Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Batman and Superman Graphic Novel Reboots


OK, I'm excited about this one.

I know it's frowned on in certain circles, but I'm a comic book reader that no longer buys comic books and waits for the trade paperback collections. Why? Well, it's cheaper, the quality of the paper is better, and, most importantly, there's not a goddamn full-page ad every other page to interfere with the pace of the story.

I've wondered for some time when a major publisher would finally skip the traditional comic book format and go straight to making original graphic novels. If DC leaves the writers for these two titles alone, I think we'll find that these stories develop in a much more organic, satisfying manner than the traditional format.

Still, do Superman and Batman need another reboot?  Batman's already had one reboot this decade with Batman Begins, and that's a damn hard act to follow. And as Tom De Haven's It's Superman (seriously, best Superman story ever) proved, Superman really only works in the first half of the 20th century.

Still, I'm curious to see what J. Michael Straczynski can do with Superman, one of my least favorite superheroes (he's too powerful and too perfect for me). His work on Spider-Man was, to me, unparalleled in the history of the character.

Can't wait to give these a read.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Conversation Between Myself and Rock Band 2

ROCK BAND 2: We would like to replace the last song in your setlist with a more challenging song to impress fans.

ME: Do your worst, pal.

ROCK BAND 2: The Who -- Pinball Wizard.

ME: Oh shit...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Black Hole (Potential Remake)


Mmm... could be interesting. The original was a big part of my childhood, along with Star Wars, Tron, and Star Trek II. It hasn't aged as well as those movies -- even Tron -- but there's a wonderful Gothic tone to the film that still holds up. I've always assumed that the original script was deemed too serious, too intense -- and the suits over at Disney added a bunch of, well, Disney bits in at the last minute. The film's tone is wildly uneven, most of the jokes fall flat, and V.I.N.C.E.N.T. the Robot is just plain annoying. And a woman who shares an ESP link with a robot? The fuck?

Still, the Cygnus feels more like a haunted house in space, the film's greatest success, which still makes it memorable to me today. The optical effects, production design, and John Barry's truly haunting score work together to provide a wonderful spooky vibe...when people aren't talking.

I hope the writers of the remake remember that this film is more of a ghost story, a haunted house movie, than a space opera like Star Wars, its most obvious influence. Few movies actually could be improved by a remake, and this is one of them.

And keep the ending, guys. It's a good one. I have no idea what happens... but it's a good one.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Clone Wars: Season 2, Episodes 5, 6, and 7


Returning to Geonosis is a an odd choice, since it's shown as an all-out victory in Attack of the Clones, but I'm sure the creative team wanted something besides droids to shoot, hack, blow up, and set on fire for a change, and doing all that to giant bugs keeps the carnage kid-friendly.

It reminded me of the original Clone Wars TV series. Not in its tone, but in its skillful way of creating just enough story to make all the action scenes feel like more than just a bunch of action scenes.

Despite the show's problems, these guys can always compose exciting action. And this one delivers on a scale not seen since the movies.



It's an Ahsoka episode, and this season has already paid her and Anakin far too much attention, even if the writers have improved the character. She is now barely -- and I mean barely -- tolerable. That or my standards for Star Wars have lowered yet again.

Not a terrible episode, but its inconsequential and sandwiched between two far superior episodes.


This one was a helluva lot of fun.

This episode shifts its focus back to where it belongs: on Anakin and Obi-Wan. Their dialog -- especially Obi-Wan's -- is a solid improvement over previous episodes. The most enjoyable sequence in the whole episode is actually dialog-driven, when Obi-Wan is stalling for time in front of the Queen. That's a big change for this show.

It's a little late in the game for retconning zombies on Geonosis, but there's a wonderfully mad, silly brilliance to worms that slither up giant dead alien bugs' noses and turn them into zombies.

Legacy of Terror wears its influences on its sleeve -- especially Aliens -- a little too proudly, but it's one of the better Clone Wars stories to date.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Clone Wars: Season 2, Episodes 4 -- Senate Spy


There's an episode or two in every season of a show that's just there -- nothing bad, nothing great. Senate Spy is one of those episodes. The show is significant, though, for two reasons.

First, it's the creative team's first attempt at making an episode without a single action scene. I wonder how that played to kids -- especially since the episode focuses on Anakin and Padme's relationship, which I'm sure kids find "icky." Of course, that isn't surprising, since adults found their romance in the prequels to be icky as well.

That being said, the dialog for Anakin and Padme's scenes here is better -- much better -- than the movies, and the voice actors are actually an improvement over Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman. Their first scene together is surprisingly successful.

The second curious thing about Senate Spy is that it's a direct homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious. I don't know whose idea that was, but they got moxie. Not just for attempting -- and mostly succeeding -- to adapt that story into a kids' show, but mostly for the fact that this episode skirts the line between "homage" and "blatant rip-off." While abridged and adapted for Star Wars, Spy's final act lifts whole lines and camera angles from Notorious. I'm unable to pass judgment on these guys, since a genuine affection for Notorious is obvious, but one could possibly make a case for copyright infringement here.

The real problem with this episode is that it lacks the central hook of Notorious: Ingrid Bergman's character actually seduces and marries the traitor, and she becomes the man's penis receptacle for an indeterminate amount of time, while Cary Grant is torn between his feelings and his duty. Without this hook, Senate Spy is an incredibly odd yet tame Star Wars story: we know Padme would never cheat on Anakin in this episode, that Anakin would do anything to protect her, and yet Anakin is fated to kill her a few years later.


Monday, November 23, 2009

The Clone Wars: Season 2, Episode 3 - Children of the Force


Completely forgot I was going to chronicle one adult Star Wars fan's take on where Lucas is taking the franchise these days. So let's get this done:

It's hard not to be blunt about this episode, the third and final episode of a story arc involving Palpatine's plan to kidnap and indoctrinate Force-sensitive children. Why? Because Filoni and company pretty much blow the dismount.

The writers crammed at least several episodes worth of material into one episode, making it one of the most frantic, underdeveloped Clone Wars episodes to date -- with a horribly easy and clean resolution, a complete tonal shift from the previous two episodes. None of this would be too disappointing if this was not the show's best story arc to date.

It was something for adult fans -- especially lovers of the early EU novels -- to enjoy with or without their kids. After all, where did the Emperor get all those Force-sensitive minions from? After all, it's not like the Emperor put an ad out in the galactic papers that said:

Single White Emperor looking for Spies/Assassins with like-minded goals. Humans preferred, Force-Sensitivity required. Travel, flexible hours, and a full benefits package (*). Be your own boss (**)!

* Our generous health plan does not cover Force-Choke related injuries.
** You are not -- and never will be -- your own boss. Emperor Palpatine is lord and master of all things.

So, um, yeah, this could have been a big step forward for The Clone Wars, a truly awesome story arc, one that could have lasted them the whole season. As it is, this episode casts a shadow on the previous two, though they're still pretty damn fun -- especially that zero-G shootout.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fear the Coming of SkyCat!


It has come to my attention, through Facebook of all places, that researchers from IBM are reporting that they've simulated a cat's cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer. The computer has 147,456 processors and 144 terabytes of main memory. For those not up to speed with computers, that's enough junk in the trunk to put the super in supercomputer.

I must ask IBM this: how much computer do you need to simulate the natural instinct to eat, sleep, poop, find nearest sunbeam, bat/kill all interlopers of equal or lesser size, and go bat-shit crazy 'round midnight?

A more cheeky response -- as just supplied by my wife, who is reading over my shoulder as I type this -- would be a supercomputer with 147,456 processors and 144 terabytes of memory. And I just said to her the same thing that I now say to you:
that can't be right. Seriously, an old Apple II should be up for the job, right?

(*) Did an alt-c, alt-v to Seth's post on
Facebook, and tweaked it to my liking ("junk in the trunk enough", etc.). Thanks and/or sorry, Seth. I was in a hurry this morning.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Star Trek (DVD Release)

Watched it for a third time this week. It's been years since a movie simply made me so...happy. Why? Because it's Star Trek. I know there's a sizable chunk of the Trek fanbase that would disagree, and I would tell them to have a wonderful time being bored to tears by Next Gen (*) or Voyager.

It's not deep, which is why I still think Khan and Undiscovered Country are superior films, but J.J. Abrams had one goal for this movie: to remind people why they fell in love with Trek. And underneath the colossal budget and fancy camerawork, it's a classic Trek story -- full of excitement, wonder, good humor, and hope.

Most importantly, Abrams and the screenwriters keep Trek's core appeal alive and active throughout the movie: Trek stories are about people discovering the best parts (or the worst parts, if you're a villain) of their nature.

This DVD is going to get a lot of play in my house in the years to come.

* Don't get me wrong, I like Next Gen -- but there's no denying that some of the blandest, slowest, preachiest Trek stories come from this show.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts - Part VII: The Revenge)


* All right, let's play this broken record: Infinity Ward had two years to make this game and all they could deliver was a five-hour single-player campaign?

Don't get me wrong, thanks to the multiplayer, this game is worth every penny -- but the single-player sometimes feels like an afterthought. Not to say it isn't good. It is very, very good indeed. When these guys hit their mark, they can produce the feeling that you're in a big summer movie like few others. And there's a lot of these moments in MW2, but they always remain moments, instead of forming a cohesive whole. The story is all over the place, muddled, and often difficult to follow, especially to those who didn't replay the first Modern Warfare in the weeks leading up to this game's release.

If you're like me, you're going to have fun, but you're going to say "That's it?" as the credits roll.

* After playing MW2 and Halo: ODST so close together, I've decided that Infinity Ward and Bungie need to collaborate on a game. Each developer is strong where the other is weak. If Infinity Ward produced the excitement (the gameplay, the engine) and Bungie the emotion (the story, the music), you would have a game good enough to make grown men weep.

* Please don't milk this franchise to death, Activision. With a third studio added to the making of Call of Duty games (see link above), the risk of franchise overkill is becoming a real possibility. Thanks to the staggered releases from the two different CoD developers, Modern Warfare 2 is the third game in two years to follow the same basic template, even if World at War and MW2 featured numerous tweaks and improvements.

This series could become the next Tomb Raider or Tony Hawk, and I'd hate for that to happen.

* It seems I've bagged on this game more than praised it, so let me say this: I have played the ever-loving shit out of this game. I devoured the single-player campaign and counted the minutes at work until I could go home and log in a few rounds of multiplayer. That means that the men and women at Infinity Ward are doing something right.

End of line.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts - Part VI)

* Let's close this bastard out. I'm ready to talk about something else.

* Seriously, I know this is as easy as getting pee out of a pool, but can you guys -- and you know who you are -- please drop the obnoxious dick pose while playing this game? How does that, in any way, increase your enjoyment?

Look, I get it if you're twelve. I don't like it, but I get it. But I'm not talking about kids, which I have not encountered with the same regularity as the last two CoD games (this will, said to say, probably change after Christmas). I'm talking about adults.

Adults who should know better -- especially rednecks, which this game has a unusually high proportion of for an online game, since an Xbox requires both electricity and opposable thumbs. In the interest of not fighting fire with fire, I have resisted the urge to ask some of the more offensive rednecks this: "You make out with your sister with that mouth?"

After a week of playing this game, my hope that karma truly exists has steadily grown, and that karmic justice applies even to assholes who believe that the word "motherfucker" can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective in the same sentence. The only way I have not heard it used in the last week is as an adverb (example: Man, I motherfuckingly shot that motherfucker in his motherfuckin' junk!"). I don't know what sort of karmic punishment these people deserve, but if reincarnation is involved, I hope it involves super-strict nuns at Catholic Schools who wield those bigass wooden rulers with an iron fist.

On the other hand, I do have a particular karmic punishment for people who gay bash: Ass-rape...lots and lots of ass-rape.

* Dammit, still a little more to say on MW2. Back tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts Part V)


* This borders on being an ungrateful shit, because Infinity Ward took the time to add co-op, but why was Spec Ops designed for only two players? These days, I can only justify two-player co-op if it's the actual story mode. But since Spec Ops was designed specifically for co-op, this is a very odd decision. Between Gears of War 2, Halo: ODST, and both Left 4 Deads, I don't see Spec Ops having much staying power.

* Love the new heartbeat sensor, which acts exactly like the motion tracker in Aliens. In other words, you know that someone is close by, but no idea if they are above or below you. For me, this device is a perfect fit, because it has greatly decreased the times I've been shot in the back and, more importantly, it's provided me with countless opportunities to legitimately quote Bill Paxton's character in Aliens.

Best instance: inside a two-story office in multiplayer one night. A red blip showed up on the heartbeat sensor mounted to my gun, which appeared to be only a few feet away from me. With the thought that I'm terribly clever in my head, I said to my very unimpressed wife in my best/worst Bill Paxton voice: "But that's in the room, man!" Seconds later, I turned around to spot the red blip in person, on a balcony above me, who had spotted me at almost the same time...but since he had a few seconds advantage, he got the drop on me. In real life, I let out a yelp of surprise. My avatar died quite painfully.

The wife, it must be said, remained both unimpressed and uninterested through this serious of events.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts - Part IV)


...the story reverts back to the standard "shoot people, save world, maybe have a sandwich afterward" story typical of the first person shooter genre...

...well, except maybe the sandwich bit.

So, yeah, the mission doesn't make sense. And since it was Lance Henriksen's character, General Shepard, that gave you the orders, and since I had already deduced that Shepard was not, in fact, an android created and owned by Weyland-Yutani Corporation, which meant he could not be trusted, I knew going in that this was a setup, in order to set off a global incident (a war with Russia).

Why would Makarov, a public figure, risk being caught as the leader of this incident? Also, would a country go to war over this? And why choose Russia for this story? Did a Middle Eastern country or China hit a little too close to home? Did Infinity Ward just really want a bunch of Red Dawn references in one of their games? Am I thinking about this too much?

The answer to the final question is probably "yes." For the others, I'm not sure.

Lastly, let's dwell again on the fact that the mission does not require you to shoot innocent civilians. If you were like me, you merely walked through this section, and didn't fire a single bullet until shot at. I'm glad it was designed that way, but to remove all personal feelings from the argument, it does strip much of the emotional power from the story, since you don't actually have to do it. It's like Infinity Ward wanted to have their controversy cake and eat it in public in the least controversial manner possible too.

In short, with all the references to sandwiches and cake, I deduce that I am hungry. To sum up a few days of ranting on the "No Russian" mission, I will say this: I don't know if it should be in the game or not, but I'll tell you this...

...I wouldn't have done it.

One or two more rants to come on Modern Warfare 2.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts - Part III)


...that just means you're a rational, well-adjusted person who is not completely desensitised to violence.

That's a good thing. Run with that.

So, yeah, you're not supposed to enjoy it. You're supposed to be shocked by it and ponder its ramifications. That's a pretty bold choice for a company that could've played it safe and still raked in the dough (or even hired some lackey to do the actual raking -- because they're just that bloody rich). The problem with this sequence is not necessarily that it exists, but that Infinity Ward doesn't have the storytelling chops to justify its existence. Don't get me wrong, these guys kick ass in the gameplay department, but Bioware or Irrational Games they are not.

First off -- and it's possible that I missed something in the lead-in cutscene -- but what outcome could be worth the complicity in such a horrible act? The character you play, an American soldier who has infiltrated a terrorist network, has the opportunity to both capture/kill one of the most wanted men in the world and stop the death of hundreds of innocents. There is, for the lack of a better term, no Sophie's Choice -- no ticking bomb, no trade off to be rationalized. All I could think while playing this segment -- besides the obvious "What the hell is Infinity Ward thinking?" -- was, "Since I was the last terrorist out of the elevator, why not just shot these murdering bastards in the back and have this done with?"

After this...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts - Part II)

* "No Russian." My feelings are so mixed on the subject that it's hard to whittle them down into one coherent argument. One thing I won't do is tell you how you should feel about it.

It will be interesting to see if the media makes a stink about this in the coming weeks, but since there's no poorly textured boobs (GTA: San Andreas) or a sex scene between two consenting adults tame enough to be in a PG-13 movie (Mass Effect), it's hard to imagine them sinking their teeth into this.

First off, I gotta give props to Infinity Ward for giving one the option to skip this mission, without it affecting one's completion score or achievements. Usually, I'd file this in the "way to cover your ass, pussies" drawer, but games don't have a fast-forward button, and I would respect a person's wish to not spend ten or fifteen minutes of their leisure time playing a videogame involving the mass murder of innocent people in an airport.

It's important to stop here and note that you are never required to harm a single unarmed civilian. You don't have to fire a single bullet until the army shows up. Admittedly, this does not make everything honky dory.

But it's not supposed to make things honky dory. Because here's the thing: it's not supposed to be fun. If you were shocked, horrified, or just a little unnerved...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Random Thoughts -- Part 1)


* Loved Gamestop's "we can be douchebags because someone else was a douchebag first" rational for breaking Modern Warfare 2's street date. Way to turd that one up, guys. Reminded me why I don't like to give you my business.

* I've waited to post about MW2 for a few days, to give people time to complete the still far too short single-player campaign. Thanks to the nifty stat tracker, I know my first time through on normal clocked in at five hours and twelve minutes.

And, trust me, I died. A lot.

Anyway, complaint number one: casting Lance Henriksen as General Shepard. Don't get me wrong, I like the guy -- great actor -- but you simply can't trust the guy -- unless he's android, and even then that trust is hard earned. Also, the name Shepard was a bit of a tip off, since he's proves to be anything but.

I ignored all press about this game, so I didn't know he was in it (or Keith David for that matter, which is awesome). But the second I heard his voice in the first cutscene, I said to myself, "Bad guy."

* Shit, already at 200 words. Back tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Wolfman (Second Trailer)

The best way to describe to you how much I love the original Wolfman movies -- and all the old Universal Monster movies -- is that the wife can easily get a rise out of me by making fun of them.

The Wolfman is my favorite. Somehow, the wife knew this even before we watched it together for the first time. She picked up the VHS sleeve, skimmed the summary, raised an eyebrow, and said, "So...this is about a Wolfman, is it?"

"He's not a Wolfman, he's The Wolfman!" I said to her, trying to make my incredulity sound like mock incredulity, in the hopes of keeping the prospect of sex with me sound like a fun, exciting venture.

So, yeah, I'm a fan. But I'm still not terribly excited about this new Wolfman movie, even after watching the second trailer, which makes the film look like it'll be a solid remake -- good cast, good director, the right setting and period, a nice balance of practical and digital effects. I was able to figure out why I'm not that excited about this movie with this trailer: it's the need to turn Anthony Hopkins's character, Lionel Talbot's (The Wolfman) father, into a villain.

One of the most compelling elements of the original Wolfman, which makes it so distinct, is that there is no real villain in the story. Those afflicted with the werewolf curse have no control over it, and Lionel's father and the villagers believe they're merely hunting an animal for the entire run of the film. The film's resolution is haunting, tragic.

I'll keep the ranting down to a minimum till the movie comes out, in case I'm wrong, but I really do hate it when a big studio makes a film -- especially a retelling of a classic story -- about a troubled, possibly unsympathetic protagonist and feels the need to unnecessarily create an even more troubled, even more unsympathetic character so the protagonist doesn't look so bad in comparison and has someone to have a big action scene with in the film's climax. This never works, and it takes the teeth out of any story.

Here's hoping this one doesn't suck.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And Another Thing... (Part II)

"People have said, quite rightly, that Mostly Harmless is a very bleak book. And it was a bleak book. I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note, so five seems to be a wrong kind of number; six is a better kind of number."

- Douglas Adams

...I thoroughly loathe the current wave of "estate authorized" novels based on popular works by deceased authors. I can't see them as anything but a naked cash grab by all parties involved. Don't utter the names Brian Herbert or Kevin J. Anderson in my prescence unless you wish to sit through a very long -- and long-winded -- rant on their endless wave of Dune books. To get a more concise, pointed summation of my argument, click this link. It sums it up nicely.

But there's something quite different about And Another Thing..., though this may just be my affection for Hitchhiker's talking. Douglas Adams died at such a young age -- not even fifty years old -- and had already expressed interest in writing a sixth Hitchhiker's, feeling that Mostly Harmless was not a fitting farewell to the series. And it isn't: Mostly Harmless is a mess of a book -- relentlessly bleak, full of odd tonal shifts, and, most importantly, just not that funny.

For the last few years, I've told people who are reading the series for the first time to stop at So Long and Thanks for all the Fish. That's changed now thanks to And Another Thing...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

And Another Thing... (Part I)


Imagine, if you will, that it's May 19th, 1999 again. You wake up, make some coffee, pour some cereal, and sit down to your computer to check your e-mail and visit your favorite websites. A half hour later, you find an article about George Lucas linked off of one of your favorite "geek" websites. "Hey, I like George Lucas. He made those three Star Wars movies I used to watch all the time to the point that my wife had an intervention and told me to go outside once and awhile," you think to yourself, and clink on the link.

Halfway through the article, you find out, much to your surprise, that not only is there going to be a new Star Wars movie, but that it's actually out in theaters that very day. It flew completely under your radar. And since it's playing on more screens at your local multiplex than you have actual friends, because you didn't take your wife's advice about leaving the house once in a while, there's a showing at just about anytime you want.

That's pretty much how I felt yesterday to find out, while reading Terry Jones's rather beautiful memorial to Douglas Adams, that not only was there a new Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy novel coming out, one authorized and endorsed by Adam's widow and written by Artemis Fowl author Eion Colfer, but it was actually released that very day. All I had to do was go down to my local bookstore and buy it.

Maybe it's because I'm sick at the moment...but I can't describe the joy and unabashed sentiment I felt while buying the book. This is especially odd since...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Outlander (Part II)


...it's here where the movie stumbles (spoilers ahead). The premise is a damn good one: that Caviezel's (Jesus's) futuristic society got their genocide on when they invaded the alien's world, conquered it, and practically wiped out their entire species. Since Caviezel (Jesus) was a soldier in the army that committed these atrocities, we should feel like he's paying for his sins when the aliens begin to strike back.

This never happens. Caviezel's (Jesus's) character is constantly portrayed as compassionate and noble, and all the alien does for the run of the movie is sleep, stalk, kill lots of motherfuckers, and eat said dead motherfuckers. I felt no sympathy for the monster at all, which greatly reduces the impact of the final film.

My guess is that the writers had to drop most of this plot thread to accommodate the film's budget. The film was made for $47.5 million, but it looks like it was shot for half of that. The effects in the final film range from adequate to lousy, and it's only the creature's truly awesome design that saves the film, since the character is poorly rendered and animated for most of its shots.

Once the writers realized they didn't have the resources to fully create the struggle between the two species, they probably should have dropped this beat, but as a writer, I can't blame them for holding on to an idea that they were passionate about. None of this ruins Outlander -- it's still a solid fusion of action and horror. It's a great Friday night movie with friends. But it certainly never tops or trancends its origins.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Outlander (Part I)


To be fair, I'm turning into a cantankerous old coot when it comes to my opinions on movies ("Back in my day, we had to composite our special effects optically, uphill both ways!"), but there's something very refreshing about Outlander's straight-forward, earnest approach to its Alien meets Beowulf story.

Its pleasures are simple yet satisfying. The filmmakers judiciously ration the monster's screen time until the final act -- a rarity among rarities these days -- leaving time for the plot to steadily build and for the characters to grow. Jim Caviezel (Jesus) makes a truly awesome action hero, yet the character never feels too much like an action hero, thanks to his performance. For an "A-" movie (a film that either had too much talent or money to be truly "B"), the noteworthy cast is surprisingly above par, and without a single actor just showing up for their paycheck.

While the script stays pretty close to both its obvious inspirations, it plays with conventions just enough to feel fresh -- especially with the romantic lead (Sophia Myles), who gets to be both the damsel in distress and a kicker of asses. And the writers do an excellent job of creating tension between John Hurt and Ron Perlman's kingdoms without ever vilifying either culture. Oddly enough, the writers try to do this with Caviezel's (Jesus's) man from space and the monster he brought with him...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Lost Symbol (200 pages in)


Man, if only Michael Crichton were still alive so he could team up with Dan Brown to write a science fiction thriller about clones of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the Apostles, and other characters from Christian mythology who run amok in a Christian-themed amusement park, eating or nearly eating scientists, lawyers, and small children -- because, seriously, Dan Brown's books couldn't get any sillier at this point.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Clone Wars: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 -- Holocron Heist and Cargo of Doom (Part II)


...from Anakin and Obi-Wan, which should be the heart of this show.

The battle droid jokes are better -- still a few too many, but they don't interfere with the pace of the story. More importantly, the second episode had some dialog for the battle droids that wasn't just comic relief. In the torture sequence there was a dispassionate droid that reminded me that these things could be taken seriously. The show needs more of this, because as amusing as all these Rosencrank and Guildendroid bits are in theory, these characters should be at least remotely threatening.

Lastly, the plot holes...

If there was a real problem with these two episodes (to say nothing of every Lucas-sponsored story since The Phantom Menace), it's that the Jedi's powers are as strong or weak as necessary in a given scene to keep the plot going. Cad Bane -- who, like Heath Ledger's Joker in the The Dark Knight -- comes up with plans far too complex to be remotely believable.  He makes the Jedi looks like a bunch of retarded kids riding the short Star Destroyer. His escape in the first episode was a stretch but tolerable. The end of Cargo of Doom is lazy writing defined. I think even a young kid would be screaming, "He's right next to you, stupid!" at Anakin. Of course, the whole point of this show is to get these sort of reactions out of kids, so I'll shut up.

Still, despite these criticisms, Heist and Doom feel more like Star Wars than any of the previous episodes. I hope that Filioni and co. can maintain this quality.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Clone Wars: Season 2, Episodes 1 and 2 -- Holocron Heist and Cargo of Doom (Part I)

When reviewing the first season of The Clone Wars, I never assigned an actual rating to any of the episodes. Instead, I made sure to note whether casual, adult fans of Star Wars -- people like me, who grew up with the original trilogy -- might actually enjoy a particular episode, either alone or with their children. Less than half of the first season made that list, but the two episodes that kicked off season 2 last Friday, Holocron Heist and Cargo of Doom, set a new level of quality for the series. I can easily recommend these two episodes to casual fans -- especially those who have been avoiding the show like the plague since the movie came out last summer.

Of course, I'd only recommend them to newcomers who have a little perspective. The Clone Wars is still, for all intents and purposes, a kids' show. The show's biggest faults are still here -- Ahsoka, battle droid humor, and lazy and/or dumbed down storytelling -- but the writers have definitely made an attempt to tone these elements down or improve them.

Ahsoka is far less annoying, but she's still a needless, unwelcome character. She's much more tolerable in these two episodes than in previous ones, but no matter how much she is improved, she just doesn't need to exist. She takes valuable time away...

Next Review Here

Monday, October 5, 2009

Halo 3: ODST (Ten Thoughts - Part III)


8) Love the return of the ridiculously overpowered pistol. Even cooler: it's silenced.

9) Really need to play the story cooperatively. Haven't gotten around to that yet.

10) Great music. Solid story with innovative ideas. The standard superior controls and presentation that one expects from Bungie.

Bungie's still got it -- and I'm especially eager to play Reach next year. That story, a futuristic version of Pearl Harbor, has the potential for some truly gripping storytelling (and let's be honest, Bungie creates better stories than they do games), but for this series to finally live up to its hype, there's a few things the next Halo campaign needs to do.

New enemies and/or new tactics: killing grunts, jackals, elites, and brutes has worn out its welcome long before each of the four Halo games has ended. Shake things up. Keep throwing new things at us throughout the whole game.

Level design is one area where Bungie has steadily improved, and it's a shame to see that the final section of ODST requires you to go through endless waves of bland, identical corridors, followed by big open rooms, followed by bland, identical corridors, etc. For the love of God, please let there be none of this in Reach.

Complete Lack of "Holy Shit" Moments In-Game is one thing Bungie has never capitalized on. There are simply no "holy shit" moments in the campaign, like the scripted sequences found in games like Half-Life or Call of Duty. You simply move from one area to another killing aliens, with little variety, tension, or drama.

There's one moment that almost works, when you have to cross a makeshift bridge from one skyscraper to another. What happens? The bridge shakes...a little. Seriously, a little. That's it. Come on, Bungie, put the drama found in your games' cutscenes into your gameplay. You've got one of the best stories and settings in videogame history. Make it live up to its full potential.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Halo 3: ODST (Ten Thoughts - Part II)

4) ...but Bungie should've held on to this "noir shooter" concept for another game, specifically a non-Halo game. There's no real mystery to ODST, since this is a side story in the already completed Halo story arc. We know who the bad guys are, we know what Halo does, and we even know who's going to win, live, and die. And each time the story cuts to one of the flashbacks, the game entirely loses its noir vibe, feeling like, well, Halo 1, 2, and 3.

After Reach, I hope Bungie tries this again in a new futuristic setting -- preferably without aliens -- so an actual sense of mystery, danger, and suspense could be achieved.

5) I feel bad about how many times I've killed Nathan Fillion. How many, you ask? Let's just say he's had less canceled shows than deaths under my stewardship. That's how much.

6) Speaking of Nathan Fillion. I think it's quite cool that Bungie designed and animated the character to look like him, and I'm a bit curious as to why fellow Firefly vets Alan Tudyk and Adam Baldwin didn't get the same treatment. I don't know about you, but I always get a kick out of playing a game where you play as or share the screen with digital representations of famous actors.

7) One last thing about Mr. Fillion. The last time I played a round of Firefight (four players against endless waves of A.I. baddies, for those who aren't aware), I was glad to find out that one of us wasn't playing as Nathan Fillion. Someone was playing as Alan Tudyk's character, so you could actually hear a different set of audio cues and wisecracks in the midst of battle.

That was quite refreshing. True, if you're going to have an army of cloned soldiers, it might as well be an army of Nathan Fillions. But, still....variety is the spice of life.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Halo 3: ODST (Ten Thoughts - Part I)


1) With a single button press, one can activate the Rookie's VISR mode (Visual Intelligence System, Reconnaissance), which makes everything look all Tron-y.

I dig that.

2) Yes, the single-player in this so-called expansion pack is short, but roughly the same length as Call of Duty 4 and Halo 3. Unfortunately, once you realize that you can run past the enemies in the Rookie's open-ended segments, the game can be completed in only two or three hours on standard difficulty. There isn't much to explore in New Mombasa, and the level design and encounters grow monotonous after an hour or two of play.

3) Halo 2 and Halo 3's segments on Earth were curiously free of civilians. This was understandable in Halo 2, due to limitations in the technology and the fact that the Earth had just been attacked, but it was one of many factors that made Halo 3 lack the dramatic punch that a series' finale should have had.

This time around, it works to the game's advantage. Wondering the empty streets of New Mombasa sets an nice tone for the rest of the game, both moody and haunted, certainly the stuff that noir stories are made of, but...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writing Update (9/29/09)


Did I say September 6th in my last post? What I meant was the 29th.

The delay was worth it. The first issue of my comic book miniseries is done, finished at the end of August. The panels are "locked" for Alex to do the pencils. There's only one bit of the story -- a small beat that hints at our hero's past -- that I'm not absolutely confident about it, but it will only require changing or stretching the dialog in one panel to erase it from the story.

I've seen the two completed pages of Alex's pencils, and they are quite impressive. Can't wait to see the final product.

Issue #2 was started on September 1st and was completed only a day past my self-imposed deadline (two fully laid out comic pages with dialog a day, with each issue totaling 25 pages). It hasn't come together anywhere as easily as the first issue. Right now it starts strong and ends strong, but the middle is a bit, well, off. The actual beats are what I want, but the dialog just isn't right.

I will start Issue #3 on October 1st. I'd like to get back to do these rants, as well -- but the scripts come first.

I've got some things I'd like to say about ODST, so I'll probably be back tomorrow. And hopefully, the day after that and...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Writing Update (9/06/09)

Tuesday, September 6th. Should be back then.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing Update (8/20/09)

Sorry for the lack of updating. First draft of the first issue of my first comic script is done, and I'm putting all my energy into it.

Be back in a day or two.

Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9 (Day One)


First off, District 9 was made for 30 million dollars. Some people have gone as far as to say the film was made for only 30 million dollars. Personally, I want to bitch slap anyone who attaches an adjective to that sum that makes it sound like 30 million dollars isn't a shitload of money.

Why? Because 30 million dollars is a shitload of money. Once again, if you disagree, the bitch slap queue forms to your left.

Movies cost too much to make these days. It's that simple. You want to know why you're paying ten dollars for a movie ticket? You want to know why so many creative decisions are made by Hollywood suits instead of writers and directors? You want to know why so many studio films are becoming even more bland, formulaic, pandering wastes of time than ever? It's because even a movie like Funny People costs $75 million to make these days.

I've taken ten movies, big event films, from the past thirty years - since the original Star Wars, which helped usher in the summer blockbuster, as it were - and used an inflation calculator to show what they would cost to make in 2008, the year District 9 went into production. These estimates were made using wikipedia...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Half-Life Sale!


Absolutely big - huge - sale on the Half-Life games over at Steam. If you haven't played them all yet, buy them, download them, and play them - before I have to disown you on a matter of principle.

Of course, I just bought Half-Life 2: Episode Two on the PC, which means I now own all of the Orange Box - save the PC version of Portal - on two different platforms...so I am, in fact, that kind of fan. But I'm still passionate on the subject and happen to take great pleasure in disowning people on a regular basis, so I would download those games right now...if you want to stay on my good side.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Demo)


First off, thanks for sticking with me through four days of Star Wars ranting, which probably ran about four days longer than it should.

Now on to the Arkham Asylum Demo...

The demo lasts about twenty minutes, but that was enough time to impress me. Immediately after finishing the demo, I went to my computer and pre-ordered it on Amazon, instead of hoping that Gamefly would promptly send me a virgin or near-virgin copy after its release.

The demo isn't extraordinary, but it's solid and competent. That may sound like I'm damning it with faint praise - but a comic tie-in game with solid controls, that is actually, you know, fun, is a rare beast. And I can't say enough good things about the person who made sure to get the voice talent from Batman: The Animated Series.

The controls are simple, intuitive. Batman's attack combos look awesome, though it can feel like the game is doing most of the fighting for you. Of course, this is the game's tutorial level, and not a good measure for how the fighting system will handle as the game gets going. And someone finally got the grappling hook right, and combined with effective stealth tactics, the game creates a truly authentic Batman experience.

Not a big fan of the game's art design, though. The characters look like they were designed by a fourteen year-old. OK...a very talented fourteen year-old, but still a kid who could listen to Pretty Hate Machine all day long while designing Batman-themed cosplay outfits for his friends that could successfully pull double duty at a rave later that night. Harley Quinn doesn't look scary, but I find the notion that someone thought all those ridiculous leather straps looked cool very troubling, indeed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars (Part IV)


...Star Trek, which between five TV shows, ten movies, and more books than one could count, almost killed itself with overexposure, bloated continuity, and franchise fatigue. No matter what you thought about the new Star Trek movie, I think we can all agree that it was time to wipe the slate clean and start over.

There are simple ways of fixing the discrepinces between the EU and the "official" Lucas stories. The easiest way to fix this would be to seperate the Star Wars stories in print and the Star Wars stories told through moving images into two similar but mutually exclusive universes. This isn't a perfect solution: it would certainly confuse casual fans - but casual fans aren't the ones reading the books these days. But it would make all the continuity problems and ridiculous retcons a thing of the past. This would give the EU writers - especially writers like Traviss, who created a whole culture and numerous memorable characters - the room to create their own part of the Star Wars universe, without fear that years of hard work would be rendered mute, even obsolete once a story written or sponsored by Lucas goes into production.

The other solution, which would upset hardcore fans, is to greatly reduce the amount of Expanded Universe content produced, or to steer EU writers towards The Old Republic or Legacy eras, settings solely created by EU authors and managed by the EU editors.

Either way, Star Wars needs to replace quantity with quality. To produce less stories, stories that should be original, exciting, and accessible to both casual and hardcore fans, that would form a memorable, cohesive universe. I don't think Star Wars is in as much trouble currently as Trek during the Voyager/Enterprise years, but if the live action show doesn't deliver, both in terms of quality and accessibility, then this franchise will truly be in trouble of collapsing in on itself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars (Part III)


(First off, the link above - glad to see I'm not the only one with this opinion.)

...a publishing event with the Thrawn trilogy, one Star Wars novel a year, quickly became an onslaught of books, comics, videogames, and now TV shows. Some of these stories have been good, most of them decent, and a handful of them appallingly bad (Kevin J. Anderson, I'm looking in your general direction) - but for some reason, someone thought that these hundreds of stories by dozens of authors across multiple forms of media should all coexist together. That should all be considered...canon (cue sinister music).

This would've been all well and good, if it hadn't quickly become clear that George Lucas wasn't done with Star Wars. I'm not a huge follower of the EU (Star Wars should end with Return of the Jedi - and it is a happy ending), but I know a good portion of the novels written before The Phantom Menace's release have been negated by the prequel trilogy - even Timothy Zahn's Thrawn novels. And as we see with Karen Traviss's departure from Star Wars, it's a problem that's only getting worse, now that there's a weekly TV show set during The Clone Wars, with another TV show, set during the period between Episodes III and IV, on the way.

After 1999, I thought we'd see a much firmer hand by Lucas and his editors in regards to the tie-in books, especially those set in the prequel trilogy: fewer books, published farther apart, with more attention paid to producing a cohesive universe.

But the release schedule for Star Wars stories - especially the novels - has only increased in this decade, and the canon has grown bloated, convoluted, and often inaccessible to casual fans. It's like Stars Wars is going down the road as...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars (Part II)


...moxie. To use a now classic Star Wars analogy, her clones shot first - a lot. Nor did she mind giving her characters rough edges or flaws, even the Jedi. I didn't realize until looking at the forums linked above, but her take - and it truly was her take - on Star Wars produced very strong reactions out of fans, both positive and negative. But to me, getting a strong emotional reaction out of readers means that she was doing something right. Of course, at the same time, she's the lady that killed Mara Jade (whether it was her idea or not, she was the messenger - and, baby, did people ever shoot the messenger on that one), but the less said about the Legacy of the Force series, the better.

I don't want to comment too much on her reasons for leaving, which seems to be that her version of Mando culture and/or Boba Fett is about to be completely negated by one - if not both - of the TV shows. Not having all the facts, I'm going to steer clear of any opinions or blame on that matter.

But Traviss's depature shows a real problem with Star Wars these days, which is no one person's fault, but is something that needs to be addressed. I'm a passionate fan, but I'm also a fan with perspective. The blame doesn't fall on her shoulders, or The Clone Wars writers, or even George Lucas. The problem is simply that there has been too much material produced since Timothy Zahn took the first step in creating what is now called the Expanded Universe back in the early 90's.

What started as...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars


This, my friends, is a real shame.

As someone who reads tie-in novels as a guilty pleasure, I never expect much from them. I don't think anyone does. Fans love a movie, a comic, a game and they just want more of the same. Karen Traviss's tenure with Star Wars was one of the rare times that fans actually got more out of a tie-in series, and not just more of the same.

As I've said before on this site, Traviss brought both teeth and heart back to Star Wars. I like the prequels - especially Sith - but there's no denying that it's hard to care about anyone in those movies, save Obi-Wan and Yoda. And Lucas left a lot of half-formed ideas and dangling plot threads left either undeveloped or unresolved. His inability to develop both the flaws in the Jedi Order and the identity (or the lack thereof) of the clones greatly reduced the emotional impact of the prequel trilogy.

Traviss took those lingering threads and ran with them, to great effect. And, man, does she have...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince (Movie Rant)


To say I've been disappointed with the Harry Potter movies would be an understatement. It's amazing to me that J.K. Rowling's novels, so full of wonder, wit, excitement, and heart, could be rendered so stale, derivative, and lifeless on the screen (with the exception of Alfonso Cuaron's take on Prisoner of Azkaban).

My dislike of the films grew so great that the wife and I quit going to see the movies in theaters after Goblet of Fire, and we didn't even finish Order of the Phoenix when we watched it on DVD, which was even more rushed and lifeless than Christopher Columbus's direction of the first two Harry Potter movies. I wouldn't have even watched Half-Blood Prince if a friend from out of town hadn't ask to see it while visiting. And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Yate's take on Half-Blood Prince. His skills as a director - or, at least, his skill at making a Harry Potter movie - have substantially improved since Order of the Phoenix, and he successfully captures some of the emotional core of the original story.

All the problems of Potter franchise are still here, though. There's still too much plot crammed in from the novels, with most of the beats too rushed, making the big moments almost impossible to care about. Most of the actors, while extraordinarily talented, don't feel comfortable or right in their roles (Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith being the two exceptions that spring to mind).

The smaller moments work quite well, though. And Yates actually removes action sequences from the book, instead of adding needless ones (a first for this series), which gives the story a little more time to build properly. With The Deathly Hollows being split up into two features - and Yate's improvement as a director - we may finally get two Harry Potter movies that live up to their source material.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2 - There is Only War (Release Day)


Downloading the update as I type, and it's slow going on Steam - thanks, I imagine, to all the traffic. I participated in the Beta of this mutiplayer update, and despite some bugs, I found it to be a solid improvement on what was already my favorite RTS since the first Dawn of War. I didn't think Relic could make this game more addicting, but they did. And that's eight new multiplayer maps released for free to all owners of the game. Kudos to Relic for excellent customer support.

I'll hold off my detailed opinions until I play the final product for a few days, which looks to have been tweaked quite a bit since the Beta release earlier this month. Looks like my download is ready, so I'm out.

Oh, one last thing - the game is on sale for 50% off right now on Steam. So if you don't have it - and have the rig to run it - now's the perfect time to get it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gears of War 2 (Dark Corners and All Fronts DLC)


Those who keep up with this blog know my feelings about DLC on Live. I think you're paying too much for too little - especially when DLC packs are comprised of nothing but new multiplayer maps.

First off, I'm a cheap bastard. That's an established fact. I watch for sales and wait months, even years for items to drop in price. My geek appetites are veracious and have limited funding. I never thought I'd say this, but the All Fronts DLC pack, a collection of all previous Gears 2 downloadable content, including the new Dark Corners expansion (more on that below), is actually quite a deal at twenty dollars...if you haven't purchased any of the other Gears 2 DLC packs in the last few months.

All Fronts is more in line with a traditional expansion pack for a shooter in the pre-Live days, which typically had around 5 hours of new single-player content, a handful of new weapons and baddies, and several new multiplayer maps/features. I doubt the deleted chapter, Road to Ruin, lasts even an hour - but combined with 19 new multiplayer maps, All Fronts is, in Live terms, a steal for new Gears 2 players or gamers who quickly burned out on the game and jumped ship to another shooter.

On the other hand, I'm disappointed to see that the Dark Corners pack, 7 new mutliplayer maps and the aforementioned Road to Ruin, is priced at a whopping fifteen bucks - the first time, to my knowledge, that a single DLC pack has been priced above the standard ten dollar price-point. I imagine that fan reaction to this one is going to be negative, though I seriously doubt it will stop people from buying it. I'm not going to pick up the All Fronts pack (I don't play Gears 2 multiplayer), but I'm going to follow this one closely. Hopefully, this is the first and last time we see DLC of this size priced above ten dollars.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peter Jackson and Halo are Never Having Make-Up Sex (Confirmed)


Man, file that under "what could have been." Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp not being able to make their version of Halo isn't on par with The Beatles breaking up, but it's still one great artistic opportunity missed thanks to, according to Jackson, some corporate suits who couldn't play well with others. Hopefully, whoever cocked this one up gets a swift, powerful karmic bitch slap in the near future.

Between Peter Jackson and Neil Blomkamp's skill as filmmakers and the strength of the Halo universe, their version of Master Chief's story could have been a sci-fi classic. Not only that, but I can't see a Halo movie - especially a good one - making less than $300 million in the U.S. alone. It would have been a win-win.

That being said, I'm going to shut up about this. Put it to bed. I'm sure both men are tired of talking about Halo. District 9 is coming out in a few weeks, and if the hype is true, Jackson & Blomkamp have a winner on their hands. Can't wait to see it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing Update (7/27/09)


I'm up at this ungodly hour because I plan on doing all my writing before work from now on, so it's out of the way for the day, which means getting up at six in the morning from now on. I think I can pull it off, but I'm worried about getting used to, even liking it. If I'm not careful, I may end up with a desire to eat at Luby's.

The goal, as always, is for two pages a day and two hundred words or so here. I'll post again in a few weeks with how this goes.

Some good news: I may have an illustrator to collaborate with. One of our two summer temps is an excellent artist whose goal is to break into comics, which is quite serendipitous, because I just happen to be working on two comic scripts whenever my feature script doesn't want to play nice.

Last week I handed him two pages from my feature script, a mystery/horror story, and the first thirteen scripted pages for the first issue of Big F***ing Robots. I told him that the feature is my baby and I only want a few panels from key moments, like a storyboard, for me to see how he would interpret it. That one's my baby, and I want it just right. If I like the look of it, I may adapt it into comic form. With nearly seventy completed pages (out of about 120), that's three or four issues already completed that merely need to be adapted.

On the other hand, I told him to just have fun with the BFR script. As I've said before, it's a valentine to the fourteen year-old version of myself. It's supposed to be fun, and I want the creation of it to be just as fun as reading it. The only note I gave him was that I wanted it to in no way have an anime/manga look.

Keep you posted, people.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 (Mixed Feelings)



Taken from a forum post I did on blues, because I'm feeling like a lazy bastard this Sunday morning.

I see both sides of this argument.

I still don't know how I feel about such a quick release for a title that, while fun, wasn't worth sixty dollars. Despite the randomness provided by the A.I. Director, there's no hiding that the game is comprised of four segments that last about 45 minutes to an hour a piece. That's shorter than the single-player on Call of Duty 4.

I paid full price for it last year because I thought Valve would support it with numerous - and free - content updates for years to come, making it worth the investment. I never expected a full-priced sequel only a year later.

But, Valve has supported Left 4 Dead 1. There have been numerous refinements, tweaks, and additions - though there's been only one patch that actually provided new content, and that was only a new - and not terribly exciting - game mode. No new characters, weapons, or monsters. It's been disappointing.

What is odd is that they have put much more effort into Team Fortress 2, a game that, on the PC, is half the price and has a smaller global fanbase - without asking for a single penny after the initial purchase. They've worked their asses off with that game, from videos, blog content, and the class/map updates.

From reading their interviews and listening to their in-game commentaries, these guys put themselves through hell to make their art. They bust their asses for years making these games, and they support their fanbase better than any other game company out there to thank us for our support.

Who else would have given away Team Fortress 1 and Counter-Strike away free to owners of Half-Life 1? Released a Half-Life 2 multiplayer game for free after countless user requests. Etc. Etc.

I can see where one could take Lombardi's comment posted above negatively. But it sounds to me like these guys want to have fun making a game where they can focus more on the creative aspects instead of building new tech. This could still turn out to be one helluva game.

That being said, I don't play Left 4 Dead enough to warrant another sixty dollar purchase for a game that doesn't seem very different at all. This could be the first Valve release that I won't purchase...at least until it gets much cheaper a year or two later. And, of course, if Left 4 Dead 3 isn't out by that time...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Force Unleashed (Sith Edition Announcement)


Well, that didn't take long...

Here I was, complimenting Lucasarts last week on some sound, customer-friendly business decisions with their re-releases of classic games on Steam, and then I read something like this. It took Lucasarts only a week to anger my blood.

I don't mind paying for DLC, though the price-point for most of the packages is too high, including Lucasart's first DLC for The Force Unleashed. But the fact that they're going on "Special Edition" with the game, expecting gamers to buy a game they own again for "deleted scenes" is so...so...George Lucas.

I may give the Sith Edition a rent through Gamefly, but I'm certainly not buying it. I hope you don't, as well. First off, I'm sure the Hoth level will show up a few months after the Sith Edition's release - exclusive content on Live doesn't stay exclusive for long - so save your money. Second - and more importantly - I'm not going to support such a poor, outright greedy business strategy from this company and its owner. You shouldn't, either.

Friday, July 17, 2009

White Dwarf Archive (Debut)


This one came as a shock to me, since Games Workshop, a company that's never met a price hike they didn't like, isn't in the habit of giving things out for free, even old articles from back issues of White Dwarf.

There aren't that many articles up at the moment - and no battle reports, my favorite bit of their magazine - but they promise to post new articles every month. We'll see how they support it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Voyager: Season 2 (A Quick Question)

Why do I keep checking out Voyager from Netflix? What did I ever do to me to make myself punish me like this?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (Release Day)


Mad props to Lucasarts this summer. Between partnering with Valve to release XP/Vista compatible versions of their classic titles on Steam, working with Telltale Games to produce a new Monkey Island title, and, today, releasing a Special Edition version of The Secret of Monkey Island, Lucasarts has put their name back on the map in a very big, very positive way.

As I've said before, it's been hard to watch Lucasart's slow, sad decline these past ten years. There's been a few bright spots - mostly games made by other developers, published by Lucasarts - but for the most part, it's been like watching an Ewok fuck a football.

While I'd still prefer for them to put their energy into new, compelling titles, it's nice to see games like The Dig and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on Steam. And the price point for all their titles - including the new Secret of Monkey Island, ten bucks on Steam or Live - is lower than I expected.

Okay, Lucasarts, you got my attention. I'm impressed. But it's going to take more than some re-releases to completely win me back over to your camp...although releasing Zak McKracken on Steam might work.

I'm easy like that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bioshock 2 (Delayed)


Well, shit...

The article above is an interesting one, since Strauss Zelnic, chairman of Take-Two, clearly states the decision to delay Bioshock 2 was to make "...a more compelling consumer experience and a better performing product in the marketplace."

The question is whether the quality of the game or the quantity of sales is more important to Zelnic - and we won't know that until 2010. If a delayed game turns out to be a memorable one, people shut up about the delays in a hurry (see almost every Valve or Blizzard release). Part of me still thinks that Bioshock doesn't need a sequel, and while I've been avoiding previews for it, what little I've read indicates that 2K genuinely wants to improve on the first game.

But even if it is merely a finical decision, I can't entirely knock Take-Two for it. The original Bioshock came out in late August, at the end of the traditional summer time lull for games. A lot of gamers probably found Bioshock because there was nothing else new out there. How well would it have performed in the fall of 2007, up against The Orange Box, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed, and, most importantly, Call of Duty 4?

Of course, Bioshock is an established I.P. now, so releasing the game during a lull makes less sense than it did in 2007. On the other hand, it's not an established multiplayer I.P., and a release in November would have put it up against Left 4 Dead 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, strong multiplayer titles.

One thing's for certain: I can't wait till 2010.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Space Marines (First Trailer)


Somehow, even though it was announced at E3, I just found out about Space Marines this weekend. Its relative lack of coverage made me think it was just a cheap cash-in, until I found out that Relic is making it. Relic's name alone puts this game near the top of my wish list.

The trailer is rather rad - though not as impressive as Dawn of War 2's opening cinematic, which is so good that I still watch it occasionally when the game loads up (Relic should start making a half-hour CG animated show in this style.)

The game looks to be an action-RPG in the vein of Diablo or Marvel Ultimate Alliance: in other words, a "click-click-click" RPG. That means that Relic's going to have their hands full making this game match the quality of their previous 40K titles, because I've yet to play a "click-click-click" game that didn't become stale and repetitive long before the end credits.

Still, my love for space marines in any franchise - whether it be Aliens, Starcraft, or 40K - is deep and unwavering. Consider me down.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Battlefield 1943 (First Night)


Dad and brother picked it up, so I downloaded it last night.

Without looking at the instructions or playing a tutorial, I logged onto a server, not knowing the buttons or my equipment. As an infantryman armed with a machine gun, I got into a fight with an opposing infantryman. We circled around each other, unloading our weapons without doing any real damage to the other, until we ran out of ammo at the same time.

At this point, having played many a shooter in my time, I knew the victor of this duel would be whoever shot their last bullet first, because they would finish reloading their weapon first. This turned out to be me. I grinned with satisfaction at my timing/luck, watching my opponent reload his weapon.

Unfortunately, his character animation changed from reloading his machine gun to pulling out something that quite resembled a bazooka. The grin on my face was immediately replaced by a look of confusion...mingled with horror.

"Hey," I thought to myself, "that looks like a bazooka." Seconds later, a bazooka round shot out of the device resembling a bazooka - which was, in my opinion, definitive proof that it was, in fact, a bazooka.

I died...quite messily.

That alone was worth fifteen bucks.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Wish List (6/24/09)


In the last few years, we've started to see some solid movie tie-in games with original stories, like Ghostbusters: The Video Game, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and The Force Unleashed.  Each of these games feature some level of involvement from the original filmmakers or cast.  Ghostbusters might not be perfect, but it's a great starting point for a new era of tie-in games that deliver fan service without needing to rely on it to deliver an enjoyable experience.

Here's a list of ten games that could be remade or continued with the involvement of the original filmmakers and a solid game studio.

1) Escape from New York (Remake): Man, this one could be sweet - a sandbox shooter starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken in the ruins of New York City. Most of the movie's characters would have to be recast - due to people's annoying habit of dying, especially the elderly - but hand this property over to Rockstar or Volition, keep John Carpenter involved, and you would have one heck of a game, full of a dark, sardonic humor and an almost infinite supply of badass.

2) Sean Connery in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (Remake): Connery has already lent his voice to one Bond game, a remake of From Russia with Love. It was a fun but forgettable game - and Connery's age and lack of enthusiasm made for an odd performance. Still, I'd love for him to get a crack at a remake of OHMSS.

For those not familiar with that movie, it's one of the better Bond stories with the dubious honor of being the only Bond movie to star George Lazenby as the title character. To put it nicely, Lazenby isn't a great actor - though he did bring an atypical amount of earnestness to Bond, which actually helped the film.

The popular consensus is that substituting Connery for Lazenby would have made a better film. I don't agree with that, but it'd still be interesting to see what Connery would've done with the material.

A video game remake is the only optional now available to Bond fans.

3) They Live (Remake and Sequel): To be fair, I'm a huge fanboy of Carpenter's work in the 80's (there's one more Carpenter film coming on the list), but the satire found in this movie is as relevant today as it was during the Reagan era. And it's just a kickass movie.

Personally, I'd like to see the first half of a They Live game retell the movie's story, with the ending changed so that Roddy Piper and Keith David live, so the second half could be comprised of new material. This one lends itself to co-op more than most games on this list, which is a big bonus. But they'd have to keep Piper and David's wrestling scene in - and make it even longer than it was in the movie, if such a thing is possible.

4) Mark Hamill in a Star Wars game (Sequel): Seriously, why the hell hasn't this happened? The man makes his living off of voice work these days, Lucasrts is a prominent developer/publisher, and there's a wealth of expanded universe material that already exists featuring Luke Skywalker. Hand the reins of the franchise back to Raven Software, write a good story, and get Hamill involved. A game where you play as Luke Skywalker, with Mark Hamill back in the role...that would make some serious bank.

5) Tron (Sequel): True, there was a damn good Tron game, a sequel to the movie, released in 2003 - but who the hell wanted to play as Bruce Boxleitner's son? Get Jeff Bridges back, so we can play as Flynn.

Also, get Wendy Carlos back. I need new Tron music.

End of line.

6) Big Trouble in Little China (Sequel): Do I need to say more?

A rare game that would actually demand quick time events - because, baby, it's all in the reflexes.

7) Sigourney Weaver in an Aliens game (Sequel): Mrs. Weaver has already turned this one down, but I think there's potential here, if done right. First off, before anything else, hire a good writer. Or better yet, get Valve (an impossibility, I know) involved. Very few studios are better at telling interactive stories - and they could make one helluva story and game.

The Alien series should have ended with Aliens. But Alien 3 and Resurrection exist and neither film ended the franchise on a satisfactory note (to be fair, I dig Resurrection more than most). And don't even get me started on the AvP films. Could an Aliens game starring Weaver get the franchise back on track? I don't know.

But I do know that the franchise has been dicked around enough now that a little more dicking isn't going to hurt. There's nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

8) The Monster Squad (Sequel): Set it in the present day with the original characters as adults, hire the original actors, and keep that film's balance of wit and filth. Could be fun. Oh, and make sure there's an achievement for kicking Wolfman in the nards.

9) Firefly (Sequel) - Only if Joss Whedon or Tim Minear writes the script. As much as I love Serenity (I hold it on almost the same level as The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, and The Wrath of Khan), it was not a satisfying introduction or ending to the Firefly story.

I'd still prefer another movie over a game...but I'd play the hell out of a Firefly game.

10) Adam West and Burt Ward in a Batman game (Sequel/Remake): That's a weird one, I know. But there was no shortage of fisticuffs and cheesey dialog on that show, which would translate well to a game. Get someone funny to write the script, a decent developer to make the game, and recast the villains (all of whom I think are deceased) with some current comic performers (Patton Oswalt as Oswald Cobblepot), and this one could be a sleeper hit.

Adam West isn't getting any younger, people.