Friday, November 30, 2007

The Mist (2007) dir. Frank Darabont

The Mist has been one of my favorite Stephen King novellas for years though I can never remember if it's in Skeleton Crew or Night Shift...I think it's in Skeleton Crew. In any case I wasn't particularly thrilled about a movie adaptation until I found out that Frank "Shawshank" Darabont was directing. He has a good handle on the whole King vibe and in any case it's a horror movie and I have a bad habit of seeing whatever horror movie is in the theater unless it's Saw XXIII.

Long and short The Mist is a good solid monster movie that for me took a nose dive into melodrama in the last minute - literally the last minute of the movie. I would have enjoyed the movie more if there weren't a couple of jerk offs talking through the movie and some old guy whose snoring was primordial. Seriously this guy sounded like a sound effect from the movie.

If you're going to see The Mist then I do recommend seeing it in the theater. Personally I would like to see it at a Drive In but that's just me.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Because I love you all so very much...

Hitman (2007) dir. Xavier Gens

I'm gonna get this out of the way right at the start here and say, "Hey reviewers who panned this movie - go fuck yourselves. Go watch another fucking Wes Anderson movie."

With that out of the way Hitman is not a great movie but what the hell are you expecting Chekov? It's not only an action movie but an action movie based on a video game. Hitman is better than The Transporter series, better than The Marine, and better than most of Van Damage's movies period.

This is the kind of movie you go see with your buddies - or kick ass girlfriend - and have a good time. You cheer when Agent 47 kicks the hell out of dudes, wolf whistle when the hot Russian chick wanders around half naked, laugh at a particularly gruesome kill and just enjoy yourselves on a Saturday afternoon.

What really sets Hitman apart is how high quality the movie is - a fact the reviews don't mention. Cinematographer Laurent Bares makes every shot look professionally slick and cool in a European way - not in the cheap made on HD way a lot of action movies have now. The music was perfectly reasonable for not being a Jesper Kyd score. It was mainly some kind of Euro electronic action-y score. Nothing really special but at least it wasn't some bullshit hip-hop score.

Hitman delivered for me. Hell if you don't believe me then see what Ebert had to say.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving, Signature Pork, Mass Effect, and an upcoming Hitman review.

Like my grandpa used to say, "There's another Thanksgiving shot in the ass." but in a good way. It used to piss me off when he would say that but now I'm beginning to appreciate the sentiment. There's lots of work and build up and what not and then it's over. "Is that all there is to Thanksgiving?"

Actually Thanksgiving was a good time. Thanks to Bart & Sarah for cooking and letting me use the grill - I made beef ribs. They were pretty good. Friday went off without a hitch - this year I realized that prep work makes cooking much easier. I might put up a post on the food site.

Better than feeding and fellowship and hugging fun I got to spend some serious time playing Mass Effect.

How good is Mass Effect? Well...if you like sci-fi space opera RPG talkies with some action, a lot of sci-fi codex mumbo jumbo, and a game that will suck up all your free time to the point you don't want to eat - Ctrl+Alt+Del has a good comic about this - then you might want to pick up this game.

The appeal of Mass Effect really comes down to the story and the ability to shape and direct conversations with NPCs. If you've played KOTOR then you'll know what you're in for. I am pretty interested in my responses to situations and other characters. I've noticed that I don't respond well to aggression or authority or both and have a tendency to help aliens. I miss the bounty hunter and double crosses of KOTOR but in Mass Effect I have plenty of opportunities for graft and corruption. Oddly enough this means my character is pretty much in the middle neither good nor bad - Paragon and Renegade in Mass Effect.

I want to put together a big review of the game once I finish it which at this rate should be soon.

We also went to go see Hitman. I liked it, I liked it a lot actually. It was exactly what I was expecting. A lengthier review is pending.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Preemptive Thanksgiving Airstrike!

Going to have a good block of time off for the Thanksgiving so I won't be posting for a bit. Figured I'd throw together a post to tide you over.
I was weak and broke down and picked up Mass Effect. Just to let you know I don't have a sack full of money with which to buy games - I've been basically rotating credit. On the upside I don't think that there are any more games I want to pick up before the new GTA comes out.
Looks like I'm gonna be putting ribs on the grill this Thanksgiving. I know, I know, "It's not turkey?!?" but since turkey has become a non-holiday food I'm just not very impressed. I don't know if I'm gonna be doing pork or beef. Chances are I'll be doing beef since I plan on making my slow roasted pork on Friday for the Misfit Toys Thanksgiving.
If you feel so inclined gimme a call or drop me a line or send hate mail. Hope you guys have a good holiday. Don't kill your loved ones no matter how much they ask for it.
All of us at Hooligan Youth Reviews...except me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Assassin's Creed, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, and Fresca.

After a good chunk of game time with Assassin's Creed and an another block of time with Kane & Lynch: Dead Men this weekend. When all is said and done I should have picked up Kane & Lynch.

Assassin's Creed is a great looking game that is fun and exciting to play but there's not really anything to do after a couple of hours. The story is the only thing keeping me playing truth be told. The problem I have is that there's really not much substance to Assassin's Creed gameplay wise. You enter a new part of the city, scout out the View Points, rescue citizens, beat information out of a few folks, run a few timed missions, pickpocket, eavesdrop, head to the Bureau, get the assassination mission, go kill the target, escape the guards, get back to the Bureau. You do that for each hit - 9 hits total. The first couple of times it's fun but after awhile - to paraphrase - "I think to myself is that all there is to Assassin's Creed?" I'm gonna give it another shot at least to finish out the story but my heart's not really in it.

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is quite possibly one of the meanest games I have ever played. Parts are profanity-inducing difficult but that's not what I mean by "mean". Kane & Lynch plays like one of my favorite violent crime movies. The characters are just straight up bastards, psychos, sociopaths, and degenerates with no redeeming qualities. Add in a pervasive sense of depressing, violent stoicism and you've got a happy Josh.

Some of the reviews I read knocked the game because of the controls but they work for me. The reason they work for me is because they are Io Interactive controls. The game plays very similarly to Freedom Fighters with a radial inventory, the same squad command icons and controls, and desperate run & gun combat. Personally I think the combat kind of kicks ass and if you can use your squad effectively then it makes survival much easier but not by much. Expect to die...a lot. The amount of firepower that sometimes is directed towards you is daunting at times. While trying to escape a Japanese high rise through the front door gave me pause. I sent my squad out first and hung back lobbing smoke and frag grenades and picking off any SWAT who stuck their heads out. I still got picked off and had to restart the scene several times. Another level is based in a nightclub and makes for some awesome gunbattle action what with strobes, smoke, pumping techno, gunfire, and hordes of fleeing patrons screaming in Japanese. This is the kind of game where you can clear a path in the crowd by mowing them down to get a clear shot on your opponent. I noticed too Lynch executes the wounded - cops, gangsters, and civilians alike - if he gets near them. It's actually kind of disturbing but another detail that makes the game so effective.

Of course I have to mention the Jesper Kyd score - yes, yes we all know I heart Jesper Kyd. It's a really bad ass score - even for him. While Hitman had a slick ambient assassin score and Freedom Fighters had an epic "Let's kick Commie ass." score Kane & Lynch has an "I am a bad man doing bad things." score. Don't know what I mean? Imagine that you and your crew are rappeling down the side of skyscraper after getting into a gunfight on the roof. You set explosives to blow out the glass and proceed to machine gun everyone in the room. Got it? Okay now what music is in your head? Probably something pretty similar to Kyd's score for Kane & Lynch.

Kane & Lynch is one hell of a game but in all honesty it's not a blockbuster, there's not a lot of gloss and glitz to the game. I give it a bit more slack because I view it as a training wheels game for Io on the 360. Sure they made a version of Hitman: Blood Money for the 360 but it was just a glossier version of the PS2 version - actually the 360 version looks so much better I was surprised at how rough the PS2 version looks in comparison. It's not a sophisticated example of tactical squad combat at its best. If you're into hardboiled crime/action movies where everyone is pretty much violent, cruel, bitter, and emotionally scarred then you'll enjoy Kane & Lynch.

Oh yeah and Fresca is pretty good even if people think it's an old person drink.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Something totally inappropriate that amuses me.

"I have seen shit that would turn you white."

I could dork out but you gotta see this:

"Time to get your crayons and your pencils!"

Got a run down of stuff this fine Friday:

  • Ctl+Alt+Del has a pretty funny comic about the state of affairs this game season. There are just too many games being released at once.
  • Assassin's Creed won the "I only have enough money for one game" battle versus Kane & Lynch. I am - so far - totally in love with the game. I could get all gushy and doe-eyed but you really need to play this for yourself. My current fantasy is renting a theater for a day and playing it on a massive screen - there are moments of this game that are so big that they practically demand a large screen tv. I am also going to load my scores for The Mummy, The 13th Warrior, and Lawrence of Arabia because I am a geek. And?
  • Have you noticed that this Thanksgiving is one of the more serious and violent as far as movie releases go? Don't get me wrong I love it but y'have to admit that it's a bit strange. Where's my Ice Cube family comedy? Shouldn't Robin Williams be wrapping my heart in his big furry monkey arms? Don't you want Robin Williams to warm your heart? Yes. Yes. You do.

There was more but I got hungry then ate a snadwich and forgot what I was going on about. Have a good weekend. Don't bother calling - I'll be playing Assassin's Creed.

30 Days of Night (2007)

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting much from 30 Days of Night. I read Steve Niles' first graphic novel with that title - I think there a slew of them out now. It was a solid vampire tale with a great story and amazing art work. Maybe saying that I wasn't expecting much from the screen adaptation is incorrect - I was expecting it to mirror the graphic novel. It did.

It's been a couple of years since I read 30 Days of Night and didn't remember much so the movie wasn't completely spoiled - well we saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse but more on that later. The acting was fine, there were a couple of tense scares, the vampires were pretty scary looking actually and not mince mince sissy vampires, there was minimal use of humor, there was some satisfying gore, and all in all it worked. It was kind of nice to see a vampire movie that didn't try to reinvent the genre or sex it up or make it all "cool" like Blade or Underworld.

Pretty much if you're going to see 30 Days of Night you've either already seen it or are waiting for it to come out on DVD. I enjoyed it but would have rather seen American Gangster.


The Alamo Drafthouse is not the place to see a horror movie if you actually want to watch and enjoy it. It may be all well and good to see The Monster Squad or whatever dreck Tarantino is passing off as art and have some drinks and dinner and have a good time but God forbid you actually want to watch a movie in peace and quiet. This is why I go to matinees.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hedgehogs make me happy.

If I could I would own a hedgehog. They seem like they have personality.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"At the sound of the whip, turn the page."

BC3 sent me some awesome news today: there's gonna be a LEGO Indiana Jones game. Based on the strength of the LEGO Stars Wars series. To think that the other day I was complaining about the lack of a good Indiana Jones game.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Macbeth (2006) and Knights of the Old Republic (2004)

I picked up Bioware's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on Friday and didn't get much sleep over the weekend. I'm not sure why I waited so long to play it but it's really quite enjoyable so far. I might slap together a review once I get deeper into the game. If Bioware's next epic sci-fi RPG Mass Effect (11/20) is as good as KotOR then Bioware's gonna sell a million bajillion copies - including one to me.

In between non-stop Jedi RPGing we ate a home made chicken pot pie and watched a new "sexy and high octane" adaptation of Macbeth. It was pretty damn cool actually. Put together with a bunch of grizzled Australians it's a modern update of the "Scottish play" guns, drugs, techno, and naked chicks. We were actually surprised at how good it was though Amanda was disappointed that the porter was cut out - no need for comedy in this movie. Macbeth moves along very quickly and many of the Shakespearean references are very cleverly done. Burnham Wood has been turned into a Burnham Timber logging truck. Very well done, very enjoyable. If you have the chance rent it and it also available for download on the XBOX360.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Marky Mark = Max Payne?!?

Rockstar's Max Payne is an experience - talk about a mean, gritty, and just plain old twisted series. The fact that Marky Mark is taking on the titular role is just plain awesome. What? I love Marky Mark - I ain't shamed. Filming starts next year. Cross our fingers and hope for and R rating.

COD4: Modern Warfare review continued...sort of...

Gabe over at Penny Arcade had this to say and I completely agree with him:

  • "It's funny, in the end it turns out I'm not a big fan of COD 4. I tossed it in last night and played through the first handful of levels. It certainly looks great but I think Rainbow 6: Vegas has really spoiled me. The lack of a cover system in COD is really frustrating to me. It looks and feels like a tactical squad shooter. Only I don't have any ability to play tactically or control my squad. The enemies can blind fire from behind cover but apparently I can't? My teammates can shoot the hinges off a door and then kick it in but I can't so much as jiggle a doorknob? After R6 I never thought I'd have to toss a flash bang into a room by standing in the middle of the doorway again. Visually it's a real stunner but game play wise it feels dated to me."

He's right - all the problems I have with this game are because of the controls. In fact one of the most annoying aspects of gameplay is the fact that enemies will continue to spawn in checkpoint areas until you charge in and hopefully clear the building. This makes for some exciting and harrowing gun battles it doesn't make for tactically challenging combat. Plus the levels are short. Okay, the over all level isn't short but it's made up of short scenes that chop it up. Medal of Honor Airborne had some sprawling levels - the Factory level comes to mind - that COD4 could have really benefitted from.

What really is awesome about COD4 is that when it's on - it's on. Since this isn't a tactical shooter the combat is close and fast and furious. There are points in the game when the amount of supressive fire the enemy cranks out is pretty frickin daunting. The levels that break the mold - one of my favorite levels of the game is providing fire support from a C130 gunship.

COD4 truly shines in the realistic world it's created. This game has my new favorite opening credits - the cinema is from the POV of a newly deposed president beaten and thrown in the back of a car. As the vehicle crosses the city you can control the camera and watch the insanity. In all honesty I was kind of shaken - a strange sensation to get from a video game. The graphics are so high quality that it could have been the beginning of a movie. A minor complaint about the game is that I can't watch the cinematics without playing through the level. The story of COD4 is pretty straight forward: evil foreigner says fuck you to democracy and all that. Democracy says fuck you and kicks evil foreigner ass. It's the delivery of the story that makes it though. I look forward to seeing it through to the end.

I'll wrap it up this evening or this weekend and let you fine folks know my final thoughts. I did pick up Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic though and that might get some play tonight. We'll see.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

COD4: Modern Warfare, assorted news, and another Chinese poison toy plot?

A bunch of news, trailers, and assorted goodness today:

1) This looks particularly awesome:

2) I picked up Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare yesterday. It is very, very well done - any of the problems I have with the game are nitpicky issues. I'm going to put in some time playing online this weekend. Hopefully I won't get fragged to hell and back by a bunch of kids. Once I finish the campaign I'll write a proper review. To tide you over - here's some gameplay footage.

3) Once again the Chinese are gonna have to execute another executive - a policy I love and support - for putting a chemical that turns into GHB in kids toys. Tsk tsk tsk.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More remake silliness!

Looks like Keanu and Jennifer Connelly are going to be in 20th Century Fox remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm not opposed to the idea for once. It could be a pretty interesting version - especially in this technological day and age. The downside is that Fox will problably want to action it up which will be a shame.

Sly Stallone wants to remake Death Wish. Considering that Stallone's new Rambo movie is going to be a return to hardcore gore and action he could do a new Death Wish justice. The original wasn't the world's greatest movie to start with - certainly has its moments though.

"There was a fish in the perk-a-lator!"

Finally the fully remastered and complete Twin Peaks has been released in one set - including the pilot. Digitally remastered and full 5.1 sound! Hell yeah! It has a list price of $100 but on amazon it's $70. I do have the entire collection on VHS so it's not a priority but'd be a nice thing to have.

Prey (XBOX360)

While I am patiently waiting for Kane & Lynch: Dead Men to come out next week I decided to take a break from Manhunt 2 and check out some of the demos I have missed on the X360. I've had the demo for Prey sitting around for a couple of days now but just haven't played it. I played through it last night and I have to say that I might have to rent it or pick it up used. Sure it's another FPS blasting the shit out of stuff but for some reason I was actually having a good time playing it.

First off the protagonist - Tommy - is a disaffected Cherokee guy with a chip on his shoulder who just wants to get off the reservation. I don't really want to give away anything about the game because the story is pretty damn cool and there were several times I said, "Well, that was unexpected."

Check out the demo - it's pretty neat.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Yo Jo...oh I don't care anymore.

The casting has begun for the G.I. Joe movie. Here's an article from Hasbro.

I don't care that "they" are making about a movie about toys I played with as a kid I think I'm bothered more by the fact that it's so fucking dumb. A G.I. Joe movie? With real people in it? Sure I would have loved to see this movie when I was ten but c'mon...who greenlighted this?

Then is helmed by Stephen Sommers...and it would be kind of awesome if the Weather Dominator was in it...

Damn it. I still think this is a bad idea.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Manhunt 2 - Initial Impressions.

There's been plenty of talk about how horrifying and disturbing Manhunt 2 is. Penny Arcade's comic today made me laugh. Local news casters have been talking about how terrible the game is because it's a "murder simulator". I bought it because I'm a Rockstar fanboy and enjoyed Manhunt quite possibly more than I should have.

Manhunt 2 is okay. If you haven't played Manhunt then I recommend playing that instead. Maybe I am desensitized to over the top violence after decades of horror movies, video games, pornography, and local news but Manhunt 2 is seriously lacking in the creepy factor. Sure there are dismembered bodies and beatings and all sorts of unpleasantness but there's a cheap funhouse quality to the fear this time around. To be fair I am only a few hours in and there may be a couple of set pieces coming up that can take the Pepsi Challenge with Manhunt.

Here are the problems I currently have with the game:
  • I don't know if I'm sold on the story. You play Danny Lamb and start the game in a mental institution. There's a power outage and the inmates go beserk - of course. You and a buddy take advantage of the ensuing chaos and escape. The storyline so far is that a secret government project has been kidnapping people, pumping them full of secret government drugs, and brain washing them into being psychos. It's up to Danny to find out what's happened to him and get revenge. It's not particularly fresh but will be okay/bearable for the rest of the game.
  • The controls are weird and it's not because I haven't picked up a PS2 controller in awhile. Movement is controller with the left analog but the right analog doesn't really control the camera. Move the right analog left/right the camera leans - great for sneaking along walls and peeking around corners but little else. I often have to click R3 for first person camera control to look around the enivronment then click out and move. The L2 & R2 buttons are for strafing but I've found that I have to use a combination of left analog, strafing, and first person just to move around properly. Combat - fortunately - is pretty simple. L1 to lock, and R1 or square to strike. The rest of the controls are pretty solid though.
  • Manhunt 2 is an ugly game. Granted it's a stealth killer game that takes place in asylums, slums, and generally ugly depressing places but Manhunt 2 just looks shabby. It doesn't make me want to stop playing the game - there are times though I am pulled out of game just because it's s'darn ugly.

On the upside:

  • If you want a good creepy stealth slasher game for a reasonable price tag - $30.00 - then I whole heartedly recommend Manhunt 2.
  • If you were a fan of Manhunt and want more then pick this up.
  • The kills - while filtered - are still pretty horrific and satisfying in their own way. I'm a big fan of the ball point pen and can't wait to start collecting heads again - a favorite pasttime in Manhunt.
  • With the Manhunt series Rockstar has managed to create some really repulsive enemies. From bondage lunatics to overly abusive orderlies these are some foes you really enjoying snuffing.
  • Environmental kills - a new addition. I've only come across one so far - a toilet - and it was pretty cool. I hope there's a car crusher.
  • Danny Lamb looks like me in that, "Hey a white guy with close cropped hair and black framed glasses." kind of way. Now I have a Halloween costume for next year with minimal effort. Rock.

All in all I'll keep playing Manhunt 2 and see it through but it's seriously missing the Rockstar spark. Rockstar games have a certain panache that's been on the decline - a lot of the humor of GTA:SA was forced and in LCS & VCS was borderline painful. Most games also had additions to the Rockstar gameplay machine - i.e. the targeting system from Manhunt was used in GTA:SA - Manhunt 2 doesn't have anything special to it. Then again Manhunt 2 is probably going to be one of the last outings for Rockstar and the PS2.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Condemned (11/15/05)

Condemned is not a bad game buuuut it's not all that great either. It's not so much that I have a problem with the game - I have a problem with the genre it belongs to and the way that genre is used in games. Condemned is a supernatural serial killer game that has loads of atmosphere, some decent scares, and lots and lots of dark, narrow passageways.

Ever since Se7en serial killer movies & games have been dark, stylish, and grimy in that particular Se7en way. While this works - up to a point - it's also been done to death (along with blue rinsed run down hospital wards). Early in the game a character comments on the fact that serial killers are constantly lurking in the darkest, dankest places. Apparently all of these dark, dank places are linked together by dark, dank corridors filled with homeless people waiting to attack you. Oh yeah and there's some kind of cock-a-mamie plot pulled from a Dean Koontz-esque beach read thriller. Something about dead birds and crazy people.

The combat in the game hinges on melee attacks - you can pull boards off of walls, wield rebar, and swing axes, shovels, crowbars, and other assorted implements of destruction. So can your opponents - which makes for some pretty tense action. I personally don't handle melee attacks very well. I'd rather just sit back and destroy opposition with ranged attacks. This made Condemned a little more than frustrating for me - especially one point where I had to take a guy down who had a pistol. I had a shovel.

A major problem I had with the game was the fact I couldn't return to previous areas - I don't mean earlier levels - I mean earlier parts of the same level. This was a problem because I couldn't double back for health, items, or exploration. Some doors can only be opened with certain tools but tough cookies if you had to ditch your axe or crowbar or firearm earlier.

Another problem: you can only carry one item. Sure you have a taser and your detection tools but you can only bring one other item. I understand that you can't a fireaxe, a shotgun, a sledgehammer, a shovel, a pistol, all at once but Jesus as an FBI Investigator you have a holster and a big ass shoulder bag. At one point I had a pistol with some ammo in it. I found another pistol with some ammo in it. I couldn't combine the ammo. A minor gripe but when ammo is so scarce and you can't go back to get it it's kind of an issue.

Last problem - I am tired of running through dark hallways, dark corridors, dark tunnels, dark condemned buildings, and dark subways. Again, a minor gripe but one that made me put down the game.

All in all pick it up if you're in the mood for a serial killer/FBI Agent/supernatural/running around in the dark game.

A new X-Files movie and Scarlett Johansson.

I was getting a little over saturated with Scarlett Johansson but y'know what she's still hot.
There is going to be a new X-Files movies coming out next July. Mulder and Scully X-Files not the other guy X-Files. Pretty neat though it does seem a little past its prime. We shall see. You may now continue to ogle Scarlett.
Oh yeah, she also has a Tom Waits cover album coming out called Scarlett Sings Tom Waits.

Joss Whedon prepares for heart string tuggin' & more.

Yay! Nerd news!

  • Apparently Mr. Whedon is planning another show for the TV. This time it will star Eliza Dushku and be called Dollhouse. The premise of the show is people who have their memories wiped after secret government missions. The secret government lab where the memory wiping is performed is known as "The Dollhouse". I'm sure it will be cooler than I am describing it.

  • Kane & Lynch is being released a week early - November 14th. Oh Hells yeah. I know what I'm gonna do on my Thanksgiving vacation.

  • Uh. Some Canadians want to make a Hell's Kitchen game. Well...huh...I guess there might be a market for that...maybe I guess...

  • I had forgotten that William Dietz wrote a Hitman novel and yes I want to read it but not badly enough to spend $7 on it. I miss the days where I could just strip the covers off mass markets.

And that's currently it for now.

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