Archive for October, 2007

Once More With Feeling – Dracula 1979

October 30, 2007

Now this is more like it. The 1979 version of Dracula, starring Bayonne-born (REPRESENT! Or something) Frank Langella as the Romanian count, is a more traditional take on the familiar story, though not without several changes. Characters and relationships are remixed so Mina is now the daughter of Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier at the brink of death), Lucy is the object of Drac’s desire and her father is the headmaster of the insane asylum, played by master scene-stealer Donald Pleasence, who also has a much more active role. The setting is entirely London so there’s no gigantic castles or gypsies. That doesn’t mean atmosphere has been sacrificed, far from it. London is as creepy and dark as it should be during the 1920s, and Carfax Abbey does return. Exuberant applause goes to the movie’s look, which is so ashen it almost looks black and white. It doesn’t look like a lame-o color filter like in Bagels From Iwo Jima either, more resembling an old photograph or the work of Edward Gorey. It’s mesmerizing and it adds to the overall theatrical feel. It’s classy. \:3

Aw yeah.

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Goddamn It – Bram Stoker’s Dracula

October 29, 2007

Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula ball’s sucking blows. It has all the usual cliches and quotes from the past Dracula movies on top its being a big ‘ol reinvention with Kabuki-style costumes and accents, accents, accents up the ASS! UGH! It sounds like all the nation’s high school rehearsals of Pygmalion rolled into one misdirected mistake of a movie. It’s called Bram Stoker’s Dracula but I don’t remember any blood orgies or cowboys shootin’ at some gulldern carriages in the original novel. But it has been a while since I read the book (with a keen Edward Gorey hardcover) so feel free to correct me in the comments below as to how I have it all wrong. If that turns out to be the case then Bram Stoker’s the fattest idiot.

Check out these fireflies I caught.

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Dual Screen Noir – Hotel Dusk

October 25, 2007

SILENCE AND SILENCE AND SILENCE

Yup, it’s Old Game Week here at the factory. No, not really. I take my time playing games. I finally beat this game. It took a billion years. It’s been so long since I had to think through a video game and not endlessly hack and slash or shoot or choose the same strong spell over and over again. You don’t have to think a lot in Hotel Dusk, a point-and-click graphic novel adventure in video game form, but sometimes I was so stumped as to what to do I couldn’t help but turn to GameFAQs to find out what goofy, ridiculous item I needed to do a somewhat-not really-okay-not at all realistic thing. Or maybe I’m just a big DUMMY.

And that’s the worst thing about Hotel Dusk’s gameplay. The leaps of logic……Oh, I gotta look at the CHALKBOARD?! Okay! I gotta tap the BOX? ALL RIGHT! Sometimes it’s not so obvious. You go around, look for things, interact with things that activate little mini-games like SHARPEN THE PENCIL! and UNLOCK THE DOOR! That’s about it. Oh wait, what gets you, at least, what got ME, is remembering what to do and what characters say. Their conversations provide clues you need to remember to snipe suspects in confrontations and to pass the little memory quizzes at the end of each chapter (10 in all) that catch you up on the goings-on of the story.

Graphix!

The thing you do most in Hotel Dusk… is read. Which is great if you like strong dialogue, a clever plot and way better characterization than is expected in a, well, a video game. Nintendo’s in-house translation team, Treehouse, deserve SOME sort of accolade by the end of the year for their layered, hardboiled work but it wouldn’t be as superb an accomplishment without the marvelous character designs to go with it. Sketched in black and white in an East-meets-West manga-pulp mash-up style that forgoes excessive detail, the characters are more like emblems, made up of one or two components that set each character apart from the rest. Glasses + beard = the author, eyepatch + cane = the old woman, pigtails + wide-eyed look = the little girl … They’re also well-animated, as limited as the animation is. This isn’t a full-blown cartoon but it’s just enough to really make the characters come alive.

Weee!AW YEAH

And man, do they. I started to miss them once the game reached its satisfying end, especially Kyle Hyde, the noir detective you play as. Perhaps the best protagonist since Phoenix Wright, another DS detective, he’s the exact opposite. Rude and self-loathing, he spouts Philip Marlowe-isms that’d make neo-noir contemporaries Dwight McCarthy and Max Payne proud. Which is what Hotel Dusk does best – style and personality. The presentation is nifty too, with a noirish soundtrack and decent Resident Evil-esque 3D graphics for environments. Hotel Dusk may not do anything drastic in the game department – except for a couple novel uses of the DS; to solve one puzzle you have to shut the DS closed, and you can write notes in Kyle’s notebook – but as an interactive novel it’s a real page-turner, and a memorable one at that.

MMM BUM TICKER

Performance Review – Fable: Fable in Progress

October 20, 2007

Y’know, one of the reasons I was so warm towards getting an Xbox 360 was the fact that I’d be able to play all the original Xbox games that I was too proud and poor to play when they originally came out. Fable was on my shortlist for games to go back and revisit once I got my Elite, and of course I put it on my birthday list. Even though it was only $10 brand new for The Lost Chapters, I’m still a cheapskate when it comes to games.Fable is an action-RPG by famed developer Peter Molyneux, also known to PC gamers as the Prince of Broken Dreams. This man loves to have forever-long development cycles, all the while hyping up his game to insane, industry-destroying proportions. If Molyneux came out with a press release saying “My next game is so good it will make the entire video game industry collapse because no one will be able to compete with it” it would actually be one of the smaller claims he’s made about one of his games. You might remember Black & White, the game he made prior to Fable, which was supposed to be the greatest PC sim game ever EVER. But it wasn’t. It never is with Peter.

Fable was the same way. Years and years of hype. Fable would have this, Fable would have that, Fable will cure cancer and cook you breakfast. I told my friend James that Fable would either get canceled or be released a horrible disappointment. It just seemed too good to be true. And guess what? It was!

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Quirk and Angst – The Darjeeling Ltd.

October 6, 2007

Wes Anderson’s latest is pretty decent if you like Wes Anderson-isms. Y’know, stuff like his personal music collection as the soundtrack, tonal shifts from comic to tragic at the drop of a meticulously patterned handbag, quirkiness up the wazoo, expensive herbal tea and a refreshing penchant for the color yellow. The Darjeeling Limited is no Bottle Rocket or Royal Tenenbaums but it’s better than the ultra-indulgent The Life Aquatic, and it reunites Anderson with the exceptionally hirsute Jason Schwartzmann, whose Velcro ass has only graced the screen in the most forgettable fluff like Bewitched and I <3 Huckabees.

Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason as three estranged brothers, the story follows their reunion on a train trip across India. …And that’s it really!

It’s a slow, quiet character road trip with nothing but dialogue in exotic locations. The brothers are damaged, depressed people carrying a lot of baggage, literally and metaphorically and the movie takes great slow-motion pains to point that out. They also can’t trust anyone, even each other, so they fill their voids with cough medicine and pain killers and smoke and smoke and smoke. And Jason sleeps around, astounding given his nigh-comatose demeanor and math teacher mustache. Owen Wilson sports head bandages the whole time and obsessively orders everyone around, while Adrien Brody sorta floats around looking like he’s having the worst day of his life. And this is the first time I actually liked him in a movie. The best part of Darjeeling, besides the bone-dry humor, is definitely how good it looks. The colors are rich and vibrant and the Indian countryside looks beautiful.

And that’s that! There are worse ways to spend 91 minutes, and it is a charming 91 minutes, but it’d be nice if Anderson explored other narrative possibilities besides the faults and miseries of weird rich people. Maybe it was voluntary but the brothers’ last name is Whitman. These characters are rich, spoiled brats who realize late in life that it’s not all going to be caviar and Porsche cruisers, that successful relationships are often tantamount to true happiness. Which is nice and fuzzy to say but c’mon, these guys wear $6000 belts and $3000 loafers, this is so high upper class it’s in the troposphere rich whiteness, and they’re having their selfish existential crises in one of the poorest areas of the world. Wait a second, whiteness? White. Whitman… Whiteman…

Hm.

FORGIVE US OUR DAILY BREAD

X-Men: Bub

October 4, 2007

snikt

I’ll say it right now: the X-Men are my favorite team of superheroes ever. Avengers? Fuck them, they’re only interesting when Spider-Man or one of the X-Men slips onto the roster. Besides, can you name any major members besides Thor, Captain America and Iron Man? Hell, before his new live-action picture started getting steam, did you even know who Iron Man was?! And what about the Justice League? Sure, you’ve got legends like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash… but it’s like a superhero team consisting of a bunch of cub scout leaders.

X-Men, though. They’re something special to me. I’m sure it has everything to do with the fact that they starred in a surprisingly faithful and engaging FOX animated series, much like their buddy Spider-Man, during my childhood, and maybe yours, too. Remember getting up eagerly every Saturday morning to see what would happen? And when the Phoenix story arc was a fuckin’ EVENT that actually got to air during prime time? Then again, the 90s certainly were X-Men’s decade more than any other before it. Rob Liefeld and tacky foil covers drove the comic industry’s profile and sales higher than ever before, and X-Men was at the top of the heap.

But even this doesn’t really get at why the X-Men are so cool. ANOTHER reason why I think they’re awesome is because their powers had some thought and creativity put into them. Yeah, Superman is super and all that, but how many powers does he share with Wonder Woman? And Martian Manhunter? And any of the squintillion other secondary and tertiary League members? Not only are Superman’s powers generic, but they make several members of the team completely obsolete. But then, he’s the prototypical superhero. That doesn’t really happen with X-Men. Few characters are broken to the point where they’re nigh-unbeatable. Cyclops fires awesome beams of pure energy from his eyes, but is unable to control it without his visor. Gambit has the power to imbue anything he touches with explosive energy, most famously his playing cards. Storm can manipulate the fucking weather, bitch, but has claustrophobia. Rogue can actually STEAL other mutants’ powers, but even this potentially too-awesome power is tempered by the fact that she can’t even touch another human being without nearly killing him. Hell, Wolverine has an unbreakable adamantium skeleton, advanced regenerative capabilities and fucking CLAWS that can slice through anything, and he… uh… has a crappy personality?

Needless to say, even though powers like flying or super-strength could sometimes overlap, you’d be hard pressed to mistake one member for another, especially with their often tempestuous personalities. Cyclops is the goody-two-shoe leader with daddy and abandonment issues up to wazoo. Rogue is a fiery Southern belle who’s hotter than fuck and knows it. Beast is a placid intellectual often in conflict with his primitive, increasingly cat-like appearance. And then there’s Jubilee, who has to struggle every day with the fact that she’s uninteresting and useless.

The only reason I could think of Hollywood taking so long to pull the trigger on making an X-Men movie would be the prohibitive cost of actually filming all of these spectacular powers and a general lack of faith in superhero movies. Yeah, Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher and those last few Superman movies would do that anyone, I guess. But even after Tim Burton gothed up Batman for the big screen, X-Men lay fallow. WTF?! But finally (finally!), after Blade resurrected the Marvel brand at the multiplex, X-Men got their big screen debut!

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