Jun 29, 2008

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Warhawk - Well, jeez.  It's an FPS, on a console, online.  How did this game have any chance with me?  To be fair, it seems like it might be ok if you were into it.  Kind of Battlefield for the PS3, except no classes.  I'd rather just play battlefield.  PS I suck hardcore at console FPSs.  PPS everyone on the internet is a douche.

Gran Turismo 5: Prologue - So, here's the thing with me and driving games, we don't really get along.  The best racing games ever are the Burnout series because they aren't really racing games.  They are crash into things and blow shit up games - wonderful.  For the most part every other racing game ever made sucks, which may or may not have something to do with the fact that I suck at them.  The one exception to this was Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, which I played the shit out of.  There is some magic to the realisim of the GT games that lets people who suck at them feel like they are at least learning and getting better because they teach you.  Prologue is the same way, I have much more fun playing it than I should.  Unfortunately, it is a stunted game.  Everyone kinda knows this, it's practically a demo, only like 4 tracks, maybe 40 or 50 cars total?  Kinda limited, though I gave up before I hit that limit cuz I suck.  So, it's beautiful, plays wonderful, it's brilliant.  But it is not a full game, and not worth $40.  Great rental though.

Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 - Pretty good!  I had heard the first one was great, but it was on 360 and I never got to it on PC.  I had also heard vegas 2 is basically the same game again, which is a good thing!  This is the only way I can imagine playing FPSs successfully on a console.  It's more patient, more tactical, less twitchy.  There's still a retarded level where it's just you against an army and its super frustrating.  But besides that it was a lot of fun, I didn't get bored, which is saying something.  The story itself is standard, the acting is decent.  It's a fun game, though, defintely worth the time.

God of War 2: Woooooooo!  Who doesn't love god of war?  c'mon, you strap on huge chains, chop bad guys in half, rip wings off of other bad guys, shove knives down more bad guyss throat, cut some bad guys in half, it's great!  It's not an evolution on the first game in any way, it is exactly the same.  But it's been so long since i played the first, that this was fantastic fun.  Plus I actually really loved the cgi'd history of the greek gods, it was way cool to see.  The game is also wisely short and ends before I got sick of it (something I'm sure most people disagree with me on).  Thumbs up all around, super fun.

Army of Two: Hahaha, I can't play this game without thinking of this Penny Arcade comic.  They really do that!  Besides that?  Well, it's an okay game, I guess.  It's not bad.  The teammate mechanic is pretty good.  The aggro aspect is what makes it work, and the AI on the partner isn't too retarded, which is nice.  The dual-sniping thing is a great idea, but completely unused.  Maybe the game is more fun played coop (I assume it has coop), but it's really kind of average.  Buying weapons is fun, I guess?  But most games you can just choose all your weapons, or they are unlocked, and now I have to buy them.  The acting is good, the story is decent, if unoriginal.  Its interesting to see a game about the whole private military contractor thing that is very hot button these days.  I'm glad it was short cuz I was pretty much done with the gameplay after a few levels.  Anyway, it was fun enough, but it didn't change my life.

Jun 27, 2008

Three Panel Soul

I had no idea MacHall switched to Three Panel Soul, like a year and a half ago.  Doh.  Anyway, I'm a bad grad student and I read through the archive today, this one is awesome.

Jun 24, 2008

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Smokin' Aces - Took me a while to get to this movie, been after it for like a year.  Jesus christ is it a gigantic cluster fuck of characters, alliances, snarkiness, and crazy ass violence.  2/3 of the movie is a plot setup for the retarded fragfest that is the last bit.  It's kind of hard to keep track of, and not totally worth it.  So it's ridiculously over the top, and yet kinda takes itself too seriously, but I guess it's a good time, if you try not to care as much as the movie does.  PS, the ending is not Kaiser Soze.  I'm pretty sure we are post-soze (and post- sixth sense, for that matter) and that can't be done again, so stop trying.

All The King's Men (2006) - This is a remake of a 40s movie, about 30s Louisiana politics.  It's all about power, populism, and corruption.  There is a funny resonance with Oil! which I am still reading.  The movie is mostly an excuse to watch Sean Penn act, who is wonderful as a master orator and politician, Willie Stark.  There are times when Stark seems almost lost while he is impassioned, and I hope that's on purpose.  The rest of it, mostly about corruption, just makes you feel depressed and hopeless.  But it's a good enough movie.  Reading reviews now that I'm done (I alwayas want to write what I think before I let myself be influenced!) it seems there is a general attitude of disappointment, that this movie pales in comparison to the original and the book.  I admit the plot was convoluted and didn't mean much to me.  I discarded it as my lack of interest and the aforementioned despair.  But the suggestion is that the previous incarnations made it interesting, so maybe this movie isn't so good after all.  Penn is still great though.

Partition - Take equal parts romeo & juliet, west side story (I know, same thing), jungle fever, and a cheesy as romance movie, and put it all on the pakistan/india border, and if you have Partition.  It's an interesting setting, the 40s/50s right after india & pakistan split and there were massacres, mass relocations, and all manner of badness.  Unfortunately, take that away and it is the most basic boring, cliche, trite opposite sides of the track love story.  The main guy does a pretty good job, but everyone else kinda sucks.  Unfortunately it's just amateur in almost every way, I'm sorry to say.

Illegal Tender - This movie was remarkably adequate!  I know that isn't exactly high praise, but I kind of expected it to be awful, and it wasn't.  It's not fantastic at all, and there were certainly a number of times I just sighed and wished that one thing had been this other thing which would have been really great.  Some stuff was kinda silly.  I could feel myself rewriting the script in my head.  But that being said, it is better than a lot of gangbanger movies out there.  The actors do okay in Low-expectation Vision, too.  It keeps up pretty well, i didn't get bored.  Pretty good soundtrack too.

Teeth - Booooooooo.  This movie was kinda awful.  The idea is the vagina dentata myth thing.  So I haven't seen anything dramatizing it before, could be interesting, right?  Could be a this female power, feminist thing, right?  OR it could be a horribly acted, mediocerly written, ridiculous excuse to show someone with his business all chopped off and bloody.  multiple someone's, acutally.  So bad, such a failure of an idea, really dissappointing.

Arsenic & Old Lace - Heh, this movie was pretty fun.  The first half is actually really great.  Over the top and weird, but fun.  Cary Grant's acting is just silly, everything is huge eyes and shocked looks and moving his head back and forth like a stereotypical ghetto chick.  But that's all perfectly okay, and it's fun.  Second half gets kinda dumb.  Trouble is when your movie has a ridiculous premise, is that you have nowhere to go but up on the ridiculous scale.  I guess the argument is that these types of comedy are supposed to do that.  And that you aren't supposed to even have disbelief to suspend if you have tuned in.  But meh, at a certain point I rolled my eyes more than I laughed.  But it's still thumbs up, just with a caveat!

Book Reviews @ The Temple

The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin - This book has been on the to-read shelf for a while, but got pushed to the top recently because someone else was reading it (by coincidence) and I wanted to be able to chat about it.  The book is basically a guy who is fairly anti-string theory talking about why he's anti, what else he thinks has potential, and then some broader philosphy of the educational and research systems and of science.  I've always sort of felt uneasy about string theory, but I've never known anything about it, so I figured I just didn't like what I didn't understand.  This guy points out a great many fundamental flaws with string theory - from it's basis (not being "background independent") to it's results (having no real expriments to test its validity).  It's all interesting, but there is a problem.  Much of what he says is that most scientists for too long have assumed string theory is correct because everyone told them it was - a valid point.  However, now HE is telling me it's not correct and that something else is more likely, but why should I believe him any more than the next?  At the end, though, he gets into philosphy of setting up science and education to allow broader thought.  His complaint is that you can't NOT do string theory any more, and that that limits scientific potential and growth.  This I am totally down with and I agree that scientists, just like any other group, get stuck on themselves, think they know it all, think their way is the right way.  And when enough of them get in power, the system is geared toward only that way of thinking, and that's dangerous to science.  So it's a good book.  I don't read a lot of pop science, but it was informative.  I at least have a better idea of the basis of string theory.

Oil! by Upton Sinclair - Oh man, I can honestly say I have been unambiguously excited about this book ever since I saw There Will Be Blood.  So I admit, I'm an easy audience, but I have to say, wow did it start out great.  Just the opening chapter, whodathunk a father and a son driving down a road could be riveting reading??  It's just so well written, I love it.  It is very very different from the movie, no surprise.  First of all, it's all from the perspective of the son, and has much more to do with him than with his father.  The father is really no more than a foil or pure form of the capatilist view. The first, say, fourth of the book is very much like the movie, all about the oil business and religion.  Then it's off to tangent town - society, growing up, falling in love, world war I, bolshevism, social issues, socialism, communism, a big coming of age tangent that is good and makes me feel dumb I didn't know that world war i, bolshevism, and lenin were all at the same time.  All this is really rather the point of the book, not the oil.  The oil is just a big analogy for the greed and corruption of politics and society.  Well, not really an analogy, because it is part of the corruption of politics and society.  Still, it serves as an entry point into it.  It's very good, but it's just worlds different than the movie.  In fact, I have a whole new respect for the movie now.  There was a lot to go on in this book, and it would hvae been a horrendously boring movie to see all about the details of socialism and communism, there's just not the patience to learn like there is in a book.  So instead Anderson took this microcosm aspect and made a wonderful glorious character driven spectacle.  They are both fantastic pieces of art, in completely different ways.

Three Fingers - Ok, this is a graphic novel.  I don't think I've done comics on here, but this blew me away, I had to write about it somewhere!  This book is kind of set as an expose documentary, kind of a behind the music but more scandalous.  The subject of the expose is the "toon" industry, in a world where cartoons were real people (think roger rabbit).  The specific scandal I'll leave out, it's not a spoiler, but it's an amazing moment.  The book has a good number of amazing moments, the pain and bitterness is so palpably written and drawn, it's fantastic.

While I'm on the subject, maybe I'll keep doing comics, so as I go I'll review ones I've read in the recent past I liked.  My current subscriptions are:

Invincible & The Walking Dead - Both by Robert Kirkman.  The first a fantastic modern superhero story, the second a zombie story.  Kirkman is such a good writer, I don't really know how to describe it, but he makes two fairly routine stories (superhero kid and zombie attack) wonderful to read.  These are my favorites, hands down.  I feel like I'm not doing them justice, but there's not much to say except how great they are.

Fables - I didn't like this book at first, but it really grew on me.  The main idea is that all our favorite fairy tale and cartoon characters are real people, many of whom live in their own community in new york.  Their fairy tale worlds are the "homelands" and there is drama with an evil force that controls them now.  It seemed silly at first, but like I say I grew to like it a lot, enough to pay anyway!

Atomic Robo - This one is actually done, but it's pretty good, and it will be back.  It's from the guy who does 8-bit theater (a webcomic) and it's basically a robot built in the, I dunno, 40s or something (whenver tesla was) and he is a superhero.  It's snarky and spiderman-like and well written.  I don't actually think it's AS amazing as everyone else does, but it's pretty good.