The Queen's Gambit | The 40 Year-Old Virgin | 10 Second Ninja X
Chess, virgins and ninjas - oh my!
TV Review - The Queen's Gambit
Series summary: Orphaned at the tender age of nine, prodigious introvert Beth Harmon discovers and masters the game of chess in 1960s USA. But child stardom comes at a price. (IMDb)
This is one really well-made TV show that should be watched just to see how good everything looks, even if the subject matter doesn't interest you. Considering it's about chess and set in the Fifties and Sixties, that might be a lot of people, but it shouldn't put you off as it manages to make chess more interesting than anything else I can remember, even if it doesn't make it more accessible.
By that, I mean that it's not really about chess, but Beth Harmon, played by the reliably-excellent Anya Taylor-Joy. You're not going to get a great introduction to the game here, but it might well inspire some to at least give it a go. Beth is an interesting character to spend time with, but I feel that it's Taylor-Joy's excellence which really makes her stand out as she undergoes a pretty unremarkable arc.
I say that, but I did actually think that I might be wrong here, and that Beth's rather easy time dealing with a drink and drugs addiction on top of everything else that happens to her - both as a child and a young adult - is simply a startling unfamiliarity with a female character who can handle setbacks with relative ease and has the strength of character to turn her life around when she recognises things are getting bad.
It does mean that Beth's personal life feels dramatically uninteresting, but her competing against the men at chess makes up for it, even if that all feels a little too easy to predict too. That's where the well-made side things comes in, because The Queen's Gambit might well be a little shallow and predictable, but you should still enjoy yourself all the same.
Currently watching: Frasier (season 2); iZombie (season 2)
Movie Review - The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Movie summary: Goaded by his buddies, a nerdy guy who's never "done the deed" only finds the pressure mounting when he meets a single mother. (IMDb)
It had been quite a while since I previously saw this, so had forgotten just how funny it is, even if a fair number of moments would generate a lot of discussion these days thanks to how society has progressed in the last 15 years. In its defence, the movie never feels mean-spirited or nasty, but still might raise an eyebrow or two.
As it is, 95%+ of the jokes are poking fun at straight white masculinity, especially when it comes to Andy's (Steve Carrell) lack of sexual experience and his co-workers' funny, if unorthodox methods of trying to get him together with someone. It's longer than I remembered too, coming in at just under 2 hours, and it does almost feel like a sitcom miniseries edited together into a continuous stories at times, but is still more than entertaining enough to make up for it.
Watching soon: Burn After Reading; Jurassic World; American Gangster (all on Netflix)
Game Review - 10 Second Ninja X
Game summary: The nefarious Captain Greatbeard has kidnapped you and trapped your forest friends inside of his army of robots like some kind of psychopath. Greatbeard doesn't think you're the fastest ninja who ever lived - he is WRONG (Steam)
I have to be honest and admit that this is one of the games that made me abandon my previous review style for this shorter format because rarely have I bounced off a game as hard and as fast as this one. It's a very simple game and has a very simple premise - as a ninja, clear each stage in 10 seconds - yet managed to get so much wrong. For a game that can require precision control, it doesn't make sense for the controls to be... so lacking in precision.
And while the art style is simple - after all, you're only going to see it for 10 seconds at a time - it's not particularly varied and the uber-simplicity quickly results in boredom when it takes multiple attempts to clear a stage. It really does feel like this should've been a mobile game rather than a full release for desktop PCs, especially when there are so many other, better games with equally simple set-ups available.
Oh, and when I played it, the high score charts were filled with people who'd clearly hacked the game to complete levels in tenths of a second... In other words, the developers released this game and, at some point, lost interest and let it rot. Unless you can get a copy for free, I'd suggest following their lead and leaving it well alone.
Currently playing: Dragon Age: Origins; Cyberpunk 2077; Disco Elysium
And the rest...
I still have the first collection of Witcher short stories, The Last Wish, half-read and will be going back to finish that off hopefully at some point this month. In the same boat is The Definitive Thor Redux from Marvel Comics' Marvel Platinum range; that should also get done with by the end of January too - plenty more of the Marvel Platinum series to come too!
I also have the audiobooks of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to get through, which I'll probably end up listening to during my day job, but it'll take some time to get through with the total running time going over the fifty hour mark. I think I'll just review each book as they're finished, but that will still probably mean only one book per month as I also don't want to rush listening to them for the sake of it!
I feel like I'm due another listen of The Adventure Zone podcast's Balance story-line too, although with just shy of 70 episodes, I'm tempted to break it up into the smaller arcs like I would for each season of a TV show rather than give small updates for two and a bit months before finally reviewing it. Something for later in the year, I think.