Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: The Looking Glass Wars

This is a catch-all review for the three novels making up the Looking Glass Wars series, by Frank Beddor. These books include The Looking Glass Wars, Seeing Redd and Arch Enemy, the last of which came out late 2009.

A fan of reimagined worlds, I first heard about this “true” history of Wonderland through the Hatter M comic books. (A good read if you’re into those funny books.) The idea is simple- Charles Dodgeson (A.K.A. Lewis Caroll) got it all wrong.

While on the run from her murderous aunt Redd, Alyss (because even her name was spelled wrong) winds up on earth where she tells her life story to Charles Dodgeson. Thinking her tales fancy, Dodgeson records them as two novels telling a story that barely resembles the “facts.”

Alyss was, in fact, heir to Wonderland's throne, a position her evil aunt aims to claim. Hatter Madigan is a blade-wielding military genius, the Cheshire cat is a shape-shifting assassin and the white rabbit is actually an albino tutor by the name of Bibwit Harte.

Friday, March 26, 2010

UFC 111: St-Pierre vs Hardy- Echo calls it

Is it just me or does Hardy look less like he wants to punch someone and more like he wants you to try to pluck a pebble from his hand? I'm no big-time photographer, but I'm pretty sure a reshoot was in order on this one.

This card is interesting because we've got three fights in a row pitting less experienced up-and-comers against some fairly seasoned veterans. I'm fond of these match-ups because the more experienced fighter never wants to get beaten by the young buck and said whipper-snapper knows toppling a big dog is a great way to garner attention. Did I use enough silly nicknames there? Good. On to the predictions...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Review: Battlefield- Bad Company 2

The original Battlefield: Bad Company was a lot of fun to play. You had a massive set of open maps to explore, vehicles (from tanks to golf carts) to tear up the countryside with, and a cast of characters and a story so zany you sometimes forgot the vast majority of your time was being spent putting extra holes in a whole lot of Russians.

Bad Company did not take itself too seriously and, for that reason, it stood out for being a lighthearted approach to a genre usually home to more grim tales of intrigue and double crosses.

Most likely fueled by a determination to reclaim the shooter crown and borrowing heavily from more “serious” offerings, I was a bit disappointed by how close to these other shooters Bad Company 2 treads.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Review: Gorillaz- Plastic Beach

Damon Albarn and his make believe band of misfits, the Gorillaz, are back for a third outing in Plastic Beach and, while the least radio friendly of the batch, we end up with another collection of fantastic ditties blending hip-hop, funk, techno, rock and one of the most random assortments of collaborators known to man.

Following the orchestral intro, Snoop Dogg bids you “Welcome to the Plastic Beach” in his laid back, gangsta drawl. One of the less exciting tracks, “Welcome” may have worked better appearing elsewhere on the album.

As is, things don’t really get rolling for me until track four, the brilliant “Rhinestone Eyes.” What follows is a series of twelve tracks, all of high quality, coming together to make a bright, summery contrast to Gorillaz’s second, darker album, Demon Days. Like a trip to an actual beach, this Plastic variety is a relaxing concoction.

Read it: Choker

I was onboard with Choker, the new title from Ben McCool and Ben Templesmith, for about 95 percent of the book.

This being McCool’s first creator owned project, I went in knowing only one thing about the guy-- His name is McCool, so whatever he has to offer has to be quality, right?

As for Templesmith, I get all dreamy-eyed every time I see the guy’s work, so I knew I was in good hands when it came to the art. He is, in truth, the reason I picked the book up.

Choker number one begins with a wonderfully unsettling scene of a young woman being held captive in some creepo’s dungeon of a basement. We get the distinct feeling this girl is in some serious trouble and then, bang, we’re introduced to our story’s hero, Johnny Jackson.

Jackson is a down-on-his-luck ex-cop-turned-private-investigator with a crummy life, working in a crummy office in the crummy part of town.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

It must first be said that I did not see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 3D. Blasphemous, I know, but it did clue me in to something I would have missed had I been watching the full, glorious, multi-dimensional version.

As 3D takes more steps toward becoming a legitimate part of our viewing experience, movie, television and game developers must be careful not to cross the line between “viewing enhancement” and “gimmick.”

I’m sure everything looked spectacular in 3D, but a few too many odd angle choices and objects being thrown at the camera proved distracting in this particular film.

Also, there are three scenes of someone riding an animal/beast across a large landscape with orchestral music blasting in the background. Fine the first time, but I can’t help but guess these scenes looked particularly pretty in 3D, thus justifying their frequent use. Otherwise, I was left baffled by the recurring treks.

Also used to the point of distraction were the CG effects. I’m reminded of a scene in one of the Hannibal novels where the good doctor informs Clarice dining room decorations are tricky. Too little is fine and too much is fine. Fall in the middle, though, and it can look like a mess. District 9 would be an example of the former with Avatar being the latter.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

An interview with Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times best-selling author and multiple Bram Stoker Award winner. He's written for magazines and comics and penned multiple fiction and non-fiction novels and short stories. His work usually involves things that go bump in the night and, last year, staticechoes reviewed one of his latest novels, Patient Zero, that dealt with exactly that.

If you'll recall, I dug the book quite a bit. Patient Zero's hero, Joe Ledger, was tasked with heading up an elite group of soldiers, known as Echo Team, under the umbrella of the Department of Military Sciences. Their first mission was to put a stop to a terrorist plot to release a virus capable of creating an army of bloodthirsty zombies. The book was action-packed and left me eager to find out what happens to Ledger and his cohorts next.

The Dragon Factory hit store shelves March 2, picking up shortly after Patient Zero and pitting Echo Team against bigger threats with even higher stakes riding on the outcome.

To find out more about the man behind the words, visit his Big Scary Blog for an in-depth bio, news and loads of interviews and articles on the publishing industry. For now, though, Jonathan was kind enough to speak with staticechoes about his career, inspirations and, of course, those things that lurk in dark corners.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday mini-movies: Dog gone edition

I'm not sure why I found this video so amazing. Perhaps because I could barely get my dog to climb five large rungs of a ladder leading up to a slide when I was a kid. I've never known a dog to be much of a climbing animal so much as a leaping-really-high animal.

That must be why this K9 expert of all things vertical had me absolutely bewildered.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: The Crazies

The Crazies is a rare breed- a horror remake that's actually quite good. Still, despite all that the film gets right, I left the theater feeling a little disappointed. More annoying is the fact I can't, for the life of me, figure out why I had that feeling.

The story is simple, but effective. I'd say it's cliche but, since it's based on a movie from 1973, the premise was probably pretty original back then. Today, though, we've all watched the government screw up big time and try to cover it up in explossive fashion about a million times.

So, here we are in Everytown, America, enjoying an afternoon baseball game when a local yokel shows up with a shotgun and a mean case of creepily-staring-off-into-space. Turns out this dude is street-rat crazy. I'm talking needlessly homicidal crazy.

Anyway, as the local sherriff, played by Timothy Olyphant, tries to figure out what the hell went wrong, a group of soldiers outfitted with big guns and gas masks storm in and put the sleepy town on lockdown as more and more people start coming down with the "I want to kill my neighbors" virus.

This is perhaps the film's strongest point. Between the perfectly normal, overly aggressive soldiers and the infected townfolk, you never really know which group to be more afraid of. I'm sure this says something about the human condition and our apparent need to kill one another, even without the help of a government created virus, but I'll leave that to the more scholarly reviewers to decide.

A big plus for The Crazies is the fact you actually care about the core group of survivors you spend most of the movie following around. They aren't the most lovable bunch, but you want to see everyone get through this whole mess safely. It's that very connection I find missing in the vast majority of horror films and, for that reason, the cast should be commended.

I think what bothered me the most was the fact the film was a bit too straightforward and the crazy folks only show up a handful of times. There's no big twists or reveals here. Nothing left to ponder. And as for the movie's namesake, the crazies are visually arresting and do a great job of creeping you out, but they simply aren't a big enough part of the film for my tastes.

I'd recommend The Crazies to any horror fan in desperate need of a fix. There simply aren't many quality films in the genre and, when a good one pops up, you pretty much need to make seeing it a priority. Go in looking for a few good scares, great "monster attack" set pieces and possibly the best knife-kill of the decade and you should be a happy camper.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Movies to miss in March

Other than the upcoming Alice in Wonderland, March doesn’t have a lot going for it on the ole silver screen. Most offerings are just mediocre, but a few look especially bad, earning a spot on the monthly list of Movies to Miss.

Hot Tub Time Machine- I hope I’m wrong about this one, considering that it has a pretty good cast, but any plot that involves a group of down-on-their-luck men climbing into a hot tub and teleporting back in time to when they were young chick-magnets seems like a bad way to build a movie.

She’s Out of My League- I like Jay Baruchel and I’m happy to see him step into a leading role, but when a comedy’s trailer fails to make me crack a single grin, that’s usually a sign to just pretend said movie doesn’t exist.

Remember Me- I’m recommending everyone stay away from this film for one simple reason: It’s a romantic drama starring everybody’s favorite sparkling bloodsucker, Robert Patinson. Ignoring the fact he’s a tool and probably should be ignored on those grounds alone, can you imagine what the theater is going to be like when this movie is showing? Twilight Moms and Twi-Tweens squealing, swooning and weeping openly for two straight hours…Yeah, no.

Bounty Hunter- Gerard Butler plays a bounty hunter who gets sent after his ex-wife, played by Jennifer Aniston. Eventually the pair get caught up in a murder scandal and find themselves on the run together. My money is on a cliché rekindled romance amidst flying bullets, sub-par action sequences and a hilarious scene where one accidentally walks in on the other one naked (So embarrassing!), but hey, I could be wrong.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Games to get in March

The assault on your wallet continues this month with another ridiculously good selection of videogames to spend all your money on. Yay!

2nd- Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (PS3, 360)
2nd- MLB 10: The Show (PS3)
9th- Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, 360)
9th- Yakuza 3 (PS3)
14th- Pokemon: Soul Silver (DS)
14th- Pokemon: Heart Gold (DS)
16th- God of War III (PS3)
16th- Resonance of Fate (PS3, 360)
16th- Dragon Age: Awakening (PS3, 360)
16th- Metro 2033 (360)
23rd- Red Steel 2 (Wii)
23rd- Just Cause 2 (PS3, 360)
30th- Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City (PS3)

Talk about some powerhouses. The month begins with a bang as the new Bad Company hits store shelves early and, if my time with the beta and demo speak for the full game, shooter fans are in for a huge treat.

Shortly after, Americans finally get their hands on the ridiculously long awaited Final Fantasy XIII. We may have seen screens for this title before FFXII even released but, hey, better a lengthy wait than never, right? With no towns, little character interaction and nothing to offer in the line of mini-games, this iteration aims to boil the RPG genre down to its most basic elements and focus on story and combat. Here's hoping it's a winning formula!

There's a lot of (hopefully) great stuff coming out this month, including the subterranean shooter Metro 2033, the latest in the Pokemon series and the over-the-top antics of Just Cause 2, but I once again find myself being especially drawn to a single title. In March, it's God of War III. I'm a huge fan of the series and the year-old E3 demo left me wanting more and, come mid-month, I'll get exactly that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have celestial Greek patricide to daydream about.