Sunday, January 23, 2011

Red State (First Reviews)

Not much today. Have two applications to write for potentional promotions with my current employer.

Take a gander at the link above. Curious to see what Kevin Smith can do with this. From the outside looking in, the last decade has been full of disappointments, resentment, and great ancedotes for his speaking dates (that being said, I dug Jersey Girl). Can't decide if this decision to go completely independent is a good thing, or if he simply needs to find someone to help shape and hone his material.

We'll find out when the movie comes out on DVD next October.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises (Casting Announcement )

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Good actress and an unusual pick for Catwoman. I can dig it.

But Bane? Really? Really?

The only thing that could surprise me more would be to hear that Christopher Nolan was casting Justin Beiber for his gritty, realistic take on Bat-Mite -- possibly the only character in the Batman universe lamer than Bane.

That's not to say Nolan can't pull it off. He turned Ra's al Ghul, another Batman villain I dislike, into a compelling antagonist. And like Liam Neeson, Tom Hardy has something to bring to the role. But Nolan certainly has his work cut out for him with this one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Plans of the Nerd Kind (January 21st -- 23rd)

WRITING: Spent most of the week doing rewrites. Finally admitted to myself that there were some things still not working with issue #1 of my current project. They were mostly fiddly bits: bad jokes or good jokes not set up properly. It never fails to amaze just how long this last stage of rewrites takes, or how frustrating this process can be. Need to do one more pass this weekend to fix typos and clean up the scene descriptions. Overall, satisfied with results. Of course, I'll have to wait until the penciled pages start coming in to see if I've done my job right.

That means issue #2 begins in earnest next week.

Damn it.

TV and MOVIES: A frightening turn of events here at Stately Wickett Manor, people. The wife has figured how to update our Netflix queue.

Well, that's selling her a bit short. I never thought her to be incapable of completing such a simple task -- she has a doctorate in physics, you know -- but there's been a sort of peaceful Cold War about our DVD queue. The account is under my e-mail, and I do all the actual updating and ordering. Often, when we seal the envelope on a watched disc, she will ask me to add a particular movie or TV show, and I will of course do my own good time. With three discs out at a time, I try to pick one DVD for me, one for her, and one for us to watch together.

Well, actually, that's the party line I give her -- or, I should say, gave her. I wanted her to think that we were living in a Netflix democracy, when we were, in fact, living in a Netflix dictatorship, ruled by yours truly. Like all wise dictators before me, I knew that presenting the people with the illusion of freedom and choice was essential, in order to eliminate dissonance before it could begin. This meant checking out and possibly watching her drivel now and again. If the actual ratio of DVDs for me and DVDs for her were closely scrutinized, it would become obvious that I was severely favoring myself.

I thought I was getting away with this, playing it cool while living high on the DVD hog, as it were. Instead, it was her that was truly playing it cool -- biding her time, sating herself with Netflix's "watch instantly" selections, and waiting for the right time to strike.

And strike she did...

Imagine my surprise this week when I checked my e-mail and received two messages from Netflix, informing me that That Touch of Mink and Love in the Afternoon would arrive shortly to my home. Confused, panicked, I quickly went to my Netflix account and checked my DVD queue. My top ten choices -- all my action movies, my sci-fi movies, my anime, my European softcore porn -- were gone, replaced by romantic comedies and musicals from the 50's and 60's.

It was, quite simply, an act of betrayal. And such betrayal must be dealt with swiftly, brutally.


First off, I'm going to change our Netflix password. If she cracks this password, a new, secret credit card will have to be ordered. Lastly, the queue will be fixed back to my obvious high standards. At that point, I will punish her with an onslaught of cheesy action movies.

Personally, I think she's ready for some Van Dammege? Don't you?

GAMES: Been taking it easy on games, so I concentrate on the writing. Put a few hours into Infamous this week, though. Still might be a post about it coming, since it's been a long time since I've played such a solid game with such atrocious writing and dialog.

BOOKS: Still need to finish Wanted. Reading a 40K novel at the moment, and I'm not ashamed to say that I'm enjoying it.

* * * *

Have a good weekend, people.

End of line.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Team Fortress 2 Pictures (1/20/11)

Busy day. I've got nothing. Have a Team Fortress 2 pic:

"In Russia, fire burns you!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Nintendo 3DS (Release Date Announced)

* $249.99, huh? Sounds like you'll get your money's worth, but it's hard to imagine casual gamers dropping that much on a device that can't make a phone call.

* March 27th isn't far away, and there are still no demo models in stores for people to see the 3D. An odd choice, to me. Of course, I doubt this will need much help selling -- but word of mouth never hurts.

* No second analog nub for shooters. Really? I guess the stylus and touch screen make up for that, but it's a poor substitute.

* The safety announcements are a bit disconcerting -- especially since this would mean that Nintendo is recommending users to not watch a whole movie in 3D, one of the system's big selling points, in one go.

* There will be a virtual shop with 3DS, DSi, and Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles, according to IGN. Surprised that Advance titles won't be featured -- but I'm shocked to see that NES, Super Nintendo, and 64 games will not be included. Seems like Nintendo would want to sell you Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda for the sixth or seventh time, 'cause they know people would pick it up just have a portable version of these classics. You may laugh, but I know you people...for I know the deep dark recesses of my impulse-buying heart.

* Will I get one? Probably -- but not right away. I've got a huge backlog of DS and GBA games still to play, thanks to Gamefly. I don't worry about quality control with Nintendo like I do with Sony or Microsoft, but I'll still wait for Nintendo to get the bugs out , and to avoid the long lull period between the first wave of games and the second, which usually ends around Christmas time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Zork Anthology on Good Old Games

Debating about picking this up from Good Old Games. The wife would no doubt give me shit for buying something I already own -- but as silly as this might sound, I'd like to make a contribution towards getting all of Infocom's games back in circulation.

I know, corny. Also, I doubt a single Infocom employee will see a dime from this re-release, since Activision now owns these games. Most likely, the modest revenue this generates will go to covering a few take-out lunches for Activision's ever-growing army of lawyers, and I'm not inclined to support that.

Even if I am personally on the fence, I'm all for people getting these games legally, especially if this anthology includes high quality scans of the maps, original prose, and ephemera that came with each Infocom release, one of their most endearing trademarks. It's important to get the complete package with these games, in order to get the full experience.

Of course, I'm a complete Infocom fanboy, and have been since the late 80's, when I found the Commodore 64 version of Moonmist in the bargain bin of my local Babbage's. I still remember the surprise and delight I had with that game, my first text adventure. And I hope people can still get lost in Infocom's games today.

Again, corny. I know.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Drood is finally done. The case containing the 24 discs of the unabridged audiobook has been thrown on the ground and thoroughly flipped off, with me standing over it and yelling things like "Didn't think I could finish you, huh? Didn't think I had it in me, huh? Who's the one that's got ADD now, huh?!"

Happy and sad to have it done. It's been part of my daily commute for over two months.

More on it tomorrow...maybe. I gotta go help cook dinner.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Save Vs. Deities

I am an agnostic. Friends of mine have called this particular philosophical notion "atheism for pussies" -- but I say screw 'em. My almost complete lack of belief in anything is unshakable.

Here's the way I see it: I don't have the answers to anything cosmological or divine. None of us do. So don't worry about it and don't be a dick. Enough said.

Still, yesterday's events have left me shaken and confused, leading me to doubt my doubts. Myself and several others were quite possibly touched last night by the unseen hand of some otherworldly power. Of course, I expect you to be skeptical -- you weren't there to witness last night's earth-shattering events unfold. But belief has finally come to me in the most terrible of ways.

If you were there last night, sitting at our game table, you too would believe that the Dice Gods are real. And if they do exist, they are cruel, unsympathetic beings who maliciously play their own twisted games with our games for their amusement. As the game group discovered last night, ware you cross them.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Green Hornet (2011 Film)

Well, it wasn't excruciating. In fact, compared to other hip cinematic updates of classic TV shows, it's pretty damn good. That's not to say it's actually, you know, good good. It's as formulaic and manufactured as every other movie in this peculiar subgenre.

But it is, for the most part, well manufactured, thanks to Michel Gondry -- just about the last person you'd expect to make a movie like this. He directs action better than most -- exciting, original, and coherent -- and adds enough fun, quirky delights to make up for an excess of Seth Rogen being Seth Rogen.

Rogen's a sharp comedy writer, but not when writing for himself. The movie's best jokes either don't involve him or don't give him the chance to fall back on his usual shtick. It's a brave choice to have his character start the movie as a rich, self-entitled douchebag and end it as a rich, self-entitled douchebag to everyone but Kato -- but it doesn't work because the movie always wants the audience to like him.

Luckily, he spends most of the movie with Kato, who kicks all kinds of ass. Jay Chou, with a tenuous grasp on the English language and charisma to spare, saves the movie. Also, Christoph Waltz does the weirdest riff on the thankless action-comedy villain that I can remember. I'm pretty sure Gondry's only direction to Waltz was, "Do what you did in Inglorious Basterds, but add some ham on top."

There's enough solid jokes and car crashes to make it worth watching -- and the 3D conversion is better than most -- but that's about it. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

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

WRITING: I've taken far too much time off from this. The second half of 2010 was a wash-out in the writing department. My plans to start this year right are just kicking in, since most of my friends are graduate students or teachers, who are returning to work this week (and to say nothing of family). From the middle of December to the middle of January, my social life is resuscitated back into existence, its condition upgraded from "Complete Shut-in" to "Nice to see you, Jeremy -- you look pale."

I've had an explosion of ideas these past two years, but all these stories are half-written and incomplete. I've decided to stick with one project and ride it out to the bitter, bloody end. The chosen project is alternately easier (no tight plotting or world-building) and much more difficult (it's a comedy, so it should, you know, be funny) than my others. The goal is to finish the first story arc of this comic book project. It should run two issues, and issue #1 is complete. I'm actually satisfied with that script (a rare occurrence), but I have no idea how to make issue #2 work.

I'll tell you where I am with that next week. Also, if you don't see posts here every day, and if you know me and have my contact info, please write me and give me shit for being a lazy bastard. Thanks.

TV and MOVIES: Dentist this morning, The Green Hornet tonight. I'll tell you which was more excruciating tomorrow.

On the home front, I'm breaking in the new Playstation 3, my first Blu-Ray player, with two westerns. Have Rio Bravo checked out from Netflix. I'm still learning how to appreciate John Wayne. So far, I've only enjoyed his work with John Ford, especially The Man who Shot Liberty Valance.

Picked up the new Blu-Ray release of Dances With Wolves today. Watched the first hour or so today with lunch, and I've got mixed feelings on the extended cut. Like most extended cuts, some of the new stuff works and some of it doesn't. With the exception of new scenes with the Sioux, everything else belonged on the cutting room floor: it messes with the pace and structure of the story.

This wouldn't be a big deal (actually, it isn't a big deal at all -- but indulge me), except the original theatrical cut is nowhere to be found between two Blu-Ray discs. And since Blu-Ray discs contain roughly somewhere between a zillion and a bajillion megabytes of data, this is simply inexcusable.

Forgive me while I get my broken record on, but I'm all for "extended cuts" and "director's cuts" and, my personal favorite, "no-longer-PG13-and-now-featuring-boobies cut." But people fall in love with movies, and for most of us, that courtship happens in a movie theater. Very few re-edits improve a movie -- offhand, I can only think of three or four -- but like most nerds, I'm happy to have more of something I enjoy, warts and all. But if you're going to dick around with your movie, you should always feature the original version -- the version people fell in love with -- in the same package.

I am, of course, a film snob. I'll give you that. Still, it annoys the crap out of me.

What do you think?

GAMES: Making a dedicated effort to play games with the wife, and games that she will enjoy. We just finished Batman: The Brave and the Bold for the Wii (pick it up after a price cut) and we've started Kirby's Epic Yarn. It's a bit too cute for me, but I have to admire the imagination and artistry that went into it. I'm not a huge fan of Nintendo's games -- but no other developer has employed so many people that can tap into their inner child, and let these people run with it as far as they can go. It's a story where fluffy, round characters turn into yarn versions of themselves, thanks to a guy with an evil magical knitted sock. And in its own special way, it works.

Also breaking in the new PS3 with Infamous. This post is getting long, so I'll save my thoughts on it for later this week.

BOOKS: Giving Mark Millar's Wanted a second try. Didn't like it the first time, didn't finish it. I can't decide if I'm offended by it or not, since Millar wants to hit more than just your initial reaction to such senseless violence, and its glorification. That being said, I think he misses the mark when it comes to any deeper meaning. Of course, I'll hold judgment until I finish it.

Haven't picked up a novel that's interested me in awhile. Still searching for one.

* * * *

Have a good weekend, people. End of line.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hunter Prey (Part III) wander alone around the desert for an hour. Centauri 7 finds and loses the alien several times before the end, and both characters encounter far too few obstacles between their confrontations. Only one new character is introduced before the endgame, but is barely worth mentioning, since he/she/it contributes so little to the story.

There are some good bits along the way, though. Once the alien acquires a headset from his victims, there are some nice dialog exchanges between it and Centauri 7. As the characters' histories are revealed, it becomes obvious that Collora and co-writer Nick Damon are painting their story in shades of gray. Without giving anything away, Collora wisely never tells the audience who to root for...or if they should root for either being at all. The final confrontation, a battle of wills (neither characters' strong suit), is more than a little silly, with each character alternating back and forth between being ridiculously clever and ridiculously gullible, but it's still a refreshing climax.

But even the good parts don't work like they should, because the story's big one-two twist (done in the wrong order) is revealed fifteen minutes into the movie. It's a good one, but Collora can't top it, even when the movie works. How much of this is due to the film's shoestring budget and tight schedule, I don't know -- but someone needs to give Collora a proper budget and shooting schedule, because he could make a movie equal to Hunter Prey's potential.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hunter Prey (Part II)

...the film looks pretty damn good. Collora expertly captures the stark beauty of his locations, and the Red Camera system creates crisp, clear images without seeming flat or too perfect. The digital effects are adequate at best, but there aren't many of them, even compared to the average amount of effects shots from sci-fi films of the early 80's. More importantly, they're never needed to carry the story. So who cares? The costumes and prosthetics are the most noteworthy, and both hold up against the fidelity of the Red camera.

The film's meager budget is, I'm assuming, to blame for why there are so few actors in the film, which is the film's true weakness, since it creates numerous story problems. First off, there needed to be more than four surviving soldiers, to make the alien fugitive a legitimate threat as it whittled down their numbers until only Centauri 7 was left. In the finished film, neither the alien or the soldiers feel terribly imposing. It might just be me, but there was a distinct "Pick us off from a distance with a sniper rifle once, shame on you. Pick us off from a distance with a sniper rifle twice, shame on us" vibe to the deaths of Centauri 7's compatriots.

The other soldiers are written off too quickly, with only Centauri 7 left by the end of the first act, leaving far too much time for Centauri 7 and the alien to...

Hunter Prey (Part I)

Despite not giving a toss for Batman: Dead End, the short film that made Sandy Collora a household name (at least in houses with thirty year-old virgins still living in their parents' basement), I've been waiting over a year to see Hunter Prey. The plot seemed generic, but I admired Collora's back-to-basics approach to sci-fi filmmaking, inspired by his love of late 70's/early 80's sci-fi films: minimal visual effects, a steady camera filming real locations, and tight plotting with interesting characters and ideas. The end result is frustratingly uneven, with enough entertaining twists on old-school sci-fi tropes to make it worth recommending.

The plot is pretty simple: the military ship Prometheus crashes on a barren alien planet that in no way resembles Tatooine (except in every single possible way, right down to the giant alien skeleton hanging out in the middle of the desert). A handful of soldiers survive the crash, who look so much like Boba Fett that you could reasonably believe that the movie is actually about three space nerds rocking some awesome Star Wars cosplay outfits who have crashed on a barren planet while on their way to a space comic-con. The soldiers soon learn that the only other survivor is the alien prisoner they were guarding. The prisoner kills all the soldiers except the cynical, insubordinate Centauri 7. Centauri 7 chases after the prisoner, and, of course, who is the hunter and who is the prey remains up for debate for the rest of the film.

Collora handles it all admirably, both as a co-writer and director. He brings enough twists and fun ideas to the table for ninety minutes of good, old-fashioned space opera, but the film's ridiculously small budget (right around a half-million dollars) keeps getting in the way. Too many compromises were made for this story to live up to its potential. Oddly enough, these compromises have nothing to do with technical aspects of the film.