Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

No Sir, I didn't like it.

I remember hearing about how this movie was shelved for a few years after it was filmed. I remember that this was going to be this unique collaboration between Joss Whedon (Producer/Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director) and Drew Goddard (Director/Co-Writer) and it was written by them in a fine hotel suite over the course of three days give or take.

I remember reading on Ain't It Cool News the reactions of movie goers after they screened this at the 2011 Butt Numb-A-Thon. Almost universally it was praised and EVERYONE agreed to not share any info about the film lest it ruin it for you. So I kept away from spoilers, I kept away from clips and interviews. And then in March I accidentally watched a trailer for it while in the theater waiting for another movie to begin.....and they showed me all I needed to know to end up piecing this relatively dull, unfunny, unscary piece of tripe together.

And I hate when I can figure out a movie by the trailer.

I did go and watch it with my wife and two of her friends from work (so the company was good) because I was keeping a small piece of hope alive that this movie could work. I wasn't looking for a 'genre redefining movie' or 'a deconstruction of the horror genre' (which this movie was neither) I just wanted to get my $5.25 worth out of it. And I couldn't. Why? Because there is no surprise in this movie at all. This movie starts with giving you all the pieces of the puzzle within the first few minutes of the flick.

Oh look. Its the analogues for Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard....and Amy Acker.

The movie begins with these guys. And you get far too much info about what is going on and if you actually PAY ATTENTION to this opening sequence you already see the big picture. The emphasis on 'pay attention' was all mine as a lot of reviewers are crowing about how great this movie is and I guess they were just too geeked out over Joss, playing Draw Something on their smart phones or were asleep and missed this to realize this was a bad movie from the get go.

Hell it didn't even feel like a movie. It felt like one of the really bad Buffy or Angel episodes. It had an overwhelming TV quality to everything that I just couldn't figure out why it had that. It wasn't just the general look of the movie either but it was also the characters in the film too. Joss Whedon is generally known for one thing: he can craft a fun ensemble cast of main characters. I will concede to this as I generally enjoyed Buffy, Angel and Firefly. So I am at a loss that he and Drew managed to make some of the most bland people out there that we, the audience, were supposed to care about? Snarky dialogue doesn't make worthy characters and these folk were about as deep as a puddle in the desert.

Oh look its Thor! And a bunch of nobodies!

The biggest complaint I have with 'Cabin' is that it spoon feeds you everything and refuses to let the audience figure out anything for themselves. Just from paying attention to the scene involving the 'office betting board' as to what method the kids choose to be the bringer of their doom I knew by the end of the movie we were going to see all those monsters on screen and causing havoc. Listening to one of the controllers whine about how he wanted to see a merman and how his cohort referred to him as Aquaman lead me to the conclusion that he would be killed by said merman by the end. Was I wrong? Not at all.

You see this movie was written for people with severe cases of ADD. People that can't concentrate on one thing for more than seconds at a time. Just enough time for those folk to miss something and then be shocked when the 'payoff' happens. For example in the trailers for 'Cabin' you see a hawk gliding in the air as the RV is winding around a mountain road then SPLAT the hawk hits some kind of sci-fi future wall and dies. Cut to about an hour later or so you see Chris Hemsworth going to jump said gorge on a dirt bike to get help for the other two survivors (in the same spot the hawk bit it) and guess what? Splat. He, too, hits the wall and dies. Shocked the characters sure but the audience? To everyone in the theater that watched and was surprised by that shame on you! That was telegraphed and so was the entire movie.

So it comes down to this. I don't like movies that are supposedly written to be intelligent but are ungodly stupid and smug about it no less. This movie should have just embraced its total stupidity and ran with it instead of trying to be faux intellectual. I felt like this movie was trying to talk down at me for the entire showing and that is not a good feeling to be giving a viewer. But what do I know? Well I know what I like  and it sure as hell isn't 'The Cabin in the Woods'.


*Just as a side note, Juglar Josh wrote about the cult of Whedon on his blog right here, and I agree with him with regards to Joss. But I still enjoyed Firefly, Josh.

**Also I want to note this movie only came out after Joss got all the good buzz for doing The Avengers and after seeing Cabin.....I'm kinda scared for The Avengers.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Remakes: A Cautionary Tale

While writing my post about Kickstarters for old PC games and The Two Guys from Andromeda, I started out with a little vitriol for Michael Bay.


Now while I am not a Bay fanatic at all there have been occasions that I like watching a Bay-stravaganza. I enjoyed 'Bad Boys' as it was fun watching Will Smith and Martin Lawrence pretending to be cops. I also liked 'The Rock' as well. Sean Connery was fun in that movie but for me the real draw of that film was

Stop judging me!

Anyways with the Transformers debacle and the impending 'Ninja Turtles' shart on my childhood I started thinking about what I would and would not like to see remade.....EVER.

This summer we get Total Recall back in theaters. A remake that is closer to the source materials than the original Paul Verhoeven flick from 1990. But is this really needed? Was there some public outcry for a more true to form movie based off of Philip K. Dick's story 'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale'? No? Really?? Then why was it remade? Boredom? Money grab? I can't say.  But I will say that while the remake looks like a better film I doubt it will be as entertaining to me.


Get your ass to Mars!



No Mars here.

"I'm a fucking actor!"

It's nothing against Colin Farrell or director Len Wiseman but I just don't think I will be as entertained as I was watching the Arnold spewing one liners, bad prosthetic make up, three breasted mutant woman Johnny Cab destroying version. Even after all this time I still enjoy watching the original Total Recall and still grin like an idiot while viewing it.

Speaking of Colin Farrell I thoroughly enjoyed him as Jerry the Vampire in the 'Fright Night' remake from last year. It was an older cheesy movie that I thought would be a good choice for an update and I really enjoyed it. My blogging compatriot Jugular Josh at "where-there-had-been-darkness" didn't care for it but he's wrong. ** It just was a good example for me of a fun remake of an older property.

I also felt 'The A-Team' was a completely brainless action fest and felt right at home with its source material...a completely brainless action show from the '80's. I would also like to note I would kill for a remake of one of my favorite movies from the '80's and I feel it would be a perfect fit for a relaunch with today's technology.

THIS would be glorious. With how advanced video games have become it is no longer a far fetched idea that they could be training simulators of some kind. Get on this already Hollywood!

However the following are films that I NEVER want to be remade. These are works of art and for my money still hold up as well as they day they released. KEEP OUT HOLLYWOOD!

These are just a few movies that are powerful example of excellence in film. It is a disservice to the film, the cast, crew and all involved if these properties are touched and remade for a new generation. Instead of remaking them I have a suggestion. Why not release them back into theaters again? Get the younger generations interested in seeing them in their original format. While I think it may be too late for some of the current tweens/twenty somethings as they are lost to the fast paced world of not having to think and Googling everything (and believing the first link that shows up without question) we can get the kids coming up after them aware and interested.

And it isn't as difficult as it sounds. Its actually quite easy and I'll give an example. One of my fondest memories as a child was on sunday morning my father and I would watch classic comedies on tv such as The Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Bros., etc. I was exposed to those things at an early age. So seeing something that was 'old' wasn't repellent to me but just normal. I grew up appreciating the classics whether it was movies, tv, music or literature. And that's all that you have to do; show the young-uns that this stuff is worth keeping 'as is' and its not always better when its remade. Because when we let that go we end up with



Instead of THIS...


*** Jugular Josh isn't wrong about his opinion. I'm just messing with him. Go read his blog.

Kickstart(er) My Heart!

While it appears Michael Bay has been hell bent on destroying parts of my childhood with first the Transformers movie franchise and now Ninja Turtles, the G.I. Joe film being a total piece of unwashed ass and I get to watch my wife's favorite things from her childhood get repacked, re-issued and re-updated ad nauseum its nice and refreshing to see a few fine folk from my teenage PC gaming years coming back into familiar territory.

Don't worry guys...I won't forget!

So while trolling around the interwebs last night I came across a wonderful discovery! The Two Guys from Andromeda are back! And they are making an all new 'Spaceventure'! Squee!

What do you mean 'Who?'! These are the brainiacs (term used loosely) that created the wonderful Space Quest PC game series that captivated my gaming imagination in the late '80s through early '90s! It was the story of Roger Wilco, intergalactic janitor, and his (mis)adventures in space. It was loaded with humor, puns, funny characters and all the good stuff that was trademark Sierra Online adventure gaming back in the day. Yes kiddies this was WAY before 'point and click' mouse had to *gasp* type out commands! And it was fun! And we liked it that way! Now get off my lawn!

Now while no Kickstarter has been formed for this project (which I still encourage folk to support this project in any way possible...from Facebook 'Like' to following their Twitter account) there are other Kickstarters formed by other Sierra alum that want to make games again!

First we have Jane Jensen's 'Pinkerton Road'. Jane was the creator of the venerable 'Gabriel Knight' series.
A psychological, supernatural horror/mystery series set in New Orleans and other locals through out the world. I would love to see her stretch her writing wings again to create something as special as Gabriel Knight once more.

Now for my personal favorite. One I will have to support somehow (even being unemployed still I have to scrounge a few bucks for this).  If the name Al Lowe means anything to you as a PC gamer you are 1) old and 2) have a dirty sense of humor. Al Lowe has started a Kickstarter to remake and re-envision his classic franchise which has seen better times ever since it left his capable hands. Of course I mean Leisure Suit Larry!

I actually OWN this version of the game! I am old...

For me the two best series to emerge from Sierra was Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. And in all honestly it was because of the amount of humor in each. It was right up my alley as it fell in line with comedies that I liked such as Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, anything funny by Mel Brooks,etc etc and so on. These games were irreverent and made me laugh out loud while sitting in front of a Tandy computer. I remember having to answer Richard Nixon trivia to prove I was old enough to play LSL when you first booted up the floppy disk. And this was back before Google existed and the Internet was still in its infancy. Glad I knew who Nixon was. And that I got the joke of asking questions about 'Tricky Dick'.

So finding this info was a nice surprise and a great way to end a mini vacation I took with my wife to visit family and friends. I'm going to be watching these projects develop like a hawk and hope that I'll get to play in these toy boxes sometime soon. 

Maybe 'toybox' was the wrong thing to imply with LSL......

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

LEGOS! The Flying Dutchman Edition

I have the BEST wife in the world. I know every married guy says that but they don't have a wife that gives them Legos for Easter instead of candy. And not just regular Legos either. Oh no my friends this was the super sweet Spongebob Squarepants Lego set for The Flying Dutchman!

So it comes with the ship, a deserted island with cannon and treasure chest and pirate versions of Spongebob and Patrick. Oh and the ghostly Flying Dutchman himself.

Seriously wife is just awesome.

Legos Ahoy!

An Aside to SW:TOR

All this playing of TOR has made me want to play the Star Wars tabletop RPG again. Ideally it would be using the most recent SAGA rules and set in The Knights of the Old Republic setting.


Damn you Star Wars: The Old Republic!

So I gave into the dark side and took an actual stab at playing TOR. My first experience with it wasn't very fun as I tried out being a Jedi Knight and realized that for light saber combat I need a control pad instead of a mouse and keyboard.

After talking to a few more folk about my disdain for melee in an MMORPG they all suggested I play some kind of ranged character. So I created a Republic Trooper as a last ditch effort to try to enjoy this game before I totally immerse myself back into the console gaming world. I wasn't expecting much and instead found I prefer ranged combat much more than I should and found myself starting to get seriously sucked into the game. Currently my Trooper is on Coruscant, took the Commando advanced class and has his first companion.

And this is just my single player character. I also created a Bounty Hunter so I can play with one of my friends as Imperials. We're both currently on the planet Hutta, both level 8 and both having a lot of fun. We had such a fun marathon session for our first session that I had to remind him that he had work in the morning and he needed to go the F to sleep already. I'm going to try to get back online with him tonight as well so the continuing story of the completely mercenary bounty hunter and the suave James Bond-esque Imperial Agent can get the hell off Hutta and get out into the galaxy.

 And naturally more friends have TOR too and want to play with me or my wife. So if you're one of them and want to start up a game just let me know. I'd be happy to play with you as long as I don't have to be a melee character.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My First Videogame!

Last night while playing more Gears of War 3 one of the new people I was playing with asked the rather innocuous question of "What was your first video game?". And after listening to such responses as Halo 2 and Spyro the Dragon I knew I was going to horribly date myself with my answer.

And not only did I date myself** by saying it was "Combat" for the Atari 2600....

Warfare was never so blocky...

...I also gave the wrong answer as well. You see "Combat" may have been the first game I pulled out of the Atari 2600 box when my father was trying to hook it up to the TV on Christmas morning all the while my 4 year old self was bouncing around actually wasn't the first Atari game I owned.

My mother, bless her heart, bought me an Atari game so I could play it at my friends house across the street from where I lived in Texas. I will also say that Rocky, Travis and I had fun playing it and it was quite appropriate to own this game in Texas too.

Is that Clint Eastwood on the cover?

Oooh....look at those graphics!

"Outlaw" was a compilation of a few western themed mini games. Hell pretty much all the Atari games were mini games of some kind. But for this 4 year old having a game with cowboys in it, especially to a kid that played Cowboys and Indians outdoors with the neighborhood kids, this was gaming nirvana. And this was the game that started me on my lifelong hobby of video games and gaming.

So thanks Mom for getting me this when I was a kid. You were ahead of the curve with exposing me to technology. I also thank you for not accidentally picking up another cowboy and indians themed game as it may have scarred my childhood forever.

If you want to know more....just not at work ok?

** I want to point out that when I said 'Combat' the conversation got so quiet that you could hear a flea fart at 100 meters. It was either a cross between 'WTF is an Atari 2600' and 'Holy sheetz this guy is older than my dad'. I want to cry.

New Shadowrun Game(s)

So while browsing the interweb this morning I come across this interesting article on Kotaku. Its about a Kickstarter funded Shadowrun video game that isn't the the browser based one. (BTW, the browser based one doesn't do anything for me for reasons I have yet to discover...)

What truly intrigues me about the project is who is helming it. Jordan Weisman (one of the creators to Shadowrun way back in the day). This in some way could be considered to be a coup of sorts. It embraces a very old school mentality and if they are using the old Data East made Shadowrun SNES game for inspiration I will be a very happy boy.

So happy in fact I think I may kick some money to the project just so it can happen.

Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter

I wish them well on this and I hope this game truly does kick some serious arse.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Review: Asura's Wrath

One of the Eight Guardian Generals that protect Earth from the evil Gohma, Asura is set up by his fellow generals as the scape goat for a rebellion against their Emperor. Accused of murdering their Emperor, having his wife butchered, his daughter kidnapped into service of this new regime and finally killed by the new leader Deus....this seems like the end of the story of Asura. It isn't because rage doesn't die.

After a 12,000 year slumber in the netherworld Asura awakens to find the world is much different than how he left it. His betrayers and former comrades, now known as 'The Seven Deities', now rule over Earth and use mankind to and their faith to fuel their war against the Gohma threat. At first this means little to Asura as vengeance is all that is on his mind but as the story progresses Asura begins to fight for more than just revenge, more than to save his daughter from slavery.....he's fighting to save all of mankind.

BTW...this is the Gohma threat. Yes that thing is bursting out from Earth

I have to give this game credit. I was just looking for a brainless, over the top brawler to pass the time with. Instead I ended up coming into contact with a exceptionally original title, with a well written story that blends Asian and Hindu mythology merged with a sci-fi bend. I really didn't expect myself to actually care long enough about the characters to want to pay attention to their plights but I did.

Asura incognito

Asura isn't just a screaming bag of rage. He's actually a somewhat complex character that you slowly discover over the course of the game. He isn't just a tool of destruction, though he is very well versed in that art form, he is a conflicted character. A man who lost everything and with dealing with his losses shoulders a greater responsibility of saving the world and bringing peace. He's not the only character you feel for. Obviously you feel for Mithra, Asura's daughter who is imprisoned and forced to aid Deus, but you also feel for Asura's eternal rival and brother of Asura's wife, Yasha. He was with the rebellion. He saw all that was done. He knows his sister was murdered, his niece captured, he watched his world suffer for 12,000 years. He's just as conflicted as our main protagonist.

Now past the story I need to comment on the art style of this game. It is another title using the Unreal 3 engine but I'll be damned if it looks anything like ANYTHING else done with this graphics engine. All the characters, the towns, monsters, everything has a look like it was made from a wood carving. You see the wood grain effect in everything. It gives the game a very old look to it and it strangely merges well with the games more futuristic sci-fi look.

I also thought the voice acting was decent. All the characters sounded distinct and had their own personalities. The music was nice and dramatic when appropriate. The sound effects were really nice and meaty especially for the impacts of heavy hits and burst attacks. Those sounds helped give the epic, and I mean EPIC, battles more weight.

And they are EPIC battles. Asura is going toe to toe with other deities so it needs to be impressive. I'll show you an example.

This is one of the first major battles Asura has after awakening after 12,000 years. This is Wyzen in his 'true form'. Yes he is bigger than the planet. get to fight him. is so cool getting to this point!

Another thing I want to address about this game is that it is set up to look and act like an interactive anime. At the start of each chapter you get a small set of credits, you also get a recap of what happened and what is coming up just like an anime series. I actually found this episodic approach quite refreshing to the usual beat 'em up fare that just throws you into the next level.

A point of contention for some people with be the quite liberal use of Quick Time Events through out the game. So liberal that they are a core element to the game play. I know a lot of folk are turned off by this, and I generally despise them too, but I felt 'right' with Asura's Wrath. It helped keep the frenetic anime style mega battles flowing nicely and was a nice change up from the standard combat in this game.

That segways into my least favorite part of the game, the 'regular' combat. It was pretty boring with you alternating between standard and strong attacks. Against one or two opponents it isn't too bad but when you are fighting 7-10 at a time, even with a 'lock on feature', it became muddled and confusing. Also the camera will fight with you during those larger battles with multiple opponents so you can't spot all the incoming attacks and thus can't counter effectively. Sound effects will also repeat ad nauseum with the same yells, grunts and screams from Asura being used quite often. Minor gripes but it didn't diminish my fun.

Its a gross understatement to say that I liked this game. I thoroughly loved this game. The amount of character this game has is enormous and makes me like this game universe oh so much. I like it to the point that I downloaded the first of a few DLC's coming out for the game. The first is a fully hand drawn animated interactive cut scene that bridges the gap between Chapters 11 and 12. It was just awesome. By the end of April they are adding four more chapters to the story (for reasons I can't say unless I spoil the game's finale). And they are having Asura go head to head with some of Capcom's other greatest fighters in the world...

Yes...this is not an April Fool's joke....this is happening!

Even without any DLC the Asura's Wrath experience is one to not be missed. Buy it and enjoy the ride!