Sunday, March 29, 2009

Palette-Swap Ninja = Good Music

Courtesy of Dan Amrich and Jude Kelley, Palette-Swap Ninja creates parodies of popular songs, changing the lyrics so that they relate to the gaming community. Really, the songs are quite genius. Check out their site, listen to their songs, spread the word.


So my LIVE subscription ran out. Damn my being broke! Well, not broke, just a college student who can't get around the fact that there are priorities. Damn my sensibilities! Anyways, one of these nice fine days I'll drop a 50 on the 13 month subscription card and then I'll be sittin' pretty for quite awhile. Until then, I play with myself... Wait. That came out wrong. Alright, no it didn't.

Seriously, I'll be picking up that card soon. That's right, I'm only days away from pwning n00bs (and zombies) once more.

Anywho, my gamertag is as follows: dolenraug

Got that? Good. Feel free to send me an invite. Gaming is always, and by always I mean sometimes, more fun with others.

Rated R? No problem. Rated Mature? No chance.

March 27, 2009

Why oh why do video games continually get the shaft? A debate as old as time (or at least as old as video games with more depth than a wheel of cheese eating dots), why are video games held to different standards than, say, movies? If a movie is rated R, it has a list of details explaining that rating. If a game is rated Mature, it also has a list explaining that rating. Yet a Mature rated game is judged more harshly than an R rated film.

Why? Because games are, quote unquote, "for children"? Look at today's gaming community and you'll see the demographic is across the board. But, apparently, that's besides the point. It's a game and it's interactive and, whether it's meant for adults or not, children can still get a hold of them and play them.

Yeah, 'cause kids have such a hard time seeing R rated films without an adult.

I'll admit that there are a lot of games that are rated "Mature" but are quite the opposite, but that's not what the rating is saying. It's telling the consumer, whether the person making the purchase is a kid, an adult, or a parent, that the game is for a mature audience. That means that it is recommended for people who can handle the type of situations placed in the game. Much the same way as an R rated film is telling the audience that there are mature situations in the film and only mature people should view it. So seriously, what's the deal?

Grand Theft Auto lets you murder and steal and blah blah blah. It's rated Mature, the consumer is made aware of the graphic nature of the content, and yet it still gets ripped apart by the media. Mass Effect has a sex scene, a tastefully done sex scene between two consenting adults, and it's the talk of the nation. Why? How many movies have murder in them? You can see a PG-13 movie and have people getting murdered (granted, the result is pretty shitty when it comes to entertainment standards, but I digress)! Jeez, freakin' Titanic had Kate Winslet's chesticles out there for a PG-13 audience to ogle.

So I ask again: If a video game is given a Mature rating, why should it be judged any differently than an R rated movie? The ESRB applies the rating and what in the game is responsible for that rating. We, as consumers, should be aware of this. If you're not, well, it's you're own fault. Read the labels. They're there for a reason.

Breaking it down

A follow-up to the last post.

March 26, 2009

Breaking it down as simply as possible:

Resident Evil 1, 2, 3, CV = Alien = horror
Resident Evil 4, 5 = Aliens = action

I'm a big fan of both movies, but I think Alien is superior. I'm always a horror guy, and Ridley Scott made an excellent horror movie with Alien. That film was a prime example of survival horror in movie terms.

On the other hand, Jim Cameron took Ridley's film and the ideas he put forth and took it to a new level. There are still horror elements in Aliens, but now, instead of being weaponless against one tough baddy, the heroes are armed to the teeth but the enemy has upped the ante.

Even in structure, the two are similar. In the original REs, you're exploring a confined area, similar to the Nostromo. In RE 4 or 5 you're movie from area to area within a region, similar to the marines moving around the colony on LV-426.

Regarding Resident Evil

I'm a Resident Evil fanboy. To most of you, this isn't a shock. I've been playing Resident Evil for more than a decade. I've purchased an entire system--the Gamecube--based only on the fact the Resident Evil was going to be "exclusive" to that system. Recently, I reserved my copy Resident Evil 5--not the generic $60 version but the $90 Collector's Edition. Friday afternoon, I walked into Gamestop and picked up that copy of Resident Evil 5. Sunday, I completed the story. And I ENJOYED it.

Don't get me wrong, it had its share of problems, my biggest one being how the ending played out, but it was still a great game. I'm already playing through it again, going after achievements and trying to unlock all the little things. And yet, I'm finding myself slightly unsatisfied.

For all of the new game's greatness, it leaves my wanting. Not wanting more. I guess I'd have to say it has me wanting LESS. Well, maybe not less, but something else. Something OLD. I love Resident Evil 4, I love Resident Evil 5, but I miss Resident Evil. I miss the horror. I miss tight confines, zombies, Umbrella, fixed cameras and limited ammo. A lot of people have said it--"Resident Evil isn't survival horror anymore; it's action."--and I've agreed. But RE4 and RE5 are great, regardless. And I don't fault them. They needed something fresh and they found a working concoction. Kudos to Capcom.

Still, over time, I realized that, although they're great, they're missing a lot of the things I loved about the series in the beginning. As much as back-tracking pissed me off in RE 1-whatever, I'd welcome it back with open arms; RE 5 was pretty much a linear game. Those fixed cameras may be archaic now, but they were fantastic for creating tension, never allowing you to see what may or may not be up ahead. The new games still contain a story, and the story is still damn good, but it almost takes a back seat to the in your face action elements. I liked the old days of one or two slow moving zombies in a hallway, lots of eerie sound effects (and silence), and taking the time to really appreciate the game's design and story.

Maybe it's just me, but after years of playing Resident Evil 1 and 2, I would hold fond memories of the environments in which those games take place. I can picture that mansion's layout like it's my own house. I know the nooks and crannies of the Raccoon Police Department like they're the ones signing my checks. But these new games? Yeah, the villages are cool. Sure, the castle in 4 is huge, or the compounds, or whatever. But they're linear. You move THROUGH them instead of lingering IN them. I can see them in my head, but I don't feel anything about them.

I know, to most of you reading this, I sound like an obsessive fanboy/borderline nutcase. Maybe so. But these games have entertained me for years. Actually, scratch that. These aren't just games. This is a world, nay, a universe. I've played the games, I've seen the movies, I've read the books, I've researched the background. Like Tolkien's Middle-Earth, I've invested so much of myself in the world Capcom created, its like a second (or third, after Middle-Earth) home to me.

I dunno. I'm rambling. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the new places Resident Evil has gone are fantastic. Yeah. The new games are. I'll play 'em, again and again. But still, to me, I enjoy 'em more as games, as an addendum to the universe instead of the as the universe itself. Does that make sense? Does any of it make sense? Maybe you just have to be in my mindset, be as passionate about this as I am. Maybe I'm just wrong. I dunno. Food for thought.

Regardless, if Capcom keeps making 'em, I'll keep playing 'em.

P.S. You know, I know what I need. Do to Resident Evil 2 what was done to the original Resident Evil. Spruce it up. I don't care if it's 3 or 4 or 5 hours. I don't care if there's no Mercenaries mini-games. I want a good, creepy story and a small, personal environment. Capcom, give me the RPD the way you gave me the Arklay Mansion the second time around.

Who watches the WATCHMEN? I do!

After nearly a quarter of the century, the book that was quoted as being "un-filmable" is finally hitting the big screen. So, did Zack Snyder (300) do the source material justice, or is this just one more butchered adaptation?

Normally, I throw in a little spice, a little background, with my reviews. This time, I'm skipping that part. If you want to know how much trouble this film went through in the process of getting made, or if you don't know and want to find out what the Watchmen is about, look it up on your own time. Otherwise, I'm going to assume those of you who are reading this want to know how the movie stacks up according to my own opinion.

First off: As a fan of the graphic novel, I thought the film was great. Is it perfect? No. Does it have its share of problems? Absolutely. Does that mean you should skip it? Absolutely NOT.

Watchmen is very dense. There are a number of characters, all with their own history, to keep track of; there are stories WITHIN the story. Basically, you've got an onion in your hands; layers upon layers upon layers. The depth is astounding. To try and put that into a 2 hour movie would be impossible. It was hard enough with a 2 hour and 45 minute time-frame. For me, this movie did what Lord of the Rings did nearly a decade ago, it condensed the heart of the source material into something digestible for the common audience. This is the fast food version of the graphic novel; you get the gist in short order, but it comes at the price of missing elements. Things were left out along the way, but by and large, they were secondary to the heart of the story.

That story is still there, but I still have to question: will a non-reader of the Watchmen novel understand what's happening? I went with Tara, but since it was a midnight showing and she's already in bed, I wasn't able to ask what she got out of the film. Even as someone who has read the book, I feel like maybe the film feels a little too disjointed to be absorbed as easily as needed. Don't get me wrong, it happens in much the same way the graphic novel, but it happens much quicker. The audience has all of these characters and their relationships and their history thrown at them. On top of that, they have all of this information about conspiracies and nuclear war with Russia to wrap their minds around. Like I said: an onion.

The acting was, for the most part, pretty good. Others have said it (and there's a possibility that their opinions may have influenced my own, so take it with a grain of salt), but Malin Akerman (Silk Spectre) was a little wooden. Not horribly so, just not quite up to snuff.

On the other hand, Jackie Earle Haley was da bomb (oh yes, I went there) as Rorschach. Again, others have said it, but this opinion is my own. There is no other Rorschach. Tara said his voice bothered her because he sounded just like Christian Bale's portrayal of Batman. This is true, but it's just the way it had to be. Seriously. Pick up the graphic novel and look at his jabber bubble. I'll wait. Got a copy? Ok. Now find Rorschach in there. Good? Good. See, the bubble has jagged edges. When I saw that, I read it as a gravelly voice. Apparently I wasn't the only one. It fits. Moving on. No, not from Rorschach, from his VOICE. I'm just getting started on Rorschach. JEH played the character with just the right nuances. He was crazy in the right ways. He was, for a man of his stature, one hell of a bad ass. "You don't understand. I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with ME!" He was the character I cheered for because he was the one kicking so much ass. Was he really crazy? Or did he just remove the filter that rest of us see the world through? You decide. Anyways, pure greatness.

Billy Crudup as Doc Manhatten. He's blue, he teleports, he builds a weird, new-wave glass condo on Mars, it's all there. I think the part was played pretty well. My only problem is his voice. I don't know what I was expecting, but somehow, that wasn't quite it. I think it's that, for someone with so much power, well, his voice doesn't convey that. Maybe it's just me. Regardless, that "just me" comment is just a nitpick. Also, beware of a multitude of glowing blue penises in this film. They pop up quite often (no pun intended).

Patrick Wilson as Nite Owl. What to say. I loved it. To me, Nite Owl was the sensible one. He's the Batman of the Watchmen universe, relying on his gadgets and intelligence to get shit done. He's also human. He was once a superhero and now he's an out-of-work superhero who put on a few pounds around the midsection. He missess the old job. It was his livelihood. So much his livelihood that he has problems getting it up. Yeah. If that doesn't make you feel something for his character...for shame! Really though, Wilson gave Nite Owl a believability that I can't quite put my finger on. He was the sense of reason. He was your voice in the movie. I found myself relating to him the most (sans the lack of a healthy blood flow, if you catch my drift--that was remedied later in the movie, BTW).

The Comedian. First "hero" seen in the book, first one seen in the film. Played by Jeffery Dean Morgan who has really been popping up on my radar in the "kick's ass" category, which is hard for me to admit. Why? Because the only things I've seen him in are TV's Grey's Anatomy and P.S. I Love You. That's right, entertainment primarily for the female audience. Tara watches 'em, I watch them with her. It happens. Still, every time I've seen JDM, his characters are just extremely likeable guys. Ironic, since the Comedian is the most despicable character in Watchmen. Still, there were those moments when, despite the baaaaad shit you've seen him do, you enjoyed seeing the Comedian. THAT is what JDM brought to the character.

Finally, Ozymandias, played by Matthew Goode. Can't say the guy has ever blipped on the radar. Period. I don't know if this movie will change that. Don't get me wrong, he did alright here, but only alright. There were some nuances he brought--like giving Ozzy a slight touch of a German accent while among friends while keeping a strictly American accent while in the public eye--to the character, but nothing he did is going to make me jump out of my seat in excitement the next time I see the trailer for a Matthew Goode film. Passable.

Now, the story. Like I mentioned, things are missing. The biggest thing: the squid. If you don't know what I'm talking about, no worries. I may actually say that this was...a...good...change. Maybe...? Let's face it, a giant squid is hard to fathom. The change they made just works better for a mega motion picture like this. Maybe it's blasphemy, maybe not. Either way, I said it. In some ways, I think it helps make things more cohesive.

I could go on about other small things I noticed were missing, but I'm not going to. For one, this is a 12 issues comic series condensed, like I said, into 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yet that's not the full film. There is also a 3+ hour version with additional scenes, and a 3 hour and 20 minute ultimate version with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter to be spliced in on top of the additional scenes. The studios allow for a limited amount of time for theatrical movies. Once I see the FULL versions, then I'll go through the missing bits.

The effects were well done. There was noticeable CGI, but I've learned that sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. After all, it wasn't Sci-Fi channel original movie CGI.

The music. Well, I liked most of the songs they chose, although occasionally they felt out of place. Another reviewer, probably on Ain't It Cool, mentioned this as well. Tyler Bates' score just fit. I didn't feel like it was overly imposing. It added to scenes, but didn't overpower them.

This isn't a film for everyone. It can be pretty slow. It can be pretty dense. It, most likely, will require more than one viewing. But I do believe it to be a quality film. In all honesty, I don't think anyone could have ever done it better. Like the Lord of the Rings, if you watch the Watchmen, you'll be given the heart of the story they want you to know. Things will be changed, things will be missing, but by the time the credits role, the essence has remained, more-or-less, in tact.

Ok, so I'm starting to go cross-eyed now. 4 AM. Yay. Is this a coherent review? Probably not. I'll re-read it tomorrow and I'm sure an open-palmed slap to the forehead will follow. Alas, in my current state of mind, I can do no better. I just needed to get my thoughts written down while the film was still fresh in my mind. Bare with me.

I also want to add that tonight was only my first viewing of Watchmen. I hope to go again soon--as early as tomorrow night (Friday)--to view it in less of a "geeked-out" state of mind. So yeah, these are preliminary thoughts. I'm sure I'm missing things I wanted to comment on, I'm sure there are things badly worded, and I'm sure this is way too fucking long for most people to still be reading, but I'm still typing.


From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick, comes Coraline, the story of a young girl who discovers an "other world" where life is always happy...or so she thinks. One part Alice in Wonderland, one part--naturally--The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline is a fantastic film employing the well known but seldom used stop-motion animation.

Based on the book by Neil Gaiman (Beowulf, Stardust), Coraline is about a girl, Coraline Jones (played spot-on by Dakota Fanning), who is unhappy about the way her life is playing out. Her parents, both writers, seem to have no time for her, and thus Coraline is left to her own devices in her new home. Stalked by a creepy Quasimodo type named Wybie and his mangy, feral cat, Coraline spends her time exploring her new place of residence. It is here that she finds a small doorway that leads to an "other world". Just like her own universe, the other world has dopplegangers of those she knows. Everything seems wonderful there, as long as you can look past (no pun intended) the whole having buttons for eyes thing. Coraline soon realizes everything isn't quite so happy on the other side of the doorway, and it's up to her to set things right and save herself and those around her.

This is a film based on a children's book, but I was surprised at some of imagery included. Things do seem very magical, but at the same time, I was always dealing with this very strong sense of being disturbed. Everything was too perfect. Inanimate objects come to life and are at first playful, but soon become obstructions in Coraline's path to freedom. Her "other mother" is loving in the beginning, but it soon becomes clear that she is something more wicked. A wolf--or maybe spider--in sheep's clothing, the "other mother" wants to fit Coraline with a brand new set of shiny black button-eyes and keep her there--forever. I have to say, this film may require another viewing in theaters. Not only is it a spectacle that I fully endorse for theatrical viewing, but it was almost a movie that instigated sensory overload. I just got out of it and yet there was so much to look at that I may have missed something. I KNOW what I saw and I know the things I saw gave me a strong sense of unease, but I can't describe it here. Suffice it to say, you must go see this film.

Don't get me wrong, you're probably not going to have nightmares (although some of the younguns might), but like I said, it just evokes this FEELING; something you can't quite put your finger on. Seeing the "other mother" in her true form, seeing ghosts of the children that came before Coraline, seeing people who are so normal become button-eyed zombies, the imagery is like a nightmare come to life. Nothing quite so strong as to make you wake up screaming, but the kind of "what the fuck" dream that will make you snap awake and question your sanity.

Also, for a PG movie, wow was there some seeming inappropriate imagery when it came to women in the film. One of the characters, the first time I saw her, I was nearly dumbstruck at the size of her rack. It's freakin' clay for cryin' out loud! In a kids movie! No, seriously, we're talking FFF size here. BEACHBALLS. And then they show her later, on a stage, in an opera, wearing nothing from the waist up but PASTIES! And yes, there was even physics applied to 'em; she walks, they bounce. Just seemed to me to be a bit much for a PG movie made for children.

Still, this 22 year old thinks this may be in his top 10 films of all-time. Granted, I'm coming down from that first-time high that comes from experiencing something that astounded, but that's why I said "may be". I wanna watch it again before I give a solid vote of "yay" or "nay".

Regardless, this film cannot be overlooked. It is, technically, a feat of wonders. The animation is incredible. And I have to give it to Dakota, she really holds up her end of the film. Actually, the acting all around was top notch. A little over-the-top at times, but it was what was called for. The 3D, although I didn't see it in a theater capable of such, was NOT over-the-top. It wasn't a barrage of things flying of the screen. Instead, the 3D was used to make the world come to life, to really give it a sense of DEPTH.

I know, I know! I'm ranting and raving and rambling on (as usual). Cut me a little slack though, it's nearly midnight and I just wanted to hammer this thing out. I'm sure it's convoluted but I'm gonna give you readers out there the benefit of the doubt; you'll be able to sift through the muck and find the review--a shining one--I have planted within.

To summarize, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this movie. I know Rapids didn't get it, but Bemidji did and, for that, I'm thankful. This is a film I'm so so glad to have experienced in the theaters, on the big screen. I may be praising this thing to high heaven, and that might get some of your hopes high--too high. So think of it this way: if you like the imagery of films like The Nightmare Before Christmas or James and the Giant Peach (not to mention that weird creepiness), and if you're a fan of fantasy along the lines of Alice in Wonderland, I'd bet dollars to donuts (no idea what that actually means) that you'd find enjoyment here.

And yes, this will be added to my collection upon it's release. On Blu-Ray, no less.

For the 1-Up Crew

Although this will be meaningless to a majority of those on my friends list, there may be a few of you who know of what I speak.

Recently (though not too recently because I was slow in writing this), 1-Up was bought out by UGO. After all was said and done, a massive amount of the 1-Up staff was let go. With these changes, fans of 1-Up were all dealt a devastating blow. But that's besides the point. The main thing I'm writing about is the fact that many ambitious, talented, deserving individuals are now without jobs. So, as a fan, I just want to offer my support to those who have fallen on hard times.

What's more, those who are left at 1-Up, those who had to watch their friends and co-workers leave the office for the last time, don't blame yourselves. You, just like those who have now moved on to other things, are hard workers, and it wasn't your fault that these events came to pass.

To everyone from 1-Up, past and present, I wish you the best of luck and I will be keeping an eye out for all of your future projects.

Past podcasts from 1-Up are still available for download through iTunes (and, I'm sure, through other means as well). Some of the crew have shown up on a new podcast, Rebel FM. Check it out for updates on what those individuals are up to, as well as their thoughts on everything that transpired.

Valentine's Day Came Early And Wow Was It Fun (SPOILERS)

If I were British, I'd call My Bloody Valentine a lot of bloody fun! Get it? 'cause the British say things like "bloody" and "cheerio" and I really have no idea what cereal has to do with anything, but I digress.

Patrick Lussier (Dracula 2000) helms the remake of the 1981 classic, My Bloody Valentine. The original follows a killer stalking the residents of a mining community on Valentine's Day. Granted, that's not the full extent of the story, but we're focusing on the remake this time around. If you ARE interested in the original, it was recently re-released as a special edition DVD.

As for the remake, well, I'm sure you've seen the tsunami of TV spots advertising it and it's gimmick. The thing is, it's not a gimmick--not completely. See, being in the ass-end of nowhere, my local theater isn't equipped with a 3D setup. Thus, my viewing tonight was in good ol' 2D. Regardless, I still had a hell of a time.

3D has come a long way since the '80s. I'm sure movies like Jaws 3(D) and Friday the 13th Part 3(D) left a bad taste in your guys' mouth as they did mine. Now, although 3D scenes are still recognizable, they're no longer glaringly cheesy. Although I recommend seeing this in a 3D theater, that aspect is a perk, not a necessity; 2D is still a blast.

With the 3D out of the way, let me delve into the plot. In the beginning, one of our main characters causes a collapse in the local mine. The miners, trapped behind a wall of rubble, are awaiting rescue with a dwindling air supply. Soon, the debris is cleared but there's only one man left alive: Harry Warden. He murdered the others so they wouldn't use up his air. Regardless, Warden is in a coma. One year later, he awakens in the hospital and goes on a rampage, mutilating the staff and patients before making his way back to the mine, now abandoned. Being abandoned, the mind makes the perfect place for a party; local kids, including our accident prone protagonist and a few other supporting characters, are present. And then Harry shows up. What follows is a gruesome trip into the world of '80s slasher-dom (yeah, I'm pretty sure I just made that word up). Before the cops arrive and stop Warden, he has caused the death of 22 people (including the hospital massacre). Our main characters survive, of course. Jump ahead 10 years. Our main characters are still around, except for Mr. Accident-prone. He actually returns to sell the mine now that his father has done. Being the 10th year anniversary, it seems that the past won't stay buried, and neither will Harry Warden. Gore, gratuitous nudity, and awesome special effects ensue.

The acting is actually pretty well done. There are a few cringe-worthy line deliveries but, all-in-all, I can't complain (it IS a slasher film). The actors are all pretty much up-and-coming actors (Jensen Ackles, Kerr Smith, Jaime King, etc.) with one notable exception: Tom Atkins. Most of you won't recognize the name nor the man to whom the name belongs, but he's, how do I say this...he's kind of a big deal. Well, to classic horror fans, he is. A few of his notable performances include John Carpenter's The Fog, Halloween 3, and the virtually unknown cult classic Night of the Creeps. His appearance is just a little more icing on the cake for us fanboys.

The gore is a lot of fun. Every kill is done with a pick-axe and, honestly, I'm fine with that; it fits the killer's character. People are eviscerated and impaled. Some have their eyes stabbed out (I stress the word out) or their jaws ripped off. Pick-axe this, pick-axe that. To quote Harry Knowles over at Ain't It Cool News: "Another title could have been 101 WAYS TO DIE VIA PICK-AXE, and man... doesn't that sound like great 3D fun?" My answer to that is not only does it sound like a lot of fun, it IS a lot of fun. I'm pretty sure I had an impish little grin on my face the entire time I was plopped down in that seat.

And guys, if a pile of dead bodies aren't enough, there's a 5 minute full frontal nudity scene to drool over. FEMALE full frontal nudity. Oh yeah, a midget is involved as well! Wait, that sounds wrong...but it's oh-so right! Settle down. Before you go getting all bent outta shape, It's not in the way you're thinking.

Really, I have to recommend this movie. It's not going to win any Oscars, but if you're looking for a good slasher film, this can wrastle with the best of 'em. See it in 3D if you can, but 2D works as well. It's an hour and forty minutes of fun. What more do you want for your money?

Head over to Ain't It Cool News for other reviews as well. Here's a link to Harry's:
Ain't It Cool

Welcome to the club...

This should be fairly short.

Today, on the Dead Pixels podcast--which I listen to while I work--the guys pointed out how zombies are becoming mainstream. Although the thought had crossed my mind, I'd never really, I mean REALLY, thought about it before.

See, those of you who know me also know that I've been watching horror movies since around the time I started walking. I grew up on things like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc. Why? Because my mom enjoyed those movies. Once I started to get older, when we'd go to rent movies, I'd start picking other things out. Child's Play, Children of the Corn, Pumpkinhead, The Thing, the list goes on and on. So, somewhere between the age of 5 and 10, I eventually discovered Dawn of the Dead. Even though I enjoyed it, I was still too young to fully appreciate it. Regardless, after that, zombie films invaded our VCR.

Then, in early 1998, I decided to sell my Nintendo and my SNES in order to buy a PlayStation. After a successful transaction, the first game I picked up was the recently released Resident Evil 2. Boom, I was down for the count. From that moment on, zombies were cemented in my mind; they became my favorite type of "monster".

You see, for a lot of people, zombies mean nothing. "They're just people. They don't have fangs or claws, they're not fast. What's so scary about 'em?" That! Right there! Everything you just mentioned! (or rather everything I just mentioned playing the role of you) Place yourself in the survivors' situation. The world has gone to hell and only a few small pockets of humanity have survived--and they're dwindling fast. Your enemy? Your mom. Or your dad. Or your brother or sister, your neighbor, your teacher, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, the guy that flips burgers down at Micky D's, the mail man... Or, if the enemy succeeds, the enemy is now YOU. It's an infection. The survivors are outnumbered by the people that no longer are. They're surrounded by these...these "things" that USED to be family, friends, etc. If you were fighting to survive and a zombie was coming at you, could YOU pull the trigger? Yes? What if it was your husband or wife? Could you do it then? The survivors have a choice to make: kill indiscriminately or be eaten alive.

All of that, well, that's my love for zombies and zombie movies talking; a glimpse into my mind. It's scary because it's personal. Because unlike other movies with only one monster to escape from, there is no escape in zombie movies; they're everywhere.

Beginning in the late '60s and continuing through the '70s and '80s, zombie movies were going pretty strong. We had Romero's Dead Trilogy (Night, Dawn & Day), we had films like Re-Animator, Zombi, The Beyond, and more. Then, in the '90s they pretty much dropped off. Sure we still had Resident Evil games, but I think those are what might have caused the genre's revival.

See, for awhile there I was the geeky kid who liked the weird shit. Not that anyone gave me a hard time with it; thankfully, the people at Greenway, my friends, we didn't have to be exactly alike to BE friends. I was a geek (still am) and it didn't matter. But now... Now, it seems the thing that I was a fanatic over is now becoming popular on a wider level.

In 2002, Danny Boyle directed 28 Days Later--not a "classic" zombie movie but, IMO, a zombie movie none the less. The same year we also saw Resident Evil hit the big screen. Two years later, the master himself, George Romero, went back to his roots and made his fourth Dead movie. 2004 also had the release of Zack Snyder's (300, the upcoming Watchmen) remake of Romero's classic, Dawn of the Dead. Since then we've had more Resident Evils (movies and games), a Day of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead, the Dead Rising video game, the Left 4 Dead video game, Diary of the Dead, the as-yet-unnamed sequel to Diary of the Dead, 28 Weeks Later, and on, and on, and on.

If you understand media then you know that hardly anything is made unless a predecessor succeeded at it first. That means that, since we keep getting more and more zombies, people are making zombies a success. What happened? Zombies have been around forever. They've been a pretty strong presence since 1968 when Romero started his series with Night of the Living Dead. So why now? What has changed? What made the things that added to my geeky image move into the popular mainstream? Once, it was a minority thing. Now, it seems it's cool to love zombies.

And although this was mainly about zombies, the Dead Pixels guys had one other point: Watchmen. Watchmen has been around since the mid 1980's. Now, I'll admit that I only read Watchmen for the first time around a year ago. But the thing is, I read fairly regularly and I've heard plenty of good things about Watchmen. The reason it took so long for me to actually pick it up was no more than the simple fact that no bookstore around me ever had it and when I did get to a bookstore that DID have it, I wasn't thinking about getting it and so it completely slipped my mind. Now, does that mean had that not been the case I would have read it in 1992? No. I first appeared on my radar in the early 2000s, so I may have gotten to it around then. But I digress.

The point is, I finally read it. It's fantastic. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. And to top it off, not long after I finished it, I found out Zack Snyder (mentioned above) was making it into a film. Joy! When I saw the trailer before the Dark Night over the summer, well, ask my girlfriend; I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. It. Was. Amazing.

And now the film has been gaining momentum. The hype is unreal. People saw the trailer, many with no idea what it was, and thought it was cool looking. Then there's been all the controversy about which production studio has the rights. The media has been in a frenzy over this film. The public, well, it seems the vast majority think of it only in terms of the movie. As they said in the DP podcast: "Rorschach is the next Joker." People are gonna go nuts over this movie but only because it's a movie. Many are going to completely miss that this was a graphic novel, a highly celebrated graphic novel, long before it was a film.

This has gone on for far, far too long. I'm sorry, I lied. I thought I'd be able to keep it short but, alas, we see how that's worked out. I'm not even sure what exactly my point to all this is. I THINK that it was something along the lines of: "People are jumping on the bandwagon (not necessarily bad), and they're going to enjoy things like zombies and Watchmen. But you have to ask yourself, can a person really appreciate what something is without knowing where it came from?" I guess I'm just wondering if people are looking at things as the new fad. Are they "cool" or "popular" because they're really cool or popular? Or is it because it seems to be cool to think that these things are cool? Will they eventually just fade into the background again, loved only by the die-hards who were there before, only to remain there after?

Did that make sense? Yeah, it probably could've been worded better. Oh well. Deal.

Twilight Hype

Alright, I need to get some work done so I'm going to keep this short. I bought the Stephanie Meyer books--starting with Twilight--for Tara as a birthday gift. I figured they might work as a sort of gateway drug to geekiness (yes, I'm bringing her over to the geek-side). It worked. She really got into 'em; within 3 days she'd read all 500 pages of the first one and was diving right into the second. Needless to say, she also got really excited about the Twilight movie. In fact, she was so excited that, for once, SHE was the one who wanted to hit up the midnight showing of a movie. I'm so proud.

Anyways, this is just gonna be my take on that movie. Let me start off by saying that I've never read the books. I knew going into the movie that it was vampires and romance and...yeah. I love vampires but the romance side, not so much. Regardless, I wanted to go because Tara wanted to go. And seeing as she loves the books, I went in with an open mind.

Now, I want to start off by saying outright that I didn't dislike the movie. It wasn't a BAD movie. It just wasn't my kind of movie. My hopes, going into it, were that this would be a romantic movie (playing to the female audience) and a vampire movie (playing to both the male and female audience). Instead, what I got was a romance that had not very much vampire-y stuff, or, rather, the vampire side wasn't showcased to the extent I would have liked.

I think the movie suffered from a few things, one being the pacing. The beginning is very slow, then the last half hour ratchets things up a bit. It's romance, romance, romance, slight action, romance.

If I'd have gotten what I wanted there would have been a good romance (again, for the ladies), and some bad-ass vampire action (for the men). Instead, even the vampire side was romance. The one scene that started to get me interested was the baseball scene. At this point we're really getting a chance to see the interesting side of the vampires. Sure, Edward already showed up he's fast and strong, but it was all done in a sulky, mopey "i'm not glamorous, i'm a monster" tone. The baseball scene showed them using their extraordinary power to have fun and it made me have fun too. Then the tension gets bumped up a notch when the baddies show and this brings me to my favorite scene within my favorite scene. Slight SPOILERS: when the baddies make a move to attack Bella, the entire Cullen family immediately moves in front of her, protecting her. Later, Carlyle says that Bella is part of their family now and that they take care of their family. This was the most, uh...moving?...part of the movie in my opinion. It was finally stepping beyond the self-importance of the main characters (Edward and Bella), who, yes, were interested in each other, but that still carried an idea of selfishness. Instead, this was a family of vampires who could have just done nothing but decided that if this girl was important enough to their son, she was a part of the family, vampire or no.

Then there's the final showdown. I'm just gonna sum it up in one [hyphenated] word: anit-climactic.

Beyond that, the dialog was pretty corny at some points. Also, it felt as if the filmmakers didn't think the audience would be able to put stuff together on their own so they blatantly told us things.

Still, for all my gripes, I can see how a lot of people will like this movie. Let me stress again, it just wasn't MY TYPE of movie. If you like vampires and really want a romantic movie, check it out. If you're hoping for Blade, 30 Days of Night, The Lost Boys, or even Interview with the Vampire, well, watch one of those.

Again, I kind of hammered this thing out so I'm sure there's a bunch of grammar problems and I know I could have re-worded things into a more succinct fashion. Sorry, you're just going to have to sort it out on your own. ;) Maybe I'll touch it up another time.

Bloody Disgusting presents Dead Pixels

So Dead Space was recently released and I, being the horror guru that I am, have already spent close to ten hours playing it. Prior to that release, the Dead Pixels podcast had a contest where listeners could write in and explain why they were excited about Dead Space. Just for shits and giggles, I submitted an entry; to my amazement, I won. It was announced--along with a reading of my submission--on the newest episode (posted today). For said victory, I'll be receiving a nifty little bundle of treasures.

I'm sure most of you could care less, but I figured I'd post it anyways. Somehow, I've been getting lucky with these contest submissions; first I won 2 tickets to a pre-screening of Hellboy 2 in Chicago, and now this. Crazy, huh? Anyways, until next time--

Oh, yeah. One more thing. Check out Bloody Disgusting for info on everything Horror. The Bloody Disgusting podcasts (, Dead Pixels, and Double Murder) can be downloaded through iTunes (C'mon, they're sending me free swag; the least I can do is a little shameless promotion).

Movies + Alcohol = FUN!!!

Zombie Movies
Take a drink every time...

...a human gets bitten by a zombie
...a key character becomes a zombie
...someone kills a key character zombie
...someone explains how to kill a zombie is used to frighten a zombie is used to kill a zombie
...someone shoots a zombie in the head
...someone uses an unorthodox weapon on a zombie (take two drinks if it works)
...zombies eat human flesh
...a victim is dismembered

Horror Movies
Take a drink every time...

...someone dies (take two drinks if it's an authority figure)
...there's a sex scene
...there's onscreen nudity can see the killer but the characters can't/don't
...the killer is wounded
...a girl screams (take two drinks if it's a guy)
...there's a false scare
...the power goes out
...a car won't start (take two drinks if it's at a crucial moment)
...a gun runs out of bullets at a crucial moment
...a character trips or falls while being chased
...the "dead" killer gets up for one final scare

Silent Hill: Homecoming -- My Review

I see those wheels a-turnin' as you sit there at your computer. "What is Mike writing about now? Is this a message about the very real, very serious issue that is global warming? Maybe it's his opinion concerning the upcoming election." To this I say "nay". It is something far more important: I beat Silent Hill: Homecoming!

The aptly titled--for it really was something of a homecoming--new game in the cult series hit the shelves on Wednesday and, as you can probably guess, a good chunk of my spare time has devoted to it. Now, seeing as I've got a bit more free time on my hands due to my recent victory, I've decided to fill in the gaps left over from my previous entry. No, seriously, this one's gonna be a doosie!
First, a bit of background on Silent Hill for those of you not in the know--The first game was released back in 1999 on the original PlayStation. Although it was a bit lacking in the graphics and voice-over department, it was a solid game. Focusing less on action and more on story and atmosphere, Silent Hill has been called the scariest game/series ever created. Sadly, the survival horror genre was all about Resident Evil (also a damn fine series) and Silent Hill was, for the most part, overlooked. Still, it had its following and those who did discover it usually became die-hards (guilty).

In 2001, Silent Hill 2 was released for the PlayStation 2. With improved graphics, a new (for the most part) host of monsters, and an as-yet-unsurpassed plot, it is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the series.

Silent Hill 3 came out in 2003 and, instead of being a stand-alone sequel like Silent Hill 2, is something of a continuation of the story started in the original game.

Fans of the franchise received their first serious blow with the release of Silent Hill 4 in 2004. It wasn't that it was a bad game so much as it didn't really follow the rhythm set by the previous 3. Developed as a completely original game, the higher-ups didn't think it would sell on its own merits. This caused them to revamp the game, changing some of the details and attaching the name of Silent Hill.

Developed for the PSP (2007) before being ported over to the PS2 (2008), Silent Hill: Origins is a prequel to the original title. Because of its PSP roots, Origins is considered something of an inferior game. Still, as a part of the Silent Hill series, it isn't something to be passed up.

Although many have had their doubts, fans anxiously awaited the next installment in the series. Now, under a new, American developer, Silent Hill: Homecoming has finally hit the shelves. Does it hold up to the high standards set by the first 3 games or did the new developers drop the ball? More on that later.

Beyond the games, Silent Hill has invaded both the graphic novel and the movie industries. IDW has published a series of graphic novels based in the Silent Hill universe and, in 2006, French director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) stepped behind the camera to bring Silent Hill to the silver screen; a sequel is in talks.

Now that we have a history of Silent Hill the games, I want to delve into Silent Hill the town. Located in either New England or California, depending on who you ask, Silent Hill is a town shrouded in mystery (and a perpetual blanket of fog). Bordering Toluca Lake, the town exists in different realities or dimensions. There is the normal, abandoned version; there's a fog encased version that comes equipped with its very own creepy-crawlies; and there's a Hellworld/Otherworld version, also equipped with creepy-crawlies and sporting a nice rusted-out industrial makeover. The town shifts from foggy to Otherworld as the evil takes hold; the transformation is preceded by a ultra-creepy air-raid siren.

The monsters in the Silent Hill series are unlike anything you've seen before. They are, for the most part, beyond my ability to [succinctly] describe. Suffice it to say that they truly are the stuff of nightmares. Grotesque and twisted things, they are abominations, mocking all that is natural. The creatures' movements are twitchy and stunted, like an exaggeration of the claymation in an old Ray Harryhausen film. This jerkiness creates thrusting, gyrating forms that are intentionally sexual in nature, adding to the disturbing qualities.

Since the story relates heavily to the human condition, it deals with issues like sex, death, love, sin, sacrifice, and redemption. There is a depravity to some of the characters while others are the poster children of innocence. This implementation of very real human emotions into a Hellish environment is deeply unsettling. In fact, so many of the characters encountered throughout Silent Hill are there to be judged and punished. This inevitably leads one to think that, perhaps, this town really is a manifestation of Hell on earth.

The sound design, headed by the amazing Akira Yamaoka, is some of the best I've ever experienced in a game. Because the game is either foggy, dark, or both, so much of the tension is derived from hearing something you can't see. With an array of disturbing sound effects and some of the most enchanting, forlorn, and ominous melodies I've ever (and I stress ever) heard, Akira strives to create a hodgepodge of emotions and, thus, immerse the player completely in the world that is Silent Hill.

Alright! Now that I've got everyone caught up on the phenomenon that is Silent Hill, let us jump right into the newest game: Homecoming.

The story follows Alex Shepherd, a recently discharged American soldier. After a series of disturbing nightmares concerning his little brother (and a dilapidated town), Alex returns to his hometown of Shepherd's Glen to make sure everything is alright. There he finds quite the opposite; his mother is in a near-catatonic state, people, including his brother, are missing, and monsters now roam the streets. Homecoming chronicles Alex's search for his missing brother and the cause behind the horror affecting Shepherd's Glen, ultimately leading him into the neighboring community of Silent Hill.

Famous for having twisting, winding plot-lines, the Silent Hill series takes a bit of a detour with Homecoming. Although it is still intricate, the story is ultimately more easily understood.

Since Homecoming is the first Silent Hill to be released on next-gen systems (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC), the graphics have went through a drastic makeover. The fog is thicker, more encapsulating; the monsters are more detailed, more demonic; the lighting and shadow effects add depth and realism to the world. Everything the fans have ever loved about the look of Silent Hill has been improved upon this time around. Even the 2006 movie makes an impact in the new game, influencing things like the creature designs and the Otherworld transition scenes.

Akira returns, once again, to develop the sounds of Silent Hill. As always, the depth of his musical talent is showcased beautifully here. The music takes a more subtle approach and yet is still amazingly effective; even when nothing is happening, the music creates unease. The monsters gurgle, groan, grunt, and moan, each type having its own unique sounds. Whether on carpet, wood, or steel, even something as simple as footsteps show variety.

The gameplay has also been revamped this time around. Up until now, the series' protagonists were inexperienced in combat, fumbling their way through the environments. Alex, on the other hand, has had military training; he knows how to fight. With the implementation of a 3D camera and a dodge command, Alex is more mobile then past heroes/heroines. The one main downfall of the new controls is the lack of a 180 degree turn command. Although a nice feature to have, players can still, nevertheless, make due.

Still, despite Alex's knowledge of combat, the monsters in this game are no pushovers. Double Helix (the development team) ratcheted up the enemy A.I., creating more intelligent, more aggressive adversaries. They surround, they overwhelm, they kick some Alex Shepherd ass (from time to time).
The monsters range from the ever-present faceless nurses to the dog-like Ferals (sans skin), from Lurkers (human-worm hybrids with scythe-like hands) to Smog (poison-belching demons) to Schism (hammerheaded creatures) and beyond, the monsters of Homecoming are a sight to see. Add in the return of a cult-favorite as well as four news bosses that are among some of the best in the series and this game becomes a major contender for best creature design. Ever.

Overall, the experience can only be described as "intense". There were more than a few instances that got my heart pounding. At 3 o'clock in the morning, sitting alone in my living room with only the television for illumination, I was scooted up to the edge of my couch, captivated--and horrified--by the images before me. Yes, Silent Hill: Homecoming has its flaws, but they are so minor when viewed in comparison to the game as a whole as to be rendered almost inconsequential.
If you're a fan of Silent Hill, survival horror, or just horror in general, I strongly, strongly recommend picking up this game. At least give it a rent. This is one title that really should be experienced. Double Helix has proven themselves more than capable of handling the beloved series of Silent Hill. Double Helix, on to the next game!

As a game: 8.5/10
As a Silent Hill game: 7/10

Three System Enter, Three System Leave?

Sony PlayStation3, Microsoft XBOX360, Nintendo Wii
First and foremost, I wanna throw up a disclaimer. This is just my opinion and it's based on the amount of information I have stored in the ol' noggin (some of which may be incorrect/outdated/both).

I was recently asked what console I'd recommend if someone were looking into picking one up. To quote Alanis Morissette, "isn't it ironc?" See, I was just thinking about the unholy war between the three titans of gaming--Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo--and, long story short, I figured now would be the best time to choose sides. Let it begin.

As already stated, the struggle for glory lies between Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's XBOX360, and Nintendo's Wii. Of course, I feel everyone should go the Nintendo route, just so they can say "sorry, I can't hang out tonight; I'm going home to play with my Wii!" Alright, I'm kidding. But seriously, I have a blast saying shit like that in public. *cough* Getting back on track...

Let's start off with functionality.
I can't say a whole helluva lot about the PS3 because, honestly, I haven't really played one. I have heard, however, that their interface is similar to the 360's but, instead of working on it being functional (i.e. user friendly), they made it more flashy. Just something to think about. On the other hand, if you've played a PS or PS2, then the controls shouldn't be too drastically different.

The XBOX360 is still, in my mind, at the top of their game when it comes to functionality. The dashboard is easy to navigate and that takes precedent over the glitz and glam. Controls aren't dissimilar to the original XBOX. That--and the fact that they're fairly easy to use--makes the 360's a great choice for returning gamers and new gamers alike.

The Wii is pretty user friendly. A newcomer to the gaming world can pick up a Wii remote (and nunchuk) and, within a half hour or so, be ready to throw down with the best of us. Sadly, there's a catch (more on this later, though). The Wii's user interface is pretty interesting/entertaining, seeing as you can design your Mii to look you like your, just "you." No kidding. Mine's actually kind of creepy in how similar it is.

My verdict: XBOX 360

So now we know how user friendly they are, but what about the fun-factor?
The PS3 is marketed towards a range of age-groups but it definitely leans more towards the adult community. PS3 games are rated T or M a lot more often than on the Wii but they're basically on par with the 360.

Like the PS3, the 360 is a more adult-oriented system. Games are, more-often-than-not, of a mature nature. I will throw favor to the 360 in the fact that their multiplayer setup is acres better than the PS3's (again, as far as I know).

The Wii is the, for lack of a better term, ugly-duckling of the group. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a bad system, I'm just saying that it's marketed completely differently. First, the new innovative controls make for an entertaining time (for those watching as well as playing). If you're not into waving your arms all willy-nilly then you still have the option of going "old school" and hooking in a regular controller. My problem with the Wii is that it is more of a "party system." I can't sit down and play the Wii as a hardcore gamer; instead, I play the Wii when I have a group of people around--it's something fun for everyone to do.

My verdict: A tie between the 360 and the Wii (depending on your style/tastes)

What's that? Your social skills are suffering? You play with others (no sick reference intended)? Multiplayer it is.
The PS3 has online capabilities, most notably the multiplayer. Plug into an internet connection, purchase your online pass, throw a game in, and have a blast. Oh, sorry. Yeah, you need to pay to play online.

Sadly, the 360 is the same; no freebies here. I can add that you can get 3 months of XBOX Live for about $20 (not sure on the PS3).

I haven't used any of the online capabilities of my Wii yet but I'm sure it's something similar. Use the inter-web to be sure.

My verdict: A three-way tie

Other online capabilities, comin' atcha!
Again, I'm not real sure when it comes to the PS3 but I would assume they would have a lot of the same download features as the other systems. I'm 97% sure I remember hearing you can download older (or new but more simplistic) games and save 'em on your harddrive.

With the 360, I know you can download those things. Plus, you're able to rent movies as well as download demos and customization tools (skins, icons, etc.), and chat with your friends.

Wii, well, pretty much the same as above. Games, social-networking, etc.

My verdict: I'm pretty sure the PS3 is right up there so I'd say a 3 way tie again with the the 360's tounge (or disc tray) pushing it an extra inch or two over the finish line.

My, my, miscellaneous.
There is one big thing that I think the PS3 did right: they included a Blu-ray player in their system. That means, right out of the box, you're getting a gaming machine and a Blu-ray player (which go for about $300 alone). What I'm trying to say is that you're basically spending $300 for a big, beautiful Blu-ray (gotta love alliteration) player and getting a bonus next-gen gaming machine for an additional $100.

The 360 slipped up here, however. Microsoft's system had a built in DVD player and offered the option to buy an additional HD-DVD player (now extinct) to sit along side. That means you spend your cash and then spend even more cash to get HD quality movies that then end up going bye-bye. Sorry Microsoft, you stepped in it here.

The Wii is...meh. Not much else besides their big selling point: "you control the game by movement!"

My verdict: PS3 wins it

I know what you want to know. "How much is this gonna cost me?"
The PS3 is the bank breaker of the 3. They've come down quite a bit in price but they're still sitting at around the $400 mark. On top of that, games are $60. Add in extra controllers, high def movies, and your internet and you're looking at a $500-600 setup.

The 360 comes in second place (any way you look at it) with a price tag somewhere between $300 and $450 (depending on the gizmos and gadgets you want right out of the box. Adding in games ($60 as well) and controllers and internet, you're looking at anywhere from $400-600.

The Wii is the cheapest initial purchase at only $250 dollars. You're getting a more hands-on type of gaming and yet the graphics aren't as good as the competition, the games are more kiddie-oriented, and the overall usage is built more for groups than individuality. That means you have to buy extra controllers (not to mention nunchuks are sold separately from those). On the upside, games are $50 instead of $60. Your Wii should be up and running with only $350-400 dollars missing from your account (or food budget).

My verdict: you get the most bang for your buck buying a 360.

OVERALL: If you're looking to get a next-gen gaming system, you really need to do the research. I gave you a lot of the basics but there's really so much more. Certain games are only released on certain systems. If you want Halo, buy a 360. If you want God of War 3, buy a PS3. If you want Mario, the Wii is for you. Do HD movies hit your happy-switch? Probably gonna want a PS3. Are you a social whore? XBOX Live will pimp you out like no other. Do you want a bit more exercise in your life? Swing for the fence in Wii Sports (just be careful not to hit anyone in the face--or balls). It's really a toss-up. I have a 360 and a Wii and, truth be told, I'd still like to get a PS3 (if only for the few games I can't get on the other systems and the Blu-ray). If you want my opinion, my vote is for the 360. My last verdict said it all: you get the most bang for your buck with the 360 (if only it had the Blu-ray).

Still, once more I must stress, look into these things yourself. Remember, this is mostly the info I have in my memory. Don't take me at my word, I may have misquoted some of the information so it's best if you double-check my info and judge for yourself. Find out what kind of games you want and then find out what system you can find those games on. Look at all your options. Go into Gamestop and talk to the sales people. Visit Gamespot and research games; read reviews.


I went on a movie binge this week. I promised a review of Tropic Thunder, but I figured I might as well do the other two as well.

First off, my Tuesday night viewing: Pineapple Express. It's a stoner comedy. What more do you want me to say? It was a decent movie although I didn't find anything spectacular about it. The writing was decent, as was the acting. Still, I feel like it was missing something. I can't quite put my finger on it, though. Since I've never even tried pot, I think the stoner jokes may have slid past me on some level, leaving me wanting. Don't get me wrong, I did laugh. It just wasn't what I expected. To me, this fruit wasn't quite ripe for the picking. Probably my least favorite of the three, I still recommend giving it a try. After all, it wasn't a bad movie by any means.

Tropic Thunder was my Wednesday excursion. Unlike Pineapple, this film was right up my alley. The face comedy aside, TT has a nice second layer of satirical humor. This is a movie about the making of a movie as well as making fun of the making of movies. There are some funny-ass quotes, cameos up the rear, subtle (and not-so-subtle) movie references, and even faux trailers in the vein of the Grindhouse movies. Besides being pretty damn funny, there's a decent action movie dancing around the comedy. I've never been much of a fan of Ben Stiller but I've gotta give him props for this film--not only as the star (although I think he's overshadowed by Robert Downey Jr.) but as director and writer as well. If all of this isn't enough, who doesn't want to see a movie drowning in controversy? We have RDJr playing an Australian (some say his role takes a jab at Russell Crowe) actor who himself is playing a black guy. On top of that, we have organizations for the mentally handicapped boycotting the movie because Ben Stiller plays an actor who plays Simple Jack, a retarded farmboy. I definitely recommend watching this one, for [SPOILER] Tom Cruise's role if nothing else.

Finally, the non-comedy of the three: Mirrors. Alexandre Aja directs the newest Asian ghost story remade for American audience. I've gotta say, I'm a little torn over this movie. On one hand, I was hoping for a much scarier flick. On the other, the film was, stylistically, a treat. Slightly creepy with a few boo-scares thrown in for fun, Mirrors has a lot of ideas reminiscent of older horror movies and even a video game. That's right, I felt a Silent Hill vibe during this movie. If you choose to go see this, keep an eye open for references (intentional or not) to movies like The Frighteners, Army of Darkness, and House on Haunted Hill. I enjoyed this movie in much the same way that I enjoyed the American remake of Pulse; it wasn't scary, but it was interesting and entertaining; a lot of cool concepts and some decent gore effects. Flawed and yet still entertaining--maybe it's so bad that it's good (I think I need to reflect on it a bit more [sorry])? I recommend this one sparingly; chances are you won't be scared, but if you keep and open mind it still may be worth your while.

Until next time...

Podcast, anyone?

Alrighty, here's the deal. If anyone is looking for a new podcast to listen to, I recommend Geekson. To quote the website: "Geekson is a weekly show created by geeks, for geeks, covering topics that geeks like to talk about. Movies, Sci-fi, Video Games, Comics, TV, Internet, Board Games, RPGs.... it's all here at"

The website has an archive of all past episodes (or you can download 'em via iTunes). The foursome (Aaron, Matt, Don & Peter) cover everything from the newest movies; the greatest television shows; comics; novels; board, role-playing, and video games. There's a geek-oriented news segment as well as coverage of major geek events (E3 and Comicon). There's even a number of guests that drop in from time to time.

A plus: you don't have to be a geek to listen. The discussions--borderline bickering--created by the Geekson crew are interesting and quite often hilarious.

There really is something for everyone. So, if you're sitting at your computer and have an hour or two to burn, give Geekson a try. You may not find everything discussed agreeable, but chances are you'll be entertained a [vast] majority of the time.


Heaven, Hell and the Human Mind

It has been said that when you go to Heaven, if there is in fact such a place, you will be eternally happy. Everything you've ever wanted and everyone you've ever loved will be right there with you, forever. When you go to Hell--quite the opposite. I have to wonder, though. Who can for sure say what comes after death? I guess that's what it means to have faith. I'm not sure if the Heaven and Hell talked about in religions are real but I think humans are able to experience them regardless.

There is an old story, An Occurrence at Owl Creek, that centers on Peyton Farquhar, a southern planter who, while not a Confederate Soldier, is about to be hanged by the Union Army for attempting to destroy the railroad bridge at Owl Creek. As Farquhar stands on the bridge with a noose around his neck, the reader is lead to believe that the rope breaks and that Farquhar falls into the water below, only to escape to his farm, where he is reunited with his wife. It is revealed at the end of the story, however, that Farquhar has, in fact, been hanged and that these imaginings took place in the seconds before his death.

What power the human mind has. In the moments before someone dies the mind can allow the person to see anything. Using memories and ideas it can even generate an entire life. The mind has the power to give the person everything they've ever wanted.

But at the same time the mind is a double-edged sword. Although it is possible for the mind to bring a person monumental happiness it is just as possible the exact opposite could happen. However real joy may feel in the false world of the mind, terror or sorrow has the potential to feel equally real. In the throws of death every fear ever felt may be dredged up from the subconscious and manifested internally.

What I'm trying to get at is this: Heaven and Hell may exist one way or another. Even if they aren't where we're headed after death, they can still be waiting for us during it.


The topic of religion is an interesting one itself. I could debate and discuss it for hours (and I have) but that isn't the purpose of this little passage. This was merely a thought that has been floating around upstairs and I wanted to share it. I hope nothing I said above offended but if so, I'm sorry.

Note: I posted this on MySpace a couple of years ago so it may be old news to some of you. I just wanted to resurrect it and bring it to a slightly different crowd. Re-reading it, I feel like it is incomplete. I think I need to expand on some ideas and clarify others. Maybe one of these days when I'm feeling ambitious. Until then--

Why so serious?

It was over 40 years ago that Adam West (with a BAM! POW! SMASH!) introduced us to a live action Batman for the masses. Then, nearly 20 years ago, Michael Keaton, under the direction of Tim Burton, showed us a gothic, big screen version of the caped crusader. Before the end of the last century, we saw Michelle Pfeiffer dress like a dominatrix, Jim Carrey model the most fashionable question-marked spandex, and George Clooney educate us in the anatomy of bats (Nipples? On a superhero costume? Was that really necessary???). It felt like our favorite pointy-eared hero would never recover from the slump Joel Schumacher forced him into.

Then came Christopher Nolan. In 2005, with the help of David S. Goyer (screenwriter of the Blade Trilogy), he reinvented the franchise, bringing it back to it's dark roots. More realism, less cheese, Batman Begins gave Batman fans something to rejoice over. But this review isn't about Batman Begins. Oh no, far are we from the slower paced (but still overly entertaining) origin story. Now, Christopher is back to introduce us to the next stage of Batman's evolution: the Dark Knight... And oh is it dark.

The hype that has surrounded this film is awe-inspiring. Even before the tragic loss of Heath Ledger, this movie was one to be anticipated. After Ledger's untimely demise, the hype only increased. No, that isn't quite right. It fucking went off the scale. After tonight, I can say with complete honesty: it didn't do this film justice.

With tickets bought in advance, Tara and I made it to a completely sold out two-screen showing of The Dark Knight. The lights dimmed, the audience cheered. Silence ensued. I have never seen a crowd so enthralled with a film. Everyone was completely in the moment. There were screams, there was laughter, there was total enjoyment.

Where to begin? The acting. Yes, yes. Christian Bale played an outstanding Bruce Wayne/Batman, but, then again, who doubted this? An outstanding supporting cast was spot on. Alfred, played by Michael Caine, was the voice of reason in Bruce's ear, offering sentiment and wisdom to our conflicted hero. Gordon, played once more by the outstanding Gary Oldman, was Batman's traditional partner in crime. Harvey Dent was played by Aaron Eckhart and, in this role, we see this actor's true potential; great stuff. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Batman's love interest, Rachel, and did an outstanding job. As Q was to Bond, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) is to Bruce; spot on once again. But of course, the real man of the hour is the late Heath Ledger.

Ledger didn't just raise the bar for villians, he blasted that thing into orbit and spot-welded it to one of the satellites. The Joker is everything we geeks have always wanted. His humor, although at times laughable, is mostly repulsive. The lengths he goes to will make you cringe. This isn't just a power hungry bad guy out to make a little mischief for our hero. The Joker is so sinister (you'll love his magic trick) that you really do fear for Gotham. All throughout the movie, I just kept thinking "here is a guy who will do whatever he wants to without a second thought; no one is safe." The extent of the Joker's madness made me fear for every single character in this film. Heath Ledger truly showed me the caliber of his acting ability: the very highest. Still, these words (especially since they're being typed at 3:30 in the morning) won't even come close to doing his performance justice. It is really something all of you must see. Others have said it and I will agree: I smell an posthumous Oscar. Again, let me emphasize, go see this film. Ledger's performance is reason enough.

Nolan's directing and writing are also worth mentioning. Hell, it's some of the best around. I truly believe he is the only man who should handle the Batman franchise from this point forth. His eye, his creations, are spot on with the Batman universe.

The action sequences are great. Well thought out and amazingly executed, the action holds you at attention. Fight scenes, car chases, the thrills do exactly that. I will say that the fight sequences can be a little muddled at times. But, in the grand scheme of things, it's forgivable. Still, the action takes a backseat to the story anyways.

This is a plot driven film. More than a superhero movie, this is about right and wrong, politics, morals... Choice. Everything you think you know about a hero may change after watching this film. To quote the Joker: "Tonight, you're gonna break your one rule." You really start to see that Batman, underneath his suit, is still just flesh and blood. He hurts, physically and emotionally and those emotions will be put to the test.

All in all, Nolan has created a fantastic follow up to Batman Begins. What's more, this film isn't slowed down with the Batman origin. The pace starts strong and never lets up. This is quite possibly the best movie I have seen this year, but, since I haven't had a lot of time to digest it yet, we'll know for sure tomorrow (and even more so after my next viewing). My verdict: GO SEE THIS MOVIE! It's action, it's drama. There's love and loss and betrayal. There's humor and horror. It's a mixed bag of tricks that should work for everyone. See it. Now.

BTW, for a specific group of fanboys out there: the Watchmen trailer (directed by Zack Snyder) was attached to this film. Can you say "geekgasm"?

Sorry for how muddled and rambling this review is. If it doesn't make sense or if I missed anything, I apologize. In my defense, it is now 4 am.

What's big, red, and loves kittens?

In 2004, Guillermo Del Toro (Blade 2, Pan's Labyrinth) brought us Mike Mignola's devilishly entertaining creation, Hellboy. Starring Ron Perlman (Blade 2, Hellboy) as big red himself, the original movie dabbled in World War 2, the black arts, and even a bit of the Cthulhu mythos. Still, underneath all of that, there was a great action/fantasy superhero film that was vastly underrated. A passion project for Del Toro, he forged ahead to make the sequel: Hellboy 2 and the Golden Army.

This time around, Hellboy, along with his burning-hot leading lady Liz Sherman and his greenish-blue around the gills partner, Abe Sapien, are charged with the task of stopping Prince Nuada. Nuada, of an ancient race, wants to awaken the Golden Army, seventy times seventy mechanical soldiers that just happen to be indestructable, to destroy all of mankind.

For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge fanboy of Guillermo's work. Pan's Labyrinth was a beautiful take on fairy tales. His vision is so wonderful, in fact, that Peter Jackson asked Guillermo to direct not one, but both Hobbit movies. All I have to say is this: aside from Peter himself, Guillermo is the only director who has the power to pull this off.

Back on track, though, Guillermo has dazzled again with Hellboy 2. Much less a gothic action/horror and more of an action/fantasy, the new Hellboy does everything the original did and then some. The comedy (of which there is some fun-neee shit) and action aside, the design of this film is breath-taking. The Troll Market is (if I may borrow from many other reviewers', well, reviews*) like watching the cantina scene in the original Star Wars, but, in my opinion, way better. Using a mix of puppetry, animatronics, and CGI, Guillermo creates a wonderful little world that you can't possibly absorb in the short time you are there. Instead of throwing his creations front and center, these creatures are part of the backdrop and thus create a backdrop that rivals, and sometimes surpasses, the action in the foreground. The variety of visuals in this scene alone is astounding.

The action is fantastic. Fight sequences are well choreographed and engaging when they appear. The Golden Army is massive and beautiful in it's entirety.

Still, this isn't purely an action film. A little drama, anyone? There are a few scenes of bickering between Hellboy and Liz that help lighten the mood.

Plus, this time around, though, our resident fish-man, Abe (played amazingly in body and voice by Doug Jones), gets a bit more screen time. Not only is he kicking more ass but he's a bigger part of the plot as a whole. So Hellboy 2 not only entertains us with a somewhat rocky romance between HB and Liz, but is also paralleled by Abe's overwhelming attraction to the antagonists (good) twin sister. The scene towards the middle where Hellboy and Abe drown their sorrows over a few beers while listening to Barry Manilow had the audience rolling. The dialog is that good.
Johann, Abe, Hellboy, and Liz

Even more laughs are added when Johann Kraus, the ethereal new leader, enters the film. His pissing contest with HB (in which HB is really the only one doing the pissing) is entertaining, but when they finally settle things... well, watch it and see.

So far we have outstanding visuals, fast-paced action, laughing so hard you might cry comedy, a bit of a sappy love story for the ladies... You want more?

How about a bit of reality? Hellboy, 6 and a half feet tall, bright red, muscled to high hell, pissy, trimmed down horns, and a whip like tail. Let's just say hero isn't the first thing that comes to mind when the public finally sees him. In a sad turn of events, HB ends up doubting his role as public protector when he is shunned after saving a baby from a (bad-ass) elemental. This film really works towards looking at all situations from all angles. Although Prince Nuada is the "villian," one can't help but feel like he's somewhat justified in his goals. After the public scorn, even Hellboy begins to wonder if the world is really worth all of his suffering. It's really hard to want to be the hero when all you get is scorn from those you save.

All-in-all, Guillermo Del Toro has once again outdone himself. He has created a movie that is potentially pre-apocalyptic in it's plot yet still finds the time to throw on a layer of cheese. Oh yes, there is cheese; you can tell that Hellboy 2 doesn't take itself seriously from time to time. Yet, at the end of the day, the hilarity is pushed aside for the final battle and the seriousness of the situations. Real characters (and character developement) and a fantastically realized world make Hellboy 2 one of the most entertaining movies I've seen this year. I can't wait for round 2 with the big red guy.

Mike, out.

*Thanks to the guys over at