Friday, February 27, 2009

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (Feb. 27th - March 1st)

The Changeling and Robin-B-Hood. That's quite a double-feature, I know. But eclectic is how I roll, baby.

Was going to see Caroline in 3D this weekend, but the wife and I went last night, in case it wasn't playing on the digital screen at our local multiplex anymore...and to avoid the tyranny of teenagers, since we went to the late show on a school night. Loved every second of that movie. Henry Selick puts almost equal care into the story as he does the animation, and the two feed off each other, strengthening the other, creating one of the most vivid and imaginative worlds that I've ever seen in a movie. Seriously, it's better than Nightmare. It's that good.

See it in 3D if you can. It's going to be visual feast one way or the other, but the 3D isn't just a gimmick in this film. It truly does enrich the experience.

GAMES: Can't stop playing Dawn of War II. Completed the single-player earlier this week on Sergeant (normal difficulty) and, thanks to a bug, didn't get the achievements for completing the game. Not a big annoyance, really - but, man, I felt like I earned that shit. I'm playing it on the next level of difficulty, which is incredibly, surprisingly difficult for it being only the third of four difficulty levels. The earliest missions on Captain are as hard as the final missions on Sergeant, and you are severely punished for any errors in strategy or timing.

Still need to finish GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned. I've been stuck on the same mission for several days now (can't remember the name - but it's the diamond exchange gone wrong from the original GTA IV), and haven't had much desire to get back to it. That'll probably change after having my ass handed to me repeatedly in Dawn of War II as the game gets harder. And I'll probably end up cycling back and forth between ass handings from each game until I hurl my mouse or game controller at the nearest available cat.

Lastly, still debating about picking up Street Fighter IV. Never been a huge fan of Capcom's fighters - except the Marvel vs. Capcom games - but something in my gut tells me I'd dig this game. I hear they kept the Japanese dialog - something I almost consider mandatory now from Japanese games - as an option, and the sheer amount of gameplay options and unlockables will keep you coming back for more and more. Might pick it up if I'm out today.

BOOKS: I've got a shitload of comics to read. Want to re-read Watchman before it comes out, and my wife, who gets mad props for this, got me the last two Hellboy graphic novels and the entire Bone series for Christmas.

I devour comics too quickly. I'm a fast reader by nature, and tend to focus on the dialog balloons and little else as I race through the story, wanting to know what happens next. To combat this, I'm reading a single issue a day, savoring each panel, until I run out of graphic novels (I always wait for the trade paperback collections - cheaper, better quality, and no ads).

I'm starting with Watchmen, and today will be issue three of twelve. It's never been my favorite story. That's not to say it isn't good, it's just not for me, if that makes sense. Though, if I remember right, it does present a cure for erectile dysfunction in superheroes, which, I must say, is quite rad. It's been five or six years since I last read it, and I wanted the story to be fresh in my mind when I go see the movie next weekend.

On that note, I still haven't made my mind up about Zack Snyder or his adaptation of Watchmen. I think he could grow into quite an excellent teller of sci-fi/fantasy stories, once he calms down a little and learns how to make the quiet moments as rich, dynamic, and enjoyable as his POW! BANG! BIFF! scenes that make for great trailers. Besides Billy Crudup (Big Fish and Almost Famous - two of my favorite movies) and Rorschach, I think everyone in the cast looks too young, too thin, and too pretty.

Also reading Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. I'm surprised I've never read any of his work, being such a fan of stories from or set in the 30's/40's. I'm also surprised that I'm reading this book right now, while I'm working on a script heavily influenced by film noir. When working on a story, I try to avoid reading or watching anything that remotely resembles what I'm working on. I want a clean slate and fresh prospective when working in heavily established genres, but when I looked through my stack of unread books on Wednesday, after finishing the Republic Commando series, this was the book that called out to me.

I'm about seventy pages in and I'm loving every word of it. The mystery itself is a little too convoluted but this man can write dialog. There's already been a dozens lines that were so good that I'm pissed I didn't come up with them, which, from my point of view, is the highest compliment I can give.

* * * *

That's it, people. Have a good weekend.

End of line.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February Games

Dawn of War II. GTA IV: The Lost and the Damned. The Scout Update for TF2. Street Fighter IV. PRINNY - Can I Really be the Hero?

Best February for games that I can think of. It's like Christmas came early...or just two months late.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Random Thought #4,508

You know what I want to see? A remake of Breakfast at Tiffany's with Mickey Rourke in the Mickey Rooney role.

C64 Games on Virtual Console

Rad. I still get a bit misty when I think about my Commodore 64, my first computer. So many games, so many memories.

I can't imagine they'd be able to port over Wasteland. Shame, that.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Academy Awards

Frankly, I couldn't give two shits about the Academy Awards. One shit, maybe - but certainly not two shits. The Oscars was my Super Bowl back in my theater brat days, but I still enjoy throwing out my Oscar picks on movies that I mostly haven't seen (and usually don't care to see) just for the hell of it. I didn't watch the accursed thing, but I checked the Academy's website a couple of times last night between Dawn of War II binges.

So, as usual, a few thoughts:

* Best picture was especially strange this year, with several "important" films nominated that failed to capture the imagination of critics and/or audiences. I'm still surprised that The Dark Knight, Wall-E, and Gran Torino were not nominated.

Should The Dark Knight have been up for best picture? I don't know. Frankly, I thought it was about twenty minutes too long and all that "battle for Gotham's soul/the hero Gotham needs" shit got old - but, overall, the film works. And it works as well as a crime thriller as it does a costume film, with some amazing talent in front of and behind the camera. Not my favorite comic book movie, but I can't deny its power, its craft, or its moxie.

Wall-E is the one that really gets me. The fact that it had to sit at the kids' table (best animated feature) is complete bullshit. I still can't make up my mind about the best animated feature category. I'm glad animated films are now honored, but almost every Pixar film has deserved a Best Picture nomination, and two of their films were good enough to win that award (The Incredibles and Wall-E). Pixar's movies aren't just for kids, they're for all ages - and I think a separate animation award would reduce the value of these films if anyone took the Oscars seriously. Thank God they don't.

Lastly, Gran Torino. I'm biased here. It was my favorite film from last year, from my favorite filmmaker. A funny, touching, beautiful film that has stayed with me weeks after seeing it. This thing didn't get nominated for one freakin' award. Clint Eastwood needs to drag some Academy member out of his house and kick the living shit out of 'em. Well, maybe not kick the shit of 'em, since Gran Torino is all about the brutal repercussions of violence. But he should definitely drag one of 'em out of their house and growl at them. A lot.

* Yeah, even without that whole "death" thing, Heath Ledger was going to win. He was no Mark Hamill, but he gave a helluva performance. To me, it's a toss-up between him and Robert Downey Jr. The latter certainly gets my MVP award for last year. He made a movie I would have thoroughly despised (I can think of few things more loathsome or hypocritical than people like Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Tom Cruise, and Matthew McConaughey taking a piss on Hollywood) into something I thoroughly enjoyed...every moment Downey Jr. was on the screen. The "full retard" speech was the funniest thing I saw last year.

* Hellboy II was only up for one production award? Yeah, it wasn't a "serious" film like Pan's Labyrinth, but Hellboy II was quite possibly more imaginative and beautiful than that film. All praise the Guillermo del Toro. Goddamn, I love that bastard.

* Is it just me, or has it been a few years since you've heard a musical score that really grabbed you? I was familiar with only one of this year's nominations - James Newton Howard's score for Defiance - but it's been a few years since I bought a score, which I listen to when working on scripts. Maybe I'm just not watching as many movies as I used to.

* Oh well, that's it. This rant got a lot longer than expected, and I'm keenly aware that I'm the last person to seriously discuss the artistic merit of films. Besides Gran Torino, my other two favorite films from last year were Hellboy II and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

End of line.

Mass Effect 2 (First Trailer)

Commander Shepard is dead?

Son of a bitch...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Predictions

Just guessing, seen even fewer of these films than usual this year.

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger

Best Actress: Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei

Best Animated Film: Wall-E

Art Direction: Benjamin Button

Cinematography: The Dark Knight

Costume Design: The Duchess

Best Director: Danny Boyle

Best Documentary: Man on Wire

Best Short Documentary: The Witness

Best Editing: The Dark Knight

Best Foreign Film: Waltz with Bashir

Best Makeup: Hellboy 2

Best Score: Wall-E

Best Song: "Down to Earth" - Wall-E

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Short Film (Animated): This Way Up

Best Short Film (Live-Action): New Boy

Best Sound Editing: Wall-E

Best Sound Mixing: The Dark Knight

Best Visual Effects: Benjamin Button

Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Original Screenplay: Milk

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and the Damned (Day 1)

* Logged in six and a half hours yesterday. Like the original GTA IV, I'm not fucking around here, people. I'm about halfway through the main story, the races, and the gang wars. In case you had any doubts about this expansion, let me tell you now: you're going to get your money's worth.

* Like the main character, Johnny, and the actor playing him (like GTA IV, the acting is top-notch). Niko was a little too humorless for my tastes, and Johnny is a welcome change of pace. Not digging the story much, though. There's nothing wrong with it, exactly. The writing is just as good as in previous games - but it's too similar to previous GTA stories, especially Vice City and San Andreas, with no surprises yet. Well, except for the full 3D rendering of a wang. I wonder how the more reactionary elements of our media will react to that one.

* The Lost and the Damned's biggest success is the motorcycles. I haven't had the need or the desire to drive a car once since starting the game. There are plenty of new bikes to play with, and existing bikes from GTA IV feel all together new, because Johnny can stay on a bike like a fedora can stay on Indiana Jones's head (as where Niko could be thrown off a bike by a very light breeze). Along with the addition of a sawed-off shotgun - merely O.K. on foot, but absolutely devastating for drive-bys - Lost makes you feel like you and your mates truly own the road.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Just got home from catching a matinee of Taken. Good action scenes, no doubt. Asses upon asses are kicked in a multitude of interesting, exciting ways (well, Liam Neeson mostly just hits people in the throat - but in a multitude of interesting, exciting ways). But this film just left me feeling queasy.

Why? Because Liam Neeson plays a retired American solider, who hurts, maims, and kills Frenchmen, Albanians, and Arabs, both the innocent and the guilty alike, with a righteous, remorseless anger that would make George W. Bush blush, in order to rescue his shallow, vapid, spoiled, rich daughter, who has shitty taste in music (U2? U2? Of course, if a shallow, vapid, spoiled rich girl would backpack across Europe to follow a band, it would be U2 - 'cause, you know, Bono says important things about stuff), so said shallow, vapid, spoiled, rich girl can come home to become a pop star?

And you know what? Judging from the box office returns, people are eating this shit up with greasy, buttery popcorn fingers.

Shame on you, Luc Besson. I expected better from you than a movie like this, and I don't even expect that much from you. Not much at all.

No, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch Wasabi again.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Red Dead Redemption (Announcement)

Shit yes.

Liked the first one - not great, but a fun rental. But there's such a shortage of western games - especially good ones, since Outlaws, in all its pixelated glory, is still probably the best of the lot - which makes this very, very welcome.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Clone Wars: Episode 15 - "Trespass"

Now this is more like it.

Before the movie came out last August, I expected that stories of this quality would be the rule, instead of the exception. Trespass doesn't feel like Star Wars, it is Star Wars.

Give it a watch when it shows up on the official website on Friday. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Darths and Droids (Blurb)

Was going to post another Fallout 3 rant and my thoughts on this week's Clone Wars today, but my brain hurts from too much Fallout, which I just finished a few hours earlier.

Oh well, I thought I'd pass this along to you guys, instead. It sends up tabletop games just as much as it does Star Wars, and it's obviously written by a guy who knows his stuff, and knows funny.