Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Yesterday I took a little vacation at one of my favorite spots. I'm talking Liberty City baby with it's roach infested apartments, it's garbage strewn streets and overcrowded sidewalks and roadways.
Liberty City is the fictional setting for this years mega-blockbuster slice of video game heaven Grand Theft Auto IV. I need to preface with the fact that the GTA franchise is second in my heart only to the Resident Evil franchise, if there was a way to combine the technical and story telling prowess of GTA with the tension and mechanics (and zombies) of RE, well my head would probably s-plode, (poof, there goes my head) but until then I'll have to enjoy them separately.
I've only gotten a short way in, but what I've seen so far is nothing short of awesome. Liberty City is based on my home town of New York City and the resemblance is remarkable. If you've ever been to Coney Island then your first apartment in Hove Beach Broker (Brooklyn) will feel incredibly familiar. Likewise if you've ever run around in the South Bronx or South Bohan in the game. One of my favorite moments in the game was coming across the Worlds Fair globe in Dukes (Queens) and for a moment feeling like I could walk over to my grandmothers place a mile away. (I didn't)
You start the game as Niko Bellic a European immigrant lured to America by his cousin Roman a big talker with a gambling problem. Niko is quickly sucked into doing small jobs for European mob types to keep the heat off his cousin, and in true GTA fashion those jobs quickly escalate from intimidation to murder.
All GTA games follow a similar premise, but like the saying goes, if it 'aint broke... Of course Rockstar North didn't create the gangster rags to riches tale, but I'm amazed at how deep the storylines get, and how fresh they seem from game to game. They really do have a way of inserting the player into the story and making you care about what happens to your onscreen avatar.
Something new that surprised me early on is the ability to make a moral choice within the story, to decide whether you would kill an intended target. I let him live, and I'm looking forward to how that will pay off later in the story.
Another new mechanic is the cell phone. Nikos cell phone is your interface to the world, and it makes sense. Contacts are added to your phone book and will call you for jobs or just to hang out. You also have the freedom to call a contact and bolster your friendship by meeting for a game of pool or some drinks, or maybe a night at the strip club. By the way, driving drunk is a riot, heck walking drunk is a riot and I face planted more than I care to admit.
The cell phone is also used to enter a multiplayer game, something I've yet to do. You can also use it to get song information and to buy those songs from the Amazon marketplace, directly downloaded to your console.
The internet is another source of contact with the world of GTA IV. At the brilliantly named internet cafes TW@, Niko can log on, check his email for jobs, or just tool around the web. Of course the usual GTA humor is present everywhere, so expect websites just as ludicrous as the radio ads in previous installments.
Speaking of the radio, the usual GTA attention to music is present. For a full list check here.
I was particularly happy about Liberty City Hardcore featuring an old friend from my past Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy's Law doing DJ duty.
I've only had one day with this game and I'm already obsessed. Everything about this game has intrigued me so far, and for once the hype machine gets it right. While I can probably go on much longer, I'm heading home to play.
Bottom line is GTA IV is a must own. I'm playing the PS3 version (no freezing) and it looks and sounds great. Pick this one up, and maybe I'll see you on the streets of Liberty City.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Anyway, it being Friday means I spent last night in TV land bliss as Lost came back both barrels blazing (literally) and finding a funny line in 30 Rock was as easy as taking candy from one of those guys who give out candy at gay night clubs.
It feels like the Rock is starting to get it's feet back. The writers strike really had an effect on the momentum of the show, and I'm sure Tina Fey promoting a new movie, and probably putting finishing touches on it and an SNL appearance while these episodes filmed couldn't help any. Still, 30 Rock is like pizza...or fisting, even when it's bad it's good.
Last nights episode had a lot going for it. Donaghy and Geiss have great chemistry, but Donaghy and Banks are even better. Liz out of her element is always good. Can anyone be more awkward then Liz Lemon in a pantsuit?
So let's run down the favorite bits:
Jack regarding his promotion to Geiss:
I want my mother to know this before she dies so she can go to her grave a defeated woman.
Shirtless Tracy, dancing in the middle of his sons class crying:
If I'm such a bad dad, why are we all dancing?
Hugging...it's so ethnic.
my son is ashamed of his father.
That's horrible. Everyone knows the only thing we should be ashamed of is our bodies.
Liz on molesting Banks in the elevator: To get through it I pretended he was a sandwich.
Franks explanation in Star Wars terms to Tracy on why a porn video game can't be made, (the valley) and Dr. Spaceman calling 911 for Diabetes repair had me rolling as well as Liz' disdain for Banks (he reminds me of me, yesterday) then handing Jack a tampon (which he places in his breast pocket like a cigar) for feeling bad for Banks were all great moments.
My favorite of the night
Tracy: My genius has come alive, like toys when your back is turned.
Truer words have not been spoken.
have a great weekend all......
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
I had a great time visiting the family this past weekend. Grandmas health isn't the greatest and that worries me, but I'm trying not to focus on that.
After running all over the city on Saturday, we hit everyplace from Forbidden Planet to Toy Tokyo, I went with my brother and his son to see Forbidden Kingdom the new Jackie Chan/Jet Li joint. It wasn't what I expected, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sunday, I got about two hours to run around the show floor of the New York Comic Con. The place was sensory overload, and that's an understatement.
I didn't get to catch any big announcements or check out any panels, but I did get to see plenty of toy prototypes from Watchmen to The Spirit to Stargate. There is a ton of stuff hitting the shelves this summer and fall. I fear for my paycheck.
I was really excited to see the Night of the Living Dead figures. The film recently reached it's 40th anniversary and we will see a Graveyard Zombie (Bill Heinzman) from the beginning of the film, (the one that walks like Elvis Costello) Ben, (Duane Jones) Barbara, (Judith O'Dea) and Karen Cooper (Kyra Schon) complete with garden spade. The figures look great and I'm definitely pre-ordering.
Another thrill was catching the beta of Metal Gear Solid online. I didn't get any time to actually play since the line was pretty long, but what I saw looked great and gives me high hopes for the game when it is released later this year.
Of course, I couldn't walk out of there without at least one purchase. I couldn't resist this little guy. His name is Nate and he was sculpted by the incredibly talented Clayburn Moore. In case you couldn't tell he's based on Charlie Adlards art for Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead series. Clayburn himself was there and he signed the back of the pedestal for me. If you're not familiar with his work, go check his site out.
I can maybe make a ball with Sculpty, but it goes downhill from there.
I just want to shout out a thanks to my pals Spencer and Matt from Team 8 Press for finding space for me, and Patrick of Velocity Comics and Jesse Bausch of Strange Detective Tales (Oddgod Press) for helping to get me in, otherwise I would have never seen this:
Thursday, April 17, 2008
My nephew just turned 13, so I told his dad I'm giving him a pack of condoms, a lighter and a bottle opener. Hey, that's all I needed when I was 13, and let's face it, pre-aids the condoms were a suggestion.
Either way, I won't be around, and I won't get any internet time till Monday. My aunt has dial up and I'm a bandwidth snob.
So have a great weekend and in tribute to my now 13 year old nephew Logan (as in Run, not X-Men) enjoy this video I found on Funny or Die (which turned 1 today) that features Chris Mintz Plasse better known as "McLovin" a major geek, and Kristen Bell whose just major. Have I mentioned my KristenKrush before?
Hopefully I'll have something cool and geeky when I get back....
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I wanted to say something but decided to bask in the glow of our legacy. Not money, not adulation or affection.
That's what it's all about..
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Let me explain. I read a lot. I frequently visit news sites such as Newsvine and the Onions A.V. Club and Kotaku. I have several magazine subscriptions, and a stack of comics I can no longer keep up with that I add to on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, on the nights I do try to curl up with a book, it's everything I can do to stay awake for ten minutes. Not because reading or the book bores me. I am assaulted by so much material all day long that by the time night rolls around my eyes can barely stay open.
I also try to keep up with all other aspects of geek culture like movies, tv, video games and music.
Before the internet claimed my soul, I easily read a book a week. I took public transportation, and left my gameboy at home. I read as I walked narrowly avoiding passers by. When I waited for someone, I would pull a book out and let the time pass. I didn't jump on my cell and call everybody I can think of to waste a few moments with. Maybe Amazons Kindle is the way to go.
As hard as it is to find time for some hardcore reading, I'm also not much of a fan of audio books. I have gone the audio book way on rare occasions. I knew I would never read The DaVinci Code, but wanted to know what all the hype was about. I listened to it unabridged during my morning training runs. This was multitasking that I could live with. I'm toying with doing the same with Ayn Rands Atlas Shrugged. It'll probably take me a thousand miles to finish the thing though.
I read World War Z by Max Brooks when it was released in hardcover. I love this book, if you haven't read it, you're denying yourself a good time. I actually wanted to read it again, but I've already explained my difficulty with time management, and stacks of reading material.
That's when I came across the World War Z podcasts. Thinking they were a related podcast, I downloaded them. (there are 10) The podcasts are excerpts from the audio book, are free, and they hooked me. The World War Z audiobook plays out more like a radio drama and less like a reading. Imagine an NPR show devoted to survivors of a zombie war. Max Brooks plays the role of the interviewer. His voice is pleasant and professional as he questions his subjects who walk us through the oral history from patient zero in China to the monument in Yonkers erected in our victory over the undead.
The subjects are not lacking in talent either. Alan Alda, John Tutturo, Carl and Rob Reiner, Henry Rollins, Jurgen Prochnow and Mark Hamill who's voice talents are flawless are possibly the most recognizable names in the credits, but everyone does a great performance. You can find a full cast listing at the Random House World War Z page. Since the book travels the world, some of the accents may seem campy, but I think this is done more to give us a feel of the accent without making the dialogue incomprehensible.
This version is abridged, obviously the attention to statistics so important in the book are toned down. I also found myself missing the section of the book that takes place on a German sub, and a floating community of ships. I don't know why sections were cut, but for an audio book the budget must have been huge.
I listened during my commute, and the story is done in 6 hours.
Brad Pitt has won the right to produce World War Z the movie, and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, and many many comics) is currently working on a script.
The problem is, there is so much material, that nearly any story can be expanded to a film. Todd Wainios battle at Yonkers and his trek across America, or Christina Eliopolis' trials after falling from a plane over Louisiana swampland (if she does appear in the film and is not played by Christina Ricci then the casting director should be shot as a zombie), T. Sean Collins story of protecting the rich and famous holed up in a webcast paradise is also chilling enough to be it's own feature. Like The Walking Dead, World War Z would make an excellent limited series, maybe eight to ten one hour long episodes in documentary style.
World War Z is written by Max Brooks and published by Random House
Even if you have read the book, the audio book adds a different layer to the story and is well worth a listen.
The audio book won an Audie award in 2007 for Best Multi-Voiced Performance.
I have seen the audio book for as little as $15. at Barnes and Noble.
Download it from ITunes for $19., or torrent it (not recommended (ineedtosaythat)). You won't be disappointed.
Friday, April 11, 2008
In Spaced, the brilliant BBC sitcom he co-created with Jessica Stevens, (directed by Edgar Wright) Simon plays Tim Bisley, an aspiring comic artist (I wanted to write them) working, where else? a comic shop. (I worked in 5 different comic shops growing up.) Tim has no luck with relationships, (check) is a bit cranky at times, (check) obviously loves comics, (check) video games, (check) and prefers Star Wars over Star Trek (check). He even has posters up for Evil Dead 2 and Zombie on his wall, I mean, c’mon!
My likeness appears on the cover of the ultra violent graphic novel Recess Pieces by Bob Fingerman. (Which I swear to glowingly review here in the near future, zombies, grade school, need I say more?) I am also in the dedication.
Now things are starting to get freaky. In Run Fat Boy Run Simon plays Dennis Doyle, a good hearted everyman who decides to run a marathon to prove he can finish something to himself and most importantly to his ex-fiancee (Thandie Newton) he left at the altar..pregnant. Turns out the ex is involved with a Type A (Hank Azaria) who’s wealthy, handsome and competitive. Dennis sees the connection to everything he cares about fading away, so in a last ditch attempt to prove he’s a changed man he enters the same marathon the Type A is running in. Dennis is coached by his best friend and ex’s cousin Gordon played by Dylan Moran, and his landlord Mr. Goshdashitar (Harish Patel). Gordon has bet everything he doesn’t have that Dennis will finish, (only cause the odds were great) and his landlords daughter will evict him (Dennis) if he does not run.
I don’t want to give too much away. If you’re looking for a lighthearted way to spend an evening, you can do worse than Run Fat Boy Run. Simon and Dylan have a real strong chemistry from years of working together, (the fight scene played out to the Kaiser Chiefs “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” should definitely be a contender for fight of the year at the MTV Movie Awards) and you can tell they’re enjoying themselves. The film does tread some safe romantic comedy territory, but that’s to be expected. David Schwimmer of Friends fame makes his directorial debut with Run Fat Boy Run and I think he did a pretty decent job. Some scenes felt a little sitcommy (where he practiced his new craft) but everyone starts somewhere. The film was written by Michael Ian Black (The State, Reaper) originally to take place in
Now where have I seen some of this before? Oh yeah, my frakkin’ life! Romantic comedy bits aside, I ran my first Marathon at 40 in
How will Simons future mimic mine, only time will tell. There are fortunately no parallels to draw from Hot Fuzz, though I have had my share of run-ins with the po po.
He will be playing Scotty on the upcoming J.J. Abrams re-launch of Star Trek. (Hmmm, Scotty’s an engineer (ship) and I’m an engineer (audio), am I reaching?)
When Simon plays an aging punk rock drummer with an addictive personality, Peter Pan and restless leg syndromes I’m contacting my lawyer, well first I’ll get a lawyer, then I’ll contact him.
Run Fat Boy Run is currently in theaters
Spaced is scheduled for a US DVD release on 7/23/08
Spaced is currently being re-imagined for American audiences (like The Office) without Simon, Edgar or Jessica’s involvement (apparently without their approval either)
Now that 30 Rock is back with new episodes and I can once again worship at the altar of the Geek Goddess Tina Fey. I need to bring back a Friday tradition (at least 3 times) of sharing my favorite quotes. last night was tough as there was hardly any Tracy, and no Jenna. Pete had a weird subplot which was dialogue free, but used up a lot of time that would normally be spent throwing the jokes around. So what was my favorite bit?
Was it Cheney calling Jack to ask about Deborahs breasts?
"No, they're not real unfortunately."
What about Kenneths "You're eyes look like my uncles after he drinks from the air conditioner."
Maybe it was Soyjoy, now with optimism, or Liz' Cathy "Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, Ack!" If it wasn't Jacks litany of nicknames "Stammerhead Shark, stutterfingers, stuttermilk pancakes. The butter thing opened a lot of doors for them" then it had to be Jack talking about his childhood "I feel like I'm back in that boiler room making little piles of sawdust while Gilley plays with himself in the corner."
No matter, 30 Rock is back and I'm in "Erection Cove".
I think Jack should follow up MILF Island with "Cougar Island" and then "Celebrity Cougar Island" so Jenna can be on and get voted off when it's down to her and Cameron Diaz.
By the way, check out Livin' 'Neath The Law with Jack McBrayer (Kenneth) on Funny Or Die
You can catch Milf Island on Hulu.com
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
That said, I felt compelled to share this. We have a local market called...wait for it...The Market, (I kid you not) and they carry several "off" brands. That's where I saw this. Sorry about the flash reflection, I felt odd enough taking pictures of cereal boxes to worry too much about artistic excellence.
Only thing this box is missing is a blurb "Packed With Protein!!" Let's talk about the shape of the puffs themselves, take a minute, it'll come (no pun intended) to you. I wonder if the R on his helmet stands for randy. I may need to pick a box of these up for myself, though I fear Saturday morning will never be the same again.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Now maybe it's me. Maybe too many grindhouse flicks and a preference for Zombie Strippers have soured my cinematic pallet beyond repair, but this won best picture?...really?
Before you start hating, I liked the film enough. The camera work is impressive, and there are some really great performances. Javier Badem as Anton Chigurh brought the chill with him, but if you want to see a truly scary sociopath curl up with Michael Rooker in 1986' Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and tell me you won't keep a closer eye on the cable guy next time he comes over.
Tommy Lee Jones as the Sheriff, and Josh Brolin as the any man who bit off more than he can chew were also great, though Tommy Lee seemed to be confused at the waste of his bad-assery at times.
Speaking of wasting performances. Two supporting characters who are portrayed by Woody Harrelson (I don't need to tell you what he's been in) and Garret Dillahunt, possibly one of the finer character actors today, (Deadwood, 4400, Sarah Conner Chronicles) are largely wasted. Harrelson is little more than a plot contrivance, and you feel his role was stunt casting at best. This is like casting Ben Foster (30 Days of Night, 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog) for a walk on in The Hills.
I know there are people out there who think the Coen Brothers can do no wrong, but I honestly haven't been into anything they've done since Fargo, and yes that includes The Big Lebowski, a film I still haven't been able to sit through.
It felt to me like they tried to out grind Tarantino, but without the same snappy dialogue and no real passion for the violence they tried to throw in each scene, except of course where it would really matter. Two crucial confrontations that the audience would truly care about occur off camera, why hold back here when the whole movie is a string of bloody confrontations?
Maybe that was the idea, in a world inured to violence they wanted it to be very matter of fact, of course we may never know since there was no damn commentary on the disc! C'mon, directors as important as everyone tells the Coen Brothers they are can't throw a commentary track down to tell people what they were thinking? Lazy and inexcusable, I have no other words for it.
So, if you liked Fargo, but always wondered how a desert setting would change the movie, then No Country is for you. I may not think it's picture of the year material (in all fairness I was also disappointed by The Matrix) but it is definitely worth the rental. As a slice of (very violent) life, the film works, but if you're expecting a pay off you may be in for a let down. If anything the film limps through the last twenty minutes as if it had buckshot in the leg.
No Country For Old Men is available on DVD and Blu Ray.
The novel by Cormac McCarthy is available in paperback
Friday, April 4, 2008
No, seriously, how can I think of anything else knowing that tonight starts the beginning of the end of one of the finest tv shows of my lifetime? No, not Flavor Of Love. I'm talking about the 4th season of Battlestar Galactica.
What are you doing reading? You should be home popping corn and calling all your friends and relatives to tell them not to call you while it's on. You should be setting up your season pass, clearing your social calendar for the next dozen or so Fridays. Covering you toaster so it doesn't get any ideas...you know the drill.
I honestly don't think I have ever been this excited about a television show returning, (though I am kinda psyched for Doctor Who on the 18th) so you can expect some Battlestar centric posts over the next few months. Hey, it could be worse, I could really like Gossip Girl. Anyway, if you're a fan like me, enjoy the show. If not, it's not too late to buy or rent the DVDs and see what people are buzzing about. Frak, I'm sure you know someone you can borrow them from.
Oh, and guys, zombies don't know from keyboards or controllers...better work on your headshots.
Battlestar Galactica airs on the Sci Fi channel Fridays at 9pm.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Here is what I learned:
It’s fun to beat on the homeless.
It’s more fun if you’re drunk.
The only thing better than a burning meth head is two burning meth heads.
The cake is a lie…….um, no wrong game.
The AI seems smarter this time around. They will attack from a distance if possible either shooting if armed, or throwing bricks, pool balls or whatever they can get their hands on. They will hide and jump out or sneak up on you from behind when you least expect it. Your flashlight is your best friend and worst enemy as it reveals your foes while telegraphing your position. It is possible to sneak through levels, but why would you want to?
Each level grades you at the end based on investigation, timed responses, emitters destroyed and antennas (news reports) found awarding you with a bronze, silver or gold badge. Trust me, you want the gold as this means the best upgrades granted. Upgrades come in the form of taser shots, bullet damage, stealth ability, kick combos, health effectiveness etc. The game also keeps a record of successful combos and extends your chain attack meter as milestones are reached.
Graphically Bloodshot doesn’t disappoint, though there were some levels that were eye straining headache inducing nightmares. There is a lot of detail in this game and the character models are great and move well. Ethan looks like he’s about to start suffering from DTs at any time.
The control is much more fluid, and at first I thought the game was easier than its predecessor, it’s not. It is more reactive and in the long run a more satisfying experience than the first game. (which was no slouch – seriously, play the first)
Condemned 2: Bloodshot is Published by Sega and was developed by Monolith Productions. It carries a mature rating for violence and language, alcohol, drugs and gore. It is available for the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
I can almost always find something to amuse me on Cracked.com, and today is no exception.
Check out the "5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen" then scoff at my planning and preparedness. Afterwards I'll meet you at the Home Depot in the window gates aisle. I'll be the guy with the steel shutters and chainsaw.
The language on cracked.com aint' for kiddies, be warned.