Friday, March 27, 2009

Down with the sickness

Just letting everyone know why posts were somewhat (read: almost completely) lacking as of late.

I caught the dreaded sinus/flu/alien virus that's going around and it's been rough going trying to get to the blog this week.

As my body ferociously battles the sickness in a bloody clash of epic proportions (I'm using that a lot lately), I'm starting to feel a bit better.

Look for something resembling normality to return next week.

Until then, wash your hands, take your vitamins and do your best to stay indoors. The Flu kitty is out there and your sodas may very well be next.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday mini-movies: Wheeeee edition

You ever have one of those days where you just need to see a guy attempt a ridiculous stunt and ultimately wreck his face?

Welcome to my monday.

And with that, I give you a fantastic faceplant at about a kabillion miles per hour...Enjoy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Movie of the week: I Love You, Man

It's been a while, but there's finally something worth watching at the theaters this week.

Likely to be the best bromance picture of 2009, I Love You, Man looks to be full of laughs and warm moments.

Take that special somebody, preferably one of your male friends for a man-date, out for a memorable evening of love and laughter.

Rejected T-shirt ideas: Fire Escape

Continuing the staticEchoes fashion line with the latest in spring offerings, we proudly deliver this design for the universally popular rejected t-shirt campaign.

Marvel at its simplicity. Revel in the agony. Swim in the punny nature of it all.

Once again, I don't think any company (even Hot Topic) will ever allow such an image to appear on their clothing. Therefore, feel free to print it out and iron it on. Extra points for e-mailing pictures of you wearing any of the rejected t-shirt images.

Extra extra points for finding a way to deface public property with said image. This art belongs to the people, folks. It needs to be released upon the masses.

I mean, just look at it...Such a raw, emotional image...It simply cannot be contained.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A rough gem: Killzone 2 review

Straight to the point: I feel somewhat cheated having played Killzone 2 on hard my first time through. I haven’t had much of a challenge from games in a while, so I thought I’d up the ante from the get-go with this one.

Bad move. Really bad move.

While 90 percent of KZ2 is playable and quite challenging on hard, there are a handful of encounters that will leave you ripping your hair out with frustration. These sections are few and far between, but boy do they make up for missed time.

Still, I persevered, and even though it took me five hours just to get through the last gauntlet of the game, I feel the experience was well worth it. So much so, in fact, I plan on restarting immediately on medium to see if an easier go will make me love the game even more.

Continuing with the griping and relating to the sudden insane difficulty spike is the matter of enemy and teammate AI. The Helghast are brilliant. They move realistically, usually sticking to cover, but will charge you down if you give them the chance. They flank and move solo or in squads depending on how the mood hits them.

While the bad guys hold their own quite nicely, it’s my brothers in arms that had me verbally abusing my TV. Through the majority of the game, they do their job. They take out the bad guys, move wisely and keep their heads down most of the time. During those difficulty spikes, though, it’s as if every one of them received a swift kick to the back of the skull before charging into combat.

You need their guns to keep the odds even, which means you’ll be abandoning cover far too often to revive pals who suddenly substituted their killer instinct for a new worldview where the best way to stop a bullet is with your own face. Instead of popping out for shots, they seem to stay behind cover almost exclusively until someone runs up and puts them out of their misery.

Your teammate in the last section of the game is particularly dense and you’ll find yourself cursing his existence the umpteenth time he lets four Higs sneak up behind you without firing one shot across the balcony he’s supposed to be guarding.

Other than the obnoxious difficulty (on hard, remember. I’m hoping some of these points are moot on a different setting) and the inconsistent AI, Killzone 2 is an absolute blast to play.
You’ve heard how good the game looks, so I won’t waste your time other than to say, yes, it’s gorgeous.

The weapons are mostly standard, but damn do they feel good to shoot.

There have been reports of control issues, but with the sensitivity kicked up a notch, I had absolutely no problem. Everything felt smooth.

As for the story, I was actually surprised by what was on offer. The opening is epic and really gets the adrenaline going as you are dropped (literally) into an intense war zone. The following two-thirds of the game are nearly baron of story. There’s a bit of background detail and character development through chatter, but for the most part you are simply a grunt. You and Alpha are moving from location to location, completing various tasks as you try to help a convoy find its way to the heart of the enemy’s defenses.

The final third of the game, though, sees a big boost in story as cut-scenes become more prominent, the dialogue kicks it up a notch and the game really begins to feel like it’s building toward something. I don’t feel Killzone lacked story so much as took a different pacing approach, building to a climax that’s big and exciting.

Every step of the way, though, you will know you have been in a fight. The action in KZ2 is intense and seldom -and I mean seldom- ever lets up. You’ll be shooting, ducking, meleeing and chucking grenades for a solid runtime of about 10-15 hours and nearly every minute of that time will be enjoyable.

Explosions go off all around you and literally right in front of you, kicking up dust, debris and bodies as bullets scream through the air en route to a teammate’s chest. Helghan is windy, ashy, and swarming with electrical storms. You have the pleasure of spending some quality time in various locals; all unique, all realistic, all great.

To sum up some of the rest, the sound is dynamite, the set pieces are big, though not very memorable, and overall, Killzone 2’s single player campaign is great.

The same goes for online play. With a deep clan system, an engaging class system and rewards for achieving various objectives, there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back for hours on end.
The more you unlock, the deeper strategy becomes and, with a few like-minded individuals willing to work as a team, games can evolve into a tactical battle of epic proportions…on an epic scale…epically.

Instead of a bunch of guys just running around and shooting, a tactician can establish a beneficial spawn point, an engineer can set up a turret to guard a target, a sniper can keep an invisible eye in the sky, medics can keep injured allies on their feet, etc. etc. etc. With the ability to break into smaller squads within your team to respawn on the leader and mix-and-match primary and secondary perks, there’s really no limit to the number of ways you can play the game.

Other nice touches include a great running system that recharges quickly, balanced gameplay between classes, terrific maps, an addictive little noise that lets you know you’ve made the killing shot, and a seamless transition into various modes (when one mode is over, a voice informs you of a new objective and said objective pops up on your radar rather than going to the lobby and waiting for the next game type to load up).

While Killzone 2 doesn’t redefine the genre, it lands soundly on all the bases with lots of grit, carnage and flair. Single player is fun and, while online borrows heavily from games of the past, I expect many of the new tweaks to be utilized by designers of the future.

There’s bang for your buck with Killzone 2, and it’s a very loud bang indeed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Review wrap-up: The Wrestler, Watchmen, Let the Right One In, Coraline

It was a rough week, so posts suffered from a slight case on "didn't happen." Not sure how I got out to so many movies as of late, but here's what I thought of the most recent batch. Long story short: Go watch all of them.

Coraline- From the director of Nightmare Before Christmas comes this latest treat for the eyes. It's getting to the point where I question what can't be done with stop-animation. The details and fluidity of movement in Coraline are something to behold and, on top of all that, every scene is overflowing with beautiful things to stare at. The story is great and the characters are fun. Coraline is a delightful fairytale with tons of heart.

Watchmen- Watchmen is, without a doubt, exactly what I was hoping for. It wasn't the be all, end all epic homage the "die hard fans" were hoping for, nor was it the steaming pile of crap they feared it might be. While several scenes drag on too long and the amount of blue wang on the screen felt suspiciously like director Snyder was having a laugh, this two hour epic does a good job of staying true to the source material while still wowing with the razzle dazzle of modern movie magic. Also, Nite Owl and Rorschach were absolutely tops. *constructs a flame shield* As a side note, I actually prefer the movie's ending to the book's. It felt less out of place.

Let the Right One In- What would you get if Twilight was A) Good, B) about 12-year-olds, C) actually romantic and D) set in Sweden? The answer is Let the Right One In. This is not just one of my favorite movies in recent memory, it is quite literally (as is stated in a pull-quote on the box) the best vampire movie ever. It's a truly bizarre feeling when you find a scene to be amazingly romantic despite the fact the characters are basically kids splattered with blood following a particularly violent kill scene. But that just goes to show how expert writing and storytelling can pull true emotions out of an audience even in the most unlikely of circumstances. From the breathtaking cinematography and fantastic sound mixing to the beautiful story and memorable performances, I can't recommend LTROI highly enough.

The Wrestler- Who would have thought Mickey Rourke would someday return to, not only act again, but absolutely wow viewers with a breathtaking, gut-wrenching performance full of emotion and grit? Expect two hours of dynamite from our leading man and his love interest Cassidy, played by Marisa Tomei. The Wrestler is about a down-on-his-luck has-been desperately trying to find a place in a world with no true place for him, and you cheer and cringe for the guy every step of the way. Writer Rober Siegel worked in some surprising symbolism and parallels between the main characters and, oddly enough, Jesus Christ, and the result is a muli-layered classic that tugs on the ole heartstrings. Endearing, uplifting, crushing, great.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday mini-movie: Japanese commercial edition

I can't decide if this makes me more, or less likely to want to move to Japan.
One thing is for sure, I'll have entries for my nightmare journal over the course of the next two weeks, no problem.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Movie of the week: Watchmen

Golly-gee-whiz. What movie could I possibly pick for this week? Gotta pick something for folks to watch this weekend...Let's see...Let's see...

I'm gonna go with The Watchmen.

Why did I put "The" in front of the title? Because the fanboys out there hate (and I mean hate) when people attatch a "The" to the front of the title.

Why? Because they're idiots.*
Moving on.

Since this movie is seeing quite a bit of controversy, let's get a few things straight. No, I don't expect Watchmen to be a spot-on translation of the comics. No, I'm not upset the extra content (Black Freighter and some back stories) has been removed. The film is nearly three hours long and some of that stuff will be on the DVD. I'll survive. And finally, yes, I expect about fifty percent of the people who go see the movie to bash it soundly due to unrealistic expectations and a severe case of head in ass rather than providing legitimate complaints (and I'm sure there will be plenty of legitimate things to complain about).

Go in expecting a gorgeous, decent re-telling of a fantastic story and you should be in for a good (albeit long) experience. Then again, it might very well suck.

In short, go watch Watchmen and, as always, I invite you to share your thoughts on the film in the comments.

*As a note, I love the Watchmen graphic novel. Getting butt-hurt about someone adding "The" to a title, however, is idiotic. Hence, I called those folks idiots.**

**This is about as annoying as when someone who has learned a bit of Japanese or follows anime gets all high and mighty about proper pronunciation of a Japanese word. Correcting/educating someone is one thing. Being an ass about it is, well, assish.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Games to get in March

So at the last universal game developers conference, when they were going over the "year's calendar," staring at the month of November for a solid three hours, apparently someone thumbed through their packet and said "Hey guys? What's with all these extra pages with numbers on them?" And thus, the rest of the calendar was finally discovered.

This is evident by the number of solid titles coming out in March. March doesn't even end in "ember," so it isn't like everyone just got confused. Developers might actually be trying to *gasp* sell their games outside the holiday window.

3rd- Tom Clancy's HAWX (PS3, 360)
3rd- Halo Wars (360)
3rd- Phantasy Star Portable (PSP)
10th- MadWorld (Wii)
13th- Resident Evil 5 (PS3, 360)
16th- Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume (DS)
17th- Rune Factory (Wii)
17th- GTA: China Town Wars (DS)
17th- Resistance: Retribution (PSP)
22nd- Pokemon: Platinum (DS)
22nd- Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 (PS3)
24th- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (Wii, DS)
24th- Sacred 2: Fallen Angel (PS3, 360)
24th- Wanted: Weapons of Fate (PS3, 360)

Nintendo has once again crammed most of their quality titles into a single month for the year. Make it last kiddies. As always, this handful of good stuff is once again releasing alongside about forty titles ending with a "Z" or has something to do with pet shops or eXtreme stuff.

Halo Wars is out and will hopefully serve as a bridge between two groups of gamers. Hopefully a few Halo fans will become tactical players and hopefully the tactical guys will decide to check out the Halo series and see what all this FPS business is all about.

Along with Resistance on the PSP and Resident Evil 5 on PS3 and 360, I'm most excited for MadWorld in March. Nintendo is continuing its quest to claim a few more "hardcore" gamers and that equals one badass, bloody, black and white romp that looks like a delight to flail a Wii-mote through.

Keep in mind, if MadWorld is as great as it looks, it will most likely be ignored by ninety-nine percent of Wii owners and fade into oblivion just like Boom Blox and No More Heroes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Movies to miss in March

I once again find myself having to do a bit of nit-picking to come up with something resembling a "list" of movies to avoid this month. This either means everyone in Hollywood reads and, moved by my powerful words, have decided to quit producing crap, or it's just a slow month for movies in general.

What with Watchmen coming out, I can understand nobody wanting to fight for screen time. If all goes well, that movie should do a good job of choking out the Tyler Perry and quote, unquote parody movies still in theaters these days.

Race to Witch Mountain: I'm not hating on this one because it's a desperate cash-in on a formerly loved movie franchise. No, I'm hating on it because of The Rock. What's this Dwayne Johnson business he's going by these days? It's no use running from your past, Rock. If you're hoping to re-launch your career or something, might I suggest starring in a good movie?

Knowing: This is a movie wherein Nick Cage plays a professor who finds a numerical code that foretells of disasters past and those yet to come. Now he's in a race against time to stop the final prediction of the end of days from coming true. First of all, if this numerical prophet has been right on the money for centuries, what chance does Mr. Bangkok Dangerous have of saving the world? Secondly, I'll tell you what I know: this movie is gonna be poop.

The Accidental Husband: I'm all for romances, but something about playing love games with people's heads and hearts seriously pisses me off...Yeah. That's my gripe with this film. It taste an awful lot like bitter, huh? Silly or not, I hope the world accidentally misses this movie altogether.