Summer Streaming Gems

Just a quick post today to share some interesting films I’ve seen lately that might not be on your radar. And wouldn’t you know it, they’re all available for streaming on Netflix.





This film is weird and dark and weird and experimental and weird, but the experiment works. It accomplishes some very cool things within its limited setting, not the least of which was surprising me. That alone gets it a mention.


Bottle Shock



It’s got a fantastic cast and an intriguing premise, but this movie does suffer from a couple too many subplots, most especially the unnecessary love triangle. It’s really a symptom of focusing on too many characters, but they’re all quite well executed so it’s difficult to say which should be trimmed. Despite the bloated structure, this film made me laugh and made me want to know more about wine, both worthy feats.


Everything Must Go



Will Ferrell, why don’t you do more dramatic roles? You’re good in them. Stranger Than Fiction was a treasure, and this film was yet more proof that you can play more than just a buffoon. It’s slow and quiet and slightly depressing, but also very amusing and sympathetic. A movie about beginning some relationships and moving on from others.





This film is just gorgeous. It’s got kind of an odd pace and not as much really happens in it as you might expect, but the visual style and sense of atmosphere are simply top-notch. If District 9 and Children of Men had a quiet, contemplative love child, this movie would be it. This is not a film about fighting aliens, but rather the character-focused drama of two people on a journey in a world that happens to be occupied by hostile creatures from another world. It’s a unique take on the genre and worth seeing.


When I finished my first draft of this post I realized I’d used the word “interesting” in all four descriptions and the opening. That just wouldn’t do, and I’m so glad I caught it. That’s all the films I have to recommend for now, but do let me know if you’ve seen any of these and liked or hated them, or if you have any other recommendations to share.




Today we’re going to talk about asynchronous games, and why you should be playing one. With me.

I keep busy these days. I have a blog, a fantasy novel in progress, a full schedule of classes, a part-time job, a cat, an apartment, a social life, shows to watch, books to read, and a scattering of odd hobbies I’m trying to pick up on the side, covering everything from playing the guitar to making shadow puppets. I’m still very much a gamer, but my video game time tends to be sporadic and at odd hours. This is fine for single-player experiences, which have always been my bread and butter anyway. But it’s still nice to be able to play with other gaming friends. It’s a hobby that lends itself to being shared, and I don’t want to completely forgo that bonding element just because I don’t have time to level up a smuggler, practice my 2-gate Zealot rush or practice my twitch-headshot skills. Now I’m adding some social gaming back into my life by hosting retro gaming parties, but that’s a subject for another time. Right now, I want to talk about asynchronous games, and how they’re a great help to the modern, mature gamer-on-the-go.


Games With Friends


I’m not going to talk about Words with Friends, because the fact you’re reading this indicates that you have internet access, whether under a rock or otherwise, so you already know about Words with Friends. But did you know that Zynga also has a range of other asynchronous “with Friends” games? They aren’t playable on all of the platforms that Words is, but if you have an iOS device there are several options that aren’t Scrabble-inspired. I’m currently knee-deep in losing a game of Chess with Friends to my father back in Virginia, a time-honored tradition since I was young. I haven’t given the other games much of a look, but I’m not dis-interested. My tag is TimGarris on that service.


Hero Academy


Penny Arcade first brought this game to my attention, which I imagine is a common state of affairs. I’m glad they did, because this is a fantastic turn-based strategy game that’s great for pulling out for a quick minute or two between appointments. Or meals. Or stoplights. Or sentences. You each get a team of units with unique properties depending on which faction you choose to play as. The units are all fairly well balanced and have different abilities, and which ones you get are chosen randomly, like drawing cards from a deck. The small grid-based playing field keeps the action pretty constant and easy to digest, and after a few rounds you’ll likely be tempted to drop money on one of the expansion faction, like dark elves or dwarves. If you’re a gamer looking for something a little meatier than a board game, this is a great one to pick up. It’s available on both iOS and Steam with cross-platform play, so it’s super accessible, too. My name on there is Smikian, one of the permutations of my usual gamertag.


Frozen Synapse


I just started playing this recently, and it’s the game that made me want to talk about this subject in the first place. It’s desktop-only and a bit more involved than the other two, but still very much in the “play a quick turn whenever you can” setup. Basically you control little representations of soldiers on a simple 3D map, giving them instructions on where to move, where to aim and so on, then pit your strategy against your opponent’s, with both playing out simultaneously. If you ever played the original Rainbow Six back in the day and loved the planning phase, this is for you. It takes some thinking to get used to all of the tactical options and learn to think strategically and anticipate what the other side will do, but once you get it down it’s a really fun time. It also has the ability to replay turns, which can get addictive when you pull off something really cool. My name on there is Smakian, yet another gamertag variation.

Those are the asynchronous games I’m playing right now. Do you play any of them? Or have another that you want to recommend? Let me know!

As a sidenote, I just realized that two out of three of these games was developed in Texas, which reminds me how much I love the game development scene down here. Also did not notice before that the Hero Academy guys are also the Orcs Must Die guys. It’s not asynchronous and so not really within the purview of this post, but those games are also awesome and worth checking out.