Friday, April 28, 2006

The Revolution Won't Be Televiised

By now you've probably heard the internet collectively groan as Nintendo announced the official name for its forthcoming console. CNN Money is probably the best source for it, but it's everywhere now. The Revolution as we know it is over.

Say hello to "Wii" and say good-bye to any respect Nintendo may ever have from the fans who grew up with it.

Bill Harris of Dubious Quality is quickly becoming the Zen master for gamers because of such accurate statements like this:
Don't even try to tell me you're surpriised. Nintendo is your slightly creepy uncle who never made it past the fourth grade and can't have a normal conversation, but he's a world-class banjo player.
That's as accurate a statement on this idea as any I've heard. Nintendo has routinely confounded gamers for 20 years now and that trend doesn't appear to be going anywhere soon. I honestly do not understand a company that is so completely in its own world that it still thinks anything it does is a license to print money. If that idea is in hand-helds they're spot-on. If it's in marketing a new console that ALREADY HAS THE PERFECT NAME then they prove themselves to be very, very retarded.

Nintendo has a "kids only" rep in a lot of people's eyes and this sure as heck won't change that. Gamers have already positioned themselves into the usual camps of haters/lovers/indifferent and those party lines won't change between now and when the console launches this fall. This remains my most anticipated console of the next generation because it does exactly what the others don't: It innovates, tremendously. But then the Nintendo marketing department (read: the slow kids in class) gets involved and names it something stupid and suddenly the luster is gone.

That's not the way you go into E3, guys.

Monday, April 24, 2006

God of War II

For sheer "sweet merciful Christ" jaw-dropping action there are few that can compete with last year's God of War, a game so epic in scale and sheer in size that only a horrific design decision monumental in nature could undo it.

Funny enough, that's exactly what you encounter 2/3 of the way through. Not to spoil anything but the second you see Kratos, the main character, fall through a portal into Hades just turn the game off. Accept that at some point Kratos finished his task and stormed Mount Olympus and you won't regret all the time you've previously invested in it. I'm convinced that reviewers stopped playing sometime during Pandora's Labyrinth because up to that point it was the Game of the Year. Ten minutes later... not so much.

I bring up my old feelings because 1Up posted this trailer earlier today for the sequel and it absolutely kicked my teeth in. Whatever else happened late in the first game, up to that point it was wonderous in the variety of ways you could inflict pain on your foes. Kratos was a tremendous bad-ass the second the game started, and he only grew stronger (and angrier) as the game progressed. There were so many awesome kill moves that left me speechless that I believe I drooled on myself more than once.

I'm man enough to say it - a game left me so slackjawed I actually drooled because I could not comprehend that someone could make a game so blindingly cool. I seemed to take their fumble late in the third quarter personally because it was literally perfect up to that point. No complaints whatsoever.

On the plus side, the sequel's design team has heard the fevered cries of the damned and supposedly won't put anything as awful as Hades back in the follow-up. I'll believe that when I see it, and I bloody well am going to play the game start to finish before I render judgement deadlines be damned.

But this trailer gets me hungry for more. Heck, that last shot alone is one of the coolest things I've ever seen and that's saying something considering how many wicked things come before it.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Now Playing: Red Eye

Wes Craven doesn't get much in the way of respect as a director. It may come from one too many "New Nightmare"'s on his resume but the man knows how to ratchet up the tension when he wants to. I like that given the success of the "Scream" franchise his first instinct was to make a film about a classical music teacher played by Meryl Streep. That's ballsy anyway you look at it so I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on what could be a cliched thriller in "Red Eye."

What kept My Fair Lady and I from seeing this in the theater last year was a combination of factors the primary one being her absolutely insane schedule in law school. Another was the fact that this is only around 86 minutes long and there's no way I'm paying $15 for that short a film. I'm convinced, however, that Netflix was created in part to give films like this a life past the box office. The short running time is a big benefit here because the film gets right to business and doesn't stop until the final frame. Why that's a good thing is it doesn't waste space despite setting up a half dozen cliched subplots that are promptly ignored in favor of terrorizing Rachel McAdams who plays Lisa Reisert.

McAdams is coming into her own as an actress lately with this, "The Notebook," and "Wedding Crasher." I've not seen the other two but My Fair Lady swears "The Notebook" is the greatest love story ever made, which means that's two hours I'll go out of my way to avoid for the rest of my days. She's a solid lead in "Red Eye" and having the great Cillian Murphy (forever known to me as Scarecrow from "Batman Begins") to bounce off of helps pound home the misery. She's catching the last flight out of Dallas to Miami to go see her dad (a stranded Brian Cox) when Murphy's Jackson Ripner takes the seat next to her. They both hit it off earlier in the film, but once the plane takes off he makes it clear that unless she makes a phone call to her hotel, he'll place a call to an assassin to kill her dad.

And people wonder why I hate sitting in coach.

As Lisa comes unglued and slowly tries to get a grip on things Ripner stays attached to her hip. This is really a two-person play complete with a funny nod to Craven's past film efforts towards the end with the way Ripner chases Lisa up some stairs while wielding a knife. We also laughed at how Dallas was portrayed because there were cowboy hats left and right. The two things they nailed with any accuracy was a cabbie complaining about Dallas drivers and the older blonde woman who briefly flirts with Ripner. It was funny seeing how a quickie Hollywood production like this views north Texas.

Overall the movie is quick and easily digested fun. It won't go down in history as a tribute to innovative cinema but for a fast rental it's entertaining enough.

Grade: B

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Now Playing: Bringing Up Baby

My Fair Lady and I checked this classic out on Saturday night and talk about a throw-back. All my life I've grown up hearing how this was the funniest movie ever made and since I'd only seen bits and pieces of it I figured it was high time I sat down and watched it.

Considered me stunned. I sat through most of it simple agog at how fast Katherine "The Great" Hepburn would spit out dialogue. Think of a verbal version of the Saving Private Ryan opening and you're not far off. Pages and pages and pages of dialogue whip past you so fast it become whiplash inducing. As if that's not enough imagery for you then know that all this is coming from a very striking woman from the Northeast. Hepburn was radiant in this film and director Howard Hawkes knew exactly how best to light her angular features for maximum effect.

The story features Cary Grant as Dr. David Huxley, an easily befuddled paleontologist who is engaged to be married in 24 hours and on the same day that he receives the final bone for his museum's full-size dinosaur. He runs into heiress Susan Vance (Hepburn) on the golf course and his life goes downhill immediately as she proceeds to ruin it. Whether or not any of it is planned is subject to debate.

My Fair Lady never watched classic films before I came into her life so I take ever chance I get to show her these. It's fun for me because she can't always get into them so she catches minor details in the background that I miss. For example, during the police station sequence late in the film there is a map of the US on the wall. My Fair Lady pointed out that neither Alaska or Hawaii were on it. It's the small things like this that I enjoy because these films feel like a snapshot of how things were 70 years ago. If you're a fan of cinema at all then this one is required viewing if for no other reason than the three-part harmony of David, Susan, and George.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Now Playing: Dead & Breakfast

CDS reader Nathan sent me a NetFlix recommendation for this 2004 horror-comedy and I finally got around to watching it today. Let me start by saying that despite the 1980's title and 1980's approach to low-budget gore this really feels just like a 1980's horror flick knock-off complete with C-listers headlining it. That's sarcasm, by the way. Overall it was a lame horror flick, but I thought it excelled as a muscial.

No, that wasn't a typo.

Dead & Breakfast has some of the funniest lyrics this side of "Weird Al" Yankovic and the musical sequences lift an average gore-fest to at least a B-range rental. Imagine a cross between the gore of Dead Alive and the Greek chorus from There's Something About Mary and you'll get an idea of what the film makers went for. The songs are mainly country-based but there is a side-splitting rap about three-quarters of the way through that had me howling. Big thumbs up to Brian Vander Ark who wrote the score.

The story as it is follows six friends en route to Portia de Rossi's wedding (a sight gag by itself) when they stop at the sleepy town of Lovelock and check into the local B&B. The small town is teeming with rednecks so every Southern cliche you can think of is paraded out. David Carradine seems asleep in his two scenes, but special mention goes out to both Diedrich Bader and de Rossi for stealing the entire movie. What's more impressive is that both are in it for a combined total of about eight minutes. Naturally, things go wrong when some Eastern mysticim, a small box, and a creepy drifter all pop-up and the town winds up turning into zombies and coming after the kids.

By no means will this tax your IQ but it's a fun way to kill an hour and a half and you're guaranteed at least four or five belly laughs. Be sure to stick it out through the final song over the credits which rehashes pretty much the entire flick via country twang. What makes this one the best-for-last is how the build-up to the chorus grows funnier with each verse. Check this one out if you have a healthy tolerance for blood and enjoy Thriller parodies.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yogurt - Not Just For Snacking

My Fair Lady spent a month last summer studying abroad in the Greek isles as part of her law school program. During her many experiences (some good, some not so much) she realized that her naturally pale skin burns quite easily under the Mediterranean sun and was without any aloe vera gel. Someone thought quickly and applied yogurt to the burns then thoughtfully took a picture of it.

Should said picture ever surface on the interwebs, my face will soon surface on a milk carton so let the understanding be that it was a funny, funny shot.

While I spent the afternoon taking down the Tatalgia family in The Godfather My Fair Lady played golf with her brother The Cowboy. I failed to notice her arms when she walked in for burned to a crisp they were. Naturally she waits until, oh, right now to bring into the conversation the fact that she's been spreading aloe on her arms the whole time she's been home.

Being the observant fellow that I am I completely missed any of this so I take her at her word. Then a thought/memory struck her. Yogurt! Yes! She did learn something while in Greece! Our money was well spent! Salute!

I open the fridge and my next words were "lemon or keylime"? She chose the keylime and slathered the viscous breakfast/ointment on her arms as quickly as she could. Apparently it worked wonders for her because it even took away some of the pain.

Yogurt - Not just another snack food, uh huh. Should I ever be taken away in an ambulance on account of burns I'll recommend through my morphine-induced haze to swing by the local Tom Thumb as some lemon cream pie yogurt might come in handy right about then.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Pimps at Sea

One of the long running April Fools gags in the gaming world is Bungie Studios' annual update announcement for Pimps at Sea. It somehow comtinues to stay funny, but this year El Jefe at Gaming Trend hit me with the challenge of writing up a review for it as our April 1st joke.

The results can be seen right here. Yaaar, ye best enjoy yerselves.

I'll also do my best to never channel a pirate again because it's not funny when I do and I believe in ancient voodoo curses, not necessarily in that order.