Archive for the ‘Grumplet’ Category

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

May 5, 2010


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


(grumplet) Muramasa: The Demon Blade – Not Bad, Not Great

October 8, 2009

Muramasa: The Demon Blade continues Vanillaware’s mission to deliver gorgeous 2D gaming. After their PlayStation 2 action-RPG Odin Sphere, and now this, it’s clear Vanillaware gives all their attention to the beautiful, painterly visuals of their games. When it comes to the actual video game part of their games, well, things get iffy.

Muramasa gives you two characters to play as: Kisuke, a warrior without his memory, and Momohime, a princess possessed by the soul of a vengeful swordsman. Each character plays similarly, the only difference lies in their stories, neither of which comes across very well. The plot itself is a ghost, a non-entity. Once in a while you get a break from fighting and go around talking to NPCs who say the same thing over and over.

That’s about it as far as story goes. The presentation is barebones at best, no cutscenes or anything. Most of the time it isn’t even clear what they’re talking about anyway — blame it on the original Japanese script or a lack of interest in the whereabouts of Momohime’s soul. I usually say “Who cares about story in a video game?” but if you’re going to try, at least try harder than Muramasa.

Looks good, plays okay

The game itself fares better, playing a lot like a traditional side scrolling beat-’em-up fitted with numerous RPG-like elements, since that’s the thing to do to stale genres. It’s easy to rack up tons of combos, zip left to right in the air, crash down on enemies, switch blades to attack all enemies at once, recover using items all the while gaining experience points and tons of new swords, items and equipment. The battles are fun and keeps you constantly busy, though they are randomly generated which can grow wearisome. When stuck at a boss all I had to do was forge stronger swords and grind to get by. Typical skills like pattern memorization and timing didn’t really matter — it was all about the grind.

It’s also all about managing your inventory. You can forge tons of swords but only equip 3 at a time. Recovery items are unique in that you can only eat them when Kisuke or Momohime feel hungry, which can be tricky in the heat of battle. A degree of strategy between battles comes in handy. Actually, the most impressive part of the game’s presentation for me was the eating. There are various eateries throughout the game where your character can sit down and enjoy a fine, prepared meal. A plate of shrimp tempura is so lovingly rendered it got me watering, and bit by bit it disappears with each bite. The game has charm for sure, but charm can fuel a game for so long.

Muramasa is fun in short bursts. Playing for long stretches got me antsy for something meatier, more involved. I can only slash the same few enemies through the same few vistas for so many times. The vistas are gorgeous for sure, and I’d be foolish not to  appreciate Vanillaware for their dedication to 2D, I just hope their next game is something I can really sink my teeth into and not something so … vanilla.

Grump Haiku – Summer Edition

August 12, 2009

The Hurt Locker

The tension is thick,

a fearless lead character-

what’s Kate doing here?

X-men Origins: Wolverine

All I can say is,

“Adamantium Bullets!?

Just go fuck yourselves!”


BreakOut meets shooter,

it’s a steal at twice the price;

buy this up right now!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Poor ideas made flesh,

its message is simplistic:

Buy more toys, shit kids~!

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Mars, barren and dead.

Don’t mind the terrorist themes;

just go smash some shit.


(grumplet) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: SNOGGING

July 30, 2009

Anyone who talks to me about the Harry Potter movies or read my rant in the comments section for Magus’ grumplet about Order of the Phoenix knows that I had a venomous dislike for David Yates, the man who had been handed the keys to the Harry Potter kingdom. Here was a man with absolutely no experience directing a theatrical feature film, let alone a huge, effects-laden installment of one of the most lucrative franchises in the world. While that alone was not enough to damn him in my eyes, the dull, lifeless adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was. Not only had it left out certain crucial details that would become important in future installments, but it also seemed to have no regard for the heart of the book, Harry’s inner turmoil, and instead focused on soapbox political allegories and rah-rah student rebellion. While all of this was present and indeed a necessary part of the original work, it seemed like David Yates missed the point. It’s true that the absence of the screenwriter of the previous four films, Steve Clowes, couldn’t have helped things, but the amateurish direction by Yates missed the mark. And with the usual 150-minute runtime cut down to a brisk, 120 minutes, it seemed like Warner Bros. had found its perfect stooge for cranking out another Harry Potter installment on time and on budget under the studio’s thumb.

Inbetween the release of Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, a couple things happened. Steve Clowes returned from his sabbatical to adapt the sixth installment, Yates was tapped by Warner Bros. to direct all following Harry Potter installments, beating out other hopefuls like Alfonso Cuarón, and the decision was made to cleave Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in two so that proper respect could be paid to sending the series off (and, of course, to allow WB to milk their cash cow to the bitter end). My heart understandably sank. Not only was Cuarón, the director of my favorite installment of Harry Potter, not returning, but that Yates hack was getting the glory of finishing up the whole thing. C’est la vie, eh? It was with a heavy heart and extremely low expectations that I entered Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, almost daring Yates to do his worst.

You must be very careful while entering a giant's anus, Harry...


(grumplet) Moon: One Small Step for Real Sci-Fi

July 23, 2009

You might remember me bemoaning the state of serious science fiction in my Virtuality post. (Which about as many people read as actually saw the program!) Wellllllll… in the back of my mind, I was looking forward to a movie that had been teased to me for the past six months: Moon. It premiered to generally good buzz at the big film festivals and of course it took forever for it to finally show in Kansas City. And hey, it has a Kevin Spacey A.I. and was directed by David Bowie’s son! So as soon as I was able to cajole my dad into paying for the tickets, off we were to the barren, lonely landscape of Moon.

Is this hip enough for you?!


(grumplet) Up: Up, and Straight Up My… Heart~

July 18, 2009

Sorry this has taken so long to make it up here on Grump Factory, but the theater, she is an expensive beast! And between taking summer school on the weekdays (BAH!) and rising ticket prices (it’s $10 here!) the local AMC 30 has a difficult time coaxing me out. Why, it would take a miracle for me to carve out the time it would take on a weekday to get a decent ticket price to go see a movie. Well, a miracle or a Pixar movie.



Grumplets: Michael Sheen and the Excitement Machine

July 9, 2009

Frost/Nixon (2008)

By far Ron Howard’s strongest film even if it is kind of unremarkable as a whole. W., released the same year, makes a much more reviled president look sympathetic too. Add to the fact that politicians today do far, far, far worse things than Nixon ever dreamed of. Still, I suppose he set the precedent, and if we are to believe Frank Langella’s excellent performance as the magnificent bastard he felt pretty bad about the whole thing. And that’s why you should see the film. Langella may not exactly look like Nixon but it’s one of those performances you can’t look away from, and at times the lighting is set in such a way that he does seem to resemble the bastard. The movie reaches greatness when it centers on interviewer David Frost and Nixon warring with words. Whenever Langella or Michael Sheen’s Frost are on screen the movie crackles with energy that could light a city block. The  supporting cast is extremely one-note: Kevin Bacon loves Nixon, Sam Rockwell hates Nixon. But they do their part.

Bolt (2008)

Pretty lousy! Though I thought it was nice when the cat taught the dog how to be a dog. Otherwise, it’s a jumbled up Truman Show, Aladdin, Homeward Bound thing with annoying pigeons. Bolt finds out reality is a lie, learns how to enjoy being himself and three animals go on a long journey to find Bolt’s “person.” Too bad Bolt’s person is the blandest girl in the world with a voice that pulled me out of the movie every time she talked. The other voices? Nondescript. So John Travolta is Bolt – who cares? I thought one guy was James Woods but it turned out to be someone else doing a James Woods impression and someone else was Malcolm MacDowell and I had no idea during the movie. So what’s the point of casting “names” then? The message of the movie rings extremely false too, as it celebrates the mundane over the special. The girl quits her blossoming acting career for her dog? Yeah, that sounds honest.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

Wow. Um. I didn’t bother with the first two movies – that shit looks so boring – so I admit I was kind of lost when characters and situations were never properly introduced. I guess the rambling narration at the beginning was supposed to help with that but it didn’t really. So I guess it’s a war between vampires and werewolves? Where the vampires are clearly outclassed by rampaging, rubbery-looking werewolves because they’re too busy staring at each other in Jedi council meetings the entire time? For fucking VAMPIRES these pusses show no backbone. Or fangs, really. Bill Nighy, as the vampire leader, is the only one with a pulse, looking fucking insane the entire time he’s onscreen. He hams it up very well, so it’s a shame everyone else BORES. There’s not a humorous bone in its body considering its stupid premise. Underworld is a key part of the Twilight crowd diluting the vampire fiction pool. I mean, fuck, Interview with the Vampire is cooler than this shit and that has Tom Cruise making kissy faces at Brad Pitt while they raise a hideous young Kirsten Dunst together. This is just boring, I even nodded off a few times. The sets c0nsist of the woods and what looks like some half-assed Helm’s Deep. The whole thing looks Sci-Fi Channel cheap.

Most interesting thing about it? MICHAEL SHEEN IS THE MAIN CHARACTER. I thought that guy looked familiar under all the filth and hair. That’s some range, Mr. Frost.