Archive for May, 2010

Grump Talk – Landing on Saturn

May 28, 2010

If you’ve been a loyal reader the past year or so, you’ve no doubt recognized a streak of retro gaming in me. I’ve been living in the past with games, the best ones I’ve played recently being at least a year old, if not more. I devoted a large chunk of time and effort into rediscovering the Phantasy Star series.

As such, you might’ve realized I have a somewhat unhealthy and abusive Sega fanboy streak in me, too. Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection is the gift that keeps on giving. So many classic franchises I missed out on during the heady 16-bit days and almost all the games I remember loving. Seriously, if you’ve ever been curious about the Genesis or have fond memories of that console, snatch it up on the next-gen console of your choice. Although it’s odd I can’t find a better word than “next-gen” when we’re already 4 years into this generation of consoles. Ummm… current-gen?

Anyways, this post isn’t about Genesis. It’s about Sega’s redheaded stepchild (no, the other redheaded stepchild… no, the other, other redheaded stepchild): Saturn. What a sad story that console has to tell. It launched as an E3 surprise to the sound of confused and irritated retailers and Sony simply undercutting it by $100 dollars and leaving it at that. The poor thing wasn’t a very powerful 3D machine and it had a bizarre dual-processor thingie that apparently made development on it strange and difficult to port. Sega had bet the farm on the trend that was still going strong during the 16-bit era: luscious 2D graphics. And wow, could Saturn pump out some awesome sprites, also helped by the fact that you could add up to 4 megs of RAM through the cartridge slot.

The reason I’m bringing up the Saturn at all is because I found one being sold at a used video game store near me along with a couple semi-rare games to go with it. After hemming and hawing for a weekend over whether or not I should make the investment, I finally decided to take the plunge… only to find the game I wanted most had already been sold off! But I took the system anyways and have been scouring eBay ever since, looking for games to help round out my collection. I must say, I’ve managed to gather some gems so far, but not for cheap. In one of those ironic twists of fate, Saturns are pretty common and cheap, but the worthwhile games are exceedingly expensive and rare.

Anyways, I just thought I’d let all you readers in on what my latest hobby was, so that any upcoming Saturn video game reviews could be taken in context. I’m excited about this new journey!

Year in Review – 2009: SMELL YA LATER

May 20, 2010

There’s been several reasons why this list is late. First of all, thanks to limited theatrical releases, it becomes necessary to wait until home video for a lot of potential “movie of the year” candidates to make themselves available. And then there’s the increasingly common practice for big studios to make deals with services like Netflix, which I use almost exclusively for home video, to give them greater streaming options at the cost of instituting a mandatory 28 day waiting period after home video release for availability in their system.

And then there’s the obvious: 2009 was just a so-so year for movies. It’s sort of ridiculous that the year that saw the highest-grossing movie of all time also had one of the weakest outputs in recent memory. Yeah, good movies got released, but almost none that really galvanized me emotionally. It took some doing to make this list. Originally I wasn’t even sure I could come up with 10 movies I liked enough to put on my list. Even then, there hasn’t really been a clear winner, in my mind, so ordering them became impossible. Any ranking I could give them would just be arbitrary and pointless at this point, so I’m presenting them in no particular order.

Also, this year I had no job, so next-to-no money with which to buy those expensive $60 coasters we call video games. I mostly took a look back into older games, such as the Phantasy Star series, which you can read my thoughts on in earlier Grump Factory posts. When it came to new games, I enjoyed the SMT: Persona remake on the PSP, and the reimagined Silent Hill on the Wii. Left 4 Dead 2 is great fun if you can find 3 other people to reliably play with. Aside from that, my time was spent playing games from 2008 or earlier, so hopefully Magus can give some better insight on gaming in 2009. Just don’t listen to anything he says about Monster Hunter. Ever.

Now, on to the movies!

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Grump Talk: The Double Life of Veronique

May 15, 2010

Every now and again you find a movie you just fall into an easy relationship with. It’s a little weird and embarrassing to use the R word in regards to a movie, but I feel the word is called for in a circumstance such as this. I recently saw the 1991 French/Czech flick The Double Life of Veronique. It explores the possibility of doppelgangers, people out there that look exactly like us, who act like us, who think like us, but lead slightly different lives. Of course, the focus of the story is on women who share the same face and name, as well as an ethereal connection that neither one is consciously aware of, but nontheless permeates their lives. Czech Weronika is a young woman with an aspiring singing career who tries to pursue her dream regardless of a serious heart condition. French Veronique is a music teacher who falls in love with a puppeteer who seems to have vague insight into her nature as a double.

Within the first few minutes of the film… it had me. It just resonated on exactly the right frequency to make me relate and understand it on a level deeper than conscious, rational thought, which makes the whole thing a bit of an odd bird to try to describe. I understood it emotionally more than I grasped it intellectually. The scenes are framed just-so to create dreamy visuals that give the sense that you’re watching some sort of real-world fairy tale. The story makes just enough sense to fool you into thinking you can figure it all out, but the revelatory moment that you always think is just around the corner never quite comes. Unless I’m some huge idiot. Which I may be! But just about everything in the movie’s perfect and if you wanna treat yourself to something fantastic, find a way to rent the Criterion Collection DVD. Broaden your horizons, grumpeteers~

Iron Man 2 – The Wrath of … Um, Uh

May 11, 2010

HERE WE GO AGAAAAIIIN

Co-written with ironclad resolve by Terry “Kefka Jr.” Torres

Iron Man 2‘s a mess.

All the actors turn in performances, things explode and some things even fly, so yeah, it satisfies at the bare minimum level. The climatic action medley has men in mecha suits fight in a Japanese rock garden — three cyber samurai duking it out — which pleased me for a little while, and once Scarlett Johansson started beating guys up by writhing all over them I looked up from my watch and even paid attention for a while.I struggled to do that the preceding two hours though, when a nonsensical, inconsequential plot gurgled along in front me.

Things happen from scene to scene that don’t add up, and characters show up just to move the creaky plot along and wink at the audience, literally at times — “I’m keeping my eye on you!” Ohhhh, he’s got an eyepatch. Aha ha. Ha. Ha. Why’re there so many dumb jokes in this movie? Besides that, Samuel L. Jackson wastes his yelling talent as Nick Fury, having about as much reason to be in Iron Man 2 as he did in the Star Wars prequels. He doesn’t fight, he doesn’t do anything badass. He finds Tony Stark inside a giant donut (jokes ‘n jokes ‘n jokes), berates him in an L.A. diner reminiscent of the one in Pulp Fiction and hands him a Magic Plot Advancing Box. And no, not a mysterious MacGuffin like the suitcase in Pulp Fiction, but an actual Magic Box that solves everything. Everything gets solved so easily, so randomly that there’s no drama, no attachment.

What is wrong with my face why is my face so orange

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(grumplet) Up, Up and Straight Up My Ass: Kick-Ass

May 5, 2010

REMEMBUH ME?

There comes a point in every genre where straightforward explorations of the genre’s tropes and variations are abandoned and you enter a period of deconstruction. Look at the difference between something like classic Golden or Silver Age Superman and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. One’s a simple, honest story and the other’s a story about stories that came before it, perfectly post-modern. It’s taken until now for big screen comic book adaptations to reach the same level of self-awareness and post-modern snark that modern comics have been, and the result is the recent Kick-Ass. But why should you care?

Dual-wielding dildoes

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