Thursday, October 30, 2008

Movie(s) of the week: Zack and Miri, Changeling, Rock N Rolla

Wowie-wow-wow. There are actually a few movies coming out this week I wouldn’t mind watching. Even better, the biggest draw is each film’s director.

Clint Eastwood offers up Changeling; a film about a woman who, after her kidnapped son gets returned by the police, insists the “rescued” boy is not her own flesh and blood. After Million Dollar Baby, I’m willing to give anything Dirty Harry has to offer a watch…Unless he directs, I don’t know, Monkey Poo Fights. I probably wouldn’t watch that. Then again, I might.

Next up is Guy Ritchie’s Rock N Rolla. I’m a fan of just about anything the guy touches, and Rock N Rolla looks to provide all the fast talking, action-packed, British mob drama I’ve come to expect and love.

Finally, Kevin Smith makes his triumphant return with Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I can only think of one film Smith has done outside the View Askewniverse, so I’m looking forward to something new and, hopefully, hilarious.

I’m not going to narrow it down to one this week. You’ve got three choices there that should prove worth the money. This kind of movie-going bounty doesn’t come around too often, so get out there and enjoy some cinema.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Last-minute Halloween costume ideas

With Halloween only a few days away, I figure there may be some folks out there who still don’t know what costume to wear.

For you procrastinators, I put together a few ideas for last-minute costumes you should be able to pull off on the cheap. Bonus points to anyone who uses one of these ideas and sends in a picture.

P-whipped: This one is for the couples. The girlfriend wears an old T-shirt with a giant “P” written across the chest and back while the boyfriend carries a whip around. Simple, effective, and it speaks volumes about the dynamics of your relationship.

Harry Potter: Step one- Put on old gorilla costume. Step two- grab a couple pots from your local gardening store. Step three- Insist to everyone you meet this costume was a clever idea.

Black-eyed pea: Borrow that “P” shirt from your girlfriend and use some mascara, or a fist to the face, to give yourself a black eye.

A baked potato: Wrap yourself in aluminum foil. This costume also works well if you want to dress up as a tooth filling or a crazy person.

Poop: Brown sweatpants, sweatshirt and beanie. The end. Get it!

Murder victim: Don a white t-shirt and cover yourself in ketchup.

Murderer: Same as above, only you get to carry a knife!

Dinosaur: Dress like normal. When people ask you what your costume is supposed to be, tell them you are a dinosaur. When they say, “You don’t look like a dinosaur,” yell “That’s because we’re extinct, you jerk!”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bloody good: Dead Space review

Wanting to get in some survival horror gaming during the Halloween season, it came down to a toss-up between Silent Hill: Homecoming and Dead Space. I ultimately ended up going with EA’s new IP, and I’m very, very glad I did. Silent Hill may turn out to be a great game, but boy-howdy did I have a great time with Dead Space. Apologies in advance for the wall of text, but it takes a special game to draw this much out of me. And Dead Space is exactly that.

Opting to rent (a sad sacrifice thanks to too many good games coming out all at once), I spent five days and nights plowing through the USG Ishimura, a doomed deep-space mining ship infested with horribly mutated dead former crew members.

The controls of Dead Space are tight and the presentation is slick and sexy. Menus are displayed on a badass hologram projected from a contraption on your wrist, meaning you never actually leave the environment. Also, with information like life, stasis power (the ability to slow down fast moving enemies) and ammo displayed right on your suit and weapons, there is absolutely no HUD to take away from the scenery.

Speaking of the scenery, this is an absolutely beautiful game. I found myself often rotating the camera and standing still just to admire some of the gorgeous (or grotesque) goings-on.

Load times are surprisingly minimal. There’s a minute pause between each chapter, but otherwise the breaks are miniscule. Opening a door takes a moment (a hologram pops up telling you the door is opening and then it slides up), creatively disguising loads as two-second workings of the ship itself. When you’re in a chapter, you’re never taken out of the action.

Along with looking great, Dead Space also sounds amazing. The developers did an ace job of mixing all the right noises to make the dark, hollow vessel scare the crap out of you without even throwing a monster your way. Coupled with dynamic lighting and plenty of dark corners, the Ishimura becomes as much a character as it is a world to explore.

As for the baddies, Dead Space has a terrific cast. While there aren’t too many types (maybe 10 altogether), what’s there is varied enough to work just fine. All have their own behavior, attack patterns and weak points, so you have to think while you fight. Blasting round after round into the masses wastes ammo, which is a bad idea with so little on hand to begin with. These truly grotesque creations have to be tactically dismembered and certain weapons work best on certain creatures. And yes, the dismemberment is frantic, fun and unsettlingly satisfying.

Speaking of weapons, a few were a real delight to wield. The line shooter and plasma cutter are great; shooting lines of energy perfect for clipping off just the right limb. The flamethrower has the best fire effects I’ve ever seen and the Ripper, which throws a spinning saw blade about four feet in front of you, is absolutely diabolical. You have to get close to use it well, but it’s easily one of my favorite in-game weapons of all time. All weapons have an alt-fire, which makes for a decently varied arsenal.

With a couple mini-games, zero gravity sections and puzzles thrown in to change up the pace, as well as a deep suit/weapon upgrade system to work on, Dead Space offers plenty more than just running around and killing monsters.

The creators clearly know and love their genre and do a marvelous job of keeping the player on the edge of their seat. Audio cues, misdirection, pop-out-and-scream moments and even a few psychological jabs makes Dead Space on of the scariest games to date.

There are a few problems, of course. The story is cliché and the characters are mostly cardboard. Also, there were a couple instances where the balance between survival and “is this even possible” tilts a bit too far in favor of frustration. Then there’s the fact almost every mission is a glorified fetch quest. Thankfully, everything else about Dead space is so good, these flaws are easily overlooked.

The amount of love and polish pumped into Dead Space is refreshing and, quite simply, it’s some of the most fun a third-person shooter fan can have. While the story lasts between 12 and 15 hours, four difficulty settings, trophies/achievements that may require more than one play-through and upgrades that can’t be done in a single go make for plenty of replay value.

I returned Dead Space after my five-day rental and felt like a kid giving away one of his favorite new toys. Once this holiday rush is over and I have the chance (and extra money) to fill a few more hours with time aboard the Ishimura, I totally plan to pay the full price for a second voyage. It’s worth every penny.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday mini-movie: Squirrel vs. Deer edition

That. Just. Happened.

Not the best video quality, but MAN is it awesome. I have a new hero, and his name is Simon the Squirrel.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go watch Simon unleash a deer face-wrecking another dozen or so times.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Movie of the week: Monster Squad

Okay, here's the deal. There is nothing new coming out this week I feel like recommending.

In theaters we have Saw V (please, let it stop), High School Musical 3 (is this even legal?) and Pride and Glory. Well, that last one might be worth a watch, but really, who wants to see a cop drama one week before Halloween? Yeah, me either.

So then we go to rental and purchase. While The Incredible Hulk was pretty dang good, I don't feel like recommending it again. If you didn't see it in theaters, you know what to do. Then there's The Strangers, which looks like a pretty good thriller, but there's a certain I-don't-know-what keeping me from giving a crap.

Therefore, it is with great pleasure I give you this week's retro-recommendation: Monster Squad. I was addicted to this film growing up. I loved monster movies back then as much as I do now, and seeing a bunch of kids my own age take on Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the creature from the Black Lagoon (who loves Twinkies, btw), Wolfman, the Mummy and a few vampire vixens was like watching my greatest fantasy come true. To this day I still dream about it...Oh, how I dream.

So if you somehow missed this one in the past, I don't know, 20 years, go rent or buy it immediately and keep that Halloween spirit alive.

P.S. Wolfman's got nards...Just sayin'.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

UFC 90: Silva vs. Cote

For those readers into mixed martial arts, UFC more specifically, you’ll have to let me know how this weekend’s fights go. I will most likely be unable to watch until a repeat is shown.

Call me crazy, but I’m not too excited for this Saturday’s bouts. There are a lot of young faces on the card, which is good for those wanting to see how the future of the sport is shaping up, but I just can’t get too worked up for these fights.

Don’t get me wrong. Silva, Cote, Koscheck, Alves, Clementi, Werdum and Sherk are all fighters I would usually jump at the chance to watch, but I don’t…Who am I kidding? This should be a pretty dang good night. I’m just pretending otherwise so I don’t get all pouty about missing it. Nobody likes a pouty blogger.

Maybe I should write an emo song about this.

Anyway, it seems like the few events I have to miss are the ones that end up being some of the best, so if that’s the case, you’re welcome in advance.

Here’s the card:
Anderson Silva vs. Patrick Cote
Josh Koscheck vs. Thiago Alves
Rich Clementi vs. Gray Maynard
Fabricia Werdum vs. Junior Dos Santos
Sean Sherk vs. Tyson Griffin
Thales Leites vs. Drew McFedries
Spencer Fisher vs. Shannon Gugerty
Dan Miller vs. Matt Horwich
Hermes Franca vs. Marcus Aurelio
Josh Burkman vs. Pete Sell

P.S. For those who somehow haven’t heard, Elite XC is no more. I think a bit of competition is good in any industry, so this announcement comes as a real bummer to me. I’m mostly worried for the fighters, though, since there’s not a heck of a lot of options out there for them to be seen and paid well for stepping into the cage. Mostly, though, I’m sad about any news that puts a smile on the face of Dana White.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Halloween movie marathon

The big night is still a week away, so there's plenty of time to get in the Halloween spirit. (Ghost...Spirit...Man, I'm funny.)

Anyway, The Jeff asked me for some scary movie recommendations last week and I started making a list. Looking back over said list, I realized many of the films I was recommending weren't what you would call mainstream horror flicks.

Though they aren't exactly the low budget, low key romps the genre is famous for, these may very well have flown under your radar. I highly suggest you watch 'em all.

Bubba Ho-Tep: Bruce Campbell plays Elvis, in a retirement home, fighting a 10,000 year old mummy. If you consider yourself a camp fan, I really don't need to say anymore.

Undead: Oh man, was this a fun zombie flick. Imagine a hillbilly in the Australian outback fighting zombies created by aliens in a style often reminiscent of The Matrix. Oh, and there's zombie trout. Do I have your attention yet?

Ginger Snaps: Who says Canada hasn't given the world anything? No, hokey does not count. What does count, though, is this wonderful coming-of-age story about hormones and horror with the transformation into a werewolf serving as a surprisingly thoughtful, completely brilliant vehicle.

The Descent: Easily one of my favorite horror movies of the past ten years. The Descent is paced brilliantly and provides plenty of real scares. Yes, monsters and blood eventually show up, and boy is it gritty, but The Descent does a fine job of scaring you (as well as making you claustrophobic) without the need of an ax-wielding maniac.

The Mist: From the guy who gave us The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, two of the best Stephen King translations, comes a surprising new project revolving around one of King's less known short stories. This is actually a pretty B.A. monster movie with lots of heart, even if it does fall a bit shy of greatness by the time the credits roll.

Event Horizon: Back when I was a kid, I used to walk to the local theater and watch a double feature no matter what was showing. This led to me seeing Titanic 12 times...Yeah. Anyway, this also led to Event Horizon scaring the crap out of me. Going in, I had no idea what the movie was about (a salvage crew locates a missing spaceship that slipped into a black hole leading to hell and managed to bring a bit of hell back with it). Lots of disturbing, scary stuff here.

High Tension: Now THIS is what camp is all about. Very little build up, plot holes galore and buckets of blood. Not pretending to be anything it's not, High Tension begins with a knock at the door and then people start dying. Period. Happily, High Tension lives up to its name and becomes one of my favorite horror films of all time.

The Host: More heart than horror, The Host is a Korean flick wherein a family is drawn together then torn apart by the horrific appearance of a large, unidentified monster. While the creature isn't a huge part of the film, that doesn't mean a few scares aren't in store. More than a monster movie, The Host is a genuinely good film in general.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Games to get your blood flowing

With only a couple weeks left until Halloween, I'm sure some folks out there might like to do a little prep work before the big night. To that end, I offer up two videogames guaranteed to push your nerves to the limit. Both are available for the PS3 and 360 riiiiight now.

Silent Hill: Homecoming
Silent Hill, originally expected to be a Resident Evil clone, debuted on the Playstation One and quickly put all preconceived notions to rest. Heavy on atmosphere, Silent Hill was less about well-trained police mowing down zombies and more about Joe Average just struggling to survive in a world that seems like it's been ripped straight from hell. Homecoming, the series' fifth console installment, follows a soldier on leave in search of his brother who has gone missing in, you guessed it, Silent Hill.

While the main character is more adept at combat, what with his military training and all, Homecoming promises to stay true to the seris' roots, keeping the horrifying atmosphere thick with fog, a stellar soundtrack and plenty of deranged nasties to ruin your weekend.

While I'm excited to take my next blood-soaked romp through every one's favorite possessed town, I'm even more excited to try my shaking hands at...

Dead Space
So maybe survival horror in space isn't exactly the most original concept, but never has it looked so inviting on the console front.

A new franchise, Dead Space revolves around a ship mechanic who discovers his latest assignment just so happens to be a ship infested with gruesome necromorphs; horribly twisted human bodies reanimated from the dead.

With an arsenal of makeshift weapons at your disposal and advantages to knowing which part of a monster to slice off--not to mention sections entirely in zero gravity--Dead Space looks to supply plenty of frights in what could be the next big series in this slim-pickings genre.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday mini-movies: Knock Knock edition

Consider me late to the party, once again. Apparently this video has been out, making people laugh, for quite some time.

Anyway, if you're like me and somehow missed it, enjoy.

The comedy here is pretty dark, which is exactly how I like it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Movie of the week: Quarantine

In case you folks hadn't noticed, it's almost Halloween. Woohoo!

Nothing better to get you in the holiday spirit than a crap-your-pants horror flick that looks like it (what's that?) might actually be pretty dang good.

Quarantine is a remake, so I can't exactly call it original. However, with titles like Saw V hitting the screen in a couple weeks, this is the closest thing you'll get to a breath of fresh, albeit blood-soaked, air in October.

One part 28 Days Later, one part Blaire Witch, Quarantine revolves around an apartment building that gets closed off to the outside world when one of its residents contracts a nasty virus.

News outlets claim there is nobody left in the building, but a "videotape" recovered after many, many horrible events paints a different picture. Not only was a reporter, her cameraman, and several other residents still inside, but they just so happened to be locked in with an infected, blood-thirsty madwoman with a mean streak a mile long.

I'm not exactly expecting poetry here. So long as the frights are plenty and everything surrounding them is bearable (cast, know, the small stuff), I'm thinking Quarantine might be the Halloween movie of choice this year.

Sorry about the recent lack of copious updates, by the way, things have been crazy. Please accept this digital cookie *hands you digital cookie...digitally* as an apology.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wii shovelware- I've had just about enough

I remember when the Wii came out nearly two years ago. I remember because I was the first guy in line at the local Wal-Mart (local, as in 30 minutes away from my home) waiting to pick one up on day one.
I also remember thinking, quite foolishly it turns out, there's no way in hell this new system would become another Gamecube.

Turns out I was wrong. What bothered me about the Gamecube was the fact quality, well produced games, were anything but the norm. For every one good game that came out for the system, there were five crappy ones rushed out to market in order to cash in on moms and dads who had no idea "Rocket Bikez eXtreme" took only three weeks to make.

When Wii hit with Zelda on day one and titles like Mario Galaxy, Mario Kart and Smash Bros. on the way, I thought the future of the new waggle system was pretty dang bright. If the GC ratio of good to bad games was 1 to 5, however, the Wii is more like 1 to 20. Sadly, I'm not exaggerating here.

This month alone will bear witness to the release of titles such as Bratz, Littlest Pet Shop, Jeep Thrills, Safe Cracker, Celebrity Sports Showdown, Barbie Horse Adventure, Bigfoot: Collision Course, Build-a-Bear Workshop and Petz Horsez Club, just to name a few. There are about 40 titles releasing this month for the Wii and, if you'll scroll down a post or two, you'll see none of them made my "games to get" list. I may not be the best judge of quality, but if you'll head on over to this web site right here (IGN), I'm sure you'll agree there is little to nothing worth paying attention to from the Wii camp. Keep scrolling past October. It gets worse.

Now, don't get me wrong. I realize there is a market for some of these games, but what about the videogaming masses above the age of eight? When Nintendo removed their "Official Seal of Quality" and replaced it with, no joke, "Official Seal," what they effectively did was say, "Hey, gamers, there will be no quality control whatsoever. Enjoy the metric ton of poorly made ripoffs that will soon be choking store shelves and muscling out the chances of anything worth your time and money ever surviving."

What's the point of all of this? Nothing. I've just been needing to rant about this for a while and today just felt like the day. Sure, at $250, the Wii is almost an impulse buy for folks wanting to play some games. And yes, most of the games made by Nintendo are actually pretty dang good. But with less of those coming out in a year than I need two hands to count, it's a bit insulting.

Then again, I guess we can blame the consumer as well. It's our dollars that make this shovelware practice profitable and, when developers are willing to put time and attention into quality titles (Zak and Wiki, No More Heroes, Boom Blox), we turn a blind eye and collectively ignore it. Developers are officially afraid to take chances on the Wii.

I've got no answers here. I'm fairly certain the Wii and its games will continue to sell like gangbusters (except for the good games, that is) and, eventually, Nintendo will introduce their next big system with loads of promises that eventually gets lost among the waves of cash we're willing to throw at them for the waves of crap they're willing to throw back at us.

If it wasn't for the few gems I already own and the virtual console, I would consider the Wii a horrible (though horribly profitable) failure. As it is, I've impulsively paid $250 for a handfull of games and 20-year-old titels that far outshine anything lining the Wii shelves today. Thanks Nintendo!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday mini-movie: Lost girlfriend edition

Don't blink or you'll miss this one. It's short, but that means you can view it over and over and only kill like a minute.

The above clip is tagged as being the quickest way to dump your girlfriend. Get it!?

Anyway, I was feeling lazy this week and didn't put too much time into my video search, so this is what you get. It is pretty awesome though. I even gave an audible "NOooOOoooOooo!" while watching it the first time.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Movie of the week: Appaloosa

Man, that is a great movie poster. I mean, just look at that thing.

Anyway, I'm a sucker for a good western and I'm hoping Appaloosa is exactly that. The cast is great, so that's a start, right?

Anyway, I know most folks aren't exactly into this kind of film, so might I recommend Iron Man on DVD or Blu-Ray instead? What's that you say? You are one of the five-kabillion people who have already seen it? Twice? Wow...Then, um...Maybe you'll enjoy Blindness, a close runner-up in theaters, instead?

Movies to miss in October

There aren't a heck of a lot of movies I'm terrified of this Halloween season. By terrified, I mean of the fact they actually exist, not that they are in any way scary...Though I'm sure some of them are pretty scary on one level or another. But I digress. On to this month's list of films to ignore with all your heart.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: I don't care who is in it, what early reviews say, or nothin'. Thanks to that horrible title, I can't get the image of Paris Hilton and her buggy-eyed, shivering, four-legged accessory out of my head. You go to hell, Beverly Hills Chihuahua. You go to hell and you stay there.

How to Lose Your Friends and Alienate People: I love you, Simon Pegg, but I can't forgive this. I'm happy you've found popularity in the States, but don't let that confuse you into signing on to crappy American-made comedies. You're way above that, broseph.

W.: I'm preparing to forget the guy, so why should I watch a movie ABOUT him? Honestly, Georgie-boy has not earned a movie, even if it is unflattering.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year: I'm all for singing and dancing in a family-friendly setting with wholesome messages and all that jazz. But when you start overmilking that cow, I gots me a problem. Stop this madness. Oh, and I totally just realised a better joke picture would have been "High School Musical 3: Senior Years," but I'm too lazy to change it. Sorry.

Saw 5: It stopped being good four movies ago.

Oh, and don't forget, the horrible Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull comes out on video this month as well. For followers of the blog, I apologise for not catching that one on the crap-o-meter back when it was in theaters. Man, was it terrible.

Games to get in October

Anybody else experiencing a little deja vu from last year?

After yet another summer drought, the gaming gods that be have decided to unleash upon the masses another flood of epic proportions. Hope you don't like your money, cause after October and November, it's gone, baby, gone.

7th- NBA Live 09 (PS3, 360)
7th- NBA 2K9 (360, PS3)
7th- Fracture (PS3, 360)
14th- Fifa 09 (PS3, 360)
14th- Saint's Row 2 (360, PS3)
14th- Dead Space (360, PS3)
14th- Socom: Confrontation (PS3)
21st- Bioshock (PS3)
21st- Eternal Sonata (PS3)
21st- Little Big Planet (PS3)
21st- Fable 2 (360)
21st- Far Cry 2 (360, PS3)
21st- Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)
21st- Rune Factory 2 (DS)
28th- Fallout (PS3, 360)
28th- Motor Storm: Pacific Rift (PS3)

Would you just look at that list! I have a feeling this is actually really bad news for developers when it comes to sales in the U.S. Everyone else is doing dandy, but the economy over here is shite right now. More so than ever, I imagine videogame purchases will be on the decline.

Unlike in the past, when folks might buy a title or three in any given game-overflow month, it's likely your average Joe, or Susan, will have to look at this list and pick a single title, if that.

There's a lot of great, great looking games there, but my pick for this month is going to Little Big Planet. I think it's a safe bet that particular title will not only sweep "game of the year" awards from every publication, web site, etc., but it's very likely to serve as one of those defining moments in the history of our favorite hobby.

Anyway, goodbye cashflow and free time, hello debt and several weeks of poor hygiene.