Favorite Book: Cryptonomicon
Favorite Movie: Young Frankenstein
Favorite Absolutely Everything: Monty Python
This was initially supposed to be a review. Well, I’m sorry, but it will be nothing of the sort.
In general, while I am appreciative of the past, I have no patience for old video games. I loathe health pickups in a shooter, I can’t stand half-hour cut-scenes, and I hate random battles. These conventions were something we dealt with in video games for time untold, and, often, for good reason. Health pickups limited the amount of health available in a certain level, which increased the difficulty and stretched the length of a game. In the era where graphics weren’t great, cut scenes were a graphical reward for an accomplishment such as beating a difficult boss. Honestly, I never understood random battles. The inclusion of these tropes in a game today sometimes, but not often, adds to the experience. Well, not the cut scenes. I’m looking at you, Metal Gear Solid 4. While I do have an appreciation for the games that came before, I have little desire to play them again, with one exception.
I really want to like Brink. Everything from the art style to the world it portrays is fresh and interesting. Brink also incorporates elements of parkour into the shooting genre. Now, there might be one or two of you (I’m not kidding, probably just one or two) who are thinking, “But, what about Mirror’s Edge?” First of all, I love you both. Mirror’s Edge was a phenomenal game, but it wasn’t a shooter. It was a first-person parkour game. Brink is absolutely a shooter, and that’s too bad, because it would have been more interesting the other way.
First, we should discuss the positives of the game. The art style is unbelievably cool. The art is a combination of realism and cartoony that I haven’t seen before. Everybody’s face is stretched out and exaggerated, but the textures are almost hyper-detailed. The result is something awesomely unique.
Another thing I really enjoyed about the game is the setting. Every bit of the environment helps reinforce the story the game is telling. This tiny civil war on the floating city called the Ark is something that really works. Every detail of the environment seems to be there, because of the rebellion on this ship. I won’t get too far into it, but I can tell you that it works.
Last year, one of the best video game stories I have ever seen was released and quickly died. Alan Wake developer Remedy made the incredibly poor decision to release their game on the same day that Rockstar Games released one of the biggest selling games of the year, Red Dead Redemption, and at sixty buck a pop, most people just buy one game at a time.
Alan Wake is an Xbox exclusive action game that feels more like Twin Peaks than Gears of War. This is no accident, as Twin Peaks was cited as an inspiration for the game. Another clear inspiration is much of the early work of Stephen King. The character Alan Wake is a successful thriller writer, more Castle than King, suffering from writer’s block, which is the worst thing ever. (We know. We’ve been waiting a year for this review.) He and his wife Alice go on a lovely vacation to clear his head. But, things go predictably, and horrifyingly, wrong.
Almost immediately, Alice goes missing and Alan wakes up a week later with no memory of the time. Things get weird from there. He finds pages from a manuscript he wrote during that missing week. The story they tell is the one you are playing. Before long, Wake is attacked by creatures called the Taken, locals who have been consumed by some sort of darkness. (I believe in a thing called love, just listen to the rhythm of my heart.) These guys are the perfect way to transition to the gameplay, as I don’t want to get too far into the story, which is one of the best I have seen in a game, or any other medium.
First, I should say that the act of condensing the (god, I feel stupid using this word) epic comic series into a three-hour movie must have been a daunting one. Nevertheless, Zack Snyder managed it admirably. The action scenes are masterfully done. The acting, with a few exceptions, was great. The attention to detail helped bring the world to life.
The movie hits all the key points of the comic. In fact, it treats the source material with extreme reverence. Now many, if not all, of the reviews that I have seen and heard have treated this as a negative thing. Let me be clear, they are not wrong. For the uninitiated, this rigidity must seem odd. For one thing, the comic was set in a fictional 1985. This is understandable, as it was published in an actual 1986. The movie might have attempted to create an alternate 2009, in order to make it more accessible. There is a real danger in making a movie set more than twenty years ago that is further influenced by events another decade earlier. For many people, especially younger viewers, the references and jokes might be lost. Furthermore, the film cut many of the scenes that help set the stage for much of the later action. This is understandable, as the prospect of an eighteen hour Watchmen might have been a bit intimidating.
So, I am sitting down to write a review of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, and I don't know where to begin. I could start with the script (fairly strong, but not very Doyle-ish) or the acting (almost universally great), but I think I will begin with Ritchie's direction.
From the beginning, the direction was impressive. Ritchie managed to show Holmes' intellect and keen faculties of observation in a unique and economical manner. The audience is occasionally allowed to see Holmes' thought process in the moment, but generally, as with Doyle's stories, the explanation comes later.
One of the things that Ritchie is known for is his too-cool-for-school camera work and flashy editing. Both of these were toned down a lot. In fact, the direction never seemed to upstage the story or characters, which, as far as I can tell, is a first for Ritchie. I should confess that I have only seen Lock Stock, Snatch, and the horrible Revolver. In this movie Ritchie adapting himself admirably to the story he is telling, rather than adapting the story to his style. So overall, high marks for direction.
So this weekend, I sat down for some quality time with the new hotnesses: G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. RC is proud to offer the following review of these blockbusters.
They are both crap.
Seriously, they suck a lot. Don't waste your time or money. There are one or two specks of decent in each of these movies, but neither one is worth a second glance in the video store. Terrible plots, one demensional characters, and horrible horrible writing drag two of my favorite franchises down.
Halo 3: ODST, recycles the gameplay of earlier Halo games, which is not necessarily a bad thing, while it brings a few new things to the table.
The most obvious addition to the series is Firefight, a cooperative mode that throws wave after wave of enemies at up to four players. This is insanely fun. As the game progresses, the enemies get harder to beat, while the game also turns on skulls, which are the Halo version of cheat codes, that make the game even harder. I could get bogged down in the minutiae of this mode, but I will just say that it is really fun and you should try it.
It would be a mistake to call The Hurt Locker the most intense movie I have ever seen in the the theater. While true, this doesn't communicate the complicated personal story being told. The movie follows an Army bomb removal squad in Baghdad in 2004. Staff Sergeant William James, played by Jeremy Renner, is almost pathologically addicted to risk. As the new bomb tech in the squad, he is incredibly skilled and reckless. As the commanding officer in the unit, he has the authority to make incredibly dangerous decisions. The squad is rounded out by Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty, as Sergeant JT Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge, respectively. Both of these actors do a fine job with characters that seem less complicated because they are missing that huge flaw. Mackie and Geraghty resist the urge to play it big and melodramatic, bringing a humanity to the hell.
The most obvious area where this movie excels is in the combat. Bigelow treats every encounter with a bomb as a battle. On the one side is the army. On the opposition is the insurgency. But how do you fight an enemy which looks like, and has learned to act like, the innocent population? This question leads to some of the most intense scenes in the film.