Stan is outed as a Hoarder, and after a hilarious scene where he tries (and fails) to clean out his locker, he’s sent to talk with the school counselor – Mr. Mackie.

Mr. Mackie doesn’t often get the spotlight, but boy do I ever love it when he does. It turns out that Mackie is a hoarder as well  - when Stan questions him about a month-old empty milk carton, he explodes into rage and shouts at young Stan that he will “rape him in the mouth.” (The scene is as hilarious as it sounds.)

So, a specialist is brought in. The theory is that a buried emotional trauma from the past is what is causing Stan and Mackie to have the tendency to hoard things. Oh, and there’s also a sheep herder who gets dragged into the counseling session. I’ll say it again: Sheep “herder.” The joke is pretty obvious. The Sheep Herder hangs around for the entirety of the episode. Gimmicky as he may be, I found his defeated, confused presence rather amusing.

And then the Inception spoofing begins. During the therapy session, Mackie begins vividly dreaming of his childhood – so vividly, in fact, that both Stan and the Sheep Herder are sucked into his dream. From that point, the episode becomes an intriguing – and hilarious – look into Mackie’s childhood. And, yes, a young Mr. Mackie is every bit as hilarious as it sounds.

And that’s not all. Soon, practically the entire cast from Inception appears to save the day. And, of course, to explain all the awesome complexities of what’s going on. South Park takes a shot at Inception’s admittedly convoluted plot, here. After listening to cartoon Leonardo and friends explain all the intricacies of dream levels, Mrs. Marsh exclaims “just because something is needlessly convoluted and complex doesn’t make it cool!”

I still love Inception, though.

And, because I can’t bear not to mention it: Randy Marsh. After heroically diving into the dream to save his son, Randy manifests in the dream as…. a butterfly. After listening to Stan’s plea for help, Randy responds: “butterflies have no concern for such things, Stan! I’m gonna go find some butterfly poon!”

Priceless.

The episode contains only a single comedic fail, and that’s in the form of Freddy Krueger’s superfluous appearance late in the episode. The scene where the specialist attempts to recruit him is kinda amusing, as is seeing a cartoon Freddy Krueger with a hillbilly beard. Still, it’s not funny enough to justify how entirely pointless he is to the story. After the recruiting scene, he has maybe 20 additional seconds of screentime.

The scene where Mackie finally finds and confronts the trauma that caused his hoarding disorder is appropriately disturbing, just as we’d expect from the guys at South Park. You’ll be laughing and feeling bad for it, which is more or less the reason why I love South Park so much. Of the three new episodes, Insheeption is definitely the strongest.

SCORE: 8.5/10

South Park – “It’s a Jersey Thing” Review

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

It’s good to have South Park around again. And not only because it provides ample topics of conversation with my co-workers, but because Season 14 is continuing on quite strongly. This week, the show takes on New Jersey, all the stereotypes contained therein, and a few trashy Jersey-themed shows such as The Real Housewives of New Jersey and (to a lesser extent) Jersey Shore. The result? Once again, it’s nothing terribly deep, and doesn’t offer much in the way of social commentary – but “It’s a Jersey Thing” does bring back some of the irreverent, in-your-face comedy that the previous episode lacked.

The episode begins as a fairly standard (though humorous) spoof of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. The Marshes make the mistake of inviting their new neighbors from Jersey over to their home, only to have their dinner ruined when the Jersey wife flies off the handle as only Jersey housewives can. The residents of South Park soon come to realize that there are Jersey-ites all over their town – and if they don’t do something to stop it, South Park is doomed to become “West Jersey.”

There’s some funny stuff here. I particularly liked the attention given to Sheila Broflovski (Kyle’s mom.) After shouting down a bunch of raging Jersey whores in hair salon, it’s revealed that Mrs. Broflovski was originally from – you guessed it – New Jersey. In fact, she wasn’t even called Sheila back then, but rather, “S-Woww Tittybang.” No, really. Sheila doesn’t tend be a character of any real significance, so it was nice to see her given a role, and a hilarious one at that.

Any episode that features Randy Marsh to any extent usually wins with me, I won’t lie. But damn it, there’s just something about the guy. Everything he says and does makes me laugh, and this episode was no exception. When the town of South Park rises up against the so-called Jersey invasion, they are led by none other than Mr. Marsh. The scene where he stands atop a massive barricade, waves an anti-Jersey flag and shouts “FUCK YOU NEW JERSEY!” is priceless and will go down as one of his finest moments.

One of the strengths of this particular episode is that almost every main character is utilized. While Randy leads his bloody campaign against the invading New Jerseyans, Kyle is forced to come to terms with the fact that he has Jersey blood running through his veins. Predictably, this is a fact that a certain Eric Cartman won’t put to rest. Especially after Kyle roughs Cartman up in true New Jersey style, which hilariously reduces Cartman to tears. Stan and Kenny are there as well, though they’re supplementary. Still, it’s good to see the entire gang given a part to play.

After fifteen minutes or so of mostly harmless spoofs, “It’s a Jersey Thing” takes an entirely unpredictable turn for the controversial. To say nothing of the ridiculous. Desperate for help against the invading hordes, and after having been refused by both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Japan, Randy turns to Al-Quaeda. Osama Bin Laden makes his return, as does the grossly irreverent and offensive subject matter that the show hasn’t seen in a few episodes. Al-Quaeda does, indeed, come to South Park’s aid – but I’m not going to tell you how they do it. Suffice to say, it’s fucking hilarious, and beyond inappropriate. But if you’re the kinda guy who watches South Park, I doubt you’ll get your panties in a bundle.

As a South Park fan, I’ve been quite satisfied with Season 14’s return thus far. Looks like the boys are on a roll, let’s hope they keep it going.

SCORE: 8/10