Oct 30, 2009

Oct 27, 2009

Oct 25, 2009

Book Reviews @ The Temple

The Chronicles of Amber (Corwin Cycle) by Roger Zelazny read by Roger Zelazny – I’m going to give the review I was going to give until something happened, so let’s go.  So this is a big series in my family.  One of my brothers owes his name to the main character, it was one of my first fantasy series, but it’s been 15 years since I read it.  I know I loved it then, but I was 15, what do I know?  Some things you used to love don’t age so well, but hey it’s well respected, it’s got to be good, right?  Yep!  It’s fucking fantastic.  I’ve said before, a solid fantasy series depends on a believable world that you are immediately immersed in that is clear, but clearly different.  That introduces you slowly into aspects of that world, keeping that cool factor, but never confusing you.  This book does that wonderfully.  And it does that through another very hard thing to do – first person storytelling.  The book is solely from the perspective of the main character, and he starts with amnesia, which means he is being slowly introduced to the world.  That is an amazing device to bring the reader in with equal parts mystery, wonder, and coolness.  The plot is fantastic, up even into the 5th book you don’t know who the enemy really is.  You hate the “bad guy” in the first book.  But by the second book, he was never the bad guy, it’s actually these guys.  And then they aren’t so bad, or maybe they are, but you don’t know.  It does political and familial drama in a way that is not cheesy or melodramatic, but is suspenseful and engaging.  I can’t say enough, it really is one of the best fantasy stories ever.  Here comes the “but”.  BUT, I’m a fucking moron and I accidently listened to the abridged book.  FUCK!  I found this out when I was literally 30 minutes from the end of all 5 books.  GOD DAMMIT!  Really?  I didn’t bother to compare to my real life copy to see if it was abridged until the very end?  So I’m super pissed, I feel like I missed out.  The books are cut by at least 1/3 by the abridgedness.  It’s fortunate that I’ve read it before, so it’s not like I’ve never seen those pieces, it’s almost like I got a refresher without going through the whole thing.  But it is amazing! I wanted the whole thing.  But I’m not going to go reread or listen now that I’ve already spent a month listening!  I mean it’s been 15 years, if you extrapolate from those two data points, I’ll be 45 by the time I reread these books, I’m super annoyed.  I suppose it’s possible the things that were cut out weren’t great, maybe I liked it more because it was abbreviated?  But I doubt it, more likely I missed 1/3 of an awesome sandwich, and that sucks.  I’m starting the Merlin Cycle now, una-god-damn-bridged, so hopefully that will cheer me up!

Amber (Merlin Cycle) – Alright, I’m through the second series! I managed to get unabridged this time. It was kind of a mixed bag. Two books were read by zelazny, two by some boring guy, and the last by an interesting guy. The last guy was interesting just because he actually did voices, gave each person a semi-recognizable tenor. Kind of sad that I only got this by the last book. Also had a slight side effect of messing with my 9-book-enforced impression of what they should sound like. But to the books – they are still very good, but not as good as the corwin cycle. At times they are, the world is still fantastic, the introduction of sorcery is awesome and makes the options more plentiful. The books do too much to try to be mysterious, though. I don’t really like when a story gets up its own ass with it’s sneaky plot. The first 5 books were masterful at this, just the right amount of playing around with the reader, stringing you along, constantly getting you to question who was on whose side. These 5 books take the sad turn of messing with reality via magic. I don’t like a untrustworthy narrator. Corwin was legitimately confused because he didn’t know the truth. But Merlin is confused because of silly magic games, and once that possibility is introduced, I have no reason to believe anything else that ever happens again, because it could be silly magic games. It really bothers me in a lot of stories these days, especially all the psychological thrillers. Anyway, besides the 2 books (mostly) when zelazny is doing that, they are good. The ending happens too quickly, but then maybe that’s the way endings happen. Still a great series of books, I’m looking forward to 2025 when I read them again!

A Night in the Lonesome October written & read by Roger Zelazny – What a fascinating book! I got it on accident with the amber books, so I listened having 0 idea what it was about. Part way through I had to go google it because I was kind of confused, and I definitely wouldn’t have figured out all that was going on if I hadn’t (though, as it turns out, if I had looked at the cover of the book, that might have cleared things up). The premise is London at some unknown time, perhaps the 1800s. Several historical and fictional people are involved in a dramatic ritual involving dark gods. Those people include dracula, jack the ripper, dr. frankenstein, sherlock holmes, and others. Each of these people has a famliiar (an animal with which you have some sort of magical connection). The story is told, in first person (which zelazny seems to have a mastery of) by jack the ripper’s familiar, a dog named Snuff. He is to help his master prepare for and complete his portion of the ritual, for which there are two competing teams. The whole story is just the machinations of preparing for the ritual and allies and enemies and such. The playing out of the story itself isn’t all that fantastic, it’s not bad, it’s just fine. The premise is just so odd, though, it makes it a good book. Part of the problem is listening to it I tend to miss things when I get distracted, and so I lose some of the intrigue. This wasn’t so bad with the amber books because I had a general idea of what was going on (even if I had forgotten nearly every detail). Here I was often lost until something else happened to clear up what I missed before. Nonetheless, pretty cool book.

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

The Knowing – Ugh, why do I do this to myself? No one thought this would be good. And I have an extra special problem with silly bullshit that’s too close to reality. What I mean to say is, a story about aliens, no problem. Dragons? check. Ghosts? sure. But people actually believe in numerology. Those people are idiots, granted, but I still don’t like to see their delusions made into a big movie. I know this isn’t really numerology, it just happens to involve numbers, but it’s all stupid and it annoys me. But even without that, the movie is obviously bad. It’s not horrendous, suprisingly, Cage actually keeps it in check, the lady and the kids are fine. The writing isn’t frightening, even if it offers nothing of interest.  Of course, in the last 20 minutes the movie goes so off the rails it can’t see the amusement park. I mean, jeez, just the most obvious yet pathetic way to “twist” the ending. Pretty damn silly.

Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans – Going in with super low expectations, this movie was actually alright. No one would think it’s amazing, but it’s kind of a decent action movie. The only big fault is the blood. I swear to jesus in 10 years we are going to look back at the 2000s as the decade of horrible stupid CGI blood. Bad prop blood is so much better, but we are so enamored with our puters that we just can’t help to use them for everything possible. Use ketchup, it will be more believable, you are embarrassing yourself with this glossy bullcrap. But, hell, I’ve seen the Mutant Chronicles, so nothing can dismay me anymore. The rest of the movie is pretty decent. It’s got good enough choreography, the story is 100% expected. The acting and writing are fine for a slightly above generic action movie. That’s all.

The International – Wasn’t exactly looking forward to this one either. I mean, it’s about international bank intrigue. Christ, i almost fell asleep typing those three words. I give few shits for intrigue movies to begin with, they generally aren’t all that intriguing (I’m positive I’ve used that line before). This one isn’t either, and to top it off it’s about effing banks. Who gives a shit?! Clive Barker needs to stop acting the same way in every movie if I’m going to remember how great children of men was. Naomi watts was just… there. I don’t remember anyone else in the movie. it was fine, it wasn’t bad, but i can’t think of a single reason to be interested.

Drag Me to Hell – Oh come on! Is this failure week? I thought this one would be good! Granted, it didn’t look good. But people said it was good, and people said Sam Raimi makes good these-kind-of-movies (I haven’t seen the evil dead things, they are on the list). So despite looking totally stupid, I had high hopes! But…. BOOOOO. What the fuck? First of all, the premise, the reason why I thought it would be bad. You deny some bitch gypsy a loan because this is 2009 and you have to actually pay real-life non-magic-gypsy money for things, and so you get cursed? That’s just a stupid idea. Make a movie about some guy murdering you because you stepped on his shoe in the movie theater while you are at it. Dumb. Okay, so maybe that’s the point? Maybe this faultless thing (unless you try to make some sort of comment of capitalism, but meh) turns into a big thing and that’s silly but let’s have fun with it? Or… not fun. You know, more like, anti-fun. Movie isn’t scary, except for startling scares, which are obviously cheating. I don’t think it’s funny. The times when it’s being stupid which you might imagine are stupid to be funny, aren’t funny, which just leaves stupid. I honestly don’t get what I’m missing, everyone else seemed to think it was so much fun and a great ride. It seemed so pointless to me! And then the ending has a sort of interesting quandry (if an obvious one they could have gotten to earlier), but they don’t end up doing anything interesting with it, just the cheat. And then the end end is just blah of course stupid. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Am I going to hate the evil dead movies?

The Haunting in Connecticut – Okay, here’s a weird story – this movie is kind of okay. Here’s a really weird story – I think it’s better than Drag Me To Hell! Okay, let’s calm down. It’s not a good movie. What this movie has in its favor is a decent premise. It’s kind of a Poltergeist movie, rather than a single murderer, or a single ghost, it’s a haunted place cuz some bad shit went down. On top of that, the main kid has super cancer and is dying and that interacts with the story a little. After that, it’s mostly a normal horror movie. But those tidbits had me slightly interested for the first while. I was never interested in Drag Me To Hell. And in as much as this is a standard horror movie, DMTH was that too. DMTH was cheesier, which apparently some people interpret as funnier, but not fundamentally any better in my opinion. Anyway, this is an okay movie, it’s not as bad as you’d assume, watch it on cable some saturday night.

Yes Man – Oh I dunno, kind of a random comedy. It wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t rush off to see it, but it’s mildly entertaining. The premise is forced, but no surprise. The romance is forced too, but meh. I don’t know, watch it on a plane, it’s fine.

2001: A Space Odyssey – Umm… what?  So… this is one of the greatest movies ever made ever, huh? Masterful? Art? Genius? It’s weird, maybe I rented the wrong disc, but the movie I saw was long, boring, weird, briefly brilliant, but mostly meh. First the good – Hal. That presence really is genius. It’s so foreboding, ominous, omniscient, and almost evil. But not evil. Not even capable of evil, in fact, which is what is so scary. Hal has a distance from humanity that is frightening, even today after 40 years of movies and scifi have reused this idea, it’s frightening. The image, too, has been reused. The glowing unblinking constantly watching red eye is the best part of this movie. The rest, however, is kind of bad. The Jupiter mission could have been an amazing short film, but tack on the monkeys, the moon base, and the crazy ass shit at the end, and I don’t know what to think. The monkeys are cool in concept, even in execution, the dawn of man is an interesting moment. But the idea of aliens prompting evolution is somehow fundamentally annoying to me. Evolution didn’t need a stupid monolith to spark it, it works just fine on its own, that’s why it’s so damn cool! Wikipedia tells me the book makes more sense of the end than the movie. But the truth is even after I looked that stuff up (hoping I was missing some hidden genius) I realized I understood what they were going for all along and I still thought it was stupid. Man evolves further, to a giant space baby? Even as a metaphor that’s idiotic. Evolution is interesting, evolution in spontaneous jumps because of magic black bricks is not. I am really just all around disappointed in this movie. It’s famous for the monkeys and for HAL, and those really are the only things worth remembering.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop – Yeah, I rented it, so what? It was completely what you think it is. I laughed a little, maybe more than I expected, but not enough to make it a good movie, obviously.

Inkheart – I was excited for this movie, once upon a time, because someone I knew was excited about it (having loved the books). I don’t know that person anymore, though, so I ended up letting it pass by without notice. Glad to have finally seen it, though I don’t know that it reflects well on the book. The concept of a silvertongue, someone who reads books to life, is pretty awesome. It’s original, has crazy options as far as storytelling, and is just neat to think about. The trouble with the idea is it’s wildly uncontrollable in any sort of real narrative sense. The whole plot progression doesn’t make any sense, a million solutions present themselves along the way, all of which are ignored for the sake of the preordained plot. It’s really kind of a failure in that sense. The rest is fine, people act fine, it’s kind of amusing in parts, the few special effects there are are good for this kind of movie. In the end it’s fun, but the quantity of plot holes is overhwelming, for me.

Monsters vs. Aliens – Damn, didn’t really like this one either. It’s cute enough, I guess. There is some good humor, mostly centered around B.O.B. The rest is pretty childish, and yeah I know it’s a movie for children, but most of these try to reach adults too, pixar being the obvious example, and this one doesn’t reach me. And besides, I don’t mean it’s childish in that it’s humor for children. I mean it’s overly simple humor that a child could write, it’s amateur. The voice acting is good some of the time, but a lot of the script & relationships make a lot of it seem forced. I’m sure I’m being too harsh, no one expects greatness here. But I expected a little more, nonetheless, should have been more fun than it was. Also, this movie was clearly made for 3D and it’s fucking obnoxious. For no damn reason things fly at the screen every 10 minutes, which in 2D seems ridiculous. But, even without actually seeing the 3D, that informs me that the state of 3D is still the same today. I’ve said before (regarding beowulf, I think), that 3D is still gimmicks, it offers no value. Shit flies at you, you duck, it’s a novelty, it means nothing. Some day in the future 3D will be a fundamental medium for art, just as radio, then pictures, then color pictures. It will give us something we can’t get otherwise. But right now all it gets me is balls in my face. And no one likes balls in their face.

Oct 22, 2009

Gadget Buying Flowchart

I keep looking back and forth between this and all the promotional shit for the Droid (Sholes was a better name bee tee dubs, even Tao was). November is going to be a stressful month!

Oct 15, 2009


There are some pretty fundamental problems with this, but I love anyone trying to rethink the essential user interface. It’s a fascinating subject, to me, and one I’m not nearly smart enough to contribute to. What I can do, however, is nitpick about how this one isn’t good enough. Fundamentally, any restriction on organization is just that, a restriction. An option to organize windows like this is cool (an awful lot like the Pre, bee tee dubs), but it tells you to do things one way, and I will always prefer my way. They might instead consider organizing multi desktops like this instead. By way of simple example, my main screen often has one window, fine for this GUI. But my second screen might have email, 2 or 3 calculators, a gaussian calculator, winamp and/or Miro, and occasionally extra info a text editor or something. Multitasking isn’t about only about having multiple things running, it can be about using a lot of information at once. But I don’t really think the window organization is the point here, honestly, it’s more a trick than a revolution. The separate multi touch interface is the difference, and that requires use to convince me.  I don’t like having to have my hands on the pad at all times to know here I am. If I want to click somewhere, I first have to lay down my hands, find where I am, then move to the right place and do my business. Seems kind of awkward, especially if I’m switching to a keyboard (separate or virtual on the pad, they don’t address this), but maybe it would work wonderfully with practice. Maybe the screen gets imaged to the pad so you can know what’s where, though that obviously requires moving your view. I dunno, it’s cool, but give me the minority report interface that actually works and automagically knows what I want, then I’ll be happy!

Horror Photography

Some of these are kinda dumb, but jesus christ some of them are creepy as eff.

Oct 13, 2009

Event Reviews @ The Temple

Pink Martini – Yay pink martini! I saw them a couple years ago at the rialto, and liked it a lot. I liked it a lot again this time.  It was largely the same, though they have a new album coming out so there were 3 or 4 new songs from them, all of which I liked, a couple of which were great. Pink Martini is a weird band, most of their music is not their own, but they play such eclectic stuff you never would have heard, that’s not a bad thing. Their original music isn’t as good anyway, as a rule, though some of it is still quite good. They are very different, they have a lot of members and instruments, which is great. Some of them are very talented, the violinist, pianist, and trumpeter in particular. But the others are pretty good too. I like the banter between the main two – the pianist and lead singer, though my concert companion actively disliked it, so *shrug*. I am in agreement concerning the lead singer’s stage presence.  Much like my dislike for dudes “rocking out” on guitars, I think a lead singer has pretty much no choice but to seem awkward on stage. They sway, or they do little dances, or they move their arms around dramatically, it’s all silly. She is especially silly, she flows with the music in a corny way, and she has a touch of overly dramatic gestures that seem divaish, but in a sort of flighty way. It’s kind of annoying, I remember thinking the same thing last time. But it’s not at all bad enough that it prevents me from liking the show. It was all fun and I had a great time.

The Kiterunner by the Arizona Theater Company – This is my first exposure to this story, I’ve not read the book or seen the movie.  I’m a little disappointed that that’s true, as I think there is a solid story here, but it was not very well executed. The story, for those like me, is a guy who grows up in Kabul, Afghanistan, some sad things happen, they come to america, more sad things, back to home for some other sad things. It is certainly an interesting story, the protagonist isn’t much of a hero and his life is crappy which is generally a good way to tell a story. There were good elements to this play, the sets were good for a non-profit organization like this. The musical accompaniment by this guy on what I presume are afghani style drums was very cool. They did well with lighting, two scenes in particularly were notable solely for their lighting. The two big faults, I’m sad to say, are the writing and the acting. I don’t know how the book is written, but the transition to the stage wasn’t convincing. The story is too compact, to neat and tidy, maybe this is to fit it in 2.5 hours, maybe it was that way to start. There are a few moments of parallelism in the show, something I typically love, but it was too forced, the echo too close to the sound, I didn’t like it. The first act is told far enough in the past that the main actor is a kid in the memories, but the main guy is narrating, walking around in his own history.  This is fantastic, I love that structure, and for the most part it was very effective. The second half he continues to narrate, but he’s acting his own part, and the structure fails. It’s still okay, in principle, but he starts to narrate things you can see happening, see him doing! I hate over narration, if I can see it, you don’t gotta tell me it’s happening. There’s some genuine humor, but some of it is forced. There was a particularly disappointing taliban scene that was actually pretty bad. They turned the taliban into cartoon characters, caricatures of evil, and it is not only not convincing, but is ridiculous. For me, the proper way to handle something like real evil is not so simplified. Evil doesn’t list its atrocities, it isn’t a bond villain proclaiming it’s lack of virtue.   It doesn’t surprise me that this isn’t a true story, because life doesn’t work like that, it’s not so clean, evil isn’t so evil, virtue isn’t so virtuous, cowardice isn’t so cowardly. So the writing is a problem, but it has an interesting core. Sadly, the acting is the real fault here. Everyone else is okay, the kids are pretty good, the dad is decent.  There’s some funniness with accents, I assume these are all the typical cast of ATC made to sound afghani, and the accents seemed kind of fake.  Then again, maybe they are all afghans and I’m super wrong and semi-racist. The real problem is the protagonist.  Early on he’s shakey, he talks at you instead of performing for you and he overacts. His emotion rings untrue, his humor is more often pressed on you than shared with you.  But in the second act it gets actively bad. As he tries to act harder, his lack of skill becomes apparent. His screaming and yelling and crying and praying are all borderline awful. I feel pretty awful saying that, but it was actually very bad, for me. And when you are in a situation where everything revolves around this guy and all the emotion ties to him, if he fails, the play fails.  So there we are, the play failed. Seems like a good foundation, I suppose I should see the movie (if only because I’m very unlikely to make time for the book). I do have a fear that the problems I have with the plot will remain, though, even with better actors.

World of Goo for any price!

Seriously, if you haven’t played World of Goo at this point, you are kind of an asshole. And now you can get it for ANY MONEY. Also? If you pay less than $5 I will punch you.

Classic Achievements

We all agree achievements are stupid, right? They are kind of fun, if you are bored, but anyone who derives their self esteem from their gamer score should probably find a career path? Yeah? Okay good, that being said, this is funny.

Oct 12, 2009

5-way Backstreet Boys Dub

I don’t know why I like this, it’s pretty dumb. But there’s something cornily genuine about it, they seem like they are having fun, even the one acting like she isn’t.

Oct 11, 2009

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

MGS4: If I started writing this at various points I might have a different opinion. But I’ve just watched three effing years of cutscenes to end this game, and jesus christ that did not put me in a mood to be generous.  In fact, i started typing this as the credits ran, AND NOW THERE’S A NOTHER FUCKING CUT SCENE. It’s really pretty ridiculous, people said 1.5 hrs of cut scenes, I’m not sure that’s enough, it might be more. It’s really just overbearing, and in general completely unnecessary.  There are some cool ones, raiden kicking ass, the big confrontation in the middle. And occasionally they manage to be emotional, but very rarely. Mostly when people are upset the acting is bad and the scenes are completely horrible. There are some quieter moments of emotion, focusing on snake (not otacon and his horrible voice actor) that work. The story isn’t bad, it’s kind of a typical huge conspiracy gotta stop the man MGS story, but it’s not bad.  It’s very much anti war, anti corporation, kind of anti capitalism. Some themes about freedom, etc, not bad, just not really new. There’s just so much bullshit filler than I end up hating even the good parts. To be clear, I loved MGS 1 & 2, just like everyone else (well, not everyone loved 2). The first obviously introduced a whole new genre of gaming, and MGS2 iterated on this in a great way (I always liked raiden). MGS3 was pretty forgettable, it tried to be creative with the camo thing, but meh. This game does very little to evolve the genre. There’s a couple clever gameplay moments, but nothing earth shattering. It’s still fun to play, MGS is fun to play and pretty unique in its style still, so I had a good time. But man, these cut scenes are driving me crazy. The graphics aren’t really that great. It’s the best MGS graphics so far of course, but they aren’t wonderful. Character models are decent, but kind of skeletal at times.  Things are too shiny, hair and fabric doesn’t move. Well, hair does move, but only specific parts of hair in specific ways, not realistically. Some things are bad, like shadows with jagged edges and models with bright lines on the edge, very weird for a high production game. There’s a really weird level of perviness in this game, as there has been in the past. It focuses and allows you to focus on tits and ass waaaaay too much. It literally introduced one character via only her cleavage for 20 full seconds before showing her face. I understand that as a boy, and even as an adult, I’m going to look at the pretty girls in games. Christ, I remember pausing Chun Li during her spinning kick to get a look at her digital goods! But there’s something about the game allowing and even encouraging you to ogle the computer generated bits that is really creepy and offputting, not to mention morally pretty fucked up. The cut scene finally ended, I’m watching more credits dreading another scene. The game isn’t bad, when you are playing it it’s good. It’s not great, it’s not amazing, it’s not new, but it’s good. But then you add in all the bullshit and you have a kind of bad game.  If you don’t have my disease where you have to watch everything, you can skip the cut scenes and be a much happier human. Sadly, I can’t make myself do that, so here I am grumbling. Most of the music is fine, though I hate the main theme, supposed to be haunting, but it’s just annoying. The product placement in the movie is obnoxious, Otacon uses solely macs, apparently, and snake carries an ipod. Otacon using a macbook pro (or air?) to hack into the greatest AI that ever lived is patently ridiculous and unnecessary. There’s a strong reminiscing element to the movie, it looks back on the previous 3 games a lot and references them constantly. This was actually pretty cool, though I don’t remember the lore enough to know some of the references, most are big enough events that I remember them even after 10 years. The shadow moses level in particular is really cool because of this.  See, when I think on that stuff (now that the credits, and the last audio-only cutscene, are over and the PS3 is off), I think I did like the game, because the game play, as reused as it is, is still very enjoyable. The end gameplay sequence getting to the last part was actually really cool and dramatic, even though it was barely gameplay. The last fight was super simplified, but somehow very effective for me. But man, the cut scenes could have been half as long without even changing any content, they could have said things ONLY ONCE, for example. Then you remove the unnecessary content and you are down to 25%, remove the bad jokes, the meta self referential humor (though I guess you can keep that, it’s kind of a tradition), and the perviness, and you have a svelte 10% of solid story and a good game to go with it. PS I did try the online thing. You know perfectly well that I don’t like playing console games online. This was made worse that it took 7 minutes for the automatching thing to find enough people for a deathmatch.  I assume this is due to a horrible underpopulation, not bad software, either way, I finally got in, it was fine, I did ok all things considered, then my connection gave out. Game over, it goes on the shelf now.

Penumbra: Overture, Black Plague, & Requiem – So these three games form an episodic trilogy of sorts, though I’m sure there could be more if they want to.  It is basically an FPS adventure game.  Though the games are slightly different from each other, they are mostly puzzle solving.  The first game had some actioney threats, but you couldn’t realistically fight them with weapons effectively.  UNLESS you kinda cheated and threw boxes at things, which is what I did.  So rather than sneak around like they intended, I just killed things.  So in the second game they made the threats invincible, so you HAD to sneak or run, which was very tense and uncomfortable, especially because the sneak mechanic wasn’t great.  The third game they did away with threats and it was pure puzzle.  The games are pretty good, they are simple, linear, confined in scope, but interesting in story.  The voice acting is pretty decent, best in the first game probably, the puzzles are good.  Most are pretty simple, two times I got stuck and had to cheat because I didn’t have the patience to figure it out.  That’s something that changed in my old age, if I spend an hour on something, I’m not spending more, and I’m not forsaking the rest of the game due to my crappiness.  As it turned out, one sticking point I was being stupid and should have spent 5 more minutes, the other I never would have got, so I felt justified in my wussiness.  Anyway, the games are good I think, especially when you get all 3 for like $10 on steam.

Plants vs. Zombies – Heh, pretty fun game.  It’s kind of a desktop tower defense, but very linear.  You have 5 rows of lawn that you are defending from invading zombies.  You place sunflowers to generate sunpower with which you place various plants that fight and defend against the oncoming hoard.  There’s a good deal of variety of plants and zombies, and things that counter each other.  There’s some switching with levels (water, fog, night, roof).  It’s pretty basic, but it is fun.  There’s a few minigames too that are entertaining.  I’m not quite all the way through it, I haven’t been able to beat the last batch of extra hard levels (at least I assume it’s the last batch, unless they open up yet more).  It’s nothing life changing, but it’s a cute game that’s definitely a fun popcap distraction.

King’s Bounty: The Legend – Well jesus I’ve been playing this game for a long time.  Not sure how long, but months for sure.  It’s just that kind of game that you keep playing.  Which isn’t to say it’s the best game ever, it’s just that kind of game.  It’s basically Heroes of Might & Magic, you have a dude (only a dude, no chicks allowed) running around a map getting into fights like an RPG.  But when a fight starts, it breaks down into a gridded map, and you have an army of units and the bad guy has an army and they fight.  You recruit units in the world – soldiers, mages, dwarves, elves, creatures, undead, etc.  You have magic and abilities that help your troops.  Then you go on missions and save the world, etc etc.  At first I was freaking loving this game.  It was so fun and there were so many options and creatures and stuff it was really cool.  The game never stops being cool in this way, it’s just cool in exactly this way for a long god damn time.  I’m not sure how many hours I put into it, but it was a lot.  With all the spells and creatures and quests, it’s just got that RPG collectable addictiveness.  But by 2/3 into the game, I was really bored.  The story was boring, and though I was getting new creatures and spells, I was pretty much done.  I kept going because I have a disease, and I finally finished it and it’s a relief.  It’s a really fun game, I just might advise you pretend that the first 2 or 3 areas are the whole game and go your separate ways content.

Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition – So I was kind of excited to play this.  I played the two original (I think?) MI games, and i played the semi-recent (2000s) sequel.  Of course the former is when I was a little teenager and they were just the greatest things in the world.  Remember very little about them, ‘cept the awesomeness.  Lucasarts is going through a bit of a retro renaissance, it appears, and first up was a rerelease of MI, but with new graphics.  Coolest thing ever, you can at any moment flip between old timey original graphics and new fancy graphics, which is super neat. The question is does an old classic that was fun and funny hold up 20 years later? The answer is…. kinda.  The first 1/4 of the game I was having fun, there were chuckles, if not laughs.  I wondered before I played if i would cheat to get through it, I have this feeling that younger me was either smarter or had more patience.  I was doing fine in this game until I accidently discovered press ‘h’ for hint.  I lasted a while longer without using it, but eventually there were 4 or 5 times where I didn’t have the patience to figure it out when the answer was one button press away. I honestly wish it was harder to cheat, though that’s just a pathetic comment on my willpower. It’s the problem w/ these games, it’s fun to play, it’s not fun to try to combine every item with every other item or part of the world to make it work. I never got more than 4 screens into Grim Fandango because I was completely confused, and it’s supposed to be great! So the answer is the game is fun, for $5 (steam deal for talk like a pirate day, telltale is giving away the first episode of the newly released sequels too), it was certainly worth it for the nostalgic trip and to see what they did with it.  It’s still fun, it’s silly and quirky, and it has the hand waving salesman, so that’s pretty much worth 5 bucks.

Tales of Monkey Island: Episode 1 – As mentioned, telltale released this for free on talk like a pirate day, and i got it. Wasn’t really sure if I’d be into the new monkey island games, remakes are rarely good, the one a few years ago wasn’t really. This game was…. alright.  It’s charming, I guess, it’s cute.  The game play is kind of simplified from the original in that any given clickable object can only be clicked, not looked at, grabbed, pushed, talked to, etc, the game just does what you should do. I managed to get through the whole thing cheating once, which given my cranky 30 year old level of patience is pretty decent. It didn’t seem outrageously hard, the one thing I missed wasn’t hard. A couple other things had me stuck but I stumbled into the answer. The game is kind of funny, like I say it’s cute, but it’s not hilarious. I suppose the original wasn’t hilarious, playing it again. I can’t think of any game that’s really been hilarious, except portal. Some games have been funny, but nothing that I think of as a comedy or anything. I don’t think I’ll be buying the subsequent chapters of this. Maybe when they are all out and steam has some cheap deal for them. But for 35 bucks, I definitely didn’t get that much enjoyment, sorry.

Oct 7, 2009

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Brothers Bloom – What a wonderful movie! I had heard it was good, so it’s not a surprise, but still. Though it is the guy who made Brick, and I hate that movie with a fiery flame, but everyone else likes it. It’s about these brothers, con men. It’s a love story, in a couple of ways, and its very charming. It’s got a quirky sensability, but not overly so. I was afraid at the beginning, these movies, wes anderson type movies, can go off the rails quickly for me. But this stayed true to the brotherhood core, and it was very nice. The whimsicality reminded me rather of Pushing Daisies, but not as fantastical. The cinematography might be the star of this show, though, which is a rarity for me. But there are some goregous shots in this movie. Single scenes or frames that make you just sit back and say wow that’s fantastic. It was really good. The plot itself is good, a little overwrought. I don’t like tricksy stories. You can’t trust a story that constantly lies to you (which is surely part of the point, as you can’t trust a man who constantly lies), but still I don’t love it. If not for what they did at the end, I would say they had gone one lie too far, but then it turned into something quite beautiful. Ruffalo, Weisz, and Brody each do a very good job. It’s not necessarily the best movie of 2009, as some seem to think, but it’s definitely very good.

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints – I must have heard this was good, because the name and the description scream not for me.  It sounds really cheesy, a kid survives and finds a greater power guided him through or some crap like that.  But it really has nothing to do with that.  It’s based on a much broader autobiographical book, so maybe that element is in the book.  But there’s nothing like that here.  It’s just a story of a kid growing up in Queens and everything with family & friends is fucked so he runs away, and many years later he comes back.  It’s broken up between past and present, but that’s never distracting.  It’s a pretty heavy film, there’s no amazing events, his life is probably sadly common, but it’s still a pretty horrible one. So it’s a pretty good movie.  The guy who wrote the book & directed the movie is an amazing stereotype.  Seriously in 2008 he’s wearing a floral colorful shirt with the collar on the outside of his jacket. Jeez.  And he’s clearly no hollywood professional, but he happens to be friends with robert downy jr., and he has a group of actors and I assume producers that made up for his weaknesses. The weight of the performances is pretty strong.  And, now hold on to something, this is going to blow your mind and call into question all that you use as your anchor to reality and truth …. THE BOOF is actually a good actor.  No fuckin’ way!  He does have a kind of straightforward part, his character is kind of stoic a lot, it’s part of the story. But there are moments, and though I’m not reaching for my oscars, given that it’s the boof, I’m rather impressed. To reiterate the initial points, this movie isn’t about magic. This kid survives a shitty life and everyone in that life made an impact and stayed with him, and those are his “saints”, it’s pretty effective.

Touching the Void – This is a kind of weird movie.  It’s about this (apparently) very famous story of two mountaineers climbing up some crazy ass mountain and almost dying.  One is hurt, dangling on a rope, the other cuts him loose, thinking he has to save himself and he can’t help the other (which I can’t argue with).  It’s a pretty amazing story, naturally.  But there’s something extraordinarily weird about watching it reenacted, narrated by the guys themselves.  I was having a hard time with it, it seemed kind of cheesy? kind of forced? kind of fake? I didn’t like it.  THEN I stopped paying attention, I was doing stuff on my computer (oh em gee, monopoly city streets has restarted!!), and at that point I’m just listening to the amazing story told by these two guys, and the movie got better!  When I finally started watching again, it was with a slightly different view.  Pretty scenery, some visuals to accompany their story, and I liked it much more. So that was interesting.  It’s still a pretty slow movie, the story COULD be told in 20 minutes, this one takes 100. I wouldn’t rush out unless you are super into that sort of thing (I’m only marginally into it, despite my fondness for climbing, I have limited empathy for prideful jackasses on mountains). But it’s a good story if you want one.

The Mutant Chronicles – Holy fucking christ!  What a horrible piece of shit!  Wooooowwwww. Honestly amazingly bad! It’s some sort of future, and some mercs go to kill some weird mutant monster things.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Thomas Jane is the lead “actor.”  Somewhat surprisingly, Ron Pearlman is in it.  Holy shit, did you just buy a new house, surprisingly, John Malcovich is in it.  It’s really really bad.  The whole thing is digital, I don’t know if there’s a single real set in the whole thing. And all the digital has a cheesy sheen that screams fake. It’s not *bad* CG, but it is obviously CG and there’s not really any interesting visuals.  It’s the blood that’s amazing though, it is so bad! I’m not exaggerating here.  I know I exaggerate a lot on this blog, it ought to be called temple of the hyperbole whore, I know. But this is the worst blood in any movie ever.  Horrible ketchup physical blood is better. Midnight Meat Train digital blood is better.  This looks like someone used photoshop CS1 to pain the screen red.  It is so shiny, so separate from the background, so globby, so ridiculous.  I think I actually exclaimed out loud I was so shocked by its awfulness. And no this is not “so bad it’s good” kind of bad, it’s just bad.  It’s not hilariously bad, it’s just bad.  Jesus, so bad!

Cavite – I didn’t like this one either.  It’s kind of that big budget movie a couple years ago where some guy is forced into terrorism because of his family or something.  It’s also kind of like Saw where some hidden power with control over you makes you do stupid or horrible things.  Freaking stupid.  I never like those movies that force you the viewer into trying to resist an omnipresent power, I hate it. It’s cheap, unfair, manipulative. The only trick here is it’s indie, in the phillipines, and… that’s really it.  Not good.

Used Cars – This is a kinda cute 80s movie I had never seen (we’ve been going through the 80s providing a proper education of my childhood).  Kurt Russell (wearing a metric shitton of makeup) is a used car salesman, his boss dies, the competitor tries to take over, the daughter shows up, and hilarity ensues.  It’s pretty corny, and it gets very over the top at the end, but it’s fun. Not a whole lot to say about it besides that!

Paprika – Yikes, weird ass japanese movie!  It’s a semi futuristic, dangers of technology, warning kind of movie.  But because the technology involves dreams and the subconscious, it quickly gets wackaloon. It’s like a normal japanese anime, but made by michael gondry, which is just like, fucking crazy squared. Honestly, too crazy for me.  I was kind of into it, and some of the imagery is cool, but in the end I was mostly weirded out and not really captivated in any way. It also has some japanese pervyness toward the end that was strange, but not so bad. I don’t know, it’s not bad, it’s kind of worth seeing, as these movies (surreal, dream like, or weird anime, take your pick) tend to be, but I wouldn’t say I loved it, I’d kind of say I didn’t like it, if put to it.  I did love the theme song of the dreams, though, I might have that stuck in my head for a day or two.

Man on Wire – This was a pretty good movie. I’ve been meaning to see it for a while, but subtitles typically stand in the way of me watching something because I can’t do other things at the same time. But I had 3 subtitled netflix movies on my table, so there ya go. It’s the story of this crazy mopho who tight rope walks between the twin towers. The movie is structured pretty well, from the get they are planning the caper, and it is very much a caper. But interspersed is how they got there, other tight rope walks, and the cast of characters. There are some weird moments, they introduce people in odd ways, and some of the reenactments are corny as all get out, but over all it is good. The story itself is hard to deal with. On the surface, it’s an amazing thing what they did, can’t really be denied. On the other hand, he is 100% legitimately crazy, and I’m not sure I want to give that credit. He has this life long fantasy affair with the twin towers and is the one crazy person in the world to get to do something about their ridiculous obsession. For every one of this guy, there are 10,000 nutjobs who rant on street corners or marry rollercoasters. So let’s not pretend he is filled with divine greatness, he is crazy, and he has a skill, and luck found his story going this way. In principle, you can’t support what he did. He used public resources (cops), endangered lives (people below him), so that he could pull a stunt and get famous. Fuck him, that’s an asshole move.  But there is a level of grandeur because that is so far beyond what any of us will ever do with our lives, you can’t help but stand back and gape. There is a strong quixotic element to his quest, though I don’t know if you can call it quixotic if the quest succeeds. The movie is strongly aware of that, perhaps Phillipe is too. But there is a kind of creepy desperation and fundamental level of fantasy that is troublesome about this man. That doesn’t mean his story isn’t interesting, but it might mean I don’t want to honor him by watching his movie and making him more famous. I’m honestly not sure what I think, no one will ever do what he did, for obvious reasons. He has a place in history, and this movie becomes almost as much a fond farewell to the towers as it is a story of this guy, and that is important. Maybe without 9/11 he would just be a crazy guy. Instead he memorialized these monuments before we knew we’d lose them, and that’s pretty crazy too.

Changeling – I really wasn’t expecting to like this movie.  I’m not huge on period pieces, I’m not huge on jolie, I do like eastwood, but I hated gran turino, so my most recent memory is negative. The trailer just looked like jolie pouting for 2 hours, meh. Turns out the movie is pretty good.  It’s not amazing or anything, but it’s a solid 3 stars on netflix. The story is more involved and more engaging than I anticipated. The reflection of 20s/30s treatment of women and police corruption is quite staggering. The movie goes on a bit too long, I’d say, I don’t know that it needed all 2.5 hours. But it is a well made movie, to be sure.  The acting is pretty good from most people. A couple of the kids, one in particular, is kinda awful. I actually thought this one kid was so bad that he was acting well as a kid who was acting badly in order to lie to the police. But, no, he’s just a bad actor, oh well. You can’t fault the filmmaking, the style, the lighting in some scenes is fantastic (though I don’t need to see jolie peeking out from behind the shadowed brim of a hat ever again). It’s a pretty solid movie, all in all, worth the time.

Tron – I had never seen Tron! Nerd fail + 80s fail! It’s kinda corny, eh? I’m sure those graphic would have blown my ass off in 1982, but it’s obviously funny looking now. Then again no one really does graphics like that anywhere else, it’s pretty singular. I do like how it looks like 80s games, that’s a weird kind of nostalgia, media that reminds you not of the first time you saw that media, but of the media that you did see that influenced it. The story is corny too, but it’s classic and you can’t really hate on it. After the matrix the idea of being in computers isn’t uncommon, but this idea of anthropomorphizing programs in some sort of metaphorical digital space is pretty fantastic. The only analog (no pun) I can think of (surely influenced by Tron) is the matrix in Shadowrun. And I love that concept, so how can’t I love this? It’s really very much the same and very cool. So, the acting is cheesy, the graphic are dated but very unique, the world is very cool. I can’t say it’s an amazing movie, it’s too silly, but it has it’s place and it’s kinda cool.

The Host – Blech. I thought there was some sort of cult following around this movie. There’s going to be a sequel after all. But it’s pretty much crap. Any time the monster isn’t on screen its unbearable. Horrible acting for a boring story. The monster is fine, kind of a standard monster with the splayed mouth that’s become so popular. The monster doing monstery things makes the movie watchable for those few minutes, but then he goes away and I forget why I am watching. Dumb movie.

The Girlfriend Experience – This is a weird movie. It’s steven soderbergh being “experimental.” It stars sasha grey, a real life porn star, as a call girl, explores her open relationship with her boyfriend, her life as a call girl, and has a good deal to say about the economy (it is set about a year ago). No one (besides grey, if you even count her) in the movie is an actor, they are all real people acting in some analog to their real lives. It’s largely unscripted and improv’d. It’s not really a whole movie, though, it’s very short, and it doesn’t do anything in depth. It is kind of snippets of her life, kind of a fly on the wall thing, which is reinforced by the fact that all the conversations, being improv’d and unskillfully acted, are boring and trivial. It’s almost like a reality show, in that it has no real content. Her relationship with her boyfriend is given to us without explanation or context, so when it hits rocks we can’t interpret the damage. You could argue that’s the point, i would argue it’s a bad point. Grey, besides being astonishingly attractive when she doesn’t have so much make up on, actually does a pretty decent job, everyone else doesn’t really, but they aren’t horrendous necessarily. I think my favorite part of the movie is actually the editing.  The transitions in and out of scenes (especially since the scenes are near-randomly ordered) is really fantastic, I was very impressed. But the movie as a whole is just a little meh, there’s not enough going on to be interesting, I think.