Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Personal note.

My contract ended today, actually. Everyone has been on pins and needles for the past month, stressed out about the whole thing, and they finally told us yesterday who's keeping their jobs and who isn't.

I'm safe, for another year. Come next August, you can expect to find me stressed right the fuck out again! But for today, I'm safe. I have the day off, I have a copy of Deus Ex which is actually becoming much more engaging now that I seem to be in the third act of the game, and I've got six days until Dead Island drops.

Today is not for gaming news or even a Games of September post. Today is for breathing a sigh of relief, sittin' back, maxin' and relaxin'.

G'night, dear reader.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Persona 4 : The Golden coming to PSV!

Today Atlus announced that they're (finally) giving us an upgraded port of the scrumtrulescent Shin Megami Tensei : Persona 4. It's due to drop on the PlayStation Vita next year, in Japan. Naturally, there's no word on a localization at this point, but - as I've said countless times before - this is Atlus we're dealing with, so it's almost sure to happen.

The portable port, like Persona 3: FES and Persona 3 Portable before it, will see its share of tweaks and upgrades.
  • A new character named Mary, who I'm willing to bet looks something like this:

  • 1.5 times the voice work of the original Persona 4
  • Wireless support for calling on others to help you when you're about to die in a dungeon
  • Other elements that fans of the original have heavily requested (?)
  • New opening anime with new song from Shouji Meguro
  • New animation movies

Just another reason to drool over the Vita, as far as I'm concerned. If only the 3DS has a lineup like the Vita's, I might be tempted to give it a shot at its new, sweeter price point.

And, for the record, Mogs got here first.

Hideki Kamiya teases Bayonetta 2 via Twitter.

Twitter user into_the_soup Tweeted at Devil May Cry and Bayonetta director today a simple question:
"Yo, what's up with Bayonetta 2??"
"This week... in a game magazine..."
If anyone's unfamiliar with my position on the subject, Bayonetta was a twelve-hour orgasm of exhaustively perfected substance and zany, glorious style. A sequel would be a day-one purchase, regardless of price.

Why does reversible box art make me want to buy Resistance 3 more?

Back in May I talked about how the best in box arts this year were big, bold, striking images - and the Resistance 3 cover by Brit artist Olly Moss was the headliner.

Today news dropped from Insomniac's Twitter that, when Resistance 3 drops on September 6th (omg that's next week! Dead Island too!), every copy of the game will include a reversible cover that allows us to view Moss's design in all its glory - a massive improvement over the logo-cluttered image we've grown accustomed to.

Does this mean the rising tide of ridiculous logos on our box art has begun to ebb, and will retire to the sea? Doubtful - but it's still wonderful to see someone recognizing the potential for games-art-as-art-art and taking a bit of initiative.

Now isn't that better? Honestly, it makes me want to buy the game just so I can reverse the cover.

KB is back.

We haven't seen much of Kevin Butler since the PlayStation Network hack earlier this year. It's lovely to see him back in the saddle.

Also, sorry for that one meager post yesterday. When I got home from work last night I was horrified to discover I had no internet access - what can one do?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Is it wrong that this almost brought a tear to my eye?

I'm not usually one to say "this major website is doing X, you should go check it out," but this promo for GameTrailers' upcoming countdown of the top 100 best game trailers is just chock-full of (part of) what we love about gaming. There's so much glorious art, imagination and perfect framing here that it just makes me want to bust open my game library and start rolling through all the titles I haven't played in the past year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Game Diary - Deus Ex.

I still find that, while I find it charming here and endearing there, I'm not as wholly swept away by Deus Ex: Human Revolution as I'd hoped to be.

I fear this may be due to the limited amount of time I've been able to spend with the title. With more time and more opportunities to push at the limits of its intended design, I imagine it will open up like a blooming flower of strategic choice - and it's the constrictions of my own choice that ensures I have such a limited view of its splendor. I imagine. I don't know.

My natural choices in games like this shift to stealth. Even in BioShock and its sequel I'll quickly go for plasmids that turn me invisible and silence my footsteps - and while Deus Ex is certainly designed around the idea of someone beating its missions without being seen, it's not geared towards an organic exploration of its mechanics. Instead, things are perfectly analog - and when you fuck up, bam, you're done. Reload your save.

This requires a ton of saving and loading, which highlights the game's technical foibles - load times take an eternity.

Well, that's not quite accurate - but load times do take so much time that I flip the inputs on my TV to the Comedy Network or the Cooking Channel for a moment or six- and that is the precise criteria for determining if a game's load times are egregious or not.

Let me put it another way : Deus Ex has a great deal to offer, and I'm finding it a little difficult to love.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Vampire Movies!

Blue and I went to see the new Fright Night last week, and I must say it was a pretty-damn-decent vampire movie. A fun, fresh-feeling riff on the whole "vampire thing," neatly sidestepping the squeaky-clean modern vampire crap we get in Twilight or True Blood.

Ingenue Imogen Poots has nothing on Amanda Bearse's turn in the 1985 original, but otherwise I prefer the new cast. Anton Yelchin works great as an ex-nerd trying to be cool, Toni Colette is (as always) engaging as his mom and Colin Farrel in particular is very entertaining as the hottie next door / douchebro vampire menace.

Jerry (Farrel) is so casual and so well-versed in navigating the humans he wades through. He's not beset by the crippling depression and self-hatred that so many modern vamps seem to suffer, and the result is a pleasant, pleasing flick that's more interested in having fun than anything else - and it succeeds.

Worth watching? Yes. Worth buying? Meh. When you find it cheap.

* * *

Let's talk about the state of vampire movies, shall we?

Fright Night adheres to this schism that seems to have evolved in modern vampire tales. On the one hand we've got the fun, tongue-in-cheek horror-bent movies like 30 Days of Night and From Dusk Till Dawn. In these films, vampires are simply predators. Vicious, disgusting human-shaped beasts that provide a reasonable threat for our human heroes to overcome.

On the other hand, there's the melodramatic romances that so distress so many of us.

It's important to note that this separation between the two central tenants of vampirocity is a modern invention - the problem is that it's far too rare we see a mix of them. It's either beautiful young people in love-lust or savage horrors with gore dripping from snaggle-fanged jaws.

Bram Stoker's Dracula was so successful in the early 1900s because - through its central character - it acknowledges and explores these dual natures we find so seductive. The vampire isn't simply a monster in the guise of a man - it's symbolic of all the desires and appetites we subjugate in the name of an operable society.

It's important to note that, back when Dracula was written (1897), the world at large had not yet converted to the Church of Science. Christian morals were still widespread and very much grounded in the intestine-coiling fear of the eternity of suffering that would befall you, should you stray from the lit path - and Dracula embodied all the indulgences the people would not permit themselves to acknowledge or explore. It was one of the last gasps for capitalizing on "religious terror," which modern times (and literature) had been slowly eroding as science took its place as the new mysterious, dark woods we should fear (Frankenstein - 1823).

That's what was so appealing, seductive and terrifying about the first (famous) vampire. He wasn't merely a monster - he was everything that we perceive to be monstrous within ourselves. How yummy that this dark image of humanity does not cast a reflection of his own.

There are modern vampire stories that have not forgotten what made Dracula such a compelling character and Dracula such an arresting narrative. I was, recently, very impressed with Park Chan-wook's Thirst (2009).

Thirst is based on an 1867 French novel called Thérèse Raquin in which a scheming wife enters into a passionate affair with her husband's best friend, and together they murder said husband before going mad with guilt. In adapting the novel, Park realized that the central story was not merely the lover being seduced by the wife, but the lover being seduced by all his baser appetites. To feed, to fuck, to kill.

There is no vampiric imagery or symbolism in Thérèse Raquin, but in (loosely) slipping its plot into the lattice of a vampire story, Park demonstrates his canny appreciation for what this supernatural sub-genre is truly discussing.

Let The Right One In (2008) remains, I feel, the best vampire story I've ever seen. It's better than the 2004 novel on which it is based and better than the (actually pretty good!) 2010 American remake.

As the movie principally concerns a twelve year-old boy and the prepubescent predator who lives next door, it abandons the sexual themes so prevalent in vampire lore and replaces them with an even more widely-appreciated theme; young love.

When we were kids, this totally happened to us. Someone came into our lives who made everything okay, and we fell straightaway in love - the sort of untainted, pure adoration and affection that we'll be hard-pressed to uncover in ourselves again. Let The Right One In leverages this universal experience to great rewards.

The tender ages of its protagonists allows the story to highlight what has always, perhaps, been the vampire's greatest strength : to seduce. To strum a chord in the human heart that makes us follow them into the darkness - and not merely as some voodoo-zombie slave, but as a willing companion.

The child-vampire Eli, who savages the local population and drives grown men to die for her doesn't just embody the standard vampire threat, but cries out for our understanding. What's worst in vampires has always been what's worst in ourselves - but somehow Eli makes even the viewer accept the horror in her and, eerily, in ourselves.

The end of the film is either a triumph of love of a gut-punch of terror, depending on how you choose to view it. It maintains the romance and evil-from-within dichotomy that has always laced the greatest vampire stories, and marries them in a finale that captures the best of both : like all good vampires and like us, it is beautiful and it is terrible.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Zeboyd Games to carry on Penny Arcade Adventures.

After Penny Arcade Adventures : On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode II had its unfortunate financial showing, Gabe and Tycho stepped aside so Hothead Games could go ahead with DeathSpank. The PAA games, it was decided, simply weren't a good commercial investment for Penny Arcade - and Jerry Holkins (Tycho) continued the Penny Acrade Adventures story via snippets of prose.

I never got into the prose, but I was rather fond of the games - so it's nice to hear that a deal has been struck to continue the franchise (even if it is with a very different approach).

At the very least, it's awesome to hear that it's Zeboyd Games who will pick up the series. Zeboyd actually began with a few members of the Penny Arcade fan community coming together with dreams of creating a game. The results were the XBLA 16-bit RPG-style surprise hits Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World.

After BoD and CstW did not-bad on XBL's Indie channel, Zeboyd put together a kickstarter that allowed them to tweak the games and release them on Steam. On Steam, the games pulled in more revenue in a week than they had in eighteen months on Xbox Live.

So Gabe, Tycho and you will be back to punch evil in the face - this time with older-school, 16-bit art and turn-based combat.

Penny Arcade Business Dude Robert Khoo says the company was looking at taking the franchise in that direction months ago anyway.
"We originally had the idea of an NES-style RPG last year, but we couldn't find the right people to do it. After we saw Zeboyd's Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World, we knew we didn't have to look around anymore. Zeboyd was a perfect match."
Congratulations, dudes. The entire PA community is proud of you! Also - check this out - Gabe and Tycho sprites!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jobs steps down at apple, price cut doesn't help 3DS.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs sent an open letter to "the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple community," officially announcing that he was stepping aside from his role in the company.
"I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come."

"I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role."
Jobs offered the company's reigns to current COO Tim Cook, and asked that he himself remain as Chairman of the Board - a request that was granted.

Jobs is a co-founder of Apple, and in recent years symbolized the arch-typical eclectic, individualist tech-savvy entrepreneur. He is largely credited with Apple's stratospheric success in the last decade.

The 3DS's recent price cut didn't help it find a wider audience in its home and native land, as sales of the new handheld plummeted. While the PS3's price cut resulted in a slight sales increase, the 3DS only moved 105,639 units in the week its price cut took effect - a significant drop from the previous week's sales of 167,077 units.

What does this mean? It likely means that (a) the 3DS is nearing death or (b) everyone is waiting 'till Christmas. Given that Christmas isn't such a big deal in Japan, I worry for the handheld in the land of the rising Sun. Here in North America, I expect sales of Nintendo's newest toy will catapult into the stratosphere when Old Saint Nick starts his holiday shoppin'.

Nathan Drake unboxes Nathan Drake and makes me want to preorder Nathan Drake.

I'm trying to eschew special editions. Whenever an SE comes, the game goes into my library and (usually) the other crap goes into a closet. A notable exception was this year's inFamous 2 special edition - I hope to remember to write a post about that one day - but I'm trying to resist.

Unsuccessfully, if Catherine's SE is any indication. Anyway, let it be known that - should you want to get me interested in the special edition for the game you're pushing, just release a video of Nolan North doing the unboxing. I want that ring so bad...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three things (barely).

Thing the First : EA's version of Steam has a pretty brutal EULA.

A lot of folks are peeved that you can't get EA's upcoming ultra-gorgeous military FPS Battlefield 3 on Steam. Electronic Arts have made the PC, downloadable version of the game exclusive to their own Steamlike store, Origin.

On the one hand, if you don't dig that, you can just buy a boxed copy of the game for PC at retail. On the other hand, even if you do buy a boxed copy, you still have to sign up for Origin to play it, and that's where the devil rears his head - in the details. Turns out Origin's end user license agreement advises the user that Electronic Arts...
“...may collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information that identifies your computer.“

“EA may also use this information combined with personal information for marketing purposes and to improve our products and services. We may also share that data with our third party service providers…“

So... if you don't like the idea of EA collecting, using, storing and transmitting data that identifies your computer and sharing that data with their third party associates... hang on, I think I've got another quote...
"Don't like it? Well fuck you, paying customer! You don't get to play Battlefield 3. Suckadank."
Way to make your valiant attempt to compete with Steam even less appealing, EA. Good show. Good show. (Golf clap.)


Thing the Second : Deus Ex's console versions seem pretty comparable!

All three looks almost exactly the same to my technically-untrained eye. It probably helps that Human Revolution isn't a particularly graphically-impressive game.

Thing the Third : I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Deus Ex yet.

I don't... mind it. I can perceive that it will take me to interesting places, but for the moment it seems to be a line of fetch quests - and not particularly interesting ones. I've been playing the game as a stealth title - it's my favorite genre, and I prefer to slip around unnoticed. DE:HR brutally punishes stealth failure, though - to be discovered simply means an instant reload of your last saved game - and I find myself wondering if I wouldn't be having more fun if I decided to play it as a politician or commando.

This is, of course, only after having put four or five hours into the title - but I was really hoping it would blow my socks off. In terms of art direction and music, it totally has, but elsewhere I find I'm still looking for this legendary experience to reveal itself to me.

Perhaps it requires repeat playthroughs with different play styles to discover?

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Portal : No Escape is worth seven minutes of your time.

And isn't that the highest compliment one can give internet videos?

In other news, I am home from work and have a copy of Deus Ex : Human Revolution. G'night!

Deus Ex: Human Revolution launch trailer.

And the game drops today! How apt.

Virtua Fighter 5 : Final Showdown is getting localized!

I've been begging for another localization of the perennially-updated Virtua Fighter 5 ever since 5's version C dropped on the 360 (with netcode) and the PS3 got version B (without online).

Whelp, looks like my prayers will be answered in Summer 2012 when Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown launches on PSN and XBLA. That's... a very long time to wait - but Summer's a great time for it!

According to the press release, VF5 : Final Tuned boasts
  • The Perfect Fighting Experience: Virtua Fighter 5’s signature style of hand-to-hand combat, with revised mechanics, balance, timing and more, along with simplified controls for new players while retaining the depth that veterans demand
  • Dynamic and Interactive Arenas: Fighting areas in new shapes and sizes, including arenas with fences and walls that are different for every round – take unexpected advantage of fighters’ new wall-based moves, or break through the fences with special attacks
  • A Mode for Every Fight: Dominate the leaderboards with Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown’s extremely responsive one-on-one online battle system, widely praised for having little latency, or take on an army of opponents yourself in a new single-player mode
  • Customized Combatants: Enter the ring with one of 19 playable characters, including fan favorite Taka-Arashi from Virtua Fighter 3 and an all-new character, Jean Kujo, and customize them with unique costume and character items

I've love, love loved Virtua Fighter ever since 4 completely dominated my life. More than other fighting games you often see at tourneys, Virtua Fighter is almost as much of a hand-to-hand combat synthesizer than it is a fighting game. Real-world fighting styles (Muay Thai, Jeet-Kun Do) are painstakingly realized in the game, given every fighter very different mechanics, strategy and style - but somehow it's always beautifully balanced.

If you ever wanted to fight with Jackie Chan's looping Drunken Master style, you'll want to play as the old Shun Di (who must take swigs from his gourd to increase his damage). If, on the other hand, you want to recreate the flowing grace of
Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, you may want to look into personal favorite Lei-Fei.

Mmm! I can't wait.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Amazon makes every day Christmas day.

A package! From Amazon! What could it be? What could it contain? Until the package is opened, it could contain anything. It could be a cracked vial of the dreaded hantavirus - but lo! It is, in fact, the Sean Connery 007 Collection: Volume 2 on DVD and The Venture Bros. season 4 on bluray!

Thus completes my Sean-Connery-as-James-Bond collection and my Venture Bros. library.

Ahhh. Feels good.

Dark Souls Bartholomew trailer.

Oh God that is so hot.

Deus Ex reviews, roll out! Decepticons, scatter!

Perhaps the reason Deus Ex: Human Revolution released an ridiculous amount of media in the months prior to its release because the publishers were painfully aware that no one was really prepared to trust in this exercise.

The original Deus Ex is still considered to be lightning in a bottle - not even its own sequel could compare - which influences game design to this day. When Human Revolution was first announced, most folks agreed that they would love a new, great Deus Ex game while acknowledging that a new game wasn't likely to be all that great.

Well, the major outlets are rolling out their reviews now - and reaction seems fairly uniform. Folks are loving it, and I can't wait to get my mitts on it tomorrow.

...perhaps I should've preordered... But no. No, David. You have to break the chain somewhere.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Time for some math!

It's nearly September. Come next month, we will well and truly be entering the fall crush of games. The rising tide will lazily lap against our wallets with this week's Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but let's look beyond that. September, October and November 2011 will be studded with rich deposits of fantastic games, and it's time to exercise some fiscal responsibility - that is to say, it's time to plan out how much this is gonna' cost. I'm only going to list titles that I will or may purchase - sorry, Modern Warfare 3 and Halo : Anniversary - I just don't care about you.

This ain't gonna' be cheap. Bring it on, September!


September 6th
BloodRayne Betrayal
$20(ish) Possible Purchase.

BloodRayne Betrayal - a delightfully-animated 2-D sidescrolling platforming-brawler - looks better than the BloodRayne branding would lead one to believe. I'm not entirely sold on the product - whether or not I snap it up will, I think, depend entirely on where I'm at with my playthrough of Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

September 6th
Dead Island
$60 Day One.

No matter how Deus Ex is progressing, though, I'm sure to pick up Dead Island. Even a steady stream of 7/10 reviews are unlikely to dissuade me from this one.

September 6th
Resistance 3
$60 Potential Purchase.

I'm actually rather fond of Insomniac's Resistance franchise in the same way I'm fond of BioWare's RPGs - but I can't say I'm ravenous to get my hands on the new one. It's very likely this will see a purchase later down the road, at a reduced price.

September 14th
God of War : Origins Collection
$40 Potential Purchase.

The God of War games on the PSP are pretty goddamned incredible, but I'm not sure that will translate to 1080p up-ports being equally engaging. I'm certain to own this disc at one point - but given that these are old games getting a re-release, I'll likely focus on new stuff that's actually new.

September 20th
Gears of War 3
$60 Potential Purchase.

I'm not huge into the Gears franchise - I just feel it doesn't offer as much as Uncharted - but that doesn't stop them from being very-good games. If through some miracle of time management I clear out my backlog and get Gears 2 finished by September? Well sure, there's a distant possibility I'll pick up Gears 3. Unlikely, though.

September 27th
Child of Eden
$30 Potential Purchase.

If you paid attention to reviews of Child of Eden when it broke on the 360 earlier this year, you'll notice that few people had anything bad to say about it. I know it's considered a rhythm-shooter, but to me it's just a very, very good-looking rail shooter (which I abhor). Still, uniformly positive reviews are uniformly positive review - this one goes in the "maybe" pile.

September 27th
The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection
$40 Day One.

I've played both these games to hell and back, I likely won't even have time to play this collection in 2011, and I am buying this thing day one - no questions asked.

* * *


Day One total:
$100.00 ($112.oo)

+ Potential Purchases total:
$250.00 ($280.00)

* * *


October 4th
Dark Souls
$60 Day One.

It's the follow-up to 2009's Demon's Souls. Sold. No discussion.

October 4th
$60 Day One.

Rage is the newest thing from id, and that's really all I need to know about it. If you paid attention to John Carmack's keynote speech at QuakeCon this year, you'd know that (at that time) they were still in talks with Sony to allow Rage to install more than the standard 5GB to the PS3's HDD in order to get that console's version up to spec. I'll be paying close attention to comparisons of the two console versions - but unless the PS3 version is spectacularly inferior, I'll likely be grabbing it for Sony's system.

October 11th
Sideway : New York

$20(ish) Potential Purchase.

Sideway looks pretty darned cool, but I haven't really heard enough about it to make a commitment. It's unlikely I'll have enough time on my hands to give this little title the attention it deserves - but it certainly bears watching.

October 18th
Batman : Arkham City
$60 Day One.

Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum was one of the better games of 2009 - a game of the year contender - and the crown jewel in the Superhero Game subgenre. We expect nothing less from Arkham City, and I'll be powerless to resist its siren song.

October 18th
Ratchet & Clank : All 4 One
$60 Potential Purchase.

I've never met a Ratchet & Clank game I didn't like, but knowing that All 4 One is a huge departure for the series and styles itself as a four-player cooperative exercise doesn't really blow my skirt up. R&C is like vanilla iced cream - it's delicious all on its own - and now you've added pomegranate seeds to it, because that's become popular lately.

Well, it doesn't taste like vanilla iced cream any more, and that's what I want. We'll see, R&C - we'll see...

October (unspecified)
inFamous 2 : Festival of Blood
$40? Day One.

A Halloween-themed stand-alone inFamous 2 DLC title, Festival of Blood combines inFamous and vampires - and that's all I need to know. I don't care what else is on my plate - it will be pushed to the side so I can play more inFamous 2.

October 25th
Battlefield 3
$60 Potential Purchase.

This is a very possible purchase, and that is in all ways freakish for me. I have never purchased a pure military shooter day-one - they just don't interest me - but everything I've seen of Battlefield 3 (which is, admittedly, PC footage) blows my socks off. It will take some very bad reviews to turn me off this game prior to release.

October 25th
Silent Hill : Downpour
$60 Potential Purchase.

Aside from 2, I've never been very impressed with the Silent Hill series - preferring Fatal Frame or Siren - but I like to keep hope alive. Perhaps Silent Hill : Downpour will be the modern Silent Hill that brings the series back to the obscene level of quality it achieved with Silent Hill 2. I doubt it - but let's leave room for the possibility.

* * *


Day One total:
$320.00 ($358.0o)

+ Potential Purchases total:
$730.00 ($817.60)

* * *


November 1st
Uncharted 3 : Drake's Deception
$60 Day One.

Uncharted was exceptional and Uncharted 2 was an utter masterwork of craftsfolk at the peak of their ability. If Uncharted 3 is anything less than an instant game of the year frontrunner, I will be stunned.

November 8th
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection
$50 Day One.

Admittedly, this will be my one dumb, fanboy-driven purchase of the season. I've already played the hell out of all five games included on this disc and I'll have no time to revisit them any time soon. I will buy this on release day, and it will sit in my library - possibly to be left unplayed for months. It's MGS - I'm powerless against it.

November 11th
The Elder Scrolls V : Skyrim
$60 Day One.

I didn't care for Oblivion nearly as much as Fallout 3 and New Vegas, but I'm not blind - Skyrim looks absolutely incredible. If it turns out to be the fantasy-RPG I've been waiting my entire life for, all the better - and you can bet I'll be on it as soon as it drops.

November 15th
Rayman Origins
$20(ish) Potential Purchase.

I don't have a rich history with the Rayman franchise, but show me a gorgeously animated 2-D platformer with poppy art direction and I'll show you a game I'm probably going to have to buy.

November 20th
The Legend of Zelda : Skyward Sword
$60 Potential Purchase.

I keep waiting for a Zelda game to get its hooks into me like Link To The Past did, and it keeps on not happening - so my hype level for Skyward Sword isn't exactly sky-high. Still, it's pretty much the only major release from Nintendo this year, and that makes it worth checking out.

I'll probably take the sage counsel of reviews on this one.

* * *


Day One total:
with tax

+ Potential Purchases total:
with tax

* * *

So, as we can see, the tail end of 2011 has the potential to be a very expensive season. Still - $600 spread out over three months is entirely doable. The question is how many of those possible purchases I'll be able to resist...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Yes Man.

Today I'm puttering around on my computer, putting together a flash drive full of music for a friend who wants me to suggest some tunes for her wedding social* when the phone rings. It's said lovely lady, and her sister has tickets to Rock on the Range - a yearly day-long music show that usually takes place at a big, beautiful outdoor venue. I haven't actually been to a public music performance since like... Hawksley Workman back around the turn of the century.
*a paid party event which aids in financing a couple's wedding.
The wedding social phenomenon is unique to Manitoba, Canada.

If you read my Personal Notes, you'll likely have noted that I've been making a conscious effort lately to be more social, and that when I'm invited to an event of some variety or another I will push myself and say "yes."

Now, it should perhaps be pointed out that neither myself nor my friend nor her sister actually wanted to attend this event. We're not really the hard-rock crowd, but her sister was given the tickets by a client at the bank where she works, with the onus that the VIP box be filled up with "hip but nice young people."

I had no idea I filled said bill - but there I was and off I went. The first band sucked. Hinder was pretty decent - they played Get Stoned, which was a favorite of mine during my hedonistic early twenties - but the subsequent bands weren't all that fun.

Five Finger Death Punch were... pretty fucking annoying, I must say. The crowd went nuts when they were announced, so obviously they have a fan base - and just look at 'em - these dudes have been rockin' for a decade or more and paid their dues. My problem was I didn't get a real sense of some rock artists showcasing their talent and experience, but a quintet of guys who had focus-tested their bad-boy product until it was an efficient engine of commerce.

It was so goddamned transparent. The lead singer and guitarist were both wearing band-brand swag. He was getting all up in the audience's faces and telling them they weren't nearly fucking loud enough, so fuck them! He had precisely eight carefully-positioned water bottles in front of the drum set, and at (what felt like) prescribed moments throughout their set he would grab one - not drink from it - and squirt the water over the crowd before chucking the bottle away, 'cause he's rock-and-roll and he doesn't fucking care.

By the time they got to their last song (he was down to his last bottle), the lead singer was sorry to inform the audience that "this is the last song they'll let us do, 'cause things are gettin' to violent out here."

...riiiiight. If you were any more see-through you'd be cellophane. Halfway through their set I asked my friend if she'd like to join me outside for a smoke (she doesn't smoke) and she jumped at the opportunity to leave.

Outside, we were able to chat a bit about them.

"It's like... they're all thirty or forty years old, right? And they're selling this bullshit anti-establishment rebellious crap - and if you look in the front row in the mosh pit, it's all seventeen, eighteen, nineteen year-old kids. And they're lapping it up - that's the message that teenagers want to hear - but it's a product. It's a product they're selling these kids, and I wonder what these forty year-old guys would be singing about if they didn't have to push that product because it sells so well."

Next up was Saskatoon's The Sheepdogs, who had been tapped to replace a last-minute cancellation in the lineup - and thank goodness they did.

They were a nice little palette-cleanser, when compared to the rest of the evening's entertainment. They have a lighter, almost-70s-rock sound that... how to put it... plugs into positive emotions.

It was just some fun, nice music - and the fact that they all look like filthy, healthy modern hippies (the lead singer was wearing a tan, tasseled leather vest) certainly didn't hurt. They were also hugely aware that their comparatively more innocent (and I feel, honest) sound and attitude was very different from the other acts, and admitted to it before making a little dig at Five Finger's bullshit by ironically demanding their audience "cheer louder for the fucking band." It was hilarious.

The last band we watched, though, was frickin' incredible.

I thought that was a joke, at first. When we were tooling around in the car prior to the show, I asked who was playing at it.

"The headliner is Twisted Sister," my friend said.

"Ech. They had like, one good album in the eighties and that's it."

"Yeah... there's also supposed to be Sum 41."

"There can't be Sum 41," I told her, "the lead vocalist threw out his larynx or something - they're not playing any shows right now." (Which is why The Sheepdogs showed up.)

"Oh - well, there's also supposed to be Evanescence."



"I heard they broke up like, years ago - there was some sort of schism with the singer lady and one of the band members."

"I didn't know that."

"Well, I'm not sure - what do I know? - but I think that's what I heard. Maybe it's just the band without her?"

"That would suck," my friend mused.

"That would suck. It's like No Doubt without Gwen Stefani or Pearl Jam without Eddie Vedder. I don't give a shit about the four guys behind Gwen Stefani - as far as I'm concerned it's the Gwen Stefani show."

So after the four or five decent bands and one good alt-rock hippie group, my friend and I decided that if Evanescence was performing without "Amy Whateverhernameis," as we had agreed on calling her, we would call it a night and go hit a restaurant.

Amy Whateverhernameis was indeed in attendance. She pointed out that it's been a long time since she and the band had been out performing (I think this might be their second new show, having been out of the game for a few years), thanked us all for being there, and then started workin' it.

Her name is Amy Lee, by the way, and after the mono-tonal metal earlier in the evening and the saccharine sounds of The Sheepdogs, she was a revelation of showmanship and talent.

She was just so into it, and so clearly happy to be out singing and performing - wearing a huge, genuine-feeling smile on her face after every song, throwing her hair around and just belting her way through previous Evanescence hits and a few tracks from their upcoming album.

More than any other performance of the night, Amy's voice was this phenomenal instrument - and she's mastered it. She even hit a high C and held it - it was remarkable - all while maintaining this great, positive, passionate and infectious energy.

They were, simply, incredible when performing live. I never minded Evanescence - I even rather liked Going Under - but seeing them live was a jaw-dropper.

After their set we went out for a late dinner and agreed that the entire evening was worth it for Evanescence.

"I have a major girlcrush on Amy Lee," my friend admitted. I agreed.

"I was honestly tempted to make my way down to the mosh pit just so I could throw a pair of boxer shorts on stage," I said.

* * *

And that's just another example of what happens when you say "yes."

Friday, August 19, 2011

MOVIE - Super.

Shut up, crime!

I touched briefly on Super the other day, after I snagged it from HMV. Tonight I watched it again, and I feel a need to re-iterate what a special show it is.

The sizzle quote you'll find on the movie's trailers and box art is that Super is
"probably the most subversive and perverse superhero movie ever made."
- Anthony Kaufman, indieWIRE
I'm not sure that's accurate. It may be subversive, but it's certainly not perverse. Instead, Super has a great deal in common with the investigative, human, exploratory spirit of the legendary Watchmen. It's a smart, thoughtful, I-don't-give-a-shit-what-you-think show.

Super is very much grounded in the real world. The world you and I walk to work or wander about school in. The world where violence is to be avoided because it fucking hurts, and bravery is often synonymous with the type of stupidity that makes it into The Darwin Awards.

When violence occurs in Super, it is never close to the ho-hum, beautiful orchestrations we've come to expect from Spider-Man, Batman and X-Men movies. I can still thrill to the (fantastic) fight sequences in Spider-Man 2, but those battles never felt nearly as impactful as even the briefest whack of The Crimson Bolt's mighty wrench.

Every time someone gets nailed with a blunt object in Super, you wince. In terms of actual content it's no more violent than a PG-13 Marvel movie, but in terms of execution it just rocks you, and asks why we've become so damned blase about violence in cinema.

Like Watchmen, it is an examination of what we accept as standard when it comes to the super hero genre, and it explores the real-life implications of the actions and action we don't give a second thought to. We're so jaded, and Super exploits that as it holds up a mirror to our weary, seen-it-all modern cynicism.

"You see people in costumes beating the crap out of bad guys all the time," it reminds us. "But think about it. Think about what that would actually entail."

Another example is the film's handling of relationships, and death.

In Super, death is not a prescribed event to be expected, accepted and quickly forgotten. In the world of Super - as in ours - death blindsides you. It hits you like a gut-punch and leaves you sickened.

An event we're so comfortable with in film nowadays here seems to turn the world upside down.

Super is simply brilliant. Aside from Liv Tyler - who really doesn't have much to do here aside from look pretty - it's got slick, natural writing and stellar performances from Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. This is an occasionally-touching, often funny and genuinely thought-provoking movie.

It's out now on DVD and Bluray. Dig it.

Also, did you know that director James Gunn has a hand in Lollipop Chainsaw? Apparently he's all up in the writing and character development.