Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reason #4,342 Why My Wife is Hotter than Yours

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cask_of_Amontillado

The wife is recreating The Cask of Amontillado on The Sims 3. Damn, that's hot.

She's made evil versions of us -- with long black hair, unnaturally thin and/or bosomy proportions, and several dead cows worth of black leather. Basically, Evil Jeremy and Evil The Wife look how the average Goth imagines they look, instead of the actual horrible, amusing truth.

Each time a sim stops by to greet their new evil neighbors, the Ivels, Evil Jeremy, the charismatic one (of course), will lead them into their imposing manor, amuse and regale them, and loll them into a false sense of security. Then, at the witching hour, he will escort them down to the basement, a carefully laid out and aesthetically pleasing (after all, even evil Sims need to maintain their happiness levels) chamber of horrors.

I assume the wife will start with the traditional horrors found in Poe's story, but from there...

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of physicists on a sugar high from leftover Halloween candy?

I don't. But damn, it's hot...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Walking Dead: Episode 01 -- Days Gone Bye

http://io9.com/5676091/watch-5-minutes-of-the-walking-dead-rick-wakes-up

Mixed feelings on this one. I'm disappointed by the series premiere of The Walking Dead, yet can't wait for next week's episode. There's a lot potential here, but there's also some problems that are most likely due to the television format, a medium I have quite a few reservations with.

Frank Darabont's adaptation of Robert Kirkman's comic is a curious thing -- absolutely faithful to the story's basic plot points, but with the characters and events playing out in wildly different ways. It's almost as if Darabont and Kirkman were handed the same paragraph synopsis in a writing workshop and came up with similar stories that fit the chosen mediums and the author's personal passions and fears.

Personally, I'll take Kirkman's version. I don't mind that Darabont made changes to the story, but they make what was already a pretty traditional opening act...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rock Band -- Random Thought #4,322

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3MXiTeH_Pg

Even through a heavy gauze of ironic detachment, I still shouldn't enjoy playing Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" on Rock Band 3.

Friday, October 29, 2010

MySpace Regurgitation -- A Letter to Pamela (2/14/07)

Going through the old MySpace page before I delete it. Wanted to save a few posts and put them on this site. Expect formatting issues, typos, and lame jokes.

You have been warned...

* * * *

Dear Pamela,

I didn't know how to contact you, so you will have to forgive me for using such a public format to get in touch with you. It's better this way – since, in all honesty, we don't actually have anything to say to each other. I imagine you settled down, happy, with a kid or two and another on the way (I tell you, you people are breeding as if there was a biological instinct compelling you).

I'll make this letter as brief as possible.

I'm thinking of you because it's Valentine's Day, and my first kiss was on Valentine's Day, 14 years ago, half my life before, with you. You probably remember, since it was fraught with calamity and injury.

I probably shouldn't share this story, but I've already used it twice – once in a play, once in a short story – and it is a simple, innocent story.

Though, as said before, full of calamity and injury.

It was just when I was leaving your house those 14 years ago, nervous and unsure, and if I remember right – and I probably don't, due to an overactive imagination that loves self-derision – it was in your entryway that I thought, "Oh, what the hell…" and moved towards you to kiss you. Somehow, in the process of doing this, I tripped and slammed us into a wall.

First off, I hope you weren't hurt. I remember being frozen in horror, then quickly making my goodbyes and getting the hell out of there. Maybe I should have lied and blamed it on a fictional inner ear condition. Or maybe I should have made a joke like, "Baby, did the Earth just move, or was that just me?" Instead, I acted awkward, tongue-tied, and unsure.

Anyway, you dumped me. Hard.

I don't blame you. In fact, I heartily endorse this decision – in retrospect, of course – and it's the dumping that primarily occupies my attention this Valentine's Day.

You did it a day or two later, over the phone, which most people would call the coward's way out. In this situation, I disagree. On that fateful February the 14th, you didn't laugh in my face, you didn't look at me like I was freak, you didn't yell, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

You let me down easy. If Emily Post had a chapter in one of her books for dumping worthless jerks, you would have followed it perfectly.

I want to say thanks for that. I probably wouldn't have been so eager to try dating again if you had laughed in my face and I might have missed out on a few things.

I'm glad I didn't.

-- Jeremy Wickett

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Game Complete -- Day Two)

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Force_Unleashed_%28video_game%29#Opening_crawl

OK, the game's story is crap. I'll run you through the first ten minutes, and let you extrapolate from there.

Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, voted most likely by his graduating class at the Jedi Academy "to kill us all in a Dark Side, whiny bitch-induced rage," returns to the planet Kamino after stepping out for a second to grab a Big Gulp.

Drink in hand, wishing he remembered a straw, Vader descends into the bowels of a giant clone factory. Vader enters a darkened room. Incarcerated within is Starkiller, presumed dead at the end of the first game.

Vader intends to turn Starkiller, who may or may not be a clone, back to the Dark Side. Never the brightest Dark Lord of the Sith, Vader sets about this task in the dumbest way possible. Using droids that can physically represent people using holograms (holograms...is there anything they can't do?), Vader tests Starkiller's combat skills.

Starkiller kills the droids, save one. The one that, moments before, with its holographic do-dad thingys off, walked up to Starkiller and -- right in front of him, mind you -- turned into Juno Eclipse, his lost love. Vader orders Starkiller to kill it/her. Starkiller then gets a case of the cry babies, because obviously Jedi can't get in touch with the Force unless they have a good sulk first. Starkiller is torn, conflicted.

* * * *

This is, of course, stupid. Starkiller saw the droid turn into her! Vader just isn't even trying anymore. He could have at least had the droid, I don't know, walk around the corner, step into a cupboard, or even go behind a conveniently placed dressing screen ("Excuse...me...while...I...slip...into...something...more...squishy").

I don't know, something. Anything.

From this moment on, the scene should have played like this. The conclusion of the scene would end just as it does in the game:

INT. STARKILLER'S CELL

The DROID walks up to Starkiller. It turns into Juno Eclipse. Vader watches in the background, expectantly.

VADER: Destroy her!

STARKILLER: I can't...

VADER: DESTROY HER!

STARKILLER: I can't. I mean, I really can't. That's not her.

VADER: What?

STARKILLER: It's a droid, remember? You know, it walked up to me, turned into Juno...

VADER: Oh...

VADER takes a nervous sip from his Big Gulp. The echo of him clearing his throat fills the enormous room.
VADER: I was, uh, hoping you wouldn't notice that...

STARKILLER: Really? Really?

VADER: Well, I figured, you know, you're a clone...

STARKILLER: Yeah. I'm a clone. Not a retard.

VADER: You can still take a swing at it, if you want. It's kind of the same...

STARKILLER: Dude, I'm outta here.

BOLTS OF LIGHTENING shoot out of Starkiller's fingers, bringing Vader to his knees.

STARKILLER
leaps out a giant window, plummeting to the raging waters below.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II (Game Complete -- Part One)

http://www.gamespot.com/xbox360/action/starwarstheforceunleashed2/review.html

Jesus, I don't know where to begin with this one. Guess we'll start with some dirty jokes about playing The Force Unleashed II last night:

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Oh, oh... here come's the end boss fight!

ME: Already?

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II (embarrassed): Uh, is that OK?

ME: We just got started...

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Yeah, but you've been playing me awful hard.

ME: It hasn't even been five hours yet.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Well, I'm not going to last much longer. Maybe we could take a break? You know, watch a Star Wars movie? Keep you in the mood...

ME: Oh, just finish...

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Oh... OK... OK... and... you... WIN!!! ACHIEVEMENTS! END CREDITS! Wait... where are you going?

ME: To the bathroom.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Why?

ME : To satisfy my own gaming needs.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Oh, OK... Wait -- is that a PSP in your hand?

ME: Is that a problem?

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Well, it's just... you know... I thought I was enough for you.

ME: I got to go.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED II: Wait, can I watch!

* * * *

The Force Unleashed II is inexcusably short. I don't like it, but I'm beginning to accept five-hour campaigns in action games... if they have multiplayer, which Unleashed II does not. This game barely justifies the price of a rental.

Seriously, LucasArts, you had two years to make this sequel. This is all you could come up with? Even worse: the game's obviously padded to get to five hours. It's over before you know it, and it's going to leave you unsatisfied.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas (Character Creation: Grognak the Barbarian)

http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Grognak_the_Barbarian

http://geekemporium.blogspot.com/2010/10/fallout-new-vegas-quick-thought.html

Decided to make my Grognak the Barbarian character for New Vegas instead of trying it in Fallout 3. New Vegas begins with your character taking some serious head trauma, so it's the perfect setup for the character.

It didn't take long to make him. The first pre-made male character, who looks like the befuddled neighbor in a 50s sitcom, was almost perfect. I just made his hair gray and cranked up the age.

I plan on playing him as if he's a befuddled retiree turned psychotic nutjob, who truly thinks he is a barbarian -- a relentless warrior who constantly searches the apocalyptic wasteland for evil sorcerers, scantily-clad wenches, and a good Luby's.

Strength, endurance, and luck are the big stats -- the first two stats are obvious for a melee fighter, but I put just as many skill points into luck. It seemed right to me: a crazy old bastard roaming the Nevada wastes who thinks he's a fictional character would need a lot of luck if he planned on continuing to be a crazy old bastard roaming the Nevada wastes who thinks he's a fictional character.

Since his strength and endurance are so good, I'm going to use this character to attempt the hardcore mode. I figure his ability to eat things that would make a mutated billy goat puke will even the playing field.

It'll be interesting to see how his karma changes as the game progresses. I'm going for crazy bastard, certainly -- but a well-intentioned crazy bastard. I plan on having him attack most ghouls and mutants on sight, though -- which will make for an awkward conversation or two, like when Grognak suddenly charges out of a conveniently placed bush in the Nevada desert to bludgeon a ghoul caravan guard to death and then ask the traders if he can get a discount for his trouble:

GROGNAK (triumphant): I demand a discount for saving you from this foul wretch who lies dead before my mighty, Dr. Scholl's-adorned feet!

TRADER: That foul wretch was our guard! He was my friend!

GROGNAK (haughty ambivalence): You jest! He was sneaking up on you, ready to strike at any moment.

TRADER: He was walking fifteen feet in front of us!

GROGNAK (confused): Well...er...a cunning plan of his! The last thing you would expect!

* * * *

One last thing: I'm two hours in with Grognak and I already have the perfect outfit and equipment for him. It's a shame I'll have to trade them out later in the game. He's wearing the best old man clothes I can get: a plaid shirt, a sweater vest, and a fedora (too bad the checkered shorts, black dress socks, and sandals combo isn't in the game -- that would complete the look). His weapon of choice is a golf club, a 9 iron.

In his mind, though, he wears nothing but a loincloth (and a good hat -- 'cause, you know, it gets cold at night) and wields a strange, mystical sword that magically improves his short game...

Grognak the Barbarian (Level 1):

STR: 9
PER: 3
END: 7
CHA: 3
INT: 3
AGI: 6
LUCK: 9

Starting Trained Skills: Melee Weapons; Survival; Unarmed

Starting Perks: Heavy Handed; Wild Wasteland

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II ( Day One -- Game Release and Kamino)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_The_Force_Unleashed#ILM_collaboration_and_cast_performance

* Went to Gamestop at midnight last night to pick up the game. Was the first to answer a Star Wars trivia question and won a free Star Wars cut-out and an upgraded collector's edition of the game. On the way home, Jesus spoke to me and told me He was giving me my virginity back.

True story.

* Wasn't impressed with the demo. In fact, I was so unimpressed that, driving to Gamestop last night, I thought about switching my reserve down-payment over to Rock Band 3. The only thing that stopped me was knowing that Rock Band 3 would require further expensive purchases -- keytar, new cymbals for the drums, a fee to import previous Rock Band songs, etc. True, you can just buy the Rock Band 3 disc and play it with the existing instruments, but we all know that I'm too much of a Rock Band whore to do just that.

Also, I had reconnected with my inner fanboy by the time I got to Gamestop -- though I'm still more excited about seeing where the story goes then actually playing the game. Reminds me a lot of Halo 3 in that respect.

* Did The Force Unleashed need a sequel? Or, more importantly, this sequel? The first game's story was a bit silly (to not repeat myself or come up with new jokes, see here), but it worked. It was the best told Star Wars story since Return of the Jedi, with a complete and satisfying ending, one that left no need for a sequel.

But a sequel was inevitable. I had hoped, though, that LucasArts would leave Starkiller buried, with General Kota, a man's Jedi, becoming the focus of the sequel. Seriously, who wouldn't want to play as the blind samurai?

Nope. Starkiller's back. Either he's a clone or Vader wants him to think he's a clone. I'm hoping for the former, since the first game's story almost collapsed in on itself thanks to all of Vader's silly subterfuge and double crosses (seriously, a guy that can choke a bitch using just his mind who's got a galaxy-sized totalitarian army behind him shouldn't be afraid of the direct approach).

Can't wait to see where the story goes.

* Say what you will about the first game, it was a giant step forward in performance capture, in translating an actor's full performance into a game. No game I've played in the last two years has topped it. And the cutscenes I've seen in the first two levels blow anything found in the first game out of the water.

If you filmed the opening dialog scene with Samuel Witwer and an actor in the Darth Vader suit, it would still play and feel much as it does in the game. Here's hoping the game's got a script to match the tech.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas (Character Creation: The Courier)

http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Fallout:_New_Vegas_cultural_references

Got two characters going at the moment. Fifteen hours in with my standard Fallout character, here simply called The Courier. I'll post the full stats below, but the emphasis on this character is perception, agility, and intelligence. Basically, I designed the character to play the game effectively. He's great with a gun and the intelligence boost builds up his skills quickly. With the help of a few magazines, which temporarily boost skills, there's little this guy can't do. And if he can't do it, he'll wonder off into the wastes, kill a few things, level up, and come right back to pick that lock he was having trouble with ten minutes before.

I always build this default character as if he's the star of a classic western. Tough, smart, and quick on the trigger. The intention is to play him as a real hardcase, the kind of man that rides into town, does what he needs to do (or, more appropriately, kills what he needs to kill), and rides off again, leaving the town to pick up the pieces.

That never happens. It's just not me. I'm too much of a Boy Scout at heart. I ride -- or walk, since Obsidian/Bethesda still haven't added horses to the game -- into each new town with visions of swift, brutal justice dancing merrily in my head. A half-hour later, I've already helped two old ladies cross the street, organized a pot luck raffle to raise funds for the local ghoul PTA, and cured little Bobby Sue's stutter. And if do get to shoot someone, it's because the locals asked me to... nicely. And that takes all the fun out of it.

After my work in town is done, I refuse any form of payment like the little kiss-ass I am. I regrettably tell the townsfolk -- with profuse apologies -- that it's time for me to leave. Why? Because somewhere out there in the harsh, perilous wastes, some desperate soul needs help getting their groceries in the house.

Typically, I make this default character to look like me, because I find it amusing to have a skinny nerd with glasses and a Fedora wearing Tesla Power Armor and wielding a mini gun by the end of the game. Keeping with the Western emphasis of New Vegas, I made him look like a crazy redneck, rocking a serious mullet and a close-cropped beard which his sister no doubt finds too scratchy in her tender areas. The only thing this guy is missing is a John Deere hat and an anti-Obama tee-shirt.

Also, he likes dynamite more than any one man should.

The Courier (Level 1):

STR: 4
PER: 6
END: 4
CHA: 5
INT: 8
AGI: 7
LUCK: 6

Starting Trained Skills: Guns; Medicine; Repair

Starting Perks: Four Eyes; Trigger Discipline

(Back tomorrow with my second character, who thinks he is Grognak the Barbarian.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fallout: New Vegas (Quick Thought)

http://xbox360.gamespy.com/xbox-360/fallout-new-vegas/1129259p1.html

Expect more ranting on this game in the days to come. I've got family in town, which severely cuts into my New Vegas time, which then cuts severely into my writing time.

Quick thought, though, to tide you over.

I want to make a character -- either for Fallout 3 or New Vegas -- who is a real melee bruiser, a character who actually thinks he is Grognak the Barbarian. I wonder if the game can support that.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Civilization 5 (A Minor Quibble)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civ_5

Jesus Christ, I invade and conquer one measly little city-state, and all of a sudden the rest of the world sees me as a warmongering, land-grabbing bastard. Then -- then! -- they have the nerve declare war on me.

Doesn't seem fair...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pork, or Of Carnal Passion and Processed Meats

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sausage

Cooking dirty, sinful late night sausage patties. It feels like I'm cheating on the food pyramid with processed pork products in some cheap motel off the interstate.

Glorious.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (October 15th -- 17th)

http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/10/15/lol-superman-on-facebook/

October is in full swing here at the stately Wickett manor and we're definitely getting our scary on. Here's with what:

WRITING: Finally getting back in front of the keyboard, after a very eventful month. I hate the phrase "emotional rollercoaster" -- but that's exactly what it's been. Look for more writing updates in the following weeks, if it amounts to anything.

TV and MOVIES: Got the Kubrick version of The Shining and The Crazies remake out from Netflix. Haven't seen The Shining in at least fifteen years -- and I'm pretty sure it was edited for television. I remember not caring for Kubrick's take on Stephen King's novel or Nicholson's performance. Going to give it another chance.

I typically take a piss on remakes, but I've heard enough good things about this new version of The Crazies to give it a shot.

And finally, being the nerd I am, I've been going through the classic Universal horror movies in chronological order (*). The Invisible Man is up next.

GAMES: Been saving Alan Wake and Dead Space: Extraction for this month. Almost done with Alan Wake and just started Dead Space: Extraction. Enjoying both -- but neither has been all that scary.

Haven't had a truly unsettling videogame experience since the original Dead Space. Those experiences are few and far between, and I savor them when they come along. Looks like I'm going to be waiting a while yet for another one.

BOOKS: Mary Shelly's Frankenstein in the car. Bram Stoker's Dracula at home. Dracula is a staple for me, but I've never read Frankenstein. Am I the only one who thinks Frankenstein kinda sucks? The story itself is strong -- it wouldn't be still with us if it wasn't -- but Shelly's prose is awkward, clumsy, and ridiculously florid. Not sure I'll finish it.



(*) You know, that didn't sound that nerdy until I typed it out. I need to get out more.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Signs (A Quick Thought)

Say what you will about where Mel Gibson and M. Night Shyamalan's careers have gone, but the "people break down into two groups" monologue remains one of my favorite moments in cinema.

Back with a real post tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Army of Two: The 40th Day

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_of_Two:_The_40th_Day

It's a better game than the first -- but still a rental or markdown purchase. And it's considerably less enjoyable without a partner.

The gameplay is solid, though nothing spectacular. My main beef with the game is that Tyson and Rios, said army of two, remain characters that only a mother or a frat boy could love. They're certainly more tolerable this time around, but EA still doesn't fully understand what a brilliant idea they have on their hands, or how to properly implement it.

I remember being absolutely dumbstruck with the trailers for the first game, and had one of those "why the hell hasn't someone thought of this before?" moments. It looked like EA was making a shooter inspired by all those silly but awesome buddy movies from the 80's, like Lethal Weapon or Tango & Cash. Unfortunately, neither character was particularly likable and the first game's story bordered on exploitative (similar to the outcries against the new Medal of Honor).

My opinion of the two has improved with the sequel. I now find them tolerable, but there are several reasons why I still don't enjoy playing these characters:

1) They look silly. I mean, really silly. The only thing stopping these two from looking like they belong in a trailer park cooking up meth while watching reruns of The Facts of Life in the vain hope of a Nancy McKeon nip slip is all the scars and body armor.

2) They get along too well. It's not a love/hate relationship. It's all love. I'm surprised there isn't a button you can press to tell your partner that you love him more.

3) They love their jobs just a little too much.

4) They only do said job, which they love a little too much, for the money.

5) And did I mention they look silly, with a strong "creepy hillbilly" vibe? To the point that I am surprised that one of their camaraderie animations isn't Rios pulling out a banjo and Tyson telling one of their wounded opponents that he has a pretty mouth?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_living_dead#cite_note-87

We may not enjoy living together, but dying together isn't going to solve anything.
--Night of the Living Dead

It's been a long time since I watched and finished Night of the Living Dead. The quote above sums up so much of what Romero wants to say with the Dead films. Too often, though, his characters are so abrasive that I don't want to live with these people for even two hours.

Which is why I usually turn the film off once Harry Cooper, one of the most detestable shits in film history, enters the story and the endless, petty arguments over the safety of the cellar begin. In the interest of keeping this brief, here's some stray observations after watching the film again with fresh eyes.

* Black & white movies are inherently creepier than color films. Don't ask me why, they just are.

* The music is surprisingly good for such a low budget film. Quite effective.

* I don't know why it hit me so acutely this time, but I love that the world has already gone to hell as the movie begins and Barbara and her brother Johnny, driving through the empty back roads of rural Pennsylvania, don't know it yet. Creepy stuff -- especially for those of us with overactive imaginations.

* Something I yelled at the TV the first time Johnny spoke: "Jesus, Johnny, would you hurry up and bust your head open on that tombstone!"

* After Barbara has locked herself in the car, the cemetery zombie that's chasing her immediately goes for the car door handle, finds it locked, shambles over to the passenger side door, finds it locked as well, and then grabs a large rock to bust out the passenger door window. Man, for a zombie, that guy really has his shit together.

* The fact that Barbara becomes and mostly remains catatonic after making it to the farmhouse never stops being infuriating. Forget about all the "weaker sex" gender issues in this film (none of the women fare much better), the film suddenly and awkwardly shifts its focus from her to Ben. Say what you will about the remake, that film validates its existence for completely rewriting the character, making the entire film her story.

* Always appreciated Romero's choice to never openly address Ben's ethnicity. That remains refreshingly progressive to this day. Ben isn't without rough edges, but he's a good man with human frailties.

To say nothing of why George A. Romero cast actor Duane Jones for the part: he was the best person for the job.

* As said before, Harry Cooper is one of the most repugnant and annoying characters in film history. The problem with his power struggle with Ben over the house is that they're at each others' throats within seconds of meeting each other, and they never let up until one of them is dead.

I know, I know -- that's the point. But it doesn't work from a dramatic point of view, since it leaves the characters with no where to go but to yell louder, to grow more insufferable.

* Love that Ben and Cooper argue over Barbara the same way they argue over the food and supplies. Classy stuff.

* Didn't realize until this viewing that Ben never tries to reason with Mr. Cooper. Ben instantly despises the man. Can't say I blame him, but it does nothing to solve their problems. It only escalates them.

* The story of the limbless torso coming back to life on the news. Damn. Proof that telling is sometimes better than showing.

* Ben and Tom's failed attempt to refuel the truck remains almost unbearable to watch. It's here that the film's documentary feel is most effective, showing three ordinary people completely out of their depth, trying to do a relatively simple task under extreme pressure. They make poor, hasty decisions, which gets all but one of them killed.

* Zombie kids are creepy.

* Like the cemetery zombie, the Cooper's daughter and several other zombies still understand how to use tools. Big change from future films, where this happens months, even years after the outbreak.

* This film has just about the right amount of gore for me. Not that I mind gore. It's just that gore simply isn't scary unless it's used judiciously. Forty years and five very bloody sequels later, the final act's gore still remains disturbing in a way the other Dead films lack.

* I've often heard that Romero has grown more cynical and bitter with age, but I'd have to disagree. Night has by far the bleakest ending in the series. The other Dead films end with several characters surviving, and while their futures remain uncertain, one gets the impression that the world is a little better for the survivors still being in it. Hell, the shared look between Big Daddy and Simon Baker in Land of the Dead, where Big Daddy seems to be saying "Don't shoot us and we won't bite your faces off" is downright upbeat in comparison.

It's also the only Dead film that implies that the living may come out of this on top. And from Romero and co-writer John A. Russo's point of view at the time, that isn't necessarily a happy ending.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Clone Wars: Season 3, Episode 1 -- "Clone Cadets"

Another sad, depraved rant on The Clone Wars, looking at each episode from an adult fan's perspective, by someone who should really go outside one of these days.

http://www.starwars.com/theclonewars/guide/episode301.html

Forty-six episodes in and Rookies still remains the highlight of the bunch, a story that avoided most -- if not all -- of the show's continual problems. Despite Rookie's popularity, it's still surprising to see both episodes of The Clone Wars' season premiere dedicated to Domino Squad -- but it's cool to see that the show is listening to its fans.

Each story serves as a bookend to Rookies -- Clone Cadets shows Domino's struggle to pass basic training, while Arc Troopers continues the story of the squad's survivors. Neither episode is on par with Rookies -- but of the two, Clone Cadets gets closer to equaling its predecessor.

Both stories are hindered by an almost complete lack of dramatic stakes. Rookies worked because the fate of each clone was always in question. Their deaths, save one, were sudden and unexpected. Being a prequel, Clone Cadets can't create any real conflict, while Arc Troopers telegraphs the fate of each character and features no surprises.

Clone Cadets still works because, like Rookies, it knows how to tell a story in twenty-two minutes. Also, both episodes prove that dialing down the scale of the action scenes doesn't necessarily make them less exciting. And something about these five characters brings out the best in the writers: the dialog here is largely solid, and some of the jokes are actually amusing (personal favorite: "Oh yeah, and we look nothing alike, either...")

I actually dreaded watching the episode due to its obvious "you can do anything if you work together!" moral -- but it works due to a new character, 99, and the concept of clone rejects: aberrations in the cloning process. The Kaminoans and the Jedi have no qualms putting these deformed clones to hard labor. It's a chilling idea -- one that is, unfortunately, handled with kid gloves. The conclusion of the story is neat, uncomplicated, and all together too cheery -- but there's room for further stories that are a bit darker. A bit more honest.

One last complaint: the bounty hunters training these clones are two big piles of suck. The way I see it, bounty hunters are the baddest mothers in the Star Wars universe. How bad, you may ask? I'll put it to you this way: Samuel L. Jackson had to settle on being a Jedi. That's how bad


Bric, the story's main antagonist, has all the presence of a failed, overweight high school football coach. I thought he was going to tell the clones to take a lap or a salt tablet or something. Then there's his counterpoint, El-Les, who looks like he's ready to break down and cry at any moment. And let me tell ya', that French accent ain't doing him any favors, either.

Come on, I know this a kids' show -- but these characters are supposed to be intimidating. If the people making this show don't instill a healthy fear of intergalactic bounty hunters in our children when they're young, who will?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Star Wars on Blu-Ray

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/14/star-wars-films-coming-to-blu-ray-next-year/

Yes, the Blu-Rays are coming. And to everyone's disappointment and no one's surprise, the original theatrical versions of the original trilogy will not be included.

Why? Here's
Lucas's answer:

“You have to go through and do a whole restoration on it, and you have to do that digitally. It’s a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version.”

OK. It's expensive. But what kind of numbers are we talking about here, Mr. Estimated-Net-Worth-of-Three-Billion-Dollars? A few million dollars? More? Less? Can it anyway seriously cut into the profits of the Blu-Ray release, which will no doubt be huge?

As to the last question, I think it can hurt the potential success of the Blu-Rays, but not in the way Lucas imagines. Personally, I'm going to wait for the inevitable double-dip with the theatrical versions included. I'm sure I won't be the only serious fan to not rush out and buy these films yet again.

Of course, Mr. Lucas, all you have to do is fix that damn Greedo bit and no one will care which version of Star Wars they're buying.

I'm just saying..

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bioshock Infinite (Announcement)

http://irrationalgames.com/insider/announcement-from-ken-levine/



First off, I'm pleased that Irrational Games is again, in fact, Irrational games. Their sudden name change to 2K Boston/2K Australia just prior to the original Bioshock's release came off as an attempt on publisher 2K's part to grab some of the critical glory for that game. It's not worth getting into too much of a tizzy about, though: 2K clearly gave Irrational the creative freedom required to make a game like Bioshock. The end result seemed, from the outside looking in, like a win-win for all involved.

But still, give credit where credit is due -- and that goes to the people who were and are again Irrational Games. I'm sure it wasn't a hard fight to get their name back, since 2K stands to make a killing off of Bioshock Infinite and probably wants to keep the talent happy.

And do I mean talent. The first video is quite simply stunning. Needless to say, drooling and various other embarrassing biological functions occurred while watching this video. The floating city of Columbia has the potential to be just as involving as Rapture, quite possibly the most fully realized setting in videogame history. The only real impediment to reaching this goal is that comparisons to Rapture are inevitable -- both cities are failed utopias with physical barriers that isolate them from the world, with the player thrust into the middle of a battle between warring factions and ideologies.

Still, Irrational has borrowed elements from their back catalog before and improved upon it. The only big complaint I have with the original Bioshock is how little its story deviated from System Shock 2's -- including the same exact plot twist that comes at almost the same time in each story. But the twist that was merely clever in System Shock 2 is flat out stunning, even thought-provoking in Bioshock.

And Columbia could improve upon Rapture. One of Infinite's biggest changes is that the player character now has a name and a history -- instead of the blank slate found in all previous Shock titles -- who will be interacting with a city that is much more alive and diverse. The game demo shown to reporters featured the PC walking into a bar full of patrons that builds to a reveal of who in the bar is and is not your enemy. This is an absolutely huge change compared to Rapture, where there was almost no one left except the ghosts and the monsters.

Lastly, let me close on the subtitle "Infinite." I don't like it. Some stupid, literal part of my mind is just as bugged by this title as it is by The Neverending Story. Weird, I know -- but it's there. Bioshock: Project Icarus or Bioshock: Columbia both sound like better titles to me. Unless, of course, Infinite has a meaning past the diverse tactics and story directions one can experience in the game, which I would not put past Irrational.

And just what the hell are they going to call any future sequels? Infinite +1?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mafia II Demo

http://www.bluesnews.com/s/112985/mafia-ii-demo

Though it's certainly a minor classic, the original Mafia was a bit of a mixed bag. The visuals were gorgeous, the story strong and mature (and not in that "lots of swears and boobies" way), and the action segments remain unique and exciting to this day.

Unfortunately, you spent most of the game driving sluggish, unresponsive cars from the 30's around a sandbox city that looked pretty but offered nothing more than just a pretty view, since the game was actually straightforward and linear. The gun fights felt like a reward for slogging through the driving sections.

But, man, the gun fights...

The easiest analogy I can make to Mafia's shoot outs is the final set piece in Kevin Costner's Open Range. Both stories are a single step past realistic, allowing each experience to be comfortably viewed as entertainment -- yet neither forgets how truly devastating a firearm can be. No other shooter I can recall, save the absolutely frustrating early installments of the Rainbow Six franchise, so deeply instilled the notion that getting shot was not something you wanted to have happen to you.

This may sound silly -- an obvious notion -- to those who don't play shooters, but the character you played could be killed by only a few bullets or a single shotgun blast, forcing you to move tactically from one piece of cover to another and shoot your attacker before he shoots you. Even cooler: you lost any bullets in a half-full clip if you reloaded early, adding another level of realism and strategy to the game. It all added up to one of the most unique experiences in gaming, one that has truly not been recreated since Mafia's release in 2002.

The Mafia II demo definitely shows some changes from the original game while keeping the spirit of the original intact. The demo wisely keeps the driving to a minimum -- it only takes a minute or two to get to the destination of the demo's single mission. And like the Crackdown 2 demo, there's a time limit to freely exploring the city. The cars still feel a bit sluggish but are much more responsive, feeling just right for a game set in the 50's. The fact that you're still driving a steel behemoth is not lost -- but it didn't feel anywhere as frustrating as the original game.

Most of the half-hour demo shows off the new shooting mechanics, which are solid but disappointing to someone so enamored with the first game. Mafia II is another step or two further away from realism. Bullets remaining in a partially used clip are no longer lost and health is now fully regenerated by taking cover and waiting a few seconds. The latter change is huge, completely changing the core gameplay mechanic of the first game: don't get shot.

Your character can't take a lot of punishment and checkpoints are few and far between, but it fails to match the same levels of tension and exhilaration as its predecessor, simply because your character can shake off a slug or two merely by taking a few deep breaths.

Don't get me wrong, the demo was still damn fun. I will definitely be picking it up when it comes out. My early guess is that it will be a very enjoyable but much more traditional experience.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Starcraft II (Week One)

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/4/

If you like the RTS genre at all -- particularly Blizzard's past games -- you're going to get your money's worth. Starcraft II has, hands down, the best single-player campaign I've played in an RTS game. The mission objectives are always creative and unique (besides, of course, the mandatory "defend your base" missions). From robbing trains, to exploding suns that slowly scorch everything on the battlefield, to fighting Zerg-infested humans who only -- and always, instead of the usual mostly -- come out at night on a planet with incredibly fast day and night cycles, the next mission always provides something new and exciting.

Nor is the campaign short -- something I feared after hearing that Starcraft II's story would be broken up over three releases (one for each race). I'd guess it took me between fifteen and twenty hours to complete on normal difficulty. And achievement whores like myself will have a lot fun/misery completing the game on hard to pick up the more challenging achievements.

So, is the game that different from the original?

Yes and no. The most simple answer I can give is that what's featured isn't that different -- most of the units and structures for each faction return, with a few deletions and additions -- but how everything works feels overhauled, tweaked, refined. I spent a few hours with the first Starcraft after beating Starcraft II's campaign, and the experience felt very, very cumbersome in comparison to its successor.

The single biggest -- and most welcome -- change is the removal of a unit cap on each hotkey. Your entire army can be controlled with only one hotkey. The A.I. for your units has been drastically improved to accommodate for this: the units place themselves where you want them to go with a lot less effort on your part, without it feeling like the game is doing all the work for you. And thank the Maker that science vessels will no longer charge blindly ahead of slower units -- and they're finally smart enough to effectively retreat from enemy fire. That alone is worth sixty bucks.

Having one big army assigned to a single hotkey might not make for the most effective army, but for people like me who can't keep up with the pace of each round's endgame, it's an incredibly helpful option.

Going to get back to the game. Possible updates to come.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Starcraft (Day One)

Day one, release day, was pretty much a wash. The UPS truck didn't come until seven, since I make most of my purchases through Amazon with my Amazon Visa, to both use and acquire more of their free gift certificates. It took about another hour to install, update, and register. Since the game was installing on my new computer that's hooked up to our TV, I switched the HDMI feeds and watched some Eureka. Eureka with the promise of the Starcraft II in mere minutes -- things seemed so simple, so joyful, so hopeful.

That feeling would not last for long.

The sun was going down by the time I booted up the game, and discovered that while the mouse was working, the mouse pointer icon was frozen in place at the lower portion of the screen. I had no way of knowing where the mouse was actually pointing, unless highlighted on a menu button. It took a good fifteen minutes, maybe more, trying to land on the buttons needed to finish registering the game and set up my desired A/V settings. Profanity on my part during this period was constant and, in my opinion, quite amusing. The wife, reading a book on the couch, seemed unamused by this profanity. Instead, she was amusing herself by saying things like "Is everything all right, dear?" when they were obviously not, knowing that I am at my most vulnerable when geeking out on the release day of an eagerly awaited game, movie, etc. In the constant battle of wits that is our marriage, such moments of vulnerability should not be passed up. It was, for her, the time to strike, and strike hard.

And strike she did.

My vengeance upon her will be swift and terrible, most likely involving tickling or shoving parts of my anatomy in her face while she's sleeping and saying, "Oh, is everything all right, dear?" with mock politeness as I do so.

After searching the forums for a solution and finding none, I attempted to play the single-player game, figuring the first few missions would be easy enough to mitigate my inability to move my troops in a straight line, to say nothing of the proper direction.

My small squad of Space Marines lurched back and forth across the battlefield, like a bunch of drunken idiots with very poor senses of direction and inner ear problems. Some of them shot at the enemy when they approached, others walked in the other direction, seemingly mesmerized by shiny objects. Frustration set in during the second mission. Finally, I decided to install the game on my other PC, now four years old, and see if things fared any better.

Another 45 minutes down to install and update the game. It was after ten by then, and I had work in the morning. The mouse worked, but either the age of my computer or poor graphics programming on Blizzard's part forced me to put all the settings on low. And while this normally doesn't bug me, the game looks like ass with low settings, and this was especially annoying since I had just been (unsuccessfully) playing the game on a new computer with everything cranked up. I think at least some this is on Blizzard at the moment, since complaints of framerate inconsistencies have been popping up on forums -- and to say nothing of a particularly evil glitch that can make hardware with poor cooling, like laptops, melt like a Nazi looking into the Ark of Covenant.

I finished all the Mar Sara missions that first night, which feel like a prologue to the meat of the game. Between all my built-up frustrations and the deliberately slow, basic nature of the game's initial levels, I wasn't terribly impressed with Starcraft II on my first night with it. A little after midnight, I finally found a post on one of the forums about how to correct the mouse pointer issue. It's a simple issue to correct: if you have have increased the overall text size under Windows 7's appearance settings, you need to set it back to default. A simple glitch to fix, and one I'm surprised Blizzard didn't catch. Every PC game debuts with problems, since there are thousands, if not millions, of hardware permutations -- but Starcraft II's release seems shakier than most.

Day two proved to be more much enjoyable. Of course, with everything that happened, how could it not be?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nintendo 3DS (Initial Thoughts -- Part II)

http://geekemporium.blogspot.com/2010/06/nintendo-3ds-initial-thoughts-part-i.html

6) Okay, dig the analog nub. Good for long sessions. But where the hell is the second analog nub for first- and third-person action games?

I get that straight-up action games have never been the DS's thing -- but they would be the first system to release a 3D FPS title. Seems like they'd want to capitalize on that.

7) The graphics look pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. The Kingdom Hearts photos really show an improvement in anti-aliasing over both the DS and the PSP -- but the initial stills don't look significantly better than the PSP, which will be celebrating its sixth anniversary this year.

Nintendo has proved again and again with the DS and the Wii that graphics aren't everything, but if Sony can fix the inherent design flaws of the PSP and create a new handheld system that is far more powerful than the 3DS, then Nintendo will truly have some stiff competition.

8) The system uses two cameras in sync so users can take their own 3D pictures. And what is every guy going to take a 3D picture of first?

Their wang.

Then, they're going repeatedly dial the 3D slider up and down, to make it look like their wang is coming right at you, like the freakin' shark in Jaws or something.

I am both amused and horrified.

9) As it so often happens with the motion controls for Wii, I hope developers don't use the 3D effects as a crutch. The line between innovation and gimmick is very, very fine. These games should still be able to entertain after the initial "wow" factor wears off. I don't think this will be as much of a problem as it is with the Wii, but I'm sure we'll see a lot of lame movie tie-ins and crappy remakes of old games that will try to coast on the 3D graphics.

10) 3D Punch-Out!! That's all I'm saying.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nintendo 3DS (Initial Thoughts -- Part I)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_3DS

1) Feeling pretty screwed right now. The wife and I decided to get a second DS last Christmas because the wife was hogging the first DS (*). Now I wish I'd waited. Insult to injury: replaced my red-ringed 360 in February and now there's the 360 S coming out.

Fate and timing have totally deuced me.

2) This is, of course, wild speculation -- but I wonder if Nintendo just sent Sony back to the drawing board with the PSP2. Of course, Sony may have known about the 3DS for months and are working on their own 3D tech right now.

Either way, I will be very shocked if the PSP2 does not have 3D.

3) Nintendo needs to get demo models of the 3DS out to game stores much farther ahead of the system's release than usual. That way people can actually see how well this thing produces 3D.

4) Glad there's a 3D slider to lower or turn off the 3D effects. The 3D might make some people dizzy. Also, it caters to people with poor (or no) depth perception. Not to mention the fact that some people simply just won't like it.

Either way, good call.

5) The 3DS needs a proper Virtual Console store like the Wii, since it should easily handle all existing VC titles. The current DSi Ware titles leave much to be desired and should be replaced with a system that syncs with your VC purchases on the Wii.

That's one thing that Sony has over Nintendo at the moment: digital downloads of PS One games work on both the PSP and the Playstation 3 with no additional charge.

Take note, Nintendo.

(*) The wife is often -- but not always -- the stereotypical gamer, who stubbornly refuses to play games where shit blows up. The DS is, therefore, the perfect system for her, and the perfect "gateway" system for guys who want to get their spouses into games.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Guillermo Del Toro Quits The Hobbit (Part II)

...in the final act of Hellboy 2, which felt a bit disjointed and incomplete (all the same, love that movie).

So, all fanboy gushing aside, I'm still glad he's free to pursue other, more personal projects. As good as The Hobbit would have been under his direction, I don't think it would ever completely be his film. He could never do what he did to Hellboy, which was to stay true to the main character and the basic concept and then recreate that world in his own image. Between staying true to Tolkien and Peter Jackson's interpretation of Tolkien, Del Toro would have had an uphill battle to make those films truly his.

Here's hoping that all the legal nonsense gets cleared up so somebody can direct those films.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guillermo Del Toro Quits The Hobbit (Part I)

http://www.avclub.com/articles/update-del-toro-confirms-the-hobbit-delay-quits-pr,41632/

Mixed feelings on this one. But I've been on the fence about this one since Del Toro was announced as the director of the Hobbit two years ago.

His version of The Hobbit would have been very, very good. I can't think of a better director for the job -- except, of course, Peter Jackson, for obvious reasons. Admittedly, I'm a complete Del Toro fan boy. I mean, forget Pan's Labyrinth, one of the best movies of the last decade. He made a Blade movie that was actually good.

Now that's talent.

And The Hobbit would've been his first time to work with almost unlimited time, money, and resources -- and I can't even begin to imagine how he would have brought Middle Earth to life, except for that it would've been spectacular. It's also safe to assume it would've been the strongest script he would have filmed to date, thanks to his work with the original writing team from The Lord of the Rings (Del Toro will remain to finish the scripts). In no way do I think Del Toro, who has written or co-written every film he's made save Blade 2, is a bad writer -- but his solo scripts have had a few bumps in them, most notable in...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (May 14th -- May 16th)

WRITING: I would, of course, get sick on my vacation. Got over a thousand words done on both Monday and Tuesday -- but spent most of Wednesday in bed. Still recovering.

The weekend is devoted to family, since the wife is graduating this weekend with her PhD in Physics.

Got five pages left on the robot project and haven't even touched the comedy script yet. Still a good chance I'll get both done before the vacation is out.

TV and MOVIES: I had planned to put off watching last week's Doctor Who until I had both parts of this year's "Weepings Angels" story, knowing the naked hunger I would have for its conclusion. I gave in last night. One hell of an episode. Can't wait to see how it ends.

I haven't written about Matt Smith's Doctor or Stephen Moffat taking over the reins of showrunner from Russell T. Davies yet. So far, I'm extremely pleased with both. After a very strong opening episode, the next two felt a bit shaky, due to too many ideas and not enough time to sort them out properly, but last week's episode felt just right.

Again, can't wait to see how it ends.

GAMES: Spent my sick days in bed, playing La Pucelle: Tactics on my Playstation 2, the only game console I have in our bedroom. I've had it out from Gamefly for over a month, and just started playing it on Wednesday. Very, very addicting. I think I'm going to power through it over the weekend so it doesn't interfere with the writing next week.

Of course, Red Dead Redemption comes out next week. This is the first time I've ever hoped that Amazon is slow in delivering a new release game.

BOOKS: Finally getting around to Grave Peril, the third novel in The Dresden's File. Can't recommend this series enough.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EA'S "PROJECT TEN DOLLAR"

http://videogames.yahoo.com/events/plugged-in/how-playing-madden-online-could-cost-you-10/1398633

* Personally, I think it's shit. I've got nothing against EA making a shitload of money off of blockbuster titles like Madden, but I can only see this "ten dollar" initiative as a simple case of naked avarice, that could -- and should -- create a huge backlash from fans. I understand that you guys at EA are currently having financial difficulties, but seriously...

* ...how are you constantly losing money? True, I'm an uninformed asshole just spouting off a poorly researched opinion here, but you guys publish Madden, Rock Band, and The Sims, for Christ's sake! Is there a giant mattress you forgot to look under? Has one of your employees embezzled millions of dollars from the company, transferred said millions into small change, and made his or her own Scrooge McDuck money pool in their basement? Are you paying ridiculous amounts of money in blackmail because someone has pictures of Will Wright standing over a dead hooker?

As I said above, I am uninformed as to the how and why here. I would love to be informed, if someone from EA has the time. Because right now, I don't think second-hand games sales and Farmville are your problem.

* True, I think this is crap. But it's a brilliant and cunning piece of crap -- if it actually is successful, mind you. Gamestop, the leading used reseller, sells new and in-demand titles at just five dollars below retail (which, to me, is also crap -- but that's a rant for a different time). Gamestop will have to lower the used price point on these games, cutting into their profits, or it will actually cost one more to buy a used EA Sports title and still wish to have the full experience.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Super 8 (Teaser Trailer)



I'm not sure exactly why I'm excited for this one, but I really, really am -- even if this turns out to be another "found footage" film like Cloverfield.

J.J. Abrams truly has become a major figure in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I never got into Lost, but the friends I have that dig it are simply ravenous about it. I thought Cloverfield was just shy of greatness, but when it worked, it was truly scary and involving. And I don't think one can overstate how his direction of the last Star Trek film turned a pretty good script (a year later and I still have to say it: red matter?) into one of the best popcorn movies of the last twenty years.

And Abrams working together with Spielberg is a perfect fit. Here's hoping that Abrams can make the kind of movie that Spielberg used to make before he started taking himself too seriously.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Iron Man 2 (Quick Review)

http://www.avclub.com/articles/iron-man-2-summer-movie-preview,40953/

It wasn't too shabby, but it didn't do a lot for me.

There's an established pattern for the successful comic book franchises, which has stayed consistent since Christoper Reeve's time with Superman. The first movie is good, possibly great. The second movie is even better -- bigger budget, no origin story, and increased skill and confidence from the director, cast, and crew. Then, a few years later, everything starts to go wrong with the third movie. Each franchise has stumbled for different reasons, but there's been one constant for all of them: the second sequel introduces too many new characters and subplots, with no real idea how to tie all these elements together into a cohesive, enjoyable story.

Comparing Iron Man 2 to previous superhero films, it does just about everything the first sequel does right and just about everything the second sequel does wrong. It's probably better than Spider-Man 3, the best of "3's", but it's got nothing on Spider-Man 2, X-Men 2, and The Dark Knight.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (Finally Completed)



Five years later, I finally got around to beating this damn game. I started it twice over the years and, for whatever reason, I never finished it. The third time was the charm.

I celebrated afterward by going into the free roam mode and having the Hulk throw very surprised cows into what I can only assume were very surprised tanks. A good time was had by all -- except for the cows and the guys in the tanks...and the helicopters I took down after the tanks thanks to my endless supply of bovine resources...and the innocent bystanders I threw into the cows after that, because I finally grew tired of using cows as thrown projectiles but still wanted to keep them in the "Ultimate Destruction" process ... and, well, I'm assuming no one had a good time but the Hulk.

Damn fun game. One of the best examples of how to do a comic book game right, even if it is from the previous generation of consoles.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (May 7th -- May 9th)

WRITING: One more day of work, which isn't till Sunday, then I'm off for two weeks. The goal is to finish two comic book scripts on my vacation. The third issue of the big robot miniseries takes precedence, since getting the script done -- and getting it done right -- has been buggering me since last Autumn, while issue #2 of the geek comedy series has only been buggering me since early March.

Also, my partner in crime on the big robot miniseries is almost done with the pencils for issue #1. He will continue to ink and possibly color it over the summer. Our goal is to have the first issue drawn, inked, and lettered before shopping it around. While it might not be the finished product, I want it to be the comic book equivalent of a demo tape.

Also, I plan on taking these two weeks to start updating this site again proper. We'll see how that works out.

TV and MOVIES: Iron Man 2, obviously. Seeing that on Saturday with the game group. I'm still not excited for it. I haven't been able to put it into words, yet. So let's try now:

1) Too many new characters and actors for one sequel. And none of them are...

2) ...Jeff Bridges. He was the perfect foil for Robert Downey Jr. in the first Iron Man, thanks to his outward calm and forceful presence, and the only actor I know that has convincingly intimidated Robert Downey Jr. on screen. I don't think Mickey Rourke or Sam Rockwell will be able to fill that void.

3) I'm still against a Marvel film universe. Wasting even a minute in a film like this to set up another movie (that isn't Iron Man 3, of course) detracts from it. To me, that isn't telling a story, that's selling a product.

4) The fact that Scarlet Johansson never actually spoke in either of the film's trailers is not an encouraging sign. Also...

5) ...a note to the filmmakers: you save the "other girl" subplot for the third movie, when it's universally accepted that your franchise has run out of ideas.

GAMES: Might try to pick up Assassin's Creed 2 again. Gamefly finally sent it to me two weeks ago, and it has mostly failed to keep my intention.

The Halo: Reach Beta is downloading as I type this. I wasn't excited for it until I realized that it was something that I could play this very day. Hopefully, that won't eat up too much of said day.

BOOKS: Definitely in a Marvel superhero frame of mind, for obvious reasons. Will probably pick up one of the numerous graphic novels I have from the Marvel line, thanks to my Half-Price connections.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Clone Wars: Season 2, Episode 8 -- Brain Invaders

http://www.starwars.com/theclonewars/guide/episode208.html

Once again, I forgot my plan to chronicle this sad, depraved, and (arguably) adult Star Wars fan's take on this show. And now... the review

Love the title. Props to whoever came up with that one.

The episode's pretty solid, too. It largely focuses on Ahsoka, yes -- but she's toned down here and actually the right character for the story (Christ, never thought I'd say that), since Brian Invaders is a riff on monster movies and the teenage girl as the sole survivor is a classic trope of the genre.

It's one of the better directed episodes in the series, with a lot of great angles and an effective slow moving camera for the horror bits. I'm sure the highlight for adult fans is Anakin's interrogation scene of Poggle, where viewers are shown the effective one-two combo of a good old-fashioned bitch slap followed by a Force choke. It's one of the best sequences in the prequel era for showing that Anakin will become Darth Vader, something I personally haven't always been sold on with the prequel stories.

Not the best Clone Wars episode, but it's a lot of fun for horror fans.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Predicitions (Results)

Final tally: 17 out of 24 right (71%). That's including the short films and docs, which were simply blind guesses due to being unfamiliar with the material. Not too bad.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscars Predictions (2009)

Absolute guessing here. Going to watch The Hurt Locker tonight, which means I will have seen five of the best picture nominees. Let's see if I can do better than the last two years.

BEST PICTURE: Avatar
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz
BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique
BEST ANIMATED FILM: Up
ART DIRECTION: Avatar
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Avatar
COSTUME DESIGN: The Young Victoria
BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow
BEST DOC: Food, Inc.
BEST SHORT DOC: The Last Truck
BEST FILM EDITING: The Hurt Locker
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: The White Ribbon
MAKE UP: Star Trek
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Up
BEST SONG: "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart
BEST SHORT FILM: Logorama
SHORT FILM: Kavi
SOUND EDITING: Avatar
SOUND MIXING: The Hurt Locker
VISUAL EFFECTS: Avatar
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Up in the Air
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: The Hurt Locker

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writing Update (2/22/10)

After only five updates this year and two completely unfinished rants, I've been embarrassed to come back to this blog.

I have been writing -- quite a lot, actually. I'm working on four different scripts at the moment -- three of them original comic scripts and the last one being the feature script I've been working on for two years. Honestly, I've never been this productive in my life. Most days, I'm knocking out at least a page or two on the different scripts and I'm happy as hell about it.

I'd like to get back to updating this blog regularly and finally devise and maintain a set format and schedule for its delivery. And I do quick updates on Twitter, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Keep checking back in coming days and weeks. Something will probably show up here.

Probably.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mass Effect 2 (Day Two)

* Ten hours in. First round of characters recruited, first encounter with the Collector's complete. It might be the sheer level of anticipation I had for this game -- which was considerable -- but so far, the story hasn't fully done it for me.

Of course, it could be I just hate working for space Nazis. No matter how selfless and noble you make Shepard, you're still stuck being the errand boy for a bunch of human supremacists. And I can't help but take it personally when you are reunited with old friends who give you the sour milk face upon seeing you alive and well and wearing a Cerberus uniform. I wonder if I missed a dialog beat or two, because it took far, far too little convincing for Shepard -- my Shepard -- to climb into bed with these goons.

* Love the new interrupt system for the dialog sequences, which are much more diverse and cinematic than the ones found in the first game. And the interrupts are the icing on the cake. My few renegade points have come from these interrupts -- the best one being Shepard stabbing and electrocuting a mercenary in the back at the same time.

I defined my morality to my brother, a Mass Effect fiend like myself, as "good with the occasional back stab."

* All this talk about Mass Effect 2 a hankerin' for Mass Effect 2.

Night, losers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Avatar (Day 2)

http://www.avclub.com/articles/going-navi-why-avatars-politics-are-more-revolutio,36604/

But enough about politics, let's talk story.

I have little doubt there'll be an extended cut of Avatar on DVD.  Cameron, always the trendsetter, was one of the first filmmakers to release a director's cut with Aliens, and he continued the trend with his next two films, The Abyss and T2.

The theatrical cuts for each of those films held their own and felt like a complete experience. The theatrical cut of Avatar doesn't feel complete. I still recommend seeing it in 3D for the experience, which is a big evolutionary step forward (note that I say evolutionary and not revolutionary) in CG characters and Digital 3D.

I'll hold my final opinion on the film until its DVD release, but I think there are key problems with the film as it stands. The first - and biggest - is the first act. Cameron can't wait for the audience to get to Pandora and prove to us that the extra money we paid to see the film with an additional dimension was worth it.

(Continued tomorrow ... maybe.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Avatar (Day 1)

http://io9.com/5439713/avatar-has-a-lock-on-best-picture-nomination-really

Well, I'll say this: James Cameron did it. He's now the only filmmaker to make two movies that have grossed over a billion dollars and there's a very real chance that Avatar could take home the Oscar for Best Picture.

What makes this particularly amazing is that Cameron is a man with such a stubborn, singular vision -- and, in the case of Avatar, one that goes well against the current grain of Americana. The film has become a huge source of debate and controversy -- over its quality, its artistic merit, and its obvious political stance. (Cameron's politics are all over the map -- but as he's proved again and again, a fan of big business he ain't).

I have very little interest in discussing the politics of Avatar. While I may share some of Cameron's beliefs and sympathies, Avatar's antagonists -- especially Colonel Quaritch, who is given truly unparalleled levels of badassery thanks to Stephen Lang -- are so ridiculously cartoonish that I couldn't take the film seriously. And for a film that so boldly holds the eight years of Bush doctrine in contempt, it's a bit hypercritical that Cameron created a scenario where one side is completely in the right, the other completely in the wrong (the private military in Avatar are the very definition of "evildoers"). The only good humans in this story or those who fully support the Na'vi. In short, the characters are either with the Na'vi, or they're against them.

(Continued tomorrow -- where I'll go into the nuts and bolts of the story.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Of Wives, Scanners, and Glory Holes

My wife made a joke last night -- while I was a running a Star Wars Saga game, nonetheless -- that involved the phrase "glory hole."  I thought if girls tried to say things like "glory hole" or "rim job" or "donkey punch," their heads would explode a la Scanners.  That's what my parents always told me, and now I know they're liars -- which makes that two startling, disturbing revelations in a twenty-four hour period for me.

But just because an imminent head explosion was not in my wife's future after having a potty mouth, that still doesn't shake my belief that there is something fundamentally wrong with this. Simply put: girls shouldn't be allowed to say that.  It's that simple.  I mean, doesn't that violate some form of treaty that our two sexes have had in our perpetual cold war?  I think sanctions and other forms of penalties will need to be authorized and enforced against her, which will probably take the form of rude bodily functions administered to her in her sleep by yours truly.

OK.  To be fair, the joke was pretty funny.  But I still feel...feel...violated somehow.

Even worse: I'm not sure I mind.