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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Next week's etymology lesson: Irony!

I actually recall how I found out about it a few years back. At the time I owned an iMac. This was back when Apple was making products in colors other than white in order to highlight its differences from Microsoft’s ubiquity. (“Look! Have you ever seen a computer shaped like a fishbowl and painted candy apple red? No! And you never will again!”)

Well, let me pause here for a moment and briefly discuss my fruit-related computer history. I was an apple diaper baby. When I was a lad, we had Apple IIEs in our public schools, and my father; who was a public school teacher; took the computer from his classroom home during the summer so it wouldn’t get stolen. That’s right peeps; I am the product of inner city public schools. We had gangs and on-campus stabbings and everything. And that was just the girls!

Anyway, where was I? Oh right. So my earliest experience with a computer was the Apple IIE, followed by the Apple IIGS. After the IIGS, the two town high schools where I grew up were merged into one high school on the posher side of town, and the computer lab was expanded beyond a single machine, so it no longer made sense to bring a computer home over the summer. So my father bought a computer for the house: A Macintosh LCII with 80MB of hard drive space. I distinctly remember the salesman telling my father that we’d never be able to fill it up, and I can’t help but chuckle when I consider that I could back –up that hard drive 100 times on a USB drive I bought for $30 at BJs.

When I moved out on my own, I carried on the Apple tradition. I bought myself an iMac in candy apple red, or as Mac aficionados would say “F-you Micro$oft red.” I continued to delude myself into thinking that Macs were easier to use than Windows machines until I met my wife in 2003, who had very little experience with modern operating systems (her last computer having been a Colecovision). She tried out my old iMac (I had converted over to a Windows laptop so I could work from home) and proceeded to curse a blue streak at it. You see, the Mac operating system was trying to be helpful, and it kept trying to do things to help my wife do what the computer thought she was trying to do. The only problem was that she didn’t want to do what the computer was telling her she wanted to do, and she had to figure out workarounds to get the computer to take her word for it that she really did want that document to look how it looked.

So I don’t use Macs anymore. I think of them the same way I think of AOL’s online service: They work really hard to develop tools to get around the roadblocks that they themselves built into the operating system just so they can advertise how easy their products are to use.

Anyway, so at the time I was still a Mac Guy, except I knew how to shave my face and neck and regularly laundered my clothes. As such, during my lunch break I would visit websites related to Mac-related gaming, because Mac or No, I will always be a gamer. This one particular site pointed me to a webcomic about a group of college student who used Macs to game and create artwork titled “Mac Hall,” which is now defunct (the original artist is now doing a webcomic called “Three Panel Soul” which I recommend). That webcomic was on keenspot, which was a kind of portal to a list of other webcomics. I remember browsing through the list of webcomics on the list, and seeing something called “Schlock Mercenary.”

And here we finally get to the point.

Schlock Mercenary is a webcomic about a carbo-silicate amorphous alien with an appetite for violence (and anything else he can catch) and a BH209 plasma cannon that has destroyed whole spaceships. In episode 1 of the comic strip, he signs up for a mercenary company known as Tagon’s Toughs by threatening the recruiter with incineration if he doesn’t reconsider the company’s “humans only” recruiting rule.
It turns out it was really more of a guideline than a rule.

From there, we follow the alien; named Schlock; and the crew of Tagon’s Toughs through a series of adventures that include (really) hostile corporate takeovers, patent violations, and a war against a race of beings made of dark matter that nearly destroys the known universe. The comic has been running without interruption for over nine years, which is particularly impressive for a webcomic. What’s even more impressive is the fact that the stories, the jokes, and even the art have only gotten better in that time. Webcomics do not exactly have a reputation for excellence, and while the early years of Schlock Mercenary were not particularly well drawn, they were always funny. And I mean really funny, as in “I must clean the soda I was drinking off of my keyboard because it shot out of my nose, and it hurt like crazy but I still couldn’t stop laughing” funny.

What’s even funnier than the comic itself are the notes that follow some strips. Schlock Mercenary takes place in the distant future, when faster-than-light travel has been achieved and duct tape has been redesigned such that it can actually be used to seal duct work (really ). A lot can happen in a thousand years, and the author brings the reader up to speed on events pertaining to the happenings in that days strip. Sometimes it’s a history lesson, sometimes a science lesson, sometimes a computer programming lesson about how the Trinary unIT replaced the Binary unIT as the basic programming structure, and the affects that had on sexual diversity in the workplace among computer scientists.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, the storylines are huge: literally measured in relativistic units. A given story arc will span months, if not a year, building and building and building to a conclusion that is probably going to result in something very large getting exploded. To give you an idea of how large, at one point someone blows up a Dyson Sphere, and it wasn’t even integral to the story arc.

It’s not always funny, though. The author is no stranger to pathos, and more than one sympathetic character have been snuffed out in the course of the action—we are talking about a troop of mercenaries, after all. But even when long standing characters leave the strip, it doesn’t feel like a cheap way for the author to keep the reader interested; unlike some extremely powerful DC characters that shall remain SuperNameless. Further, ever October the author indulges in a month of darker fare titled “Schlocktoberfest” during which there are fewer jokes and more tension. The mix of humor, action and suspense keep the comic feeling vibrant and new even after nine years of following the same characters.
The comics are also available in dead-tree form. I own all but the most recent book (The Scrapyard of Insufferable Arrogance; a reference to a joke from the series regarding a napoleonic race of koalazoids and the names they give their warships) because they have become a Christmas tradition at my household. If you like the strip online, I heartily recommend buying the books. Not only is it nice to read the comic somewhere other than a monitor, but the books include exclusive bonus stories that delve a little deeper into the origins of the series’ namesake.

If you can handle the crude art, go back to day one of Schlock Mercenary and watch how the art, humor and characters evolve. You can also use the archive navigation screen to pick a story arc that sounds interesting, which might be a good option if you want to start where the art is prettier. The author-recommended place to start is Under New Management. I say “author recommended” because that was the first story arc to get published in book form. The first few months of Schlock Mercenary were actually the second or third book to get printed, and as with Firefly I can see why he went that way, even if I prefer watching the story from the beginning.

The bottom line is that if you’re a sci-fi fan, you need to be reading this web comic. If you’re a military humor fan, you need to be reading this comic. If you’re a comic fan, you need to be reading this web comic. If you’re a… well, let’s just say you need to be reading this web comic.

So go read it. Go ahead. I’ll be back next week with some other morsel of geekitude for you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Books on DVD: The Color of Magic

Translating a book into a movie is akin to walking a tightrope. On the one hand, you're taking an intellectual property that has an established following, so you have to please them. But if you want to be successful, you also have to please the people who've never heard of the book.

There are a couple of tacks to take in pursuit of this. If you're Disney, you buy the IP, keep the title and the character names and write a movie without reading the book. Have you ever read Bedknob and Broomstick? 101 Dalmations? The Rescuers? The movies have virtually nothing to do with the books, but it doesn't really matter because the target market will see the movie before it reads the book, and in that case it's the book that gets criticized for being "wrong."

If you're target market is older, but less geekly, you can buy a potboiler thriller from three summers back by Michael Crichton or John Grisham that a ton of people read, but very few people remember, and make a movie that has the same characters, strikes the same basic themes but is basically a totally different movie. The quitiessential example of this is The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy. The book is about how the world gets to the brink of nuclear war because of palestinian terrorists trying to destroy Israel. The movie is about... neo-nazis.

The really hard movies to make are geek favorites. In those cases, the core audience hasn't just read the book, but in many cases has committed passages to memory and has probably cosplayed (WARNING: Google "cosplay" only with safesearch enabled) as a character from it.

There are three successful ways of making geek favorites. The J.K. Rowling method is to hold the movies to exacting standards of fidelity, resulting in a movie that is extremely true to the book and probably a little unweildy. Non-geeks will lambast you for being slavish.

The Goldman (Author of The Princess Bride, you philistines) method is to make a movie that strikes all the same themes, but stands alone as a property all its own. The movie becomes a complement to the book, something that fans will get more out of than the average theatre-goer, but still remains a good movie in its own right.

The Tolkien-Jackson Method is to be as true to the books as possible, but not truer. Sure, you will be savaged by hardcore fans for omitting Tom Bombadil from your movie and screwing up the characterizations of Faramir and Denethor, but you will win an oscar, make gobs of money, and ruin Elijah Wood's career the way George Lucas did for Mark Hamil, so on balance it comes out positive.


If you've been in a BJs wholesale club, or if you have the same kind of history I have at Amazon.com, you might have noticed that there is a DVD out called "The Color of Magic," and sure enough it's a film translation of Terry Pratchet's first discworld novel.

Well, technically it's a translation of his first two discworld novels, as it includes not just The Color of Magic but also The Light Fantastic.

For those of you unfamiliar, shame on you! The Discworld series is a series of novels that take place on a world where magic, not science, is king. To give you an example of just how supreme magic is, the world is an enormous flat disc that sits on the back of four enormous elephants that walk around in circles on the back of a turtle that enormous would only begin to describe.

Like I said, magic.

The easiest way to describe it is Terry Pratchet doing for the fantasy genre what Douglas Adams did for the science fiction genre. If you haven't read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy either, I don't really understand what you're doing on this site. But suffice it to say, it's comedy. And british comedy at that.

The story of The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic revolve around two primary characters: Rincewind, a failed wizard who can't remember any spell but one and doesn't even know what that spell does; and Twoflower, a tourist from a faraway land that thinks all that magic business is very romantic and quaint.

Twoflower gets himself and Rincewind into all sorts of trouble, and they get wrapped up in a plot that ends up saving the discworld from destruction. I won't go into too much detail about the story at this point, but be forewarned that there be spoilers ahead, as I am writing this from the perspective of someone who has read the books.

The movie is cast exceptionally well. Sean Astin (Sam Gamgee from LOTR) is Twoflower the tourist. Tim Curry (who needs no introduction) plays Trymon, a very ambitious wizard who literally kills his way up the wizardly corporate ladder. David Jason, the voice of Dangermouse and Count Duckula, plays Rincewind. Jeremy Irons (Die Hard 3's Simon Gruber) plays the Patrician to perfection. Finally, Christopher Lee himself lends his voice as Death.

As a movie, it only sort of works. A lot of the humor in Pratchett's novels come from the narrator's descriptions of how things work on the disc. This movie keeps narration to a minimum, and while that's very wise from a moviemaking perspective, it kind of robs the movie of some of its magic. We never get the descriptions of how light moves through a world with a strong magical field (answer: very slowly), for example.

The chief problem is that the movie assumes you've read the books. If you haven't read the books, you'll only sort of know what's going on. Why does Twoflower, an insurance salesman, pronounce "insurance" so affectedly? Why is there a trunk that can walk and eat people following Twoflower about? Why does Death personally show up to claim dying wizards, and why does he keep hanging around Rincewind? They never really explain any of it, and if you haven't read the books you just have to take it on faith that what you're seeing is funny, which rarely works.

There are some differences and omissions that were probably necessary but made me unhappy. One of the funniest sequences in the books is when Rincewind meets the clan of rock trolls and fulfills an ancient prophecy that reads "Rincewind will come looking for mushrooms. Do not bite him." They did include Old Grandpa; a troll the size of a mountain; but his introduction is ineffective without the inclusion of other rock trolls (which can be very small), and the sequence where he wakes up is technically impressive enough that it only highlights the fact that they intentionally wrote the other trolls; which they were clearly capable of rendering; out of the story.

The fact that they omitted some visual gags but still kept in the "in-sewer-ants" and "din-chewers" jokes is head scratching, because using phoenetic equivalent spellings for "insurance" and "dentures" only works if you're reading it. Twoflower is supposed to be explaining these terms to people who've never heard them before and have no concept of what they are. Instead, he sounds like he spontaneously shed 100 IQ points mid-sentence.

Personally, I would have much rather they'd included the Hydrophobes than heard a bunch of people say "in sewer ants."

But let's focus on the good aspects, because it's not a bad movie, just a flawed film adaptation. Cohen the Barbarian does make an appearance and the scenes that involve him are fairly true to the book. Being able to actually see the 90 year old barbarian cutting a swath through younger warriors without serious trouble is a treat, and hearing him complain that he hates "shoop" because he hasn't got any teeth left made me smile. Further, like the rest of the cast they found a superlative actor to play him.

Twoflower's sapient pearwood trunk is created through the magic of computer animation, and it looks almost exactly how I pictured it. I wish they had focused on it as much in the movie as Pratchett did in the books, because the descriptions in the books were very funny.

The Color of Magic is $10 at BJs, and if you're a fan of the books I don't really see how you can pass it up. It strikes the major themes as well as can be expected, and it does a good job visualizing a world where light moves very slowly. It's just a pity that they didn't choose what was included and what wasn't with more care.

But then what do I know? Terry Pratchet himself signed off on the script, or so says the credits. I'm just some guy with a blog that nobody reads.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Late to the Party Reviews: Infamous

Well, it's that time of the week again already. How time flies.

This week I'll be taking a look at Infamous, or if you read the box and insist on being faithful to marketing foolishness inFAMOUS. I do not insist on being faithful to people who misuse capslock, so hereafter I shall type the title of the game as if it were a normal proper noun.

Infamous is video game available only on the PS3. Like all PS3 exclusives, a typical reviewer must be cautious about what he or she says because the legion of PS3 fanboys who are grateful to be able to play something that cannot be had on a rival system will send emails using only capslock and various ways to imply the reviewer has had an inappropriate relationship with a barnyard animal, his own mother, or both.

You see, PS3 fanboys tend to have chips on their shoulders, because they picked the loser in this generation's console wars but they don't want to admit it. As someone who owns only Sony products this gaming generation (PS3 and a PSP, thank you very much) I am enamored of my platforms of choice, but I have no illusions about NPD numbers. Face it, guys: Sony places third in a field of three. That's a fancy word for losing.

Anyway, the fact that the PS3 is this generation's loser doesn't change the fact that there are still a lot of good games to be played on it. Infamous is among them, though it is not without flaws.

For those of you who are also late to the party, let me recap: Infamous is the story of Cole McGrath, a delivery boy who gets electrically charged super powers when a package he delivers blows up and annihilates a large portion of the city. It soon becomes clear that some big things are brewing, and Cole is up to his ionized backside in trouble.

The game borrows liberally from Grand Theft Auto III. It's open world on a city that consists of three islands that unlock as you complete story-related missions. There are side missions littered throughout the landscape, as well as pockets of thugs for you to fight if you just want to get into some quick action. As with every other open world game in the known universe, there are a few hundred Totally Arbitrary Collectible Objects (or TACOs, a term used in the JRPG Anachronox which I have adopted) called "blast shards" which grant Cole additional energy to use his more impressive powers.

The developers tried to set this game apart from other open-world games in a few ways. First, Cole is a very agile delivery boy. He can climb just about anything that has a handhold (except chain link fences). The explanation for this is that he "got into urban exploration a few years ago." He says it once the first time he ventures into the sewers, and it totally explains how his climbing abilities are rivaled only by Spiderman.

Ahem.

The other way the developers tried to set Infamous apart is with the morality system. As Cole, you're allowed to play as a hero, or as a villain-ish character. I say villain-ish because the game doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you play the evil path, particularly if you do a lot of side missions, which you kind of have to do.

For example, if you're playing the Evil Path, you will be asked to blow up cops and steal things from other residents of the city. Then you'll be asked to help a doctor establish a new clinic, and protect a bus carrying medical supplies. Blowing up cops and setting up clinics are both optional missions, but you need experience points to buy new powers and upgrades, and if you don't do all of the side missions you won't be able to fully upgrade for the final boss.

The main differences between the "good" and "evil" path are in the powers that you get to wield. As the hero, Cole gets powers that enable him to do precise damage to villains without hurting bystanders and to live-capture enemies for the police to collect. As the villain, Cole gets cool red lightning, and his powers tend to be more explodey.

The powers are completely tied up in your moral fiber, so don't think you'll be able to play through as a grey jedi. Upgrades to your abilities only appear when you've reached a certain level of fame or notoriety (Guardian, Champion and Hero on the good side, Thug, Outlaw and Infamous on the evil side) and you can't use Infamous powers if you're only ranked as an Outlaw, or Hero powers if you're only ranked Champion. When you max out your karma in one direction or the other, you get an ability that temporarily grants you unlimited energy-- so there's no incentive to be a little bit good if you're playing evil, or vice versa.

A lot of reviewers have complained at the implementation of the karmic system, and I can't say I wholly blame them. I've never had a problem with binary moral systems in games-- Fallout 3 had a binary system, and I thought it worked well for the most part. But Infamous is on the sloppy side and a lot of the choices don't make sense. The choice isn't "Cole does what he thinks is right" versus "Cole looks out for number one" which is how the world really works. The choice is always "Cole does what the game tells you is right" versus "Cole acts like a total a-hole."

A good example comes up early, so I have no qualms about spoiling it: Cole is in the sewers and he finds a man guarding a gate. The man believes the bad-guys are holding his wife hostage and will kill her if he opens the gate for anyone but them. His wife, you earlier discovered, has already been killed. At this time the player is presented with a moral choice:

The good choice is to tell him that his wife is already dead and that he doesn't have to guard the gate anymore.

The evil choice is to kill the guy.


I know. Tough call, right?

The other problem with the karma system is that it doesn't really change the story in any meaningful way. If you play the good path, your girlfriend is nicer to you (for about five minutes) and people don't throw rocks at you as you walk down the street but the main story arc is identical to the "evil" path. Most of the side missions don't even change, as I mentioned earlier, so you're still establishing medical clinics and getting the trains running on time no matter which moral path you take.

But when you strip away that moral system, you're still left with a darn good game. The controls are tight, the combat is fun; once you get the hang of figuring out where the snipers are (hint: don't stand in one place and try to figure out where the bullets that are hitting you in the head are coming from. You'll die a lot.) and the story is pretty good if you play the hero.

The controls take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of holding the R1 button whenever you want to shoot something the combat flows pretty smoothly. If you're quick enough on the draw, you can reflect missiles back at the guys who shot them at you, which is always fun. The sheer variety in the powers Cole wields makes for some good fun-- whether playing as the hero or the villain he has a standard shot, sniper shot, grenade and missile launcher equivalents, as well as the totally awesome "summon a continuous lightning arc and steer it around" power which is sadly useless against any game bosses but will clear out enemy vehicles like nobody's business.

Just climbing around the city is a ton of fun. The controls in this respect are very forgiving, and the only way I missed a jump was when I was trying too hard to make it. Cole is almost magnetic for handholds, which is great for some of the jumping puzzles but admittedly annoying if you're trying to get across a crowded roof in a hurry. The "drop down" button could have used some tweaking, because while it's occasionally useful to push the button and drop down the the next lower handhold, usually what I want to do is drop the the ground, and the drop-down button doesn't allow for that. But on the whole, I'd say the maneuvering mechanics work very well.

One of the things I really like about the game is the TACO system. Usually, players are told there are X number of collectible objects on the map and left to fend for themselves. In Infamous, the player can use radar which will alert the player to the presence of blast shards if they are within range on the mini-map. Using this system I've collected 320 out of 350 shards without resorting to online FAQs, which I did when I played Mercenaries 2.

Overall, I'd say Infamous is definitely worth playing. My recommendation is to play through as the hero first, because the story makes more sense, and then decide if you want to play the evil path. On the whole, I'm glad I did both, but I don't think I would have if I'd played the evil path first. It's clear where the developers want you to go, and there's no reason not to. You'll have a better experience if you don't fight it.


In conclusion, the only honest way to give a game a score is to decide whether it's worth the price you'll pay for it. As with any opinion, this is subject to personal taste, but unlike arbitrary grades it has the benefit of using a practical unit of measure. So, if you see Infamous, what price tag is worth paying?

Well, I paid full price ($60) and I feel like I got my money's worth. It's a solid $60, an excellent $50 game, and a must-buy at $40 or below.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Grading Movies

Welcome back to Free Toy Inside. This week we'll be discussing movies, because a geek doesn't thrive on video games alone. Somtimes you just don't want to have to be the one who pushes the story forward, but you don't want to have to use your imagination either; and so instead of reaching for a book, you reach for a DVD.

And let me be perfectly clear: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Well, unless you're watching the wrong kind of movie, in which case: shame on you.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

In the world of Hollywood, there are several grades of movies. I don't mean the ratings-- PG, R, NC-17, DNPGDNCTHDDNUACSTM (Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Two Hundred Dollars, Do Not Under Any Circumstances See This Movie) No, I mean grades. Like with beef (nature's Tofu) there are multiple grades of movie depending upon what kind of cow it came from.

Starting out, we have the "good" grade, which is the filet minon of movie grades. In other words, it's movies critics love, but ordinary moviegoers tend to scratch their heads at. Anything directed by Stanley Kubric, for example. These movies win the most oscars. Million Dollar Baby, for example, would qualify as a "good movie." You can usually, but not always, spot a "good" or "fine" movie by the fact that it is critically acclaimed, but does shite at the box office.

This isn't a hard and fast rule, however. Shawshank Redemption would be an example of the "good" grade movie, and that movie is very watchable. I think it has something to do with the ending. Good movies tend not to have happy endings, for the same reason the books they make you read in high school tend not to have happy endings. I'm not sure why. It must have something to do with suffering for art. The artist did, and now it's your turn.

Next down the line, there's the "bad good movie."A bad good movie is a good movie that just doesn't work. These movies can also win oscars, but have happier endings. "Gladiator" was a bad good movie, in that it had all the pretensions of oscar bait, but appealed too much to the groundlings. For my part, I loved every minute of it.

Again, this isn't a hard and fast rule-- Gladiator did win an Oscar, after all. (Though you might recall a lot of critics bawling about how they bought the award.)

Other such movies are Rocky and Rocky II, Cinderella Man, and The Incredibles. These movies are usually, but not always, less critically acclaimed than "good" movies, but do really well at the box office. They are the barbecue of movies-- the meat my not be of the best quality, but if it's done right it's probably better than 90% of what you've eaten in the past year.

Below the bad good movie, is the "okay" movie. Okay movies are the ones most people watch and buy on DVD. They tend to get mixed reviews, get unremarkable numbers (but profitable), and their watchability is largely subject to taste. It is within this region that your standard summer blockbuster and your standard chick-flick both reside, living in relative harmony. The "Okay" movie is the movie that you think should win the oscar, but doesn't, so it wins the People's Choice award instead. In other words, it's the hamburger of movies-- tasty and satisfying but kind of insubstantial for seven dollars. (I'm looking at you, Applebees.)

Movies of this caliber include Transformers, Die Hard 1 and 2, and The Rundown.

Now here's where things get interesting. Once you go down a grade from "okay" movies, you're in the minus world-- a world of bad movies. But, like good movies, there are some graduations. Of course, there's the "bad" grade (anything featuring Barbara Streissand), not to be confused with the "BaaaaaAAAAD!" grade (anything featuring Samuel L. Jackson). Bad movies are usually panned by critics, and do bubkus at the box office. For examples, see (or rather, don't see) Howard the Duck, Snakes on a Plane, Star Trek 1 and 5, and any Star Wars movie made after 1980. Bad movies are the lips and hooves of the movie world-- stuff they make oscar meyer bologna out of. In other words, consumable if you're in the mood but liable to leave you queasy afterward.

But the really interesting grade is what comes between Bad and Okay; The Good Bad Movie. If we're sticking with the meat comparison, the good bad movie is the kind of meat they make really good sausages and hot dogs out of.

The Good Bad movie, sometimes called the "B" movie, is the opposite of a Bad Good Movie. Nothing in the movie should work; the script, the acting, the story, the directing; nothing. But, somehow, it all comes together into something that's just darn fun to watch. Usually, this grade is mislabled "camp" but camp is a genre, not a movie grade. Camp is a what you get when you try to make a bad movie on purpose (This excludes anything by Uwe Boll, because making bad movies on purpose for artistic reasons is differnt from making bad movies on purpose for tax reasons). The result can be a good movie (Pulp Fiction) or a bad movie (Kill Bill, Mars Attacks) or anywhere in between. But just calling something "camp" does not tell you what it's grade is, nor does it give you an excuse for having made a bad movie.

The main difference between a good bad movie and camp is the nature of how a person enjoys it. If you enjoy the movie ironically, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge-isn't-this-stupid way, then it's camp. If you enjoy the movie honestly, inspite of it's flaws rather than because of them, then it's a good bad movie.A good example of a movie that is both "Camp" and a good bad movie is Evil Dead 2. Good bad movies tend to slip through the cracks. They don't last long in theatres, they are rarely reviewed well, and their box office performance is spotty at best. They tend to have decent opening weekends, followed by two weeks of kilo-dollar returns, then consignment to the $15 bin at your local Best Buy. Good bad movies include Red Dawn, Spaced Invaders, and Bubble Boy.

This may seem like an awful lot of verbiage to describe something that most people understand inherently, but I am writing a geek entertainment blog after all. Anyway, I personally own 412 movies and TV series (each series counts as 1 title, by the way) on DVD that run the gamut from good to bad. I have them organized in a spreadsheet so by title, genre, sub-genre and three principle actors. It helps me pick what movie I want to see, because browsing over 400 titles in a shelf gets unwieldy-- even if they are alphabetized by genre.

Yes, I have some nerd in me as well as geek. Surprised?