Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dead Snow (2009)

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony

Looks like the new DLC for GTA:IV is going to be available this fall and it will be The Ballad of Gay Tony. The new character will be Luis Lopez, cronie to Tony Prince. Lopez shows up in three missions during the main campaign of GTA:IV.

The press release came out 05/26/09 and says that the focus will be on high end night life in Liberty City.


As announced today, Rockstar Games is planning to release Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, a new Xbox 360® standalone title based on the blockbuster Grand Theft Auto franchise in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009. The product will consist of the two downloadable episodes of Grand Theft Auto IV, including the critically acclaimed episode The Lost and Damned, and the upcoming second episode, The Ballad of Gay Tony, together on a single disc exclusively for Xbox 360. Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City will be in stores simultaneously with the release of The Ballad of Gay Tony downloadable episode on Xbox LIVE®.Players will not be required to have the original version of Grand Theft Auto IV in order to play Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City, which will be available for $39.99.

Godfather II (XBOX 360) - EA Games

The first Godfather game wasn't bad, hell I played it from start to finish, but ultimately I felt it was lacking. When I found out that Godfather II had more strategic elements - building and defending a crime empire. Personally that's my favorite aspect of any and all crime games.

Godfather II has a good empire building system - I'm only a couple hours into it. You are starting your own family so you have to recruit family members with various skills to blow shit up, heal your troops, be bad ass, etc. I strongly - strongly suggest downloading this character:

You can boost the skills of each Family, making them more effective in combat and the like.

The main problem I have - with most crime syndicate games - is there's not enough micromanagement. That may sound insane but I basically want to play a "Syndicate Sim". I want to control markets, import/export, supply/demand, cost of whores/drugs/guns combined with diplomacy/intrigue/corruption/scandal. I bet that would sell, besides it'd be a lot more accurate in portraying gangsters as businessmen/politicians than goons. Sure there might come a time to crack skulls but ultimately that's bad for business.

For now though I am not playing that game so the Godfather II will have to do.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

JCVD (2008) Dir. Mabrouk El Mechri

I really can't put my finger on JCVD - it definitely changes my opinion of Van Damage for the better. I always liked him but the movies he's in are just...well...have you seen Cyborg? JCVD is a movie that blurs the line between reality and fiction, setting Jean-Claude as himself but he seems so beat down and haggard looking. He looks pretty tore up for 47.

It's not so much an action movie as a study of Jean-Claude? I just don't know what to think. I'm pretty sure I enjoyed it though. You folks will have to see it and tell me what you think.

REVIEWS! Appaloosa (2008), House (2008), Ping Pong Playa (2007)

Appaloosa is an Ed Harris project (he directed, co-wrote, and acted in it) and let me tell ya - it's good. Ed Harris has been one of my favorite actors for a long time, he's just one of those actors who is good in whatever role he is in. He's a hell of a director as well. Appaloosa is a modern character study Western - a meditation on friendship, loyalty, and how doing the right thing is never the easiest thing. Sounds trite but it works. It's a gorgeous movie that is a little slow but worth sitting though. I will add this to my modern Western collection when I see it on sale.

House (2008) is not a remake of the 1986 Steve Miner movie with the classic tagline, "Ding Dong. You're Dead." It's a straight to DVD hunk of confused genre junk with Michael Madsen as the twitchy bad guy. Nice to see Mr. Madsen has lost his creepy bloat - must have laid off the sauce - and can still play a convincing spooky lunatic. House is an example of why it's not a good idea to throw everything into the pot and hope for the best. Is it a haunted house movie? Is it a vengeful spirit? Is it Satan, perhaps? Creepy hillbillies? Couples in need of counselling? C'mon...Amanda and I were bored simply because we got tired of trying to figure out what the hell was going on in this confused mess. Skip. Avoid. Gong.

The real surprise was Jessica Yu's "Ping Pong Playa". Basically the story of a Chinese-American guy -Chris - who wants to be a basketball star but he sucks at basketball. His family is deeply involved with ping pong - Chris doesn't want anything to do with ping pong but gets stuck subteaching his Mom's ping pong class. A loveable loser story who teaches kids to be kids, learns to embrace his heritage, and learns he sucks at basketball. Ping Pong Playa was extremely enjoyable and funnier than any of the Jack Black vehicles I've seen. It just worked from start to finish. Plus it has the song by The Chops, "I Love Cereal" - my new make me happy song.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Tale of Desperaux (2008) Dir. Sam Fell & Robert Stevenhagen

Shut up, I liked this. Not as much as I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda but it was a nice little story about soup, the power of forgiveness, and a heroic mouse. Yes, it made me a little misty but only because of the power of soup.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) Dir. Patrick Tatopoulos

Well, was that so hard? I didn't particularly like Underworld, thought that it'd be pretty cool if they just did the origin story. Underworld II was pretty cool but again I just wanted to see the origin story. So here we have Underworld: Rise of the Lycans the origin story. I enjoyed it.

Not much of a review, neither scathing or glowing, but U: RotL wasn't really bad at all but it didn't make me want to dance either. I still really have a sweet tooth for Rhona Mitra running around in black leather and Dark Elf armor (I know they aren't Dark Elves but their armor is so there...). The movie was pretty solid across the board, a few notches up actually from most of the fantasy vampire/werewolf crap out there.

Worth an afternoon watch while the laundry is going. 6.5/10

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Outlander (2008) Dir. Howard McCain

Okay, I downloaded Outlander last night because it simply sounded awesome. Here's the premise:

A mercenary from outer space crash lands in Norway in 709 AD. He's chasing an alien beast. Mercenary teams up with Vikings to hunt the beast.


I wasn't expecting much but damn, this movie was pretty darn cool. It was actually much better than it had right any reason or right to be. Outlander had good cinematography, solid acting, a really well designed monster, and a fairly reasonable score.

If you're looking for a sci-fi monster movie I whole heartedly recommend Outlander.

Fun for people with audio ADHD.

Thanks to Mike for turning me on to this Internet DJ insanity. It's basically Twitter for music, really easy to sign up, and painfully addictive for me.

I really dig because it's a way to easily share music. Plus the selection - so far - has been pretty impressive.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Terminator: Salvation (2009) dir McG

I'm not sure how McG - director of Charlie's Angels, We Are Marshall, and producer of complete garbage television - managed to direct a solid action movie. OK, it wasn't a great action movie but it did have several kick ass action moments.

Terminator: Salvation wasn't bad for a Terminator movie. Shit blows up real good, Terminators take creative amount of killing, and logic is totally out the window. You can make all kinds of jokes about Christian Bale using his "Batman" voice all the time but y'know, what's your voice supposed to sound like after sucking down radioactive dust and humanity's ashes?

I'm gonna say that it was better than T3 I guess. I didn't see most of T3 - I think that was the one with Claire Danes and the chick from Bloodrayne - but I'm pretty sure it sucked.

I can't promote or condemn this new Terminator installment, in all honesty the Terminator series is pretty fuckin' stupid. The first movie kicked ass certainly but after that...meh. If Terminator: Salvation wasn't a Terminator movie it'd be pretty good for a popcorn movie. Not quite as awesome as Reign of Fire but then again what is?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Star Ocean: The Last Hope (2009) Square Enix

Star Ocean: The Last Hope is a JPRG de force - it's three freaking discs. I'm renting this but depending on whether or not how this continues to play I might pick it up.

On the upside it's fun to play a solid, good old fashioned sci-fi JRPG. There are some bonuses that set it above the rest:

  1. You can skip the fucking cutscenes! This may not be a big deal to most people but if any of you folks played the PS2 Xenosaga games - which was basically just playing for a little while then watching a half hour cutscene. It got tedious. With SO:TLH you can just skip past, read a synopsis and move along. Nicely done guys.
  2. You can turn off the idiotic post-battle prattle. No more having to hear the same three phrases over and over again while grinding.
  3. This game has some of the most fun grinding combat I've ever played. It is RT but moves so quick there's not much of an issue.

I'm gonna play the hell out this while I'm on vacation and will write a longer review as I get further in the game.

Fallout 3: Broken Steel review

Well, after some intense gaming sessions I polished off Broken Steel, hit the level 30 mark, and had a generally good time blasting the hell out Raiders, Muties, and the Enclave. I had a good time though I am kind of bummed out that there isn't any more Fallout until the next game.

The new DLC was enjoyable but I have two major problems:

1. The level thirty cap makes the game too easy even when I bumped up the difficulty to high. I was just kicking the shit out of the opposition. Sometimes that's fun but sometimes I want a challenge.

2. Lord have mercy but the DLC is buggy. I had a great number of freezes. Bethesda needs to add a patch ASAP.

Other than that the DLC is fun, lots of kick ass weapons, and the new enemies are fairly tough when you first encounter them.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Broken Steel trailer.

The People Under the Stairs (1991) Dir. Wes Craven

I don't know when the last time you watched The People Under the Stairs was but it might be time to watch it again. The last time I saw it - probably when it came out on VHS - it kind of weirded me out. Watching it now there's a lot of bizarre stuff going on in the movie. Everett McGill running around in full bondage gear with a shotgun is particularly odd. Everett McGill is one of my favorite, "hey it's that guy" actors. From Dune and Silver Bullet to his role as Big Ed Hurley in Twin Peaks he's just been a solid actor in whatever movie/tv show he's in.

The People Under the Stairs is not a good movie but it is enjoyable and if you can get past the fact that it's a Wes Craven movie - be honest, he only has four "good" movies. Personally I think Parents is a much better suburban cannibal movie.


Parents is unavailable on DVD. It was released but was discontinued. That needs to be remedied.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

“The Color Line Has Reached the North.”

One of the strongest thematic undercurrents in Richard Wright’s Native Son is the concept of “proscribed space”[1]. From the squalid, rat infested, kitchenette in which the Thomas family dwells to the death row cell in which Bigger Thomas spends his final days, Wright repeats his themes of enclosure and constraint (both internal and external). The result is an unrelenting sense of claustrophobia that neither Bigger nor the reader can escape. In White Diaspora, Catherine Jurca explores the concept of space in Native Son and links Mary Dalton’s death directly, “to Bigger’s overcrowding and desire to lay claim to more space.”[2] To the average modern reader, Wright is simply using rhetorical techniques to convey the oppression and limitations Bigger contends with on a daily basis as a black urban youth. Wright’s contemporaries would have been familiar with these harsh realities of the living conditions, neighborhoods, and racial demarcation lines in Depression-era, post Great Migration urban areas, whether by experiencing it directly or second-hand, through family members. While literary interpretations are neither incorrect nor invalid, they do remove the novel from its settings’ historical contexts; the Great Migration of African-Americans from Southern states to Northern urban areas (Native Son is set in Chicago), de jure and de facto restrictions on African-American life, and racial tensions in the North. By recognizing these contexts the modern reader can better understand the scope of Native Son, rather than simply dismissing Wright’s work as a racially charged “tale of woe”.
The African-American Northern diaspora began before the Great Migrations of 1916-1970. “The first African American settlement in Chicago emerged around Lake and Kinzie streets in the 1830s and 1840s.”[3] By 1860 the African-American population had risen to one thousand. During, and following, Reconstruction (1865-1877) the influx of African-Americans increased from “approximately four thousand in 1870 to fifteen thousand in 1910.”[4] Just a few decades before Wright published Native Son; African-American populations skyrocketed in Northern cities. In Chicago alone, their demographic rose by an estimated fifty thousand in the space of four years (1916-1920).
The promises of new lives, job opportunities, and other “Push/Pull” issues that sent African-Americans migrating from the South were sold by Robert S. Abbott (who could be known, jokingly, as the black empresario of Chicago) in his newspaper Chicago Defender. Many of these articles were not entirely accurate in their depiction of the city. The simple amenities available to many African-Americans in Chicago were often severely lacking. Though segregation of schools and public accommodations in Chicago had been outlawed (in 1874 and 1885 respectively), de facto segregation was still entrenched. Newly arriving blacks faced competition for space and labor with other immigrants. Eastern and Southern Europeans had dominated most of the unskilled and bottom rung labor pool for decades. It was not until the sudden drop in European immigration during the First World War that the labor market significantly opened for African-Americans. Before that time, African-Americans were, “Allegedly incapable of regular, disciplined work, they were virtually excluded except as temporary strikebreakers, notably in the meatpacking industry in 1904.”[5]
By 1910, seventy-eight percent of African-Americans in Chicago lived on the South Side. By 1930 that percentage had increased to __. (Cite Black Metropolis)5. The development of Chicago’s Black Belt hinged on three major factors: the African-American population boom, the resultant housing shortage, and ingrained predjudice. What began as an enclave between Lake and Kinzie streets quickly grew along, “a narrow corridor extending from 22nd to 31st Streets along State Street, Chicago's South Side African American community expanded over the century until it stretched from 39th to 95th streets, the Dan Ryan Expressway [constructed 1953-1954] to Lake Michigan.”[6] The Black Belt was effectively cordoned off from the great majority of the city by ethnic neighborhoods (made up of Irish, Italians, Jews, and other Europeans) and, “in combination with zones of nonresidential use, almost wholly surrounded the African American residential districts of the period, cutting off corridors of extension.”[7] Several questionable real estate practices further limited African-American options for housing and property ownership.
“The Great Migration…combined with the exclusion of blacks from most neighborhoods to generate a persistent gap between the supply and demand of housing available for blacks. African Americans seeking housing became the main agents of neighborhood succession.”[8] Neighborhood succession “refers to a process by which one previously dominant ethnic, racial, religious, or socioeconomic group abandons a residential area. In late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Chicago, this process often involved the departure of descendants of Yankees or early European immigrants.”[9] Simply put, as previous tenants (including middle-class African-Americans) moved out of neighborhoods in and adjacent to the Black Belt, poor African-Americans moved in. Those who remained in the neighborhood fell victim to or perpetuated real-estate blockbusting (sometimes referred to as “panic peddling” ). Agents “sought to profit from white fears by encouraging black residents to settle on previously all-white blocks.”[10] The blockbuster (both black and white blockbusters existed) would play off the prejudices of white residents to sell their homes in order to avoid the supposedly impending drop in property value due to blacks moving into the neighborhood. After that, the vacated properties would be snatched up and rented to poor African-Americans at a grievously inflated price after being subdivided into kitchenettes (like the one the Thomas family finds themselves in).
The development of Restrictive Covenants further limited the space available to African-Americans in Chicago. From 1916 until the Supreme Court Case Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 US 1 (1948) proved, “that restrictive covenants were unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.”[11], racially restrictive covenants were instituted to keep Chicago segregated. The Chicago Real Estate Board wrote, “legally binding covenants attached to parcels of land varying in size from city block to large subdivision prohibited African Americans from using, occupying, buying, leasing, or receiving property in those areas.”[12] This meant that poor African-Americans were often unable to directly escape the Black Belt. They were also prohibited from directly owning their own property. Restrictive Covenants became more prevalent after the Riot of 1919 which lasted from July 19 to August 1. A black teenager, Eugene Williams, was murdered by white beachgoers at the segregated 29th St beach when he accidently crossed an imaginary color line. John T. McCutcheon, editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, drew black and white bathers facing off across a rope, the caption read, “The color line has reached the North.”[13] After the four days of rioting, the Chicago City Coucil attempted to ratify an ordinance which contained the following:
[T]hat a commission composed of members of both races be formed for the purpose of investigating the causes of recent riots and to ascertain if it is possible to equitably fix a zone or zones which shall be created for the purpose of limiting within its borders the residences to only colored or white persons.[14]
While the ordinance did not pass in 1919 it would strengthen the racial divisions (both emotionally and geographically) in Chicago. The proposed “fixed zones”and Restrictive Covenants would become Federally approved and expanded during the Great Depression.
Wright worked in Chicago during the Great Depression and the resultant New Deal, a period in which several Federal changes occurred. Though he does not blatantly mention these developments in Native Son (there are references to the Public Works Admin (PWA) and Federal relief) these Federal programs impacted the entire African-American community of Chicago. The development and enforcement of; the Home Owners Loan Act (HOLA) 1933, the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) 1933, the Federal Housing Act (FHA) 1934, and the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) 1937 all play subtle yet major roles in Native Son. These policies would have long-lasting catastrophic effects (the planning, construction, and devolution of projects such as Cabrini-Green will be addressed in a future paper) during the Depression and in the second half of the Twentieth Century.
The Federal policy of the Neighborhood Composition Rule (NCR) was developed by Harold L. Ickes, Sec. of the Interior (1933-1946) and Director of PWA. This meant “that no public housing project was permitted to alter the racial character of its surrounding neighborhood.”[15] One major clause of the NCR was “There had to be one employed breadwinner and the tenants had to behave according to the rules.”[16] In order to continue receiving Federal relief Bigger must take the job proffered by the Daltons and be the breadwinner for his family. “Yes, he could take the job at Dalton’s and be miserable, or he could refuse it and starve. It maddened him to think that he did not have a wider choice of action.”[17] This lack of options is an excellent example of Wright’s theme of internal constraint.
Another Federal creation, the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), had dire consequences for the Black Belt. The Home Owners Loan Act (1933) created the HOLC in order to combat the number of homes going into foreclosure. In order to “prioritize” loans to home and business owners in areas of potential growth and “categorize lending and insurance risks”[18] the HOLC consulted a number “realtors, lenders, and housing experts”[19] and surveyed two hundred and eighty nine cities across the United States. The HOLC then created Residential Security Maps with “four classifications: First (A), Second (B), Third (C) and Fourth (D) that corresponded to color grades: A-Green, B-Blue, C-Yellow, and D-Red.” [20] The expanding suburbs of Chicago and other areas of proposed growth were deemed to have positive growth potential. These areas were marked green and mortgage relief poured into them. Blue areas were safe bets, encouraging lending. Yellow was considered a risky investment. Finally, Red zones were considered to be blighted, older neighborhoods and were ignored. Many of the Red zones fell within the Black Belt and other poor areas in Chicago. These areas became a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Banks and insurers soon adopted the HOLC's maps and practices to guide lending and underwriting decisions”[21] thus poor neighborhoods received no funding. If no funding would be available for improvements, “redlined” areas could not become elevated to Green, Blue, or Yellow. The neighborhoods would fall further and further into neglect, disrepair, as would the residents.
In Native Son, Bigger Thomas and his family live at 3721 Indiana Avenue, near the center of the Black Belt, in a tenement owned by Mr. Dalton via the South Side Real Estate Company.[22] the Daltons live at 4605 Drexel Blvd[23] in Hyde Park - Kenwood, a neighborhood that was part of exclusive property close Lake Michigan. A distance of less than two miles separates the families.[24] Both Wright and his protagonist Bigger arrived in Chicago while in their teens. Wright moved from Jackson, Tennessee in 1927 to the Black Belt with an aunt, at the age of nineteen. In 1929, he and his family (another Aunt moved in that year) moved into a four room apartment “at 4831 Vincennes Avenue”[25]. This home was less than a mile from where Wright places the Daltons. These distances are shockingly close but when one reads Native Son the space between the neighborhoods is, and continous to be today, a vast gulf in all socio-economic respects.

Works Cited:
[1] Native Son. Wright, Richard. Pg
[2] White Diaspora. Jurca, Catherine. Pg 108
[15] Making the Second Ghetto Alan Richard Hirsch pg 179
[17] Natve Son. Wright, Richard. Pg 12
[19] pg 214 -221
[22]Native Son pg 48
[23] Native Son pg 32
[25] Native Son pg 467

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