Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

Who here is a huge fan of the Mission Impossible series?

Oh... I don't see all that many hands.  I supposed somebody out there is a rabid fanboy of Mission Impossible, waiting happily for every single release.  I bet somewhere out there a whole gang of people debate all the films on line, and decide which one is the best, and whatever, but I don't see it.  There have been four Mission Impossible movies so far, and even though they've all been moderately successful films, its never felt like a franchise that has really caught the public's imagination.  It definitely never caught mine, every single time I see a new Mission Impossible film I can barely remember what the other ones have been like.  There isn't any deep mythology or complex characters with long histories or anything.  None of the movies even feel similar, they're all just the next Tom Cruise spy-action flick.  Mission Impossible movies are really only the James Bond movies we watch in-between the real James Bond movies.

"Mission Impossible 1" was really good, I thought it was a solidly decent action film.  It has exciting moments, has dark turns, but still was a lot of fun and is worth a rent.  And that's really been the height of the series in ambition and reaction, none of them are classics of the medium.  "Mission Impossible 2" was pretty and flashy, but it didn't feel like even the same franchise.  Inferior, but made exciting by director John Woo at his Woo-iest.  As for "Mission Impossible 3"... that sucked.  J.J. Abrams made a dreary humorless movie that ultimately was really boring.  It felt like Abrams was ramping up the emotions of the series, adding some level of completely flat dramatic relationships and a lot of false emotions, and in the end, the villain gets punked out in an amazing anticlimax.  "Mission Impossible 4:  Ghost Protocol" is yet another shift in tone, being a big huge action film, and that's about it.

So ultimately "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon" isn't all that monumental of a film.  Its an unambitious action movie and it isn't trying to be much more than that.  It is, however, Brad Bird's, Pixar master director of "The Incredibles", first live-action movie.  So its a solid action movie, good for a night at the movies and exactly not one more thing else.  The action scenes are impressive, the character banter is mildly humorous.  Brad Bird shoots straight down the line to exactly "good".

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening

2011 had one final gift for me:  food poisoning.  So despite all the movies I need to review and all the posts I should be making about my new video games, I was instead in bed or almost in bed all week, and I don't feel much better now.  This is also putting the kaibosh on my dreams of getting ridiculously drunk tonight and completely failing to hit on girls.  But there was on light spot on my miserable week:

While thumbing through my room on Christmas Eve, I found the most magnificent thing:  a model one Game Boy.  This beautiful portable machine was the first ever true Nintendo handheld console, the beginning of a glorious tradition of great machines full of great games that has lasted over two decades.  Speaking of lasting two decades, this Game Boy itself has survived four Presidencies to see 2012, and its still working!  Nothing from 1989 still works, but this does, I love this machine.  Its an amazing find.  The Game Boy is the epitome of pure gaming praticality and engineering brilliance.  It is well-known to be completely indestructible, has impressive memory space for its cartridges, and most amazingly, perhaps unlimited battery life.  I've been playing this thing since Sunday on the batteries I found it with, and it is still running!  Not even the Wiimote will last that long!

The Game Boy really is singularly the most perfect example of pure gaming.  It was a system designed with only that in mind.  It didn't waste resources on graphics, it didn't waste resources on silly bells and whistles.  There's no touch screen, no Internet connection, no 3D, no microphone, no DLC, only the games doing what they do best:  gameplay.  Its spartan simplicity shows exactly what modern gaming has lost, purity.  The Game Boy wasn't made to show off Nintendo's so-called "revolutionary" control methods or 3D, it was just a handheld platform to play games, that's all it ever was and that's what it did better than anybody else.  One can't help but think that the Game Boy's great-great grandson has completely forgotten that philosophy.

And what a better way to show off the brilliance of the Game Boy than "The Legend of Zelda:  Link's Awakening"?  A game I never played until recently and beat just yesterday.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Part 3


I've basically stopped playing "Skyward Sword" at this point.  I didn't beat the game, I reached the Final Boss, and lost.  Clearly I need more little bottles with Potions, but I just don't care.  I don't, I'm at the bottom here.  I could go back up to Skyloft, go through the tedious and pointless flying segment, talk to all the shopkeepers with their needlessly long and stupid unskippable dialog, buy all the Potions.  Then I could wander the world and find all the bugs and stupid little bits of crafting items and upgrade the Potions, and maybe do a sidequest or two to get more bottles.  But... I don't care.  I've so wanted to love this game, so wanted to enjoy it.  I could probably finish the whole thing in about three hours with just a single determined push, but my will is sapped.  I'm beaten.  I think I need to finally face the very awful truth about "Skyward Sword":  this game sucks.  Its not fun.

Yesterday I booted up "Wind Waker" for the Gamecube.  Immediately I was stunned by the amazing beautiful perfection of its art style, a true labor of love to make a gorgeous unique game.  "Wind Waker"'s entire experience is so charming, and the game is so warm and inviting to its player.  And then I started exploring an area of combat.  To no surprise at all, I found I did not miss the motion controls.  I was able to play this game, which is now almost ten years old, with a level of control balance and secure knowledge that the commands I give Link will be exactly what he'll do on screen in a way that "Skyward Sword"'s motion controls do not allow.  And there's a free-roaming camera!  I can spin the camera all around Link, what an idea!  Sailing is free and adventurous, you just want to keep on going to the ends of the universe on your little red boat.  I actually started to tear up, "Wind Waker" is so amazing and so lovely.  I want that feeling again in "Skyward Sword", but isn't there.  Why can't I love this game?  I want to love it so badly.  I loved every other Zelda game I played, this is the first one that is truly plain bad.

Now, I know nostalgia is clearly ruining my objectivity here, but there is a point to be made.  "Wind Waker" is a far more innovative and exciting game than "Skyward Sword" will ever be.  "Skyward Sword" is the same game as Nintendo has been making for ten years.  I've always believed that Nintendo can keep making the same game over and over again and it will be fine as long as its fun... but "Skyward Sword" isn't fun.  Maybe it is for you other people who enjoy the game, don't let me stop you.  As for me, however, its pretty clear that this game is a dead-end for the series.  This is the not the next big step forward for Zelda.  For the first time ever, this series has gotten stale.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The Western movie might be an undead film genre, but that's certainly not stopping filmmakers from creating a great cowboy movie every so often.  2010 had the grandly memorable "True Grit", 2008 had "3:10 to Yuma".   2011 needed a great Western movie, and two movies came forward to answer the call.  One was "Cowboys & Aliens", an utterly forgettable silly SciFi movie with a gaggle of movie stars and a ridiculous budget.  The other was "Blackthorn", a slow beautiful movie that you've probably never heard of.  And that's a shame, because "Blackthorn" is easily one of the best movies I've seen all year, melancholic and gorgeous with the heart of a true classic.

"Blackthorn" is kind of an unofficial sequel to the famous Robert Redford-Paul Newman masterpiece "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".  Bizarrely for somebody who pretends to be a film fan, I haven't seen that movie, but its sitting on my Netflix queue now.  The main concept between "Blackthorn" is that Butch Cassidy survived the famous outlaw duo's death and has been living quietly in Bolivia under the name of 'James Blackthorn' for twenty years.  During his attempt to travel home to America, he runs into a Spanish outlaw and goes on one final adventure in the fantastic wilderness of the Andes Mountains.  The plot may be a basic chase adventure, but the results are a stark movie that takes it time, builds a great atmosphere, and becomes a walking landscape painting.

All in all, I'd say that "Blackthorn" is arguably the most beautiful-looking movie of 2011.  This is the quintessential Western classic, all of which is made extremely unfortunate because I know for a fact you've never heard of this movie before.  Its a Spanish production (though shot 80% in English) that was released first on iTunes of all places, and got a minor theatrical run in October.  Even I missed it, which is a tragedy, because this is a great movie that deserved better.  So I guess its up to me, little 'ol me, to sing "Blackthorn"'s praises.  I'm not the singer this movie needs, my range is pitiful, and I'm frequently out of tune.  And I drive metaphorical conceits straight into the grave.  Let's hear the music.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows

"Sherlock Holmes 1" was easily one of the best movies of 2009.  "Sherlock Holmes 2" is one of the most okay movies of 2011.  For a year full of various disappointments and failures, to me 'pretty good' is the new great.  It was properly entertaining, not a new classic, not as good as the original, but certainly worth seeing.  Compared to many other movies with the number '2' in the title, "Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows" manages to keep the franchise fresh, entertaining, and fun enough for me to get happily excited for a "Sherlock Holmes 3".

At the start of this year, there were a lot of movies I was looking forward to:  "Rango", "Captain America", "Sucker Punch", "Harry Potter 7.5".  Are we noticing a pattern here?  These movies were all either mediocre or utterly horrible.  There have been lots of unhappy surprises this year, even now I still can't call it a good year for movies.  This is a year where there wasn't just a Transformers movie, there wasn't just a Twilight movie, but there was also "Jack and Jill".  Aside from a few bright spots like "Drive", "Winnie th Pooh", and "the Guard", 2011 generally sucked.  But now there are less than week left, and 2011 has to work overtime to convince me that it wasn't a complete disaster.  "Sherlock Holmes 2" is not a movie that will change my entire opinion of the year, but it was a pretty decent.  This is as good as any movie should be, movies should never get worse than this.

I actually went out last night with the initial plan of seeing "Hugo", but the universe didn't allow for that.  So instead I went to this.  The first "Sherlock Holmes" was clever, entertaining, exciting, and Robert Downey Jr-ey.  This one is much of the same, but I don't think director Guy Ritchie really knew how to make a sequel.  So he just ramped everything up, turned it all into an action movie, and stopped flirting with the idea of Holmes and Watson having sexual tension and turned them into forlorn gay lovers.  The results are clearly inferior, and if I were a crueler person, I wouldn't give it a pass.  But Robert Downey Jr.!  What am I to do?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Part 2


Okay, so I finally decided this would be a three part review.  Actually, I think this is a much smarter way of doing video game reviews.  You can't review an experience that is so long and so variable as a fifty-hour video game in just one shot.  If you write the review too early, before you even finish the game, you can't quantify your emotions by the end of the game.  Yeah, the beginning might be great, but who knows if the game might outstay its welcome or be a load of crap by the end?  However, if you write a review after the end credits, you lose track of everything you've experienced.  It all becomes a confusing blur too full of details to really explain properly.  So I like this way best, honestly.

Anyway, last time on my "Skyward Sword" experience, I was feeling some doubts as to whether this game would shape up to meet Zelda par.  Unfortunately, those doubts have turned into certainty:  this game is not as good as "Twilight Princess" or "Wind Waker".  Now I know everybody uses "Ocarina of Time" as the bar, but they are mistaken.  "Ocarina of Time" is fourteen years old and feels ancient to me playing now, the game is really showing its age compared with its Gamecube sequels.  But that's besides the point:  "Skyward Sword" is probably the weakest of all the 3D Zelda games.  I won't go ahead and declare it to be a bad game, we're not down there at any stretch of the imagination.  However, it is a massively uneven game.

Now this is a shame.  Obviously whenever I buy a Zelda game I expect it to be the greatest experience of my life.  I was super-hyped for "Twilight Princess", expecting an epic grand game that would be the largest and most powerful Zelda yet - and it was!  Everything I wanted and more, "Twilight Princess" is the greatest video game ever made.  I had similar hopes for "Skyward Sword", and it just has not delivered.  Yeah, there are stunning moments in this video game, and it has probably the best characters of any Zelda game yet.  However... its everything that happens in between the story sections that weakens this title.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Used Games Debate

Gamers can be annoying sometimes.  But they're lovable in their own little insane way, and anybody who is willing to spend 400 hours catching every single Pokemon is a certified badass in my book*.  No, the thing I really hate about the game industry are gaming devs.  Pack of crooks as far as I'm concerned.  Yeah, I know they're are a lot of people who legitimately love the medium and are trying to make fun experiences for their players.  But there are also a lot of people being really creative in ways to screw me over royally.  Just how much dick can they shove up their consumers' collective ass?  Western game developers are the worst at this, by the way, constantly finding new ways to screw you and make you buy new crap that you don't need.  Remember the days when you walked into a store and bought a game?  And it was the full game.  Remember that?  Those were good times.

But game developers hated those good times.  Because simply paying for a cartridge or a disc, taking it home, putting into your system, and playing it as long as wanted, that wasn't enough for them.  They wanted to bleed their consumers dry with all sorts of needless crap.  I don't need to put in a monthly fee or pay fifty more bucks for DLC or suck Bobby Kotick's dick in order to play the game.  I don't want a constant Internet connection or any other crap.  I just want to play.  Well, those days are ending, my friends, gaming is going to purely digital now, no discs at all.

You see, I happen to be a cheap person.  I'm Jewish, so maybe it comes from that, but it also comes from my basic responsible attitude towards life.  I know every dollar I spend more than I need to on a game is one dollar less that I'll be able to spend on something else - which includes things I really need like food.  Do you know how many video games I bought for new at full price this year?  One, "Skyward Sword", and I'm beginning to think I paid too much for that**.  Apparently this means that I'm a horrible person, becase none of the dollars I spent actually went to game developers - who, by the way, were selling the games at a higher price.  In fact, lots of crooks at nightmarish dictatorships like Activision and EA are planning to include all sorts of locks and codes on games so that the used gaming market will die out all together.

Clearly, that would be bad for me.  It would also be really bad for you.  It would be bad for everybody.  Yet I still hear blowhards on the Internet saying that used games are a "scam" and should end.  Well, folks, allow me to show you why you're wrong.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'll Just Leave This Here

Usually this would be a Daily Thought, but um... Its way worse than that.  It needs a whole post to itself.  I probably shouldn't share it with other people... but I have a duty to warn the world.  Here's a link, you can open it if you want.  I recommend you don't, because its really bad.  NSFW, of course.

What in the unholy name of Limp Bizkit is that??  Jesus Christ, man!  So just in case you're crying in fear, I also have this to share.  Its actually something decent, for a change.

Also, hilariously, just three minutes before hearing this song, I posted my Pre-order for this game on Amazon.  What a fool I am...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Metal Gear Rising Solid: The Trailers

So over the last few years, I have been following the development of one "Metal Gear Solid:  Rising".  Or is it "Metal Rising Solid:  Revenge"?  Or was it actually "Vengeance Gear Rising:  Metal"?  "Rising Revenge Metal:  Solid State Society"?  No no, it was "Transformers:  Revenge of the Rising".  Or maybe, "Batman & Metal:  Rise of Cobra"?  "Metal Gear of the Caribbean:  Dead Man's Revegence".  "Star Wars:  Episode Gear:  The Phantom Solid".  ...Uch.  I give up.  The game had a title, that's all you need to know.

Anyway, even though "Setal Mear Golid:  Rising Sun" was first revealed in 2009 or 2010, its been completely silent on the media front.  A total no-show at E3 this year.  However, recently a new trailer popped up for the game, and I couldn't help but notice a few differences have occurred in the last few years.  Let's watch them both and compare:

Well, I have things to say about this.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Last Circus

Ho boy.  I've seen some strange movies in my day.  David Lynch made Naomi Watts run away from two ten-inch tall elderly tourists.  Bill Plympton had a comedian tear himself to pieces to roars of laughter.  Hideaki Anno made "Evangelion".  I've seen David Cronenberg's typewriters, and his television sets, and his classrooms.  Trust me, weirdness is nothing new to me.  But today... I got a really weird movie.  About clowns.

If you're afraid of clowns, this will be the greatest movie ever made for you.

"The Last Circus" is a Spanish-language movie that has just recently been released on DVD in the US with English subtitles.  Its original title was "Balada trista de trompeta", or "Sad Trumpet Ballad", which was changed for no reason at all.  Personally I would have called the movie "Killer Klowns from Fascist Spain", but then again, I've seen this other movie 500 hundred times, so my mind might be a bit warped.  The plot begins with a deranged love triangle between a loser sad clown, a beautiful trapeze artist who changes her haircut in every scene, and a sadist happy clown.  Then things get darker and more absurd.  And darker.  And darker.  And more absurd.  Until suddenly the movie has gone so far off the rails that basically anything at all can happen.  Oh, and then it gets even more insane.

Up until roughly the point where the movie goes completely nuts, I would have called "The Last Circus" one of the best movies I've ever seen.  Clearly the movie was rapidly building up tension and emotion to some of breaking point... which comes at just about the halfway point.  Then everything gets so violent, everybody turns into such grotesque creatures of pure madness, that I basically have no idea what I'm watching anymore.  Was there a plot at some point?  This is a movie that could have ended in absolutely any way, with just about anything happening, and it wouldn't have seemed out of place, because nothing is in place.  "Off the rails" is the wrong term, because this movie goes so far beyond any concept of rails that mentioning "The Last Circus" in the same sentence as rails is an insult to rails.  Its intense, and actually, a lot of fun.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Part 1

Note:  This is dedicated to Michael, my little cousin and still my favorite person, who I know is playing this game up in Heaven.  I love you, little guy.

For the past week only one thought has dominated my thoughts:  have I been playing enough "Skyward Sword" today?  The answer, of course, has been no.  I shouldn't even let myself sleep, I should devote my entire heart and soul into this golden disc.  If I die from exhaustion by the time the credits role, my life would have been an adequate sacrifice.  What plateau in all of existence can possibly top the release of a new Zelda game anyway?  ...Well, except for the release of the next Zelda game, of course.

So in knowing that one day I'll be Zelda-ing away my troubles on the Nintendo WiiU, I've decided to keep on living for another few years.  And keep up my hygiene, social life, work, academics, and every other aspect of the real world which tragically pales in comparison to the wonder and magic of Link's adventures.  (Also there is a very loud and exasperating voice in my head that reminds me that I shouldn't completely go insane until at least my Fifties.)  So obviously I haven't beaten the entire game in a week, though I have fought my way through three dungeons and have now started the second major phase of the game.  So I guess this post is a "first-impressions" or a review of the first part of the game or something.  Let's just call it "Part 1" of Blue's thoughts, shall we?  Clearly the conclusion or Part 2 will come once I complete the entire thing and defeat the Ganon, who is presumably the Final Boss somehow.

The reason why I'm not just reviewing the game is partly out of intellectual honestly - you really can't review a game unless you've beaten it* - and partly because I'm not entirely sure where I'd actually rank this game.  Is it the best Zelda yet?  I'm not feeling like its the case.  But the game's so far from terrible and I'm fully obsessed with it now, so I can't say its awful.  Maybe I'll find out by the end.  But now that I've put off the biggest question, let me talk about the smaller stuff.  I'm dieing to talk here, I can't stand it anymore!  The world must know my opinions, NOW!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bleach the Movie 3: Fade to Black

Remember that whole year I spent recapping Bleach episodes?  Yeah, that was fun for awhile.  Then I drastically burned out and couldn't do it anymore and outsourced it to HeadBodyMaster?  Yeah, that wasn't exactly the ending I had in mind with the Bleach recaps.  I envisioned a message of love:  yeah, Bleach is stupid and silly to levels almost unimaginable, even downright lazy, but yet it was all still fun.  Anybody over the age of ten who has seen a Godzilla movie completely unironically knows what I'm talking about here.  Its awful, its cheesy, but there are a lot of cheesy things I like:  cheeseburgers, Philly cheesestakes, tuna melts.  What I'm saying is that fast food shouldn't make me throw up, and Bleach got really bad towards the end.

Let's try to amend the bad feelings me and Bleach have right now, I don't want it to end like this.  We have kids together, where will they be with Mommy and Daddy fighting?  And you know, Bleach was definitely making overtures of peace towards me, the newest season doesn't absolutely suck in every way.  I mean, Fake Karakura Town, that was perhaps the worst television ever aired.  But this new Zanpukuto season, that's tolerable at least.

What's not barely tolerable is the newest Bleach movie, "Fade to Black".  In a year where there have already been two great anime TV show movies, "Evangelion 2.0" and "Trigun: Badlands Rumble", I figured Bleach would finally be able to stand up, take charge, and make something of quality again.  Well, instead of quality, the folks at Studio Perriot decided instead to ruthlessly copy the worst parts of Kingdom Hearts and make an extremely awkward storyline that consists mostly of characters convincing each other that they exist.  There's a big air of mystery surrounding the two villains, which ultimately results in the viewer having no idea what the heck is going on.  There is action, there are fight scenes, they're pretty well choreographed, but they're not "wow, this is really cool" moments.  The fight scene between Mr. 69 and Findor was a really cool moment.  Why does a regular episode of the show have higher quality than a MOVIE?

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Yes, its here.  The one, the only, the "Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword".  Am I the only one who cannot believe that its been five whole years since "Twilight Princess" came out?  Seems like just yesterday I was loving the Hell out of that game.  Times flies when you're in love, I guess.  A very annoying vocal minority likes to bitch about Zelda games, well, its a good thing none of those people have told me where they live.  Well, I finally am holding my golden box, within which is a golden jewel case, with a golden WiiMote.  Glory has once again returned to the Nintendo Wii, the greatest swan song you could ever hope for.

This is, without a doubt, the single most monumental event in my entire life.  Its the most monumental moment in any life. 

Having played an hour and a half of this game, I can say now... absolutely nothing.  Its been mostly a tutorial so far, the new combat controls seem to work, and Zelda wants me.  That's about it, you can't say anything substantive yet.  Stay tuned for a real review soon.