Sunday, September 26, 2010

Game: Metroid Other M

I've held off on reviewing Metroid, which I finished a couple weeks ago, mostly because I'm afraid it will sound too negative. Not being a huge fan of the franchise or, more importantly, someone who has actually played the previous games, I might be "missing something" that makes the game better than I felt it was. Objectively, though, as a fan of good action games, I can judge it just fine. My only hope is that I can offer something that isn't repeated ad nauseum in pretty much every other review on the Internet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Game: Enslaved (demo)

This review will be something of a departure from the norm, as what I've played is not a full game, but merely a demo that released yesterday. I was looking forward to it not only because I appreciate a playable demo of any new game, but Enslaved: Odyssey to the West in particular needed one to really see its strengths and weaknesses close up. Releasing on the same date as the new 3D Castlevania game doesn't do it any favors, either. (Note: Castlevania doesn't have a demo, but it does have reputation.)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Game: X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

Back when I reviewed the Prince of Persia movie, I commented on how normally, movies based on video games are not very good. The reverse is also usually true - a video game based on a movie (and let's face it, these days there seems to always be one) is usually terrible. Most of the time it seems like a quick cash-in attempt, with little polish. By and large, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the exception to this rule, to the extent that it's a more enjoyable experience than the movie itself. Sure, the movie was lame, so maybe that's not glowing praise; nonetheless, the game delivers a visceral action experience that builds on the genre God of War mostly invented and adds a few of its own ideas along the way. The end result is astonishingly fun.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Movie: Salt

I'm going to switch things up a bit and let you know right at the beginning of this review that I hope you do not spend money to see Salt. If you have Netflix, you can give it a shot after it releases on DVD, or maybe swallow a $1 at Redbox. I had movie cash from a previous purchase, so I saw it for free, and I still feel ripped off. From top to bottom, the movie is just nonsensical in the worst ways, trying to throw the audience a bone by not insulting their intelligence with too much exposition, and then failing in the exact opposite way and not offering enough. People behave like - this must be my new catchphrase or something - they are in a movie, and their actions have no consequences. Actually, now that I think about it, that's how people behave in reality, too. The plot is preposterous, and I literally found myself throwing up my hands in exasperation a half dozen times during my viewing, at a loss for how anyone involved in the production thought what just happened on screen was the best idea.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Game: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands

I read once on the internet that games published by Ubisoft tend to drop in price quicker than many other games. I never really paid attention, and then the newest Prince of Persia game (subtitled The Forgotten Sands) came out in May prior to the movie release from the franchise, and has since seen its price free-fall. Console games this generation release at 59.99 usually, and maybe within 6 months depending on a game's sales, the price will slowly move down. The Forgotten Sands was on sale this week, less than 3 months after release, for 19.99. It's normal price hit 39.99 some time ago. I decided that I could live with paying that amount for a game that new. Having finished it, I can safely say that it was worth every penny of its sale price, and probably more. It's a very fun game that is not without its faults, but nonetheless an excellent entry into the continuing series.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Movie: Despicable Me

Late to the party on this one. This is a review that didn't get written so soon after seeing the movie for some reason, despite knowing pretty well what I wanted to write about it. That right there was an awful sentence, quasi-alliteration aside.

I think I saw a Despicable Me trailer for the first time around winter, and it was pretty sparse; it showed the sequence of Gru (voice of Steve Carell) trying to break into Vector's (voice of Jason Segal) fortress and the many ways in which he utterly failed. That was pretty much it. From that I construed a pretty different idea of what the movie would be about, because of my own background. Several years ago, a video game was made called Evil Genius, which put the player in the role of a, well, Evil Genius, and allowed them to build a sinister fortress into which unpleasant superspies were constantly trying to sneak. It was a bit on the silly side, including insidious torture devices like a giant blender that spun the spies around until they got dizzy. I've also read a book called Evil Genius (no relation between franchises), so one can see why I was already hatching a plot in my head involving Gru and Vector's competition for world's most awesome super villain. In this, I was only half right.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Movie: Prince of Persia

Movies based on video games have, almost without fail, been pretty lousy. There are pockets of fans who staunchly believe that the first Mortal Kombat film was, in its relative faithfulness to the game, actually decent. It had its moments, but Street Fighter, Doom, and their ilk have cast such a shadow over anything related to gaming that breaking through that barrier at this point seems almost impossible. It isn't just the stigma attached to the crappy movies; there is a feeling about video games themselves that they are childish, silly, and could not possibly tell a good story. While anyone who has actually picked up a game can tell you differently, movies are not targeted just at gamers. They have to appeal to the widest possible audience, so whether or not the source material is good enough to stand on its own is often a moot point.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Movie: District 13: Ultimatum

Going international with this one.

Luc Besson, most commonly known for his work writing and/or directing films like The Professional (aka Leon), The Fifth Element, and Transporter, often does work in France as well, evidenced by the first District 13 film, released in 2004 and which I randomly came across on Netflix. That film was set against a near-future Paris split into districts, with a particularly nasty ghetto (B13) in line for total destruction by some nasty dudes. Starring David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli, it was a neat, if not terribly thought-provoking action movie that showed off the respective skill sets of its two main players. Belle is regarded as the founder of an increasingly popular athletic discipline known as parkour, which is a sort of open world gymnastics. The agility and athleticism required to reach full potential are what Belle brought to the first District 13 film, as he runs and jumps fluidly and without hesitation. In one of the recent Bond films, Casino Royale, the man Bond is chasing early in the movie is practicing parkour.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Movie: Watchmen

I was pretty late to the party on this story. When the film came out, it was the first I had ever heard of Watchmen, so I ignored it since I didn't know the background. Then, one day, I needed something to read and while at Fry's, saw the graphic novel for $15. I devoured that, because the story was gripping and the characters were wonderful. Thus, it was time for me to view Zack Snyder's vision of the novel, and I am happy to report that it was done well.

For the uninitiated, Watchmen takes place in an alternate America, where we won Vietnam, Nixon was re-elected (twice!), and vigilante costumed heroes roam the night, but Russia is still a Cold War threat. The threat of nuclear holocaust is more real than ever, and the populace lives in various stages of fear and paranoia. The story revolves around not just the state of the world, but a few of its inhabitants, those who would see justice done to criminals no matter what - the Watchmen. Possessing no super powers, but highly trained and resourceful, they broke rules police had to abide by, until the government shut them down in the late 70s. Now a few still work in the shadows, but even they are not prepared to put a stop to the end of the world.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Movie: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

It's been eight years since the first Ice Age movie came along and reminded us that good CG films didn't necessarily have to come from Pixar or Dreamworks. That first entry in the series had a lot going for it - distinct characters, clever writing, a simple road map for a plot that wasn't dull. Personally I wasn't a huge fan of the sequel, mostly because I never took to the new characters. Queen Latifah's female mammoth was OK, but the possum brothers were mostly annoying. For the third movie, only one new character is introduced (and retains all the previous ones), so the focus is mostly on the story.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Movie: Armored

This one's for you, Ryan.

I picked up Armored on a whim, because it seemed like a pretty simple movie to just relax and enjoy. About the only thing I knew was from watching the trailer, and it appears that it does a good job of promoting the movie's plot. I haven't seen Matt Dillon in anything for a while, but Laurence Fishburne and Jean Reno had supporting roles, so how bad can it be?

In Armored, former soldier and Silver Star-earning Ty Hackett has caught on with Eagle Shield armored trucks as a probationary officer after returning home. Amongst the men he works with on a daily basis are his godfather, Mike Cochrane (Dillon), Cochrane's brother-in-law Baines (Fishburne), and a few other guys. Apparently these six work in tandem at all times. Hackett has a younger brother who he now takes care of on account of their parents dying, and times are tough for the family. The bank wants to take their house, and there doesn't seem to be anything they can do about it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Movie: Ninja Assassin

I remember last fall, when I saw a trailer for Ninja Assassin. I thought to myself, "That looks like it could be a lot of over-the-top fun." Oh, how wrong I was.

The basic premise of the movie is muddled, to say the least. What appears to be the plot is that ninja clans have existed for centuries, and in the modern world they sell their services as assassins to the highest bidder. Two Europol agents have begun investigating the possible connections between these rumors and various assassinations, a path which eventually leads them to join up with Raizo, a rogue ninja who betrayed his clan and is now hunted by them. It seems that in the ninja world, forgiveness is not a common virtue.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Movie: Law Abiding Citizen

It seems that in the last couple years, Gerard Butler has been signing on to just about every movie that comes his way, regardless of genre, good fit, script quality, or a coherent story. How else can you explain his minor but useful role in Rocknrolla, the awful Ugly Truth, the pointless Gamer, and now, the almost-saves-him-from-being-Thomas-Jane thriller "Law Abiding Citizen." I think his agent is terrified that 300 was his peak, so he keeps making sure he works regardless of the outcome.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Review: The Invention of Lying

I think Ricky Gervais can be a "love him or hate him" kind of comic. You have to enjoy the sort of deadpan style he uses, because like a lot of comics, he has one joke that he does in a lot of different ways. I've enjoyed him in smaller roles in other people's movies, like Stardust, but this was my first time seeing him carry a film. To that end, he doesn't do too bad. I can, however, blame him for the film's shortcomings, because he co-wrote and co-directed it.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Review: Darksiders (VG)

Don't you hate it when you get invited to a party, and then you show up and see that none of your friends are there, and someone tells you that you weren't actually invited? If so, you can sympathize with the protagonist of Darksiders, War. This poor Horseman of the Apocalypse comes down to Earth after the Seven Seals keeping the balance between Heaven and Hell have been broken, signaling the end of mankind. Only...what's that? The last seal wasn't broken? Oops, War is crashing the party!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review: Batman: Arkham Asylum

I'm going to give this more of a gaming mag treatment this time - run through the plot and such before critically appraising the game itself (more appraisal than criticism, I assure you). During Steam's Holiday sale, the Eidos pack consisting of 20 games - including Batman, which released last June - was going for $50. Batman itself was a $50 retail game, so I jumped on it. I have found myself gradually steering toward this type of action/brawler/beat 'em up game since I played the first God of War. I had heard nothing but great things about the game, so why not?

The setup is this: Batman has captured the Joker (again) and is transporting him to Arkham Island to be imprisoned. During the processing, Batman voices his concern that it was a little too easy this time. Cut to Joker escaping the jailers and leading Batman into the Asylum - which is now overrun with henchmen and a good selection of Gotham's Most Wanted. Harley Quinn is at the controls, and soon it's Batman versus..well, just about everyone. The goal, simply, is to put them all back into their cells before...well, the story takes an intriguing twist about halfway through, and I'll leave it at that.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Review: Ghostbusters the Game

Ghostbusters came out in Summer 2009 with big expectations, mostly because of the creative team behind it and the often-touted physics engine powering the action. The game allowed you to leave your mark all over the virtual New York with the proton pack in all its glory. That, and somehow, the original actors from the movies were recruited to do the voices of their characters - Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson...even Annie Potts as Janine and William Atherton as Walter Peck are involved. With Aykroyd and Ramis penning the story, the experience is ultimately something like Ghostbusters 3 in game form, and despite how often games based on movie franchises can suck, this one doesn't. In fact, it captures the spirit of the movies remarkably well, and its main shortcomings are in the gameplay, not in the translation from one medium to another.