Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Trouble With Tribbles, And My Rock Band Obsession

Merry Christmas and Happy New year everyone. Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to say that the holidays and travel have kept me from my laptop. I'd like to say this but that would be a lie. My first day back at work last week was also the day I found the box set of Rock Band. This game has consume me in ways previous games never could, with the exceptio of Final Fantasy games. I even went to a freinds house to drive him back to mine so we could enjoy a three-member band. No one is stepping up to sing (and I'm not complaining) so I'm quite happy with three people. Some tracks are harder for some instruments than others and its fun to see who had the hardest "workout." The multi-player is the focus of this game, but the single player is useful for practicing the instruments.

Comparing Guitar Hero III (GH3) to Rock Band (RB) is going to happen. GH started this trend with instrument props to replicate guitar rock so its only natural. I will point out other older prop based rhythm games but they don't match up t the quality promised by GH and RB. These include Donka Konga, with small bongo drums, and Samba De Amigo, with maracas. (I'm not counting DDR since you dance, you don't help make music.) I'm sure if I played DK or SDA I would have liked them, but there is something cathartic about "wailing away" on a plastic guitar to Black Magic Woman or Sunshine Of Your Love. GH3 is way harder that RB. I had managed to get more than half-way through GH3 on hard when I made the move to RB. I started RB (with guitar) on Hard and I never looked back. Hard on RB is like Medium on GH3, it just uses all five (5) fret buttons. I'll practice a new RB song on Medium, but move up to hard when I learn it. This isn't really a knock on the game but I had no idea how hard GH3 really was. It's great training for RB, though.

There are a number of pros and cons to each guitar controller. I use the GH2 controller and it also works perfectly in RB. GH2 pros include well defined fret buttons and a sturdy strum bar. I use a three-finger approach to playing, my pinky just isn't up to the challenge. So, I'm sliding up and down the frets on higher levels to match the notes in game. This is made easier by well because the yellow center button has a ride and I can tell what finger is on, and I know where the rest of my fingers are, too, without looking. The RB guitar fret buttons, on the other hand, blend together and it's hard to feel them without looking. They have little bumps (and I mean little) on the buttons for the first, third, and fifth ones, but my finger tips have become numb playing PH3 so much I can't feel them in RB. An odd thing about the GH2 guitar is the click it makes whenever you strum. This can almost distract from the music on screen as your are constantly clicking. RB solved this with a silent strum bar and its worlds better. In fact, the RB guitar is better all around except for the fret button issue. RB also added extra fret buttons for guitar solos and a switch to changle the "voice" of the guitar. Both are unnecessary for gameplay but add a little more flexibilty to your play style. During game play your on-screen fret board will turn blue to indicate a guitar solo, this is the only time you can use the "other" fret buttons. Sadly, I never use them because I have to take my eyes off the screen and miss a note or two just to use them, and the same to move back to the original fret buttons. Nice idea though. They are supposed to make solos easier because you don't have to strum the solo.

Now, for the reason I wanted Rock Band. As soon as I heard there were drums I wanted to try that more than guitar. I'm not alone in my desire since Harmonix/MTV produced like a million of these things hoping more that one person wanted to do this. I also understand that playing GH3 doesn't teach you how to actually play guitar, but Madden 2k7 doesn't really train you for the NFL, either. But the drums are a little different. You actually have to use a real drum stick (actually 2, duh) to hit a drum pad to match the beat, as well as a foot pedal to simulate the base drum. This is way closer to actually learnig an instrument, and I want to see if I have a drummer in me or not. Right now, I have a drummer set on Easy within me, which includes short forays into Medium. This is not an instrument for the faint of heart, especially playing anything by Metallica. I've also noticed punk music requires a lot out of a drummer. The makers claim if you can play drums on Expert you can play for real. I like this challenge but I'm a long from it. Neil Peart I am not. I'm bearly David Grohl. My only complaint in all of this is where are the Jimmi Hendrix songs. My desire for Acheivement points for my GameScore has gone out the window, replaced with my desire to "learn" to play rock music.

Yesterday (December 29) is an oddly important day in Star Trek history. It is the 40th anniversary of the Tribble. The Trouble With Tribbles aired 40 years ago yesterday, and all thanks to David Gerrold, who submitted the plot as a college student. Since then Tribbles have become an icon of Star Trek, almost as much as Vulcans. For the 30th anniversary of the episode, Deep Space 9 did a time travel tale, called Trials And Tribble-ations, back to Space Station K7 while Kirk was there. The DS9 crew interacted with the "old crew" by being inserted into the film of the original episode. Kind of like a cross between Forrest Gump and Back To The Future II. An interesting scene in the episode is when the DS9 crew question Worf as to why Klingons of Kirk's time look human and Worf brushes it off as something embarassing Klingons don't mention with outsiders. It wasn't expained until season 4 of Enterpise that a genetically engineered virus was to blame. Tribbles pop up again briefly in another David Gerrold script for the animated series, again in Star Trek III, and final plans are for David Gerrold to write an episode for the fan-made Star Trek: New Voyages. He had originally wrote himself as a crewmember but was replaced, eventually getting a part in ST:TMP as a crewman during the opening briefing scene and gets a cameo in the DS9 Tribble episode. Gerrold's original reasoning behind a Tribble story was to show what happens when an aggressive species is introduced into an environment without predators, like the rabbit to Australia. The Tribbles hadn't counted on the Klingon, which it reactes to negatively.

The most famous scene, re-examined in DS9, is Kirk opening the bin of wheat only to be cascaded and burried by Tribbles. As it turns out (SPOILER WARNING) someone from the future had planted a bomb in a Tribble to kill Kirk, and the DS9 crew are in the bin above, scanning each Tribble with a tricorder and discarding each "safe" one. These are the individual Tribbles that rain down on Kirk during this whole scene. My favorite part of the DS9 episode is when they find the suicide-bomber Tribble and beam it into space, to safely detonate. It floats scerenly for a moment then explodes. Never has a scene been so tragically-funny, toe-tappingly tragic as Dr. Zoidberg would say. Worf eventually explains that Klingons hate Tribbles so much they went to the Tribble homeworld and destroyed it.

I finally watched I Am Legend and found it much better than the critics have given it credit for. At a latter time I will compare it to The Omega Man, which has more in common than not. I did find that I Am Legend did everything right that failed to work (for me, anyway) than The Omega Man. Will Smith portrayed the sense of a human in survival mode with an edge of lonelyness, where Charlton Heston had an almost unbelievable cavalier attitude towards life. Where Heston (an awesome actor on his own) failed to convince me of his character, Will Smith succeeded in spades. Now I just have to see The Last Man On Earth with Vincent Price to really trace the evolution of the story. See you next broadcast.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We Built This City On Rock Band

When Christmas lands on just the right day, you tend to get a good number of days off, including weekends of course. With four days off in a row and all the Xmas obligations I tend to forget what day it is, and in turn the last time I wrote a blog. I've spent my non-blog time watching movies, Xmas shopping, and playing Guitar Hero III. A good amount of time has been scouring New Haven County for Rock Band. This is obviously the Tickle Me Elmo of gaming. I knew this would happen (justifying its an awesome game) but I tried anyway. Nowhere to be found. Now, I'll have to stake out all my favorite places before the end of the year, hoping they get new shipments or someone returned an unopened box. The employees of the stores I went to showed my they had the game, just not the box with the instruments. HUH? You can't buy any of the three instruments (I'm counting the Mic as an instrument) separately so why bother playing the game; it kind of defeats the purpose of having it. On the X360 the Guitar Hero III controllers (and third party guitars) will work but you lose out on the drums, until they go on sale in February. Funny, I did find lots of PS3 Rock Band sets. In the mean time, I've found new life in GH3 with co-op mode and unlocking more achievements.

My "Secret Santa" at work bought me Spider-Man 3 on DVD so I'm watching the all three this vacation. I never realised how much Tobey Maguire cries throughout the saga. If he doesn't marry MJ by the fourth movie, I'm done with Spidey. I can't take it. He's already married in the comics, so make it work Mr. Raimi. I'm not really adding anything new here, but I'm impressed with the number of background characters from the comics represented in their pre-evil forms. Even the first movie Jameson refers to Eddie Brock and I missed it. However, Sam Raimi just took a bunch of plot elements, put them in a blender, and reattached them to different characters. Gwen Stacy is by far the anomaly. She suddenly pops up in number 3 when she ought to have been around since the beginning, and her death has already been mirrored by Green Goblin's attempt on MJ in the first one. These aren't really complaints since I've enjoyed all three, but we know these characters and suddenly they're out of sequence, or something. Kind of like the Marvel Ultimate line of comics, reboots of the comic franchises. I read one Spider-Man issue were he was going out with Kiddy Pride, which actually made sense at the time. Maybe we'll get the Vulture in the next movie.

I went out to see National Treasure 2 this weekend and Bruce Greenwood played the US President. You may remember Bruce Greenwood from I, Robot, but more importantly he will be Christopher Pike in the new Star Trek movie. Since I read about him I had always thought he was too old to be Pike, then I remembered a little tidbit of info. The only time we see Pike (other than the mutilated, wheel-pod bound beeping Admiral) is on a video that took place thirteen (13) years prior to the episode. So step it up a decade and maybe Pike could look more like Bruce Greenwood. I read in interview with JJ Abrams, and his writers, assuring Trek fans everywhere this isn't a "reboot" per say, like "Batman Begins." The movie takes place in the established continuum, when Spock from the "current" post-TNG era (circa 2375) goes back in time to help his former (younger) self deal with some Romulan issue. The past time period takes place before 2366, the first time We see the whole crew (sans Chekov) together. This movie is supposed to show how the crew formed and how the Kirk-Spock-McCoy friendship started. I've spent entirely too much time in the Star Trek continuity to want to see something that isn't part of the five (5) shows and ten (10) movies, so I'm happy to report that the new movie will not contradict what came before and hopeful reinvigorate the franchise, without the need for a "Reboot." And, if we need any more reason to see "Cloverfield," the first previews of Star Trek will be shown.

And speaking of Star Trek, Saturday (Dec 22) was the 40th Anniversary of the Second Season episode "Wolf In The Fold." This is one of the classics; a murder mystery that ties Jack The Ripper with an intergalactic entity that feeds on fear.Scotty is blamed for the murder of three women while on shore leave. On the surface this sounds like a typical episode but let me tell you what really happens in the story. Just prior to the opening Scotty receives a concussion when a female crewmember causes an explosion in his face. As part of his trauma he resents and hates all women, which doesn't sit well with Kirk (I wonder why). Kirk decides to head to Argelius II, a poor man's Risa. In other words, a strategically positioned Pleasure Planet. McCoy supports Kirk on his rehabilitation of Scott by taking him to a strip club. If seeing half-naked women, dancing to snake-charmer music, wearing tinsel doesn't fix you on women nothing will. Scotty, immediately feeling, escorts a young lass Kirk hooks him up with (so Kirk's a pimp now) to "escort" her home. Luckily the planet is perpetually covered in fog and she's murdered with out any witnesses and Scotty blacks out. This happens like two (2) more times WHILE SCOTTY IS IN CUSTODY FOR MURDER, and he's continually to blame for everything. Bypassing all sorts of legalities Kirk takes the case up the Enterprise. Eventually it is discovered that the Chief Of Security for the planet, a Mr. Hengist (played by the voice of Piglet, John Fiedler), has been followed by a non-corporeal entity, known as Red Jack, that feeds on fear, and can hide in humanoid bodies, causing amnesia. So Scotty really did kill them, wow. Knifed each of them like twelve (12) times. Red Jack floats around the ship trying to scare people so Kirk orders everyone to be inoculated with Space Weed or Space PCP. Red Jack, unable to feed, goes back in to Hengist, who is then disabled and put in a transporter, then beamed into space at full dispersion, killing it. Everyone is now high on the Enterprise, so what does Kirk do? Send them all down to Argelius II for detox/shore leave. Recap: PTSD Scotty taken to Strip Club planet, possessed by Jack The Ripper murders three (3) women, cleared of all charges on Enterprise, crew given Space Marajuana, kills Red Jack, crew given shoreleave while high. Areglius II must hate Starfleet.
My favorite part is when "Piglet" starts screaming "I'll kill her, I'll kill you all."

On a side note, I was playing Guitar Hero when I noticed an ad, on the wall of the virtual bar I was virtually playing in, for Terminator: The Sarah Jane Chronicles. Does this mean my Xbox is advertising from Xbox Live straight to the game. Thanks MicroSoft; this is like in-game spam. Then I came across a preview for the show on XBL and I have to say I like it. I want this show. Didn't see much of River/Summer Glau as the female Terminator but I have faith. So I'm watching all three (3) movies again to divine any knowledge I may have overlooked. It sounds like the TV show will ignore the third movie and just be a sequel to Judgment Day. It also appears we have a Fourth movie in the works, called Terminator Salvation. I noticed the lack of number, so will this be in the TV show chronology or the movie chronology? I love Time Travel movies. See you next broadcast.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

There Are Four Lights

The Christmas season slowly approaches and with it come Xmas parties. My blogs have been sparse due to the holidays and I'm making this one brief for the late hour my party ended. Since I've been on the subject of anniversaries lately I have failed to mention a couple important ones. The first of which is Star Wars' 30th anniversary this past May. It's amazing what three (3) decades have done to the franchise and the many more tales to tell. If I can think of the most influential movie on my childhood it would be Star Wars. In between Star Wars movies was another obsession of mine. Star Trek. I became hooked on it in the 70s when it was in re-runs, and then went to the movies, and followed all the new shows as they were produced. As it happens we are all in the middle of the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek. And to celibrate, the SFX team at Paramount is making the Hi-Def special edition version on TV and HD-DVD with CG enhanced Special Effects, and 5.1 surround to boot. This all done without compromising the integrity of the show. I haven't seen a bad remastered episode yet. It's almost like watching a new episode every week.

But wait, there's more. The Next Generation (TNG) is also celebrating its 20th Anniversary. Started in 1987 this was a staple of my Saturday evenings. When this show came into its prime by the third year my family and friends and I would all gather to watch. I can't think of any other show (maybe X-Files) that brought everyone together. Come January of next year Deep Space Nine will enter its 15th Anniversary. The defining Space Opera of the franchise, almost every episode built upon the next, defining the politics and people of the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants, changing the way the viewers understood many of the races and characters. All this accomplishment while juggling the series along side TNG and then Voyager. Once the show ended the only Trek remaining on TV was Voyager, whose Season 4 is currently enjoying its 10th Anniversary. And that's not all, The latest incarnation, Enterprise, was on the air 5 years ago. A family of anniversaries.

During TNG Season 6 a two-part episode aired called Chain Of Command. The second part is the better of the two (2) and it aired 15 years ago today (December 21). Not one of the best stories, the two episodes did usher in Deep Space Nine, about two (2) weeks later, by setting up the Cardassians (first introduced during season 4) as the bad guys. The story revolves around hidden Cardiassian WMDs with MetaGenic properties and a possible surprise attack on the Federation. Picard is relieved of command and made a commando, along with Worf and Dr. Crusher, to infiltrate Celtris III and find these weapons. The majority of the story involves Captain Jellico, Picard's replacement, and the difference in their command styles. This mostly seems like filler for the Picard bits eventually leading up to his capture. Part 2 is notable for Picard's sadistic torture at the hands of Gul Madred. In fact I thought this was the only good part of the whole story.

The problem I have is I refuse to believe that Picard is the only person that could be sent on the mission, due to the sensitive, classified nature of the weapons. Section 41 (Trek's version of the CIA established mid-way through Deep Space 9's run) is a clandestine branch of Starfleet that does all sorts of "illegal" and classified missions. This would be perfect for them. Am I to assume, all this time that Picard is a member of Section 41? That's like saying George Lucas is a CIA assassin and his movies are a front for his missions. There's no basis for it. The Cardassians turn out to be lying just to lure Picard to Celtris III to be captured. David Warner plays Picard's torturer, Gul Madred. (Gul is a Cardassian rank, not a name). Warner's name should be recognizable immediately as SARK in TRON, and his human counter-part, Dillenger. After failing to get Starfleet tactical info from Picard, he then plays a mind game by showing him four (4) lights and trying to painfully convince him there are really five (5), in homage to 1984 during a similar interrogation (using fingers instead of lights).

There are only a couple redeeming moments on the Enterprise and that is Riker's relief of command when he blows up at Jellico for his treatment of the crew, and Jellico's tactic to warn off the Cardassians and get Picard free. The former is great because Jellico later needs Riker's help and Riker lays into him even more. (Note that Data is First Officer with the Red Command Shirt in the absence of Riker.) Makes me wonder how Jellico even made Captain. Maybe Starfleet was desperate after the loss of ships and personnel from the Battle Of Wolf 359 against the Borg two (2) years before. I guess the script writers wanted us to hate Jellico but everything seemed so contrived, by letting Picard get captured, I couldn't suspend my belief during most of the two (2) episodes. And after watching Jellico (played by Ronny Cox, better known for his roles in RoboCop and Total Recall) cleverly set the Cardassians up to loose, by planting mines on their hull while their sensor's were blind, showed us that even though he's a jerk, he's right anyway. I don't buy it. Since TNG had a lot of trouble writing two-part stories after the brilliant "The Best Of Both Worlds," I think the writers needed to create tension for the sake of tension and not for driving the story. And in the end Picard is given back the ship, looking almost non-plussed about being tortured, and everything goes back to normal, status quo. I know this is how most Trek episodes end but it's so glaring here that it begins to show the strain the writers must have had to produce the show for seven (7) years.

Once again, though, Patrick Stewart's performance was extraordinary as much as David Warner was controlling, even letting Madred's daughter in to watch Picard suffer. It is later revealed that Picard did snap and was saved just in time before admitting he saw five (5) lights. This is another case of a bloated two-parter. This should have been one episode and Jellico removed mostly from the story. Once I learn how to edit film I would like to do just that and find a way to post it. The above Status Quo issue I have with some episodes of TNG begins to disappear with Deep Space Nine and becomes a welcome relieve, like a weight lifted from the writer's shoulders. Classic Trek (aka TOS) always operated under the Status Quo premise but rarely felt as contrived.

I took a week off from Guitar Hero III to rest my weary left fingers and try to develop feeling again in my finger tips. I think I actually developed calluses from the game. Seven (7) new downloadable songs are now available, and, with the exception of the guitar version of We Three Kings, all the rest are a bit harder on Medium that I think they ought to be. It's like they wanted to make the songs much more challenging than fun to play. But, that's a small gripe and I'm hungrily devouring the new content. See you next broadcast.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Until The Crystal Cracked

I have seen many movies that drained my intelligence while I watched. Very few do the exact opposite, and The Dark Crystal is one of them. I actually feel smarter just watching it. This movie has enough good ideas for twenty (20) movies. I think Jim Henson's company had a meeting of the minds over some Halfling weed and the outcome was this movie. A live action movie with no human actors. I have a hunch if Yoda had failed in Empire Strikes Back this movie would never have been made. Or, put another way, thanks to Yoda I bet Jim Henson was inspired to do make a movie with an all Muppet cast. And a diverse cast of creature it is. Every character/muppet is fleshed out enough to seem real. The backgrounds are filled with natural imagery that blends well with the muppet actors to create a believable world. A world so far removed from our own that the plot had to be a simple tale of good and evil, wrapped around prophecy and extinction. Even though the plot is really nothing new (it's kind of a kids movie) it's refreshing to see it applied to such a lush fantasy environment, which reminds me a little of the "fairy tale" realm of Legend. I've seen live action movies with real people that failed to convey the richness of story-telling that is given to us in the Dark Crystal.

Comparing this movie now versus when I was a child is more difficult than I thought. This movie brings out the child in me. And the child in me says the Skeksis are the most real looking creation in the movie. If Raptors became the dominant, sentient life-form on Earth they would look like the Skeksis. These things move, act and talk like actual creatures. And, when I was a child, they came off kind of scary. Evil should be scary so you can tell them apart from the good guy Mystics. In the Audio Commentary the conceptual designer, Brian Froud, even admits to combining Birds and Dinosaurs to make the Skeksis, which beats Jurassic Park to the connection. They even have teeth and beaks, and each of the ten (10) Skeksis looks different. SPOILER WARNING. Two (2) of the oddest/creepiest moments in the movie comes with the death of the emperor, as this dessicated near-corpse of a bird-thing rattles out it's death cry to gasp a final breath (in exact opposition to the gentle fading of the Mystic leader, Yoda-style), and the Chamberlain's banishment, when all the others gleefully tear his clothes off while he screams, leaving him a nearly naked Skesis clutching the wall, moaning like he (it is a he isn't it) was raped. Eerie. And it's disgusting to watch them eat. If you find yourself loathing them and finding them uncomfortable to watch, then Jim Henson did his job perfectly. You're supposed to hate them.

The Mystics, also called the UrRu, are the balance of evil; being gentle, giant multi-armed cow-trolls that hum a lot and contemplate the universe (I think). They move slowly and appear as ancient as the Skeksis are hideous. Their valley home and environment is natural with lots of life and the water that supports it, much like a park. I even began to realize that spirals are a motif on their monuments and artifacts and even in the wrinkles of their skin. It gives them a history, and reminds me of the Valley Of Wind from Nausicaa. Some of the most stunning visuals in the movie are the long distant shots of Mystics on the move towards the Crystal Castle, very slow and graceful. They practically had to start walking at the beginning of the movie to make it there by the end.

An interesting, almost zen, approach to the UrRu and the Skeksis characters is that their souls are linked. They were once a single creature, an UrSkek, and now separate. Much like Kirk when split by the transporter accident in "The Enemy Within" one is good and one is bad. However, unlike Kirk, when one is injured or killed so is the other. As a child a hated the idea that your life is at the mercy of the bad guys. This produces an interesting dilemma about fighting the Skeksis, if you kill one you lose a Mystic, too. Not at all an American philosophy. As a Skeksis dies it crumbles to ash while a Mystic merely fades away, pushing the yin/yang of the split race.

But this is a story of the Gelfling of prophecy know as Jen, the last Male Gelfling. He's directed to fix the Dark Crystal by finding the Shard and replacing it. The Shard is in the care of Aughra, who ought to be Yoda's girlfriend. The one thing that stood out the most to me as a child was Aughra's observatory, which looks like a brain growing out of a mountain. The orrery (yes, it's a real word, look it up) was the most fascinating prop to me. It represents their star system, their world. I thought our solar system was busy, their system is a mess. One planet (I think its a planet) is bisected and both halves rotate separately, must be a gas giant. I was, and still am, angry the walking lobster-crabs (called Garthim) destroy her home. And that is another thing I applaud in the story is that danger isn't watered down. There is death and consequence in this story. Even mother-nature rears its ugly/beautiful head as creatures succumb to the food chain. In fact the planet's swamps look like a brighter version of Dagobah. As Jen explores the world he encounters the last Female Gelfling. The two (2) mind meld and join forces to fix the Crystal. Then the Pod People appear and they certainly look like in inspiration for Ewoks, except the Pod People are cool. These guys are more expressive in the few times they're on screen than most actors. The Garthim attack the Pod People, putting them in baskets to take back to their masters as slaves. I don't know about you but the basket/net they stuck the Pod People in looked a lot like the human basket holder of the Tripods in T Cruz's War Of The Worlds. Just a thought.

I'm going to explain a little of their planet, called Thra. Orbiting a trinary star system, Thra is home to several different sentient life-forms (since Earth has one, maybe two, this is astounding) that all seem attuned to the planet, except the Skeksis, which consume life (literally) to stay alive. Jim Henson's shop should be given bonus points for creating critters all up and down the food chain. The Skeksis castle has these little rodent sized black puff-balls rolling around all the way up to stilt-walking Camel-sized Land-Striders as riding animals. There are things that are plants or animals, you can't even tell, they're like a "planimal" or something. Check out the "Land Anemones" on Aughra's mountain. Even Jen comments, "this place is weird." When an actual character in the movie thinks it's weird, that's saying something. And by contrast is the Skeksis Castle, a giant claw grabbing at the sky, is surrounded by cracked, desolate earth. Of note are the dark clouds above the castle. They flash with lightning but it never touches the ground. The castle seems to absorb energy through the ground, sustaining the inhabitants, as the deep chasms surrounding the area draw in energy waves.

I could go on all night writing accolades for everything done right in this movie, but I don't want to uncover every stone. Much like TRON (yeah, TRON) The Dark Crystal was uniquely created and no other movie since has matched the style and feeling of wonder watching it. It's a strange movie to behold but a simple tale that's easy to follow, with creative direction at any corner. The ending is fairly predictable but still fits in with the nature of the movie. If the movie had ended any other way it just wouldn't feel right. And we're less than two (2) years from the sequel. Unless, you hate muppets, see this movie again immediately and refresh yourself and uncover your own stones. BTW, Crystal Method's debut album, Vegas, featured samples from this movie on their opening track, Trip Like I Do. See you next broadcast.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Precious

I had great plans this weekend to Christmas shop and wrap presents and write more Blogs and then TNT decided to torture me by running a marathon of ALL 3 Lord Of The Rings movies. That put an end to everything short of minimal life support activities. If I could have hooked up an IV while watching for 12 hours I would have. The movies are so hypnotically gorgeous how can you not watch it. So much has been written over time about this story there really isn't much I can add beyond my belief that D&D/RPG geeks everywhere owe everything to Tolkein. And that's up to and including World Of Warcraft. The world stopped and nothing mattered as I watched Frodo's trip to Mt. Doom again. If you don't think time travel exists watch this trilogy and when it's done you won't know what day it is. My favorite of the three is the first one, The Fellowship Of The Ring. Once I had seen the movie in theaters I didn't want to see any other movies for a while for fear of ruining the experience. In my mind there was no way any other movie coming out could even come close. So I went back and watched it a couple more times until I could move on. It was like a religious experience.

I did manage to watch one other movie this weekend: The Omega Man (TOM). I wanted to watch this before seeing I Am Legend (IAL). I have a funny feeling IAL is nothing like TOM. SPOILER ALERT. Charlton "Mr. NRA/Moses" Heston vs. Will Smith's Robert Neville. This is a definite Cult Classic but sadly it is almost too campy for me, and I used to watch Adam West's Batman. I know I'm not being fair to this movie but it just looks dated. There are quite a few things I liked, however. Watching the head of the NRA run around with an arsenal of weapons killing cult members like it's his job just makes sense somehow. There is no vampirism in this movie but a cult of post-doomsday, near-zombie people that shun the daylight, and hate everyone who doesn't look pasty with sores and wear aviators. Neville spends his days mapping out LA for supplies and trying to find the cult (aka The Family) headquarters. By itself this could make an awesome video game, like a cross between GTA and Dead Rising. Speaking of Dead Rising, the cult in that game reminds me a lot of The Family in this movie. There was this moment in the beginning of TOM when Neville realizes it's dusk and he hears telephones ringing everywhere in the city. He staggers, looks at the nearest pay phone, then declares it's all in his head. The ringing stops. Huh? WTF? They never explained it but it gave me an eerie feeling, the same eerie feeling I had playing Silent Hill when the Darkness was preceded by an air raid siren. This might be a coincidence but I doubt it.

Sadly there are a lot of things left unexplained. I could justify this by saying, "if Neville doesn't know it, we don't know it," but some things just don't make sense. For the most part it surrounds The Family. At one point they put aside the prejudices of the 70s and all people are one, but they immediately hate the person that could cure them of the "zombie-itis." The backstory here is a war breaks out between Russia and China and biological agents are used. This spreads around the world infecting everyone. Neville is a Doctor with an experimental cure that uses it on himself when his helicopter crashes. The rest is history. Why it doesn't kill The Family isn't explained but it appears to work really slowly eventually killing them. Of course we don't see this as Moses happily guns down the cultists like he's euthanizing them. "Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty cultists!" Later on Heston finds more humans, a black lady (played by Rosalind Cash) he later gets Jiggy Wit' It (side-boob and full-boob), and another guy who's only redeeming quality is his middle-finger jacket. There are some good points and bad points but (and I'm guessing here) this is almost nothing like the book. However, the movie has whet my appetite for IAL even more because I see all the great things this movie could have been in the 70s.

There is also a call for racial equality which I always applaud in movies but seems slightly stilted here. Kind of like how it stood out in Volcano even though it didn't have to be said. In TOM prejudice is already put aside because humanity is pretty much dead, so there ain't really a chance or reason to be racist anymore. There are only two (2) groups of people, the zombie cult (who all look like Ashy Larry) and the survivors (2 adults and some children). The group causing all the grief is The Family. The survivor lady, and her younger brother, once were part of the family but they got kicked out after a while. Huh? Some stuff just doesn't make sense. What I'm trying to say is I already got the message without the need to spell it out. But I'd like to add, good for Neville for hittin' it. I'm leaving out several plot points so as not to ruin everything because I think everyone should see this movie and make up their own minds. For my part I had a hard time believe huge chunks of the movie, but I see where it spawned a lot of pop culture media from movies to TV shows to games.

Today is the 25th anniversary of The Dark Crystal. I am so old. I was 10 when this was in theaters and I remember discussions in the household over whether it was too scary or not for me. "Not Scary" won out and I got to see it. Every child should see this movie. The creative work of Jim Henson's muppet people is a sight to behold. I've never really liked birds and I blame this movie for it, especially vultures, as the Skeksis are an awesome and creepy to behold. Especially when they strip one of their own of its clothes. That's just some weird stuff to show kids, but so imaginative. I've even heard rumor of a new Dark Crystal movie in development. Please don't let it be CG, muppets are the way to go. See you next broadcast.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I Am The Last Omega Man Legend On Earth

I Am Legend begins today. The next big vehicle for the Fresh Prince. Hollywood continues their trend (when did they ever stop) of redoing classic movies, and this one is the redo of The Omega Man. I have claimed in the past I am a sci-fi geek, but I've never seen this movie, so I found it today on HD-DVD and I will absorb it in all its glory before seeing the new one. Both movies are based on the book by Richard Matheson named I Am Legend which also spawned a graphic novel. I have heard a few origin arguments and I'm here to tell you (thanks to Wikipedia) The book came first. There have actually been four (4) movies made but Omega Man has been the most famous, presumably until now. However, The Omega Man differs in many areas from the novel and I suspect Will Smith's version will be more accurate, so I'll hold off on any comparisons until I see both movies and get a book in my hand.

Yesterday (December 13) was the 5th anniversary of Star Trek: Nemesis (aka Star Trek X). Next December will be the new JJ Abrams Star Trek so doing the math equals six (6) years between Star Trek movies. This is the longest gap between Trek movies, ever. Like Blue Harvest before it the Trek movie has a code name disguising its purpose. That name was used this week at the Long Beach City Hall building that's doubling as who-knows-what for a project called Corporate Headquarters. This is the same thing Abrams did with "Cloverfield," however that name stuck. I don't care who is the cast I may not spend my money to see "Star Trek XI: Corporate Headquarters." I can see the tagline now, "Star Fleet HQ... not even close to a frontier... these are the jobs of StarBase 1... to search for meaning in a sea of computer work... to boldly head to the break room before everyone drinks the coffee." If it's done like Office Space uhh.. in space... I am so there. BTW the City Hall site was used as part of Caprica in the original Battlestar Galactica.

The past two (2) Trek movies, Insurrection and Nemesis, didn't do to well in the box office. I have always felt Insurrection as the weekest of the four (4) Next Generations but Nemesis is an excellent Trek movie. This movie exemplifies Space Opera and becomes theatrical in nature during some of the scenes. This was supposed to be Picards "Wrath Of Kahn" but it slightly missed the mark. Of note on the writing staff is John Logan, one of the co-writers of Gladiator, and a professed Star Trek fan who loves Romulans and pushed the movie to include them. He even went so far as to rally the powers to be to let him write the Romulan episodes of Enterprise, but sadly that show as cancelled before the Earth-Romulan war could be told. Where "Wrath Of Kahn" had an established villian to mirror Kirk, Picards "Nemesis" is a clone of him named Shinzon, raised in the hell pits of Remus, Romulus' slave/mining planet. If the writers had layed some clue as to the Romulan Cloning project or Shinzon himself during Deep Space 9 or Voyager the impact of who Shinzon is to Picard would have been batter. All this aside once you see him face-to-face with Picard you can feel the tension, and you know it will have to be relieved by an all-out starship battle. You don't introduce an awesome ship like The Scimitar and not use it in battle. It should be noted STX came out around the same time as the next movies in the Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, and 007 (Die Another Day) franchises. No wonder nobody saw it.

SPOILERS. Star Trek Nemesis is about a revolution on Romulus by the Remans, lead by Shinzon, to regain the glories of the Empire and attack the Federation while it is weak, I'm guessing from the end of the Dominion War. In a lesser plot point Shinzon needs Picard's DNA to cure a fatal illness indemic to his type of cloning. In the background is Riker and Troi's wedding and his Captaincy of the USS Titan. This movie repesents the most current (or farthest) point in the Star Trek timeline, set in 2379 and the novels have picked up where the movie left of to Chronicle Riker and the Titan. This is a darker toned movie which slowly builds to an impending starship battle we've all come to love in Trek movies. The slow parts are almost too slow. If the writers hadn't given away the "punchline" for Shinzon they could have kept us in suspense much better during the dinner scene. That is probably my biggest problem with the movie. That and the amount of character development that hit the cutting room floor in favor of the action scenes. Many of the scenes in the previews were all axed by the time film reached the screen. John Logan gave fans a starship battle we've been waiting for, all the things we hoped to see and more. You didn't have to be a genius to understand the tactics and it really felt like battleships were going at broadsides-to-broadsides. It reminded me a lot of the Leiji Matsumoto's Captain Harlock space battleship attacks.

Some oddities appear in the movie worth mentioning, like Wesley Crusher. He left during season 7 of Next Generation by quiting Starfleet Academy, becoming a trans-dimensional being, and exploring the universe with The Traveler. But now he's back from Outer Space, with that look upon his face (sorry, I don't know how that happened) and he's at the wedding reception in uniform again. According to the editted stuff he's even an engineer on Riker's Titan. Someone just glossed over nine (9) years with no explanation. Shinzon is bald, and appears at the young age Picard was at the Academy. But Picard had hair during his early years and only began loosing it after the death of Jack Crusher, an event that takes place a decade before Picard gets Enterprise D. My only guess here is that during some of his academy days he shaved his head (or maybe Starfleet has a Boot Camp with mandatory head-shaving rituals). It is possible that since we only see the above two (2) time periods of Picard with hair during a Q flashback and an unballanced dream sequence, maybe he lost all his hair in his youth and he just remembers wrong. When Picard rams the Enterprise into the Scimitar (wicked cool) Shinzon orders full reverse and breaks free. Huh? It should have just dragged Enterprise around. He must have pushed Enterprise with a Tractor Beam and but the transmission in backwards. Finally, I think Shinzon went through a huge ordeal to find another Soong-type Android, called B-4, scattered across a pre-warp planet just to bait a trap for Picard so he can steel some DNA, and declare war on the Federation. It seems some his machinations could use some explaining. Regardless, this movie still kicks ass when it has to and takes names. All hail Data, pour some Romulan Ale on the curb.

Tarantino has claimed many of his influences have come from Japanese and Chinese cinemas and their bloody, violent obsessions with killing everything on screen. Now Japan has a new movie sure to be a cult hit, and their answer to Planet Terror, called The Machine Girl. Another Asian movie doing the Hollywood remake rounds is The Eye. A buddy of mine showed me the original a few years ago and I was impressed, sort of a Sixth Sense thing about a blind lady who gets an eye transplant and can see things others can't. The remix now has Jessica Alba (thank you God) and now I'm definately gonna see it. BTW Office Space is airing once again on Comedy Central this Sunday (December 16) and I know I'll be watching it for the 87th time. I own this on VHS and DVD and I still watch it on TV. I love this movie. However, this writer's strike has got to end before I start watching more Reality Shows.

I used to build Star Wars models when I was a kid (I think I still am) but this dude built the coolest AT-AT model since the one used for filming. In a close second is this Vader's TIE/N64 morphling. If only I can mash one thing not Star Wars with one thing Star Wars and output an awesome psuedo Star Wars item. Like a Land Speeder and a Space Shuttle model duck taped together and try to sell it to NASA to replace the Shuttle Fleet. What happened to replacing something with something better. I know the Orion is gonna be better, but it still looks like the Apollo capsules it's based on. You know, cars now don't look like cars of the late 60's. C'mon NASA I want to see the Lambo of interplanetary space craft.

Now for a not-so-cool idea: GLOW IN THE DARK CAT CLONES. Yeah, South Koreans are still trying to clone things (remember the guy who faked his experiments and is in a heap of trouble) like cats, and they succedded. I'm not gonna get technical but through some gene therapy (I think) with a florescing DNA something or other... look just read the news here. At least they get to experiment with cloning, not like America where some confusing religious zelousness ruined our T-Cell research. So now the world has UV glowing kittens from South Korea and not America. We should be making glow-in-the-dark clones bunnies or meerkats or something. We're going to learn that a glow-in-the-dark kitten in every home cures cancer, reduces road rage and lowers the planets temperature. All that will go to South Korea's credit while we keep occupying Arab/Muslim/Persian countries looking for free oil. This week the price of Munchkins went up at my Dunkin Donuts, solidifying my theory they're made from Crude Oil. See you next broadcast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saturn - Lord Of The Other Rings

Saturn is the only outer planet (from Jupiter outward) NASA has a probe around, known as Cassini. This is arguably the most beautiful planet we have. And there is a lot we don't know about. Saturn is the Roman god of agriculture and harvest. Not a very prophetic name, but harvest might be applicable since we have now discovered a bounty of 60 moons orbiting the ringed planet. I love astronomy and I love a good mystery. When the mystery is astronomical, even better. The big mystery of Saturn revolves (pardon the pun) around the rings. When did they form? What are they made of? etc. The basic thought has been some odd millions of years ago a couple moons and/or comets collided producing millions and millions of icy particles that eventually formed the rings, so they are pretty new. Not so, says Cassini, that has been studying Saturn, rings, and moons since the end of 2004. According to this recent news article, the rings may have been there since the beginning of the solar system and are self perpetuating. In other words, the moons of Saturn help "feed" and shepherd the ring particles. Awesome.

Monday I forgot to put in a viral video of the week so here is my belated entree, Indian Superman. All I can say is "wow." Speaking of masked heroes,Yahoo has these new pics of The Dark Knight including first shots of The Joker. I am so looking forward to this movie.

Philip K. Dick has written so many different kinds of Science Fiction and even invented the Cyberpunk genre. The movie Minority Report has been one of my favorite adaptations, even though Spielberg made it his own. Then comes A Scanner Darkly. With little of the expected trappings of sci-fi (especially PKD's sci-fi) this is incredibly engrossing once you let yourself go in the story. The "Scramble Suits" just look made for the animation and make the conversations that much more interesting. I swear, Keanu Reeves is the poster child for future controlled societies. To me the animation style is a reflection of the drug addled minds of the main characters. And I found the dialog more entertaining than the plot itself. I had a feeling I knew where the plot was going but to have the two characters, played by Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson, constantly feeding each other's paranoia really made a lot of sympathetic characters out of drug addicts. And was it their fault or not their addicted? There are good questions asked, but not asked, by this plot that shows a police agency with unlimited powers in the near future. I hated to see Fred/Arctor end up the way he did but I want to believe his actions will still lead to a better tomorrow.

Journey To The Center Of The Earth is my current read. Much easier on the brain than Frankenstein and equally as good, I have only explored the first ten (10) chapters. This has been no more than a character study of the two (2) mains and a travelogue about going from Hamburg to Iceland to the volcano that leads to the Center Of The Earth. And it is so well written I don't mind the extraordinary time taken to explain locations and peoples and languages. An excellent insight into the minds of the 19th century. The book is written from Axel's first person point of view as he (and you) embark on a journey with his/your uncle Professor Lidenbrock. For those that haven't read Jules Verne before I found he hooks you immediately in the story and keeps feeding you little tidbits until the big story happens. I haven't been this absorbed in a novel since reading Michael Crichton's older works, like Sphere, Jurassic Park, or Prey. Since this is translated from the original French I'm impressed that a certain poetic touch remains in the language when read in English. I'm also a fan of the the 1959 movie. There have been a few attempts to remake the story for TV, but they never impressed me as much as the movie. Maybe the new 3-D movie will do the story justice. We'll have to see August 8th, 2008. Get it? 8-8-8? Whatever. There's probably a code game online or something to be planned next year, something like the rune code in the beginning of the book, but I'm just guessing here.

One of the questions I've asked myself many a time is why I like Manga over American comics. I enjoy reading our comics but something always stands out and gets my attention in Manga. Maybe it has to do with a single story written and drawn by one person in Japan versus our design by committee ideas, but I think it is the willingness of Manga artists to take chances. Sure, American comics take chances but a status quo is general kept intact, except for the past few years worth of Marvel plotlines. I'm referring to the titles I used to read in the 80s. Not only did Manga feel foreign but they told more epic stories that felt large, like Space Operas. I'm reading two (2) such titles now. Parasyte and Death Note I've mentioned before so time to insert some SPOILERS.

In the first volume of Parasyte a quiet invasion of (you guessed it) parasites invades cities all over the world but one in particular attacks Japanese high-schooler Shin. The parasites normally attack the head taking over all functions of the human body and feed on other humans. Shin lucked out and the parasite only merged with his right hand, leaving his human brain intact. They both form a friendship and decide to try to eliminate other Parasytes in the area. Shin is forced to carry a large burden in trying to rid his town of these things and manages to kill a few, and finds one in particular that leaves him alone out of curiosity. You see, Parasytes are territorial and will kill each other on sight. On the surface this seems like a disruptive take-over but the Parasytes are just looking for hosts, not take over the world, however humanity is threatened in the long run. Shin learns much by the time his parents decide to take a vacation to the country. In the second volume is where the story throws Shin a curve ball. A parasite's human body is killed but it manages to detach from the corpse and finds Shin's mom, killing her. It then injures the Father and heads back home to kill Shin and his sister. Eventually by the end of the volume Shin and another half-parasite/half-human kill the Parasyte/Mother. It changes the tone of the whole story and I applaud the character development. There will be eight (8) total English volumes to match same number of Japanese volumes. Only up to Volume 3 has been released by Del Rei. BTW I like Del Rei's Manga covers. From design to paper stock they actually feel like your reading something special.

As I said before, Death Note is a about a human, named "Light Yagami," who is given the power to kill anyone in the world by writing their name in a book called a Death Note. As a top grade A student and son of the head of the Japanese version of the FBI, he feels he's destined to make the world a utopia without crime. He then sets out to kill hundreds of criminals worldwide to test the powers of the book and scare others straight. A cult grows around these deaths that are blamed on a "fictitious" person, Kira. INTERPOL gets involved and asks a mysterious super-sleuth, named "L", to track down Kira. This series is part "Fugitive" and part "No Way Out." Both sides are rather sympathetic but there is an edge to Light that hints towards a certain amount of insanity. In the second volume, Light may have slipped up, when "L" gets the FBI involved, investigated the Japanese police and Japanese FBI personnel. Light decides to get super-clever and gets the FBI agents to kill each other, using a torn out page of the Death Note and forcing an agent to write names on it. Little does Light know an agents fiancee is in Japan (and she's former FBI that worked a case with "L") and she decides to hunt Kira. Light for the first time is on the defensive and kills her using the book, hoping to draw attention from himself, since she figured it out. Light has now shown he's willing to kill anyone to stay hidden and "L" finally showed his face to the police in an effort to draw out Kira/Light. An intense story but I now feel Light is beyond redemption and has slipped to the Dark Side. I'm now looking forward to "L" capturing him. The Manga produced 12 volumes in Japan, all of which have been translated, so I know the story is no where near being complete by vol 2.

I've been letting the fingers on my fret hand/left hand rest for a couple days before mushing on through Hard and it looks like the crazy British dude is reviewing Guitar Hero III this week. Enjoy. See you next broadcast.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Absent With Out Leave

That time of the month for me again when I become AWOL from the "blog-o-sphere." My Army duties kick in and I have to disappear from the "Geek Grid" for a while until after the weekend. Saturday I received my mandatory flu shot and by today (Monday) I felt it working as I think I had a fever or something. This gave me the opportunity to stay home and catch up on some more Geek related things.

Today I watched Children Of Men. I have had a hard time summing up this movie but I realized as a Sci-Fi movie that treads old conceptual ground, this story is incredibly fresh. It's the "Saving Private Ryan" for future-fascist post-apocalyptic Brittain. The movie could even be told today from the streets of Isreal or Syria, but by combining the familiar trappings of "civilization," in London, with the harsh realities of war torn neighborhoods of Middle Easters cities. Children Of Men takes cues from all of this to create a setting that is as much a character as Kee, the first pregnant woman in almost two (2) decades. Brilliant stuff. The hand-held cinematography is never too jarring, and looks more real than most home movies. One of the documentaries on the disc described the look of the future as the "anti-Blade Runner," which occured to me early on as many scenes show some technical advancements but are never pushed to the "Blade Runner" extreme because society is about to end. It's fascinating and horrifying to watch the future unfold before you throught he eyes of Clive Owen who is quite believable, with incredible events thrust upon him he never shirks responsibilty once the stakes are understood. Even Michael Cain is a believable "hippy" off the grid that helps keep Clive Owen sane during this trying times. Another excellent movie in the pantheon of future dustopian story telling. I could see this being the precursor to the Mad Max series.

I've started reading a Manga that recently cught my attention, Hunter x Hunter. I would place this in the catagory of "pre-teen protagonist that has rediculous adventures" such as Pokemon, Yugi-oh, Digimon, Monster Rancher, Dragon Ball (Goku is 6), etc. I generally don't like these stories aimed at the "younger" crowd because I just can't suspend belief enough to think any of these kids could survive the tasks put before them in their respective Manga. Dragon Ball is a large exception in my book because the saga, told over 42 graphic novels, is writen by Akira Toriyama, a master story teller. And Hunter x Hunter (the "x" is silent, just say "hunter" twice) is closer in tone to Dragon Ball in the wonder and excitement of a strange new land to explore than what new card/creature can Ash/Yugi defeat the bad guy with this week.Yoshihiro Togashi wrote HxH after establishing himself with YuYu Hakusho (aka The Poltergeist Report) which aired on Cartoon Network a few years ago.

Hunter x Hunter starts on familiar ground, main character Gon wants to be just like daddy Ging who is a Hunter, by taking the Hunter test, even though his Aunt and Uncle tried to hide the truth of his father from him. Hunters in their society seem to garner much fame, money and responisibilty and Gon meets a couple other candidates, Kurapika and Leorio, who more or less begin to work together to survive the tests. These tests are brutal, and the first volume of the Manga details the 405 candidates that make it to the test and a countdown of the survivors and the numbers dwindle. Creatures in this world are violent and "messed up," like the human-faced monkey and the hypno-butterflies, that had me hooked. I want to know what world they're in and why the ecology of their planet is so scewed towards carnivorous behavior. That's the Star Trek scientist in me, but there is a lot to like in this story and I hope the anime comes to our shores if it hasn't already.

The other Manga I've been reading is a much more adult (not Adult with a captial "A" you pervs) story that I would equate to a supernatural version of "The Fugitive," except the protagonist Light Yagami really is commiting a crime of sorts and the cops are after him. The supernatural in this tale surrounds the mythology of the Shinigami, the Japanese angel of death, and is called Death Note. This is the debut work of Tsugumi Ohba, which has been so well received as a first time story that many think this is a psudonym for a more famous author. The story itself is about a Shinigami who leaves his Death Note in the human world and a high school student finds it. The book has the power to kill anyone whose name is writen in it. There are limits but Light learns them as he decides to kill all the criminals in the world. A cult forms around him on the Internet, refering to Light as Kira (derived from Killer), and Interpol asks a top detective, only known as "L" to investigate the hundreds of criminals that are dying of heart attacks daily. As L gets closer to discovering the true identity of Kira, Light must manage to learn all the powers of the book to save himself and create a crime-free Utopia for humanity. This is not a black and white, good vs. evil, plot. Each viewpoint is rationalized but Light sometimes goes over the edge by killing the odd Law Enforcemtn officer that's getting to close to him, but L has his share of vices too. One of the best Manga I've read so far to come out of the 21st century.

My Guitar Hero career is still moving ahead strong and I've moved on to Hard. The learning curve from Easy to Medium is much steeper than from Medium to Hard, but not by a lot. I finally defeated Slash on Hard and that was an accomplishment. This didn't feel cheezy at all. I had to work at for a while, which is how it should be. I doubt I'll see him on Expert but I know he won't go quitely there either. My next hurdle is Cherub Rock on Hard. Those three-fingered split-cords are murder on the fingers. See you next broadcast.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There's No Place Like The O.Z.

Tin Man has played out now. At least Sci-Fi channel showed one (1) episode per night. If I had to wait three (3) weeks, I'd have been pissed. For the most part I liked it. Since I'm being a critic now I guess I'm supposed to find something wrong, so I'll just say it could have been 2 episodes since some things felt like padding to flesh things out. With that said there is a lot to like. The characters tend to run through cliched dialog at times but then a perfect gem is uttered and it renews my faith in the series. I'll be buying this on DVD, if for no other reason than to see it in better definition than 480i. Having been a fan of Doctor Who I should be used to great acting with sometimes horrible special effects, but with so much good actually going on in the story, the bad effects stand out even worse. Maybe if they had another million dollars or so.

My last blog I was listing differences and mistakenly thought the Wicked Witch O' The West was Azkadellia but it turns out... SPOILER ALERT ...I was sort of right. WWOTW's spirit was sealed in a cave and through some accidents when DG and Az were kids she possesed Az. So I was right and wrong and the same time, and Toto finally showed up. There were enough interesting ideas they could have just done their own thing and not needed to use the Wizard Of OZ franchise. The weakest of the three sadly is the last episode and I felt the writers were wimping out when using magic meant holding hands while the FX guys took care of the rest. I liked everything but the ending. Too abrupt and it felt forced. SPOILER END.

I finished reading Frankenstein which is an absorbing novel, since it was written around 1816-1817. This isn't for everyone since it is mostly written in first person (Victor Frankenstein of course) Victorian. So, I'll save everyone the trouble and briefly explain the novel. The title is for Victor (not a Doctor but a college student) Frankentein and his insanity and becoming God and succeeding, but not being prepared for the consequences. The monster, that has no name, is more of a super-human intelligent zombie. Several chapters are dedicated to him and his mis-adventures. SPOILER ALERT AGAIN: A ship is moving through the frozen water of the arctic when the ship encounters a mis-shapen humanoid riding on a dog sled heading farther north. Then another sled is found chasing after the first with Victor Frankenstein, who is the worse for wear and needs help. Once brought aboard he tells the ship's master his life story leading up to this moment. Victor was born to a rich family in Geneva, took an interest in science and alchemy, betrothed at a young age to his adopted cousin, and accepted to college in another country. At college he is taught that he wasted time learning alchemy but he still believes in the dreams of immortality promised by the ancient "masters" and applies his new understanding of the sciences to "making" a new life. Without a lot of explanation it works. Victor becomes terrified of his creation and goes to bed while the "monster" runs out and hides in the woods. From this point on Victor is mentally unhinged and becomes bed ridden with a fever every time he's reminded of the "monster." It takes a couple years to recover and he heads back home to Geneva, when he sees the "monster" in the outskirts of town. Victor arrives home to find his youngest bro murdered and his adopted younger sister to blame. Vic is sure the "monster" did it to punish VF (he is quite self absorbed in the book) for creating him. Afraid the townsfolk will think him insane he says nothing about the "monster" and they law hangs the girl.

Filled with grief, Victor heads out of town to climb a mountain and commune with nature when he comes face to face with his creation. Vic goes nuts and threatens to kill it but the "monster" reminds him he's an eight-foot tall killing machine. Then the "monster," trying to reconcile with his creator/father, invites him to a secluded cabin to hear his story, and then they can kill each other. VF agrees. the "monster" ran out of Vic's lab and hid in the woods, attacked by villagers, hid under an inhabited cottage, learned to read and speak, scared more people, ran off to other woods, saved a little girl, pissed of more villagers, found "the creator's" village, killed VF's younger brother and framed a little girl. The "monster" began as a good entity but everyone treated him like crap so he decides to take his revenge on Victor, the one who refuses to even name his creation. The "monster" is lonely because nothing else is like him and requests Victor to make him a bride and then they will both disappear from the world of man (in South America). Vic agrees and heads to Scotland, with his best friend, to make another. He comes to his senses and refuses after half constructing a new one. The "monster" becomes enraged and kills Vic's companion and frames him for the murder. VF spends the next year ill and in prison until his father shows up and takes him back to Geneva. The "monster" promises to be there for Vic on their wedding day.

Vic goes home and marries his fiancee, the adopted cousin Elizabeth, and stays awake all night waiting to be killed. But the "monster" instead kills his new wife. His father becomes ill and gives up the will to live and VF finally decides to hunt the "monster" like a Terminator. The "monster" then makes a game out of it by staying just ahead of Vic on his way to the Arctic, and leaving clues and food behind, just enough to keep VF alive. This is when Victor ends up on the ship in the arctic. After telling the tale, he becomes ill and never rises. The "monster" quietly boards the ship to murder VF but finds he already past in his bed. It then decides its reason for living is gone and it will never be accepted jumps out a window into the icy water and dies. THE END. Now I saved you $4.95 and 198 pages of reading. Next up I'm reading Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

That angry British guy who hates video games did his review of Assassin's Creed. Oddly he likes it and so do the guys at Penny Arcade. Much is being made over the low score game reviews. I think this game is good for all the reasons "real" people and not reviewers play games. I also watched the trailer for Twisted Metal on PS2. This begs the question, why the F are games still being made for this system. I like the PS2 like everyone else but I've moved on. This game just looks embarrassing and reminds me why I play the next gen games. Maybe Sony and all the other developers should leave the PS2 be and work on making a good library for the PS3. On the handheld market I was this video review of Contra 4 for DS. All the classic Arcade, 8bit, and 16bit love is there without the 3D failures of the PlayStation versions. I would buy this game just for the extras but there is all sorts of gameplay too. I wonder if the 30-man "code" is still there. There is also some new thing in Japan for the DS that reads a memory card you put in a special cartridge, and lets you watch downloadable anime. Or something like that. See you next broadcast.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Travel Storms and Cyborgs and the Outer Zone, Oh My

I hold a huge conceit against every movie Sci-Fi channel makes. I've tried watching the Saturday night monster flicks but I usually can't take more than a few minutes before giving up. Thus, I turned to Tin Man, not expecting them to do any justice to "The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz." I came to the conclusion after the first 10 minutes, "this doesn't suck." We're not talking Shakespeare here, but the retelling is quite inventive. Maybe I should say re-imagining because this is the Wizard Of Oz in concept only. There are little tidbits of the familiar, flying monkeys, tornadoes... that's about it. The Munchkins are more like the new Oompa-Loompas, but more colors (and pissed off); No Lollipop Guild; The Yellow Brick Road isn't yellow, and barely made of bricks; Tornadoes are for dimensional travel; The Wicked Witch Of The West isn't green or ugly, she's a hottie in a chromed out bustier and shoulder armor (and she has leather clad Nazi shock troops); Dorothy is only known as DG; No dog (yet); A town of Cyborgs; The Wizard does a show in drugged out burlesque theater; The Horse Of Many Colors is a 2-and-a-half-ton truck with every color of paint from Home Depot spilled on it; The Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man aren't the Scarecrow, Lion, or Tin Man; DG is a waitress like Sarah Conner. The list goes on. This doesn't make it bad at all, however. The same kind of thing was done to BattleStar Galactica and that show turned out fantastic. BTW DG is played by Zooey Deschanel, Trillion from the new Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy movie.

For everyone that plays 2nd Life news has come out recently of a creative, yet simple hack that strips you of your in-game money. You are basically being virtually pick pocketed, which is bad (duhh) because the in-game Linden Dollar which can be traded for real money. This threat to you can easily be disabled with a trip to the menus.

Other little tidbits of news have popped up. Ready for the holiday season is a quick review/reference guide to the new Star Trek novels of the season. Since we sadly have no new Trek to watch the books do provide a good diversion until next Christmas. Use the guide to avoid the few bad Tribbles in the list. The best book on the list is a Next Generation book, Q&A, about Q and some connection to Encounter At Farpoint. This is on my Christmas wish list. Speaking of books, the Barnes & Nobles on Post Road in Orange is closing and a lot of books are going on sale. Now's a good time ransack their wares.

Wizard's Of The Coast is creating an online campaign for the Star Wars roleplaying game, Dawn Of Defiance, and the first chapter of ten became available this week. The game is set between Episode III and Star Wars, letting PCs play out one of the crucial moments in the formation of the Rebellion. I haven't picked up the game yet, but maybe this Xmas/Light Day I'll get lucky.

I'm beginning to think I should have a Nintendo Wii. After watching the trailer for No More Heroes, I decided it's about time to ad this to my Xmas list too, along with Super Mario Galaxy.

I looked around for a while trying to find a descent top 100 all time anime from Japan list and I came a cross one from TV Asahi. At some point I'd like to write a review of each of the series that are available in America. Gives me an excuse to watch more anime.

#78 on IGNs list of games is Legend Of Zelda: Link's Awakening. I never had a GameBoy but I did have a Super Nintendo, so I bought a Super GameBoy. The Super GB is fantastic, stick it in the SNES cartridge slot, then put your GB game in the cartridge. The screen was a little smaller than the TV screen but you could add a border and even change the game colors so they weren't black and white (okay, black and pea soup green). Like all Zelda games before me I sat in front of it with my full attention to get all the puzzles and absorb all the game play. I never imagined, at the time, that a GameBoy game could be this deep. It took me two (2) months to complete and it's a great addition to the pantheon.

#76 is FINAL FANTASY VII. This is one of the most important games ever made. Why it's so low on the list makes me question the validity of this list. This game moved the esoteric, fan-boy loving RPG genre into a gloriously weaved story of artistic proportions. I bought a PSX just to own this game, and it was well worth it. There isn't much more I can say that hasn't been experienced/written before. My love of Square Soft (now Square Enix) began here, and it continues to be my favorite. From the pre-rendered cut scenes to random Star Wars references, this game created the standard for future installments, brilliantly leading to FFX. This game, however, created my true hatred, Sephiroth. I don't need to tell you of my love of Aris (I prefer this over the re-release Aerith). I spent so much time with her, learning the city, understanding the resistance, traveling the world. I trained as best I could to be a warrior and spurned other women in the party just for her attention. I loved her. Until Sephiroth stabbed her in the F'ING BACK and ended my happiness, forever. I hate him so much. I ruined a relationship with the girl I was seeing to kill him. It took 20 minutes and everybody I had, down to my last spell and hit point. I thought it was over. Then he resurrected somehow, and with great joy I watched his punk-ass die again. Rewind, and I get to watch him die, again and again and again. I F'ING HATE HIM. I hope I never meet the voice of him because, so help me, I'll snap. I'll have a flashback/PTSD moment and kill him. Sorry, my therapist told me not to bottle up stuff like this.

#75 is GoldenEye 007. Best damn FPS made, until Half-Life & Halo. Using only one (1) analogue stick on the N64 you could still play the game. Prior to this was Turok, but it didn't compare. GoldenEye created a polygon filled environment that just seemed right. All the weapons and enemies, and friends, were perfect. This is a rare moment when everything in development of a game meshes, creating an experience, more than a game. The familiar music and the incredible multi-player just added frosting to the 007 cake. Proximity Mines have got to be the most important weapon created for an FPS until the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 2. This team of developers would later go on to make Perfect Dark.

#73 is Resident Evil. I have one tale to tell, a listen well. At a friends house he powered up the extraordinary PSX (at the time there was nothing like the pixilated 3D worlds of Sony) and loaded Resident Evil. I was amazed at the mansion I ran around in. Trying to get a feel for menus and clunky controls I bravely walked down the corridor of doom that introduced me to survival horror. This isn't the unsettling environs of Silent Hill, RE created the in-your-face Survival Horror genre. As I walk down the quite corridor I pulled out me pistol. I didn't trust the hallway but the reassurance of a nine-millimeter in my hand was almost as good as liquid courage. I approached a window when suddenly two (2) undead dogs burst forth in shattered glass and barking and howling. I think I dropped my controller. What ever happened I stabbed every button I could in three seconds time and to no avail. The dogs ended me in no time. I threw the controller down and never played again. I thought the first movie was great. Those few seconds of horror I experienced was well put into the movie, and then some.

Here's the viral video of the week. Don't try this at home unless you're a drunk guy with a Suzuki Sidekick, and a giant dirt ramp. See you next broadcast.