Just so that nobody thinks I’m dead…

My life last week consisted primarily of me playing Civilization V. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take paternity leave to care for my new daughter (sadly, today was my first day back at work), but she doesn’t do a whole lot right now except eat, sleep, and poo, so I wound up purchasing a new video game.

I’ve owned every Civilization title (including Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri) since part II, which is the first computer game I ever played on my first computer. With each iteration, I invariably blow about a month of my life sitting in front of the computer screen internally uttering “Just one more turn.” I know the Civilization series is not everybody’s cup of tea, but for fans, Sid Meier and crew miraculously manages to keep the series fresh while never departing too radically from the core gameplay.

By far the best innovation of Civilization V is the elimination of unit stacking. You can no longer place a billion military units into the same tile. Only one military unit and one civilian unit can share a tile, including the city garrison. Combined with the fact that the basic game board tiles are now hexagons instead of squares, this makes for a much more tactical game. I actually like military combat in Civilization V, whereas in previous games, I always attempted to avoid it by pursuing diplomatic solutions until I could just nuke everybody I didn’t like.

Moving on… Here are a few other random things about last week.

I caught the last thirty minutes of the new Masterpiece Mystery on PBS, which was an updated version of Sherlock Holmes (i.e., it is set in the present) featuring a very young  (and odd-looking) Sherlock. I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t. The bit I caught was just a rip off of the scene from The Princess Bride in which the Man in Black matches wits with Vezzini, with Sherlock in the role of Vezzini and a serial murderer in the role of Westley. But it was a good rip-off.

If you’re a Sherlockian, you’ll probably want to check it out, but unfortunately, I only see a preview on the PBS website, and not the full episode. Ah well.

Since this past weekend was Halloween weekend, I pulled a couple of scary movies out of my DVD collection to watch. The first was my wife’s choice: the remake of Dawn of the Dead. I’d forgotten that Zack Snyder of 300 fame had done this film. And seeing this again, I realize he kind of ripped himself off with the opening montage to Watchmen, since the opening montage to Dawn of the Dead was similarly done. Both are rather brilliant, by the way.

Snyder’s a solid, slick director who does flash well, and there’s a lot that I like about his DotD, right from the start in which the protagonist has to escape her neighborhood with all hell breaking lose around her. One of my favorite shots is the low angle steady cam trailing her car as she speeds through the residential streets. It’s something you’re more likely to see in a video game than a film, and as a result, it’s weird and interesting.

What makes this film worth watching, though, is that Snyder uses pretty much all practical/special effects for the copious zombie killing, and that’s kind of unexpected considering how enamored he clearly is of CGI.

Even though my wife picked it and had seen it before, in her analysis, Dawn of the Dead is more funny than scary. She might be right–it’s very jokey, but then again, it does have a scene in which a woman gives birth to a zombie baby, and that’s damn creepy.

Anyway, we watched that on Saturday, and on Sunday, my pick, we watched Blade II. This remains one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. I actually saw this movie twice in the theater, which is something I never do. I haven’t got much to say except that Guillermo del Toro is an artist and it’s absolutely unfathomable to me that this film only has a 6.6 on the IMDb. This film is not only creepy as hell with amazing make-up effects, but it’s pretty much just the most ass-kickingest film ever made. For my money, Wesley Snipes is probably…I don’t know…one of the top five film martial artists. I love his economy of motion and the way that when he hits a dude (yes, I know he’s not really hitting them), it looks like he’s just breaking bones with every strike.