Posts Tagged ‘review’

Review: The Get Rich and Become God Method

July 17th, 2020

If you’ve ever spent time in the self-help section of a bookstore, you’ve probably noticed they’re two types of books in the category: specific subjects and general subjects. Specific self-help books might be something about playing the stock market or an introduction to chardonnay tasting. Those are fine, though the audience is going to be fairly limited. On the other hand the general self-help books cover a broad topic anyone might find appealing, the most well known of which is “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The downside to these general self-help books is they’re so generic you’ve almost certainly heard all of the advice in the book long before you read it. 

The new self-help e-book from internet persona Dril takes the general subject self-help book in a different direction. In The Get Rich and Become God Method you’ll learn… well, nothing really. Or to put it another way, it’s a satire — but also just as effective as the genre it’s mocking.

Before getting into the book I think it’s worth addressing the character writing it. Dril writes with the voice of someone who’s talking down to you, yet has no clue what’s going on. His main concern in life seems to involve getting trolled online, which fills him with an impotent rage. He’s both a grizzled old man and obsessed with video games. 

The book’s title is an acronym; each letter stands for a step to follow as part of the process. For example, the first “E” in the word “Become” stands for “E-mails.” The book is divided into sections based on these steps, though the content is often entirely unrelated to the section’s theme.

Obviously the book, which is allegedly sponsored by the frozen pretzel brand SuperPretzel, doesn’t teach you how to get rich or become “the supreme ruler of heaven and Earth.” Or anything else, really. Some of the advice seems to be rather specifically aimed at Dril himself.

Dril’s online lore is present throughout the book. His frenemy Digitmon Otis gets some words in about the future, as well as the obscure Bandai WonderSwan handheld game console. We also learn Dril still has a beef with user beavis_sinatra, who “terrorizes” him with photos of cups too close to the edge of tables.

The graphic design and illustration look like something a ten year old would have made on GeoCities in the mid 90’s, and the text has typos to match the aesthetic. Many sections are challenging to read due to the formatting. 

I don’t want to spoil too much of this book, but some of the advice includes:

  • Demanding the toilet be removed from your home so you can wear diapers.
  • The key to getting rich turns out to be quite simple: money. Several tips for making money are included, such as betting on dog racing.
  • Playing video games to train for real life. Not owning every gaming console is compared to missing vital organs in your body.

Some of the more random sections of the book include:

  • A review of a game called “Racism Simulator 2007.”
  • Newspaper clippings that include, among other things, a review of a garbage dump.
  • A defense of wearing blackface… on your penis.
  • A tragic tale about how Dril was bullied by a car dealer into purchasing a horrible car filled with boiling grease.

My recommendation: If you find this sort of odd anecdotal humor as funny as I do, you’ll get a kick out of The Get Rich and Become God Method. It’s available as a PDF and can be purchased here.

Review: Marion’s Wish

April 12th, 2020
 

Earlier this week the three comedians behind On Cinema released a free short story as an e-book titled Marion’s Wish. According to the forward this book is the result of a text message conversation between Tim Heidecker, Mark Proksch, and Gregg Turkington while they’re all self isolating for COVID-19.

Although it’s not officially part of the On Cinema universe in any way, it has certain similarities. Specifically Tim is the instigator, Mark is the fall guy (who is obsessed with the Three Stooges for some reason) and Gregg is the unreliable expert with strange ideas.

The story starts out with Tim asking Mark to have a video chat over breakfast with Marion, allegedly the granddaughter of Moe from the Three Stooges. Mark reluctantly accepts, and Gregg quickly chimes in with a request for Mark to get Marion to verify a friend’s stash of nude photos of Moe.

In typical comedy fashion everything spirals out of control from there, with a typo-laden and buggy auto-correct version of “Who’s On First” muddying the waters. New characters with similar names are introduced including another guy named Tim and a man named Mario (not to be confused with Marion.)

Although the presentation is a tad sloppy at times, it’s a quick read — maybe 20 minutes or so — and I was laughing so hard I had to take a quick break to wipe the tears from my eyes before the end.

My recommendation: Humor is extremely subjective, though if dark, classic comedy tickles you in the right way, give this short story a read. You can download it for free here.

Review: Dracula (2020 miniseries)

January 10th, 2020

 

The new Dracula three part miniseries from Moffat and Gatiss (Sherlock, Doctor Who) adapt Bram Stoker’s classic novel with the sort of twists and trappings we’ve come to expect from this duo, for better or worse.

It’s available on both BBC and Netflix if you’d like to see it. Here’s my review.

 

Warning: Mild spoilers ahead

Much like the 1950’s Japanese monster movies Dracula is fundamentally an invasion story: a vampire leaves his castle in Transylvania, sailing to England in search of new blood. The obvious modern choice would be to make this a story about immigration with some kind of Brexit allegory, but that’s nowhere to be found in this adaptation.

The first episode starts in the late 19th century with Dracula’s first major victim in the story, Jonathan Harker. We initially meet Harker in a semi-alive state in the care of a convent of nuns. A mysterious nun named Agatha is keen to understand his story and learn more about Dracula, despite her already vast knowledge of vampire legends. We see Harker meet Dracula through flashbacks.

Dracula’s strengths and weaknesses won’t be a big surprise. He feeds on human blood, only comes out at night, can’t stand sunlight or crosses, sleeps in a coffin, drinks blood, etc. Every vampire story is a little different but I suspect most of us have at least a passing familiarity with Dracula.

The first plot twist is kind of a let down either way. For those familiar with the story it’s clear from the start that Sister Agatha is a vampire hunter, and for those that aren’t the reveal of her last name won’t mean anything.

The second big twist involves another one of Dracula’s vampiric traits: he has to be invited in. It’s clever enough that I won’t spoil it here.

 

The second episode focuses on Dracula’s voyage to England. It’s a typical murderer in an enclosed space horror story where the audience knows what’s happening, yet the characters struggle to figure it out before they’re all dead.

We confirm something about this version of Dracula from the last episode; he doesn’t just drink blood to live, he absorbs certain aspects of his victims via their blood. This keeps him a step ahead of everyone else.

The ship contains a big secret: no, not Dracula — we know that from the start. As it turns out Sister Agatha is on board. She’s still trying to understand Dracula right up until she has stop the ship from reaching England.

The episode ends with Dracula reaching the shore of England anyway. But wait! Time has skipped forward by just over a century. Dracula is greeted by armed guards and… Sister Agatha? Huh?

 

The third and final episode is the most original of the series… and the biggest let down. Dracula rapidly adapts his old ways to modern life as though he were a supervillain with a time machine.

Meanwhile the descendant of Sister Agatha who looks exactly like her — and sort of is her, through blood in another obvious twist — continues the journey to discover the true nature of Dracula and the mysterious rules he lives by. Why is he afraid of sunlight and the cross? What do the undead see when they look in the mirror?

All of this comes crashing down in an unsatisfying ending that only partially answers the questions it raises about Dracula.

 

Looking critically at this series I think it needs to be split in half. In the first two episodes we see the setup of the story, with some key twists on a familiar tale. It’s a solid adaptation: just different enough we don’t know exactly what to expect.

The third episode is a unique beast: it takes the stakes (sorry) and drives them forward, but stumbles repeatedly along the way.

The primary climax is perfect: Agatha and her descendant unearth Dracula for who he really is, and how his weaknesses are all related to a central personality defect. The downfall of Dracula isn’t some hero pounding a stake through his chest — it’s Dracula’s own primal fears laid bare.

I want to pause here because it’s a legitimately good twist: “Agatha” forces Dracula to pause and examine himself. After reflecting on his decisions Dracula decides to finally die on his own terms.

The dissection of Dracula’s traits isn’t without its flaws however, as many of them are never explained. Dracula can turn into dogs and bats, and in exactly one scene we see him fly. Are these rules also part of Dracula’s personality? Do they apply to other vampires or undead characters? What exactly are mirrors reflecting? Unfortunately these questions are not addressed. It’s unclear if other vampires like Dracula even exist.

Several parts of the story fall flat in the third episode. Dracula’s last victim is Lucy, portrayed as a vain narcissist who’s so unsympathetic I was rooting for her to die immediately. Dracula’s lawyer (played by Gatiss himself) serves as a comic relief in a story that already has enough comic beats to make his scenes redundant.

Overall I think Dracula is a decent enough adaptation, though the third episode suffers from focus and pacing issues — there’s a solid, unique 60 minute story stretched out to 90 minutes with completely unnecessary “clever” ideas. It would have been a more compelling story if we had the time to see Dracula come to terms with himself.

Just as with the later seasons of Moffat-era Doctor Who and the third season or so onward of Sherlock, Dracula slurps up some promising new ideas before ultimately sputtering out. 

Thoughts on the first episode of Truthpoint: Darkweb Rising

October 18th, 2019

Dril and Derek in a screencap from the trailer

 

There’s no easy way to explain the new Adult Swim show Truthpoint: Darkweb Rising. It’s a conspiracy theory fueled debate show, allegedly originating from the dark web. I might describe it as though aliens on the other side of the galaxy picked up Crossfire and InfoWars and somehow tried to produce new content for human viewers.

Before the show, a government warning appears telling us what we’re about to see is unfit for public consumption because it’s “too real.” The primary host is Dril, an anonymous Twitter user who has spent the last decade posting weird yet somehow hilarious messages like these:

To maintain his anonymity on television, Dril wears sunglasses over a cheap rubber mask that makes him look like a cross between Max Headroom and a burn victim.

Derek, a loud skinny white guy with a thick head of brown hair is the co-host. We’re told Derek’s list of accomplishments include inventing a new mental disorder as well as getting fired from running the Wendy’s Twitter account when he used it to promote Burger King.

The two sit at desks in front of a screen displaying images of a spinning globe, a city in flames, and occasionally a photo of Larry King. A CNN-like headline ticker at the bottom of the screen scrolls various headlines including “Spinning Around Really Fast Could be the Hot New ‘Cheap and Legal High,’ Warns Pastor.”

The hosts are occasionally joined by Truthbot, an allegedly AI character who speaks through a voice synthesizer that sounds like it would be at home in a 1970’s Kraftwerk single.

 

Episode one

The first episode “Money” jumps into a segment called “The Throw Down.” They play a clip about getting money through positive affirmations, along the lines of countless generic self-help materials.

This leads into a debate segment called “Bullet Points” which features gun-related images. Dril kicks things off, emphasizing that “money will make you rich,” and recommends selling out to someone like George W. Bush or Jeffrey Epstein.

After Drill hands Derek a pen and demands Derek sell it back to him — one of those cheap disposable Bic pens — they get into an ongoing debate about who owns the pen. Dril hands Derek three dollars and begs for it back, but Derek only returns the cap.

In contrast to Dril, Derek recommends throwing your money away because it’s from the government — which he doesn’t trust — and mining cryptocurrency instead. But he supports Dril’s message about selling out.

In a segment called “Arena of Expertise” they bring on Dr. Branson, a “Professor of General Studies” via satellite. Branson conducts a thought experiment to prove money isn’t even real.

Dril and Derek decide this expert is a moron and “flush” him away with a toilet flushing sound so they can take some phone callers, none of whom have anything interesting to say. The callers are all flushed away as well.

Towards the end of the episode the two hosts don party hats while displaying completely incoherent “internet memes” in a segment allegedly sponsored by Monsanto. They try to pick the one that best fits Monsanto’s brand image.

The episode ends with “Zero Hour” where each host makes a closing statement. Dril’s “Final Thoughts” segment reveals a new self-help affirmation condemning Derek. Derek uses “The Last Word” to show off his new pen and the three dollars Dril gave him.

 

Critical reception

Early critics of Truthpoint, who aired their grievances before the show’s premier, seemed mostly annoyed that Dril would do a show at all — presumably because it shattered the illusion that he’s the person seen in his Twitter avatar, an old blurry photo of Jack Nicholson. (Note to people of the future: if that previous sentence sounded strange, and I hope it does, go look at the real news from this year.)

After the episode actually aired a few reviewers who watched it praised the show for taking the mock-news comedy format in a new direction. It’s certainly true that nobody will mistake Truthpoint for SNL’s Weekend Update, The Daily Show, or Last Week Tonight.

 

My thoughts so far

Personally I’m on the fence. On the one hand, satirizing the typical debate shows these days that are just hosts yelling hot takes at one another with a show where the hosts are yelling literal nonsense is a clever subversion. There’s potential, the first episode definitely has some laugh out loud moments.

But on the other, the hour long format, filmed live, and with Adult Swim’s low budget it didn’t quite come together — at least not in this first episode. 

Over the years my favorite live action Adult Swim series have been Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule, The Eric Andre Show, and On Cinema At The Cinema. All four of those mock low budget content while simultaneously being filmed on a shoestring budget themselves. Just as importantly, they do so in 15 minute increments. 

My only criticisms of Truthpoint so far is it’s kind of long, and the live element doesn’t add much. I realize Adult Swim has 24 hours a day to fill on their web stream but this particular show would greatly benefit from tight editing to keep the humor moving along at a steady pace.

Regardless I do hope the argument about ownership of the pen is resolved by the end of the season. We’re through the looking glass here people, and we need answers.

Review: Wonderland from Epic Immersive

June 5th, 2018


 

This is the final month for an immersive theater show in San Francisco titled Wonderland. It’s a story based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. As the audience is sworn to secrecy and forbidden (wisely, I think) from taking photos, this will be a tight-lipped review. I’m not going to discuss details about the story or expose the secret location.

Let me start by stating that I’ve only been to one previous production that would qualify as “immersive theater,” so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. But the basic rules on the ticketing website and the safety presentation before the show seemed pretty clear. Arrive sober, don’t attack the actors, and if you’re unclear or uncomfortable just say so — simple enough.

The audience went through in small groups, with the actors either drawing out or speeding up scenes to give everyone time to find their way through the dark “rabbit holes” of the space. This seemed to affect pacing in unexpected ways. My companion in our group later confessed she felt rushed at times and would have liked more time to explore.

I should point out here that this production is fairly linear. Unlike some immersive theater productions where you can stay in one spot the whole time if you wish, in Wonderland you’re ushered from one scene to the next.

The interactions between the actors and audience varied between scenes, as did the seriousness of the actors themselves. Some seemed content to chew scenery while others played their roles with more subtle humor. The only character played completely straight is Alice, which is sensible considering her story arch.

Aside from one unclear plot point near the end I found the story easy to follow and enjoyable. Perhaps the real standout star of the show is the venue itself. That said I’m biased as this particular place is one of my favorites in San Francisco — perhaps it will become one of yours as well.

Wonderland extends through the end of June 2018, you can purchase tickets here. If you go with someone else try to get tickets in the same “wave” so you won’t be split up.
 

My recommendation: If you’re the kind of person who reads this blog, I’d give it a qualified yes — as long as you meet the mobility requirements (some crawling is involved), have an interest in immersive theater, and can afford the ticket price it’s a fun and unique show. See it while you still have the chance!