Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Double Trouble

Man, it feels like I just bought this dvd (Aug. 16) and now they're rereleasing it in a "recut, extended and unrated" version after only a few months (release date Dec. 13)!? AND it has the original version that I bought included in the set!? AND the complete graphic novel!? I call bullshit. So the studios burn the OG fans who supported the original release from the get-go, and reward the casual people who waited to buy the movie by giving them all these bonuses. Hellboy did this and now Sin City. The studios know they can do this and make money, especially to niche markets (i.e. geeks), because us fanboys will buy whatever they put out, but the filmmakers should know better.

I would've been okay with this had it come out a year or two from now, but to release it so close to the last dvd just sucks. I'm all for double-dipping when enough time has passed and fans are clamoring for a new version with more special features, a cleaner print, upgraded sound, etc., but not when they're just slapping stuff in that should have been in the original release anyway. I swear, the studios are going to start burning themselves if they keep this up. Now whenever a new movie is released on dvd I'm always thinking, should I wait until the deluxe version is released (you just know the must-buy Serenity is going to have one which I'll have to buy later)? It's going to get to the point where no one's going to buy an original-release dvd, knowing there's going to be a shiny new one just around the corner. It's even worse when they rerelease a dvd which has no extra features, just to make a quick buck. Case in point: I was all set to buy the special edition of Edward Scissorhands a couple of weeks ago when I found out it's the same disc as its initial release, only with new packaging. Lame.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Maybe an offer that lets owners of original releases the chance to buy the double dip at a discount? At the very least they should release the special editions first, for the fans, then release the stripped-down versions later, for the casual buyers who don't want to spend as much. Otherwise - the videostore near my apartment rents dvds for $1.50 and I have a dvd burner. I'm not saying this is the answer, or even encouraging such behavior, but I do know that studios should reward their product's fanbases, not alienate them.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Thoughts On A Tuesday Morning

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Although I went into work on one of my days off, the rest of the Thanksgiving Holiday was pretty chill. Saw Rent which was pretty good but couldn't get that "Everybody Has Aids" song from Team America out of my head while watching it. Played poker. Karaoke. Hung out with friends. Helped parents move furniture around in preparation for new carpets. Videogames. Ate. A lot. Good times.

I was reminded that I never followed up my Harry Potter review after I had seen it a second time. Basically, I had the same impression I had after the first viewing - Goblet of Fire is a good movie, but Prisoner of Azkaban is better. I think Mike Newell had more to work with storywise, since Goblet expands the Potter Universe and there was a lot of cool stuff to show (Quidditch World Cup, Triwizard Tournament), but it seemed choppy and a bit unfocused. I would love to see Azkaban's director, Alfonso Cuaron come back and direct another Potter movie. I love his visual style and his take on Potter's world.

Alright, back to work. I'm finishing up a project that's about a week late so I probably shouldn't be blogging at the moment.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!!!

Was too busy gobbling down turkey and cranberry sauce and biscuits and stuff to give a shout out to turkey day, so here it is. Lots to be thankful for this year, what with the wars, natural disasters and craziness in the world going on: thoughts go out to all the people affected by such things. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving yesterday and spent some quality time with friends and/or family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Recycler

The other day I was at a gas station in the valley, and had just put the hose in my tank when a middle-aged guy walked up and began to take cans and plastic bottles out of the trash bin next to me and stuffed them in a large plastic bag he was carrying. I must admit, I tried to ignore him for fear of him asking for money, but as he went around to the other trash receptacles, I got a good look at him and noticed his hair was well kept, he was wearing clean slacks and a collared shirt and a nice, big, gold watch was strapped to his wrist. Once he had made his rounds and his bag was well stuffed, he made his way across the parking lot and chirped-off the alarm... to his '04-'06 Lexus. He got into his large, four door, pearl-white-with-gold-trim LS and drove over to the liquor store across the street and began digging out the cans and plastic from the trash cans over there, too.

Now, no judgment or anything – maybe he needed the extra change to afford some new alloy wheels for his car or maybe he's just an avid recycler or something, but the spectacle did make me chuckle and feel blessed to be living in L.A. to see such a thing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Bday, Chelsea!

One of my best friends and most awesome person in the world, Chelsea Walsh (she's the one under the tiara), celebrated her birthday at El Cid's in Silverlake last Sunday. When I first got there, things seemed kinda suspect as there was a big old fat dude with a trucker hat with "sexy fat boy" printed on it, sitting in front of the bar, smoking a cigar. Chelsea told me that earlier, he had no shirt on and had pasties covering his nipples. That's one way to start a party, I guess. I assumed she didn't know him but I have no confirmation of that. Things got better soon after.

Chelsea's one of those people I can go years without seeing, but when we finally get together, it's just like old times. We used to hang out at her mom's place in Van Nuys after I graduated high school, and when she moved to UCLA for college, we spent much time there, too. We used to kind of have the same laugh, which annoyed people to no end, but I think that's changed now. I can't believe it but we've been friends for about 18 years or so. Oh yeah, she can rock the mic karaoke-style, and I'm sure there will be plenty of that going on when next we hang.

Okay, so I'll try and get the real scoop and report back but I seem to remember toward the end of the night (many of us were fairly inebriated at this point) me accidentally taking a picture of Chelsea's vag during a group photo, which totally cleared everyone out in disgust. One minute, like twenty, thirty people. *snap* Next minute, everyone gone. Hopefully, I've remembered this incorrectly.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Return to Hogwarts

Saw the first midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the Graumann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood yesterday with some friends including Fig and Courteney. Was fun, we ate and drank at the CPK in the Hollywood & Highland complex around 9pm, then headed over to the theater at 11pm. Just in time, too because there was a huge line and seats were scarce. It wasn't a total geek fest, but there were a lot of people with Hogwart's scarves and Potter glasses and other miscellany running around. Was a fun atmosphere. The Heat showed up and I couldn't tell if she was freaked out by all the nerdly goings on or if she enjoyed it. Sometimes I forget these things can be pretty bizarre from the outside looking in. She pretty much fit right in though, feverishly playing Bejeweled on my Treo for the high score, which ranks pretty high on the nerd-o-meter. Apparently, she's not a complete muggle.

Anyway, I think I'll delay a review until I see the movie again this Saturday.

Quick impressions though, although feelings may change, about last night's viewing:
As of now, I'm liking the previous film in the series, Prisoner of Azkaban, better. I really liked the Potter universe Alfonso Cuaron created in that one and the story felt more cohesive than in Mike Newell's vision. I remember the kids being "cooler" in Azkaban, too. In this one, their hair, dress and attitude seemed awkward, and I realize they're in their "awkward" growing-up years in this one, and that's not what I mean. I was also disappointed that, except for a tiny, cg spot, Gary Oldman's Sirius Black wasn't in this one all that much.

I did like Goblet though, and am excited to see it again. I'm having a Potter fest tonight, watching the three previous movies before seeing Goblet again on Saturday. Should be fun.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I Never Said I Was Pele

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted anything re: auditions, possibly because I haven't had any in recent memory. Go figure. Anyway, today I had an audition for one of my favorite products: Coca-Cola. I showed up at the Hollywood Rec Center off Santa Monica Blvd to see several huge, athletic guys running some sort of team exercises on a grass field where they were juggling soccer balls in the air with their feet, catching them on the back of their necks, passing them around to each other with ridiculous precision and basically intimidating anyone who wasn't part of their team (I could tell they were part of a team because they all had on the same red-with-gold-trim soccer uniforms). Also intimidating was the interview portion where I heard many say they played pro soccer - when it was my turn, I was like, "Yeah, I've played soccer all my life. I was MVP two years in a row *cough*inthirdandfourthgrade*cough*." After everyone was interviewed and after waiting a while because the batteries on the casting team's camera kept dying which resulted in more time for amazing feats of cirque du soccer to be displayed, we were split into teams and told to "go for it!" and play a game. Luckily (?) I was placed on the red-and-gold "Destroyers" team since I happened to be wearing a red shirt and was thrust into a semipro-level soccer match.

I pretended I was up to the challenge, running up and down the field with my team, calling for them to pass me the ball, attempting to steal the ball away from the other team, and basically just working it. Well, I must've been doing a great job acting that out because the Destroyers suddenly, much to my dismay, became aware of me and started including me in their game. That's when the trouble started. One guy called out to me, then shot the ball over, hitting me right square in the middle of my back when I instinctively turned away from the oncoming cannonball. Another pass hit one of my feet with such force that it almost flipped me 360 degrees in the air. One guy lobbed the ball up to me, thinking I would "head" the ball towards the goal, but I kind of just ducked under it and kept running. It went that way for the next 10 minutes or so until (mercifully) the casting assistant said she'd seen enough. That would be when the asthma attack hit and I fell onto the grass, gasping for breath while my team jogged off the field, barely winded. I eventually limped to my car and just sat there for a while, then drove away wheezing until I got to work about 40 minutes later.


Now, signs are clearly pointing toward me not booking the job, or heck, even getting a callback. But what happens if I do? Do I borrow my mom's inhaler and get some serious Shaolin Soccer-style training before the shoot? or do I just go with it and get the punishment of a lifetime (I already have a few big, red welts on me just from this afternoon) and it becomes a comedy number? I don't think I even have to worry about it at this point, really, but since I've been kind of "opposite" lately, I'll probably book this thing. Lord, help me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

You Can't Take Firefly From Me

Finally saw Serenity the other day. The problem was that I wanted to finish the DVD set of the Firefly series before seeing Serenity and I didn't anticipate it being out of theaters so quickly. Fortunately, it was revived in a brief engagement at a small mall theater in Burbank last week so I was able to see it on the big screen (kinda). I'm glad I did.

I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy and Angel (and writer of a few great comic books including Fray and Astonishing X-Men to boot) so I greatly anticipated the Firefly show when it came out. Unfortunately, it aired on a weird night and I had to get my mom to tape it for me, and when I finally watched it I thought she must have missed taping an episode because the series started off on a confusing note. There were things going on it seemed to assume I knew about and there were a ton of characters I didn't know or like right off the bat. Turns out Fox didn't think the pilot episode of Firefly had enough action so aired the episodes out of order, so no wonder I was confused. Anyway, the series didn't grab me right away, and after a few episodes, I lost interest. Actually, watching the DVDs, I didn't love Firefly immediately, but thought it was a good show. It wasn't until about halfway into the second disc that I remember thinking, "This show is great." I had the same experience with Buffy, too. The characters in Whedon's shows don't really talk or act like normal TV characters, possibly because they're more three dimensional than we're used to seeing. They get to be alternately funny, sad, serious, etc. they play against type, and sometimes they're not really all that likeable. Far from the characters in Gene Roddenberry's creations, the crew of Serenity (that's the name of the Firefly-class starship they cruise around in) fights and bickers all the time (in Chinese, no less!), sometimes betraying each other in unexpected ways. I hope I get the opportunity to play a Whedon-penned character; they seem like they would be so much fun to get into. The genre the show exists in is atypical too - this is not your typical "sci-fi" show. Just like Buffy and Angel, this show crosses genre boundaries with each episode. Comedy. Drama. Horror. Heck, it's even described as a "western in space" a mashed-up genre from the get-go, more the province of anime (eg Trigun, Cowboy Bebop) than primetime television. Certainly more ambitious than primetime is used to, which is why it's so heartbreaking that the show didn't at least get another season, at least to wrap up the many plot threads the final episode left dangling.

Thankfully, Serenity continues the story left off by the canceled Firefly TV series. I felt all warm and fuzzy, sitting in the theater, watching the crew of the Serenity back in action. I also felt a sense of dread as the minutes passed, knowing that this would be the last voyage they would take, at least on the big screen, seeing how disappointing the box office was. If this was indeed the last voyage though, it was a noble one to go out on. It was very satisfying seeing the mystery of the Reavers revealed and watching Simon finally connect with Kaylee on a real level. We didn't get to see Inara and Mal get together, but what we did get between them was enough. We also didn't get Shepherd's backstory, but that remaining a mystery is probably for the best. With such great characters and such a rich universe, it's maddening to contemplate where the next movies would have gone had the opening weekend box office been better. I heard that Joss is planning on doing a series of comic books set in Firefly's universe, so that's some consolation, but a good chunk of why the series and movie works is because of the actors, especially the captain, Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion. He just strikes the perfect mix of scoundrel, charmer, hard-ass and friend. I'm not spoiling anything, since it has been revealed in practically every review of the movie, but not all of the crew makes it to the end of the movie. Because of this, and because of what the characters go through, especially in the third act, I felt totally emotionally drained by the time I left the theater. I was hoping for that emotional impact when the twins were born and Darth Vader was revealed at the end of Episode III, but no. Serenity's characters moved me, not the special effects, which is something that Joss Whedon seems to understand and George Lucas does not. Indeed, I think I'll have to pick up this shirt immediately.

See Serenity in a theater if you can, if you can find it; it's worth seeing on the big screen. Otherwise, buy the Firefly box set and watch the series now, in anticipation for the home release of the movie. Or, just mosey over to my place during the winter break, around the week of Dec. 20 when Serenity comes out on DVD, 'cuz I'm sure I'll be havin' myself a Firefly/Serenity viewing party. Yee-haw!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lazy Weekend

It's Monday and I'm at work, completely exhausted and falling asleep at my desk from a weekend of doing nothing. Yeah, I'm feeling a bit guilty about it, but it was fun nonetheless. Haven't had a weekend in a while where I just slept late, vegged on the couch, hung out with friends and just indulged myself. Actually, come to think of it, I should do that more often.

After work on Friday I saw Zathura, the new film by Jon Favreau based on the children's book by Chris Van Allsburg. Aside from cursory glances of Zathura and Jumanji (Zathura's the sequel) at bookstores, I'm not familiar with the book series, but I can tell you I enjoyed this movie much more than the Robin Williams flick. The story has the same basic concept as Jumanji in that a couple of kids find a board game that, upon playing, becomes real. In Jumanji, a jungle comes to life around the kids, in Zathura, the game players (bickering brothers) are transported, along with their house, to outer space. The brothers then have to figure out how to get back home which involves playing the game until someone wins. Unfortunately, playing the game means solving life-threatening puzzles like avoiding meteor showers, insane robots and boy-eating, reptilian aliens. I like that there is a sense of danger and menace throughout the movie; that Favreau isn't afraid of giving younger audience members nightmares about being stalked in an alien ship or issues around being abandoned (or wished out of existence, actually) by one's brother. The movie's pace is quick and the acting by the kids isn't too annoying, something I'm always fearful of when children must carry movies. I thought Dax Shepard (of Punk'd fame) was surprisingly good in the part of the Astronaut, grounding the character by playing it seriously and not going for the laughs. Anyway, I'd recommend it. Not a must-see but a may-see.

When I got home from Zathura around 11:30pm that night was when the trouble started. As anyone who has been to any gaming-related websites recently knows, the latest rhythm-game title from Harmonix, Guitar Hero, was recently released to rave-reviews. Well, my roommate Michael, not really a gamer apart from his one-time obsession with Burnout 3 : Takedown for the XBOX, had played Guitar Hero at a friend's house earlier in the week and desperately had to own it. I made attempts to buy it from two Best Buys and a Fry's, only to find it sold out everywhere. On Friday however, Michael had better luck at the Best Buy in WeHo. Unfortunately, he had to abandon the guitar controllers (yes, the game comes with near full size guitar controllers) and game discs at our apartment, unopened, before running off to do his play, leaving me in the enviable position of clearing space on my memory card and giving the game a go before he got home. Needless to say, the game rocks and my weekend was ruined. Both Michael and I have completed the game on the "easy" mode, which unlocks other modes, including four more difficulty settings and a store where you can buy more songs, guitars, guitar skins, musicians (I'm saving up virtual money to buy the Grim Reaper rocker) and documentaries, among other things. Here's how the gameplay goes: the guitar controller has five, color coded "fret" buttons along the neck of the guitar-shaped controller, and a "flipper" at the other end where normally you would strum the strings, plus a conveniently located whammy bar. On screen, you must match the virtual notes, corresponding to the frets on the guitar controller, as they fall from the top, strumming the flipper when the notes pass over a designated point. This is all done to match the music that is playing while a concert is going on in the background of the game. It's very much in the vein of other rhythm titles such as Dance Dance Revolution, only done with a guitar instead of dancing on a pad. The whammy bar is used on sustained notes and you get bonus points for using it. Oh yeah, I forgot about the tilt sensor which is activated when you accumulate "star power" which is released when you go totally rock star by tilting the guitar 90 degrees for some extra points and works to thrill the audience (if the audience loses interest, it's game over). It all gets very intense as the notes fall faster, and the arrangement becomes more complicated as the game goes on. On easy mode, only the first three frets are used for the most part, but as you up the difficulty mode, the number of frets and "chords" goes up. The game must be played to get an understanding of how addicting and fun it really is. As with most rhythm games, the song selection is crucial to the enjoyment of the title and Guitar Hero doesn't disappoint. It has a good range of modern (Franz Ferdinand, Sum 41) and classic music (Ozzy, Bowie, Queen) and unlockable tracks by bands I'm not familiar with (Graveyard BBQ? Shaimus?) but they're all pretty rockin' and fun to play so far. The single player career mode is adequate, and has you leading a musician's life, going from venue to venue and raising money to spend on more features to spice up the game, but where the game really shines is in its multiplayer mode. Here, you and a friend (Michael had to buy two copies of the game to get the two controllers) play cooperatively on a song, but you won't be playing the exact same notes, you actually play the song together, trading notes and solos as the song progresses. The audience reaction to how well each of you play determines the winner. My only complaint is that one wrong note can cost you the lead, and its impossible to catch up, due to the way multipliers in the game work. It's a fair system, but it's easy to just give up once you make a small error. Anyway, it's a great party game and easy for anyone to pick up and play. Even non gamers will find it rocks (see
The Heat's blog for her experience with it when I coerced her into coming over on Saturday to try it)!

Saturday evening I tore myself away from Guitar Hero long enough to go over the hill into the Valley to work on the
60 comic with John Keating and to play some Hold 'Em on his sweet new poker table. Well, we didn't work on the comic too much, but we did have some good Fish 'N Chips and beer at the local British Pub, Robin Hood's with our friend (and John's roommate), Tim Trobec. Later, we had a great time playing poker and drinking with some other friends who showed up. Between tournaments, we all sang Counting Crows' "Mr. Jones" to Laura Reatherford's baby, Emma, with Mr. Keating on acoustic guitar (a real guitar!). A good time was had by all, with John winning the first tourney and me winning the second (my first win!) and Mitch taking second both times. I got home around 1 (1:30?) that night to find Michael playing Guitar Hero, so of course, I had to join in. Not sure what time I finally got some Zs.

Sunday I woke up, and immediately stumbled into the living room and grasped the guitar controller and powered on the PS2, only stopping later that evening to drive to my parent's house for some salmon and a roast my dad had cooked using his new smoker. He had put some honey on the smoked salmon which made it unbelievably tasty. Yum. After dinner it was back to my apartment to find Michael on the geetar again, so of course, I plugged in my controller for a jam session.

Yes, it was a lazy weekend and I'm paying for it here at work due to the late nights but it was totally worth it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

From Yesterday's L.A. Times

Guess Mitch aint the only one...

XBOX 1.5

Got my hands on an XBOX 360 yesterday at the Woodland Hills, CA Best Buy and I must say, I walked out of there thinking, "meh". Yes, I'm a Nintendo fanboy, but I'm also an early adopter of videogame tech, no matter what company is putting it out. My Gamecube, PS2 and XBOX were all purchased upon the day of their release but this time, especially for the XBOX 360, I think I'll sit out a few months and see how it goes, at least until the PS3 is released so I can compare the two, or until the XBOX 360 comes out with a killer app to justify its $400 price tag. The 360's launch line-up leaves me unimpressed: Project Gotham Racing 3, Call of Duty 2, Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Madden, Kameo: Elements of Power and Perfect Dark Zero (these last two might be cool, but hardly killer apps) and a few others. At least give me a port of Half-Life 2 or a Halo 2 expansion (to apologize for the non-ending Bungie left players with on the current XBOX)!!!

If the system provided a generational leap, the likes of which we saw during the jump from SNES/Genesis to Playstation/Nintendo 64 or Playstation/Nintendo 64 to Dreamcast/PS2/XBOX/Gamecube, but it doesn't even look like we're going to get that. At least not in these first-generation titles. I played Call of Duty 2 on an HD display and while it was pretty to look at, it was plagued with textures popping in, something I thought would be artifacts of the past. It also just didn't have anything that made me think, "Wow." Instead of, "That's nice." And King Kong, another title I played, looked like a current-gen XBOX title. Seriously.

I'm sure the XBOX 360, being the first out of the next-generation gate, will be huge this holiday season (possibly due to alleged self-made market shortages and early-adopters), but I can't help but feel Microsoft jumped the gun to get that position. The PS2, XBOX and Gamecube have plenty of life left in them (at least a year) and developers are still finding ways to squeeze more and more power out of each as evidenced by the amazing visuals and gameplay of recent titles like God of War (PS2), Burnout : Revenge (XBOX) and the upcoming Zelda : Twilight Princess ('Cube). By waiting a bit longer and refining their products, I think Sony (with its Blu-Ray drive) and Nintendo (with its innovative controller) could make Microsoft regret its early launch.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure I'll own a 360 in the future, but for now, I can wait.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Soilent Lucidity

The night before last, my brain tricked me while I was having a lucid dream. For some reason, over the past few days I've been having some really intense dreams. A few have been long, drawn-out affairs that last seemingly half the night. Some have had incredibly complex storylines that make no sense when I try and decipher them upon waking. Others have been short, sometimes grotesque little delusions. The lucid dream however, was a dream that had been going on for hours before it became lucid. Something about high-school. I might've been doing a play. That seems to be a recurring dream I have. Anyway, I was being swept along in the dream when something happened, I don't remember what it was, but when it happened, I remember thinking, "Waitaminute. This doesn't make sense. I must be dreaming." And I was. Upon realizing this, I do what I normally do when I become "aware" that I'm dreaming - I try to fly (well, I do other things too, but let's keep it clean for now). Doesn't always work as sometimes I just can't get off the ground, and sometimes I fly around for a while and then I wake up or transition to another dream, but this time, after a short round of flying, which was very cool by the way, I thought to myself, "I should try and contact a friend while I'm in this dream state." Just as I thought this, my friend Gil Lahav appeared below me, so I flew down to him and said, "Dude! You're in my dream! Try and remember this, so when we talk after waking up, we'll know it was real!!!" I told him something random then, to remember so he could tell me later when I saw him in the waking world.

And then I woke up.

I was totally excited, lying there in bed, until I realized I haven't talked to Gil in 15 years or so and don't have his number or any way to get a hold of him. Plus, how weird would it be for me to track down his number, give him a call and be like, "So, Gil. How've you been? What have you been up to? What's the secret I told you in my dream?" My brain totally tricked me. That's what you have to watch out for when lucid dreaming : your brain's always trying to trick you back into regular dreaming. Anyway, Gil, if by some chance you read this, give me a call or email and tell me the secret I told you in my dream.

Oh, and if I appear in your dreams : make sure you pay close attention to what I'm saying. You never know.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Kartin' in the USA

November 28th can't get here fast enough! That marks the date Nintendo is releasing its Mario Kart DS Bundle which includes the new Hot Rod Red Nintendo DS packaged with Mario Kart DS. Now, those that have played past versions of Mario Kart know that a new version of the game is something to be celebrated, but given the fact that this new version not only has the videogame-as-crack gameplay of the Mario Kart series, but that it is being launched as the first title utilizing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, makes this purchase guaranteed.

Imagine being able to not only wirelessly play your friends in other cities, but being able to play people in Japan or Europe! The Nintendo DS's ability to use Wi-Fi out of the box makes all this possible - and using Nintendo's service is free! No monthly fees or micro-payments like Microsoft's XBOX Live makes you pay. Free. Nintendo's awesome.

Single player was always good, but multiplayer was where this game would shine, which is why the wi-fi aspect of the DS version has me so excited. I have fond memories of playing Mario Kart when it came out for the SNES. My friend Jake Strider Hughes and I would compete against each other for hours and hours. And later on the Nintendo 64, although it was considered the least in the series, my brother-in-law and I would spend days playing Mario Kart 64. We even considered creating a videogame show for public access where the whole program would consist of us playing Mario Kart. I haven't put too much time into Mario Kart : Double Dash for the Gamecube, a title I borrowed from my friend Ric, because these days I don't have anyone to play against. The DS is going to change all that. Woo-hoo!

If any readers of this blog want to get in on some Mario Kart action when this puppy comes out, let me know and we'll set up some games. Up to four can race at a time. I can't wait!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The "Pays" The Thing

Last Friday, I attended the opening of my roommate's play, "We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay!" at the Pan Andreas Theatre in Hollywood (that's him to the left - Michael Cornacchia. Apparently, they're using his mug to promote the play.) I felt right in the spirit of things since my ticket was comped and I didn't have to pay to get in, but felt a bit guilty so kept my mouth shut when the audience was made to chant "we won't pay! we won't pay!" as a crowd-warming exercise before the start of the play.

WWP! WWP! is a comedy by Dario Fo, and this production plays like old sitcoms along the lines of "I Love Lucy" or "The Honeymooners," especially in the interactions between Michael's character, Giovanni, and his wife Antonia, hilariously played by Annie Terry. Also mix in Giovanni's high jinks with his neighbor and friend, Luigi, played by Zoran Radanovich, and you get some madcap scenarios Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel would have found themselves comfortable in. The whole cast is great, but I have to say Michael is the stand-out, his performance filling the room with much bluster and pent-up rage (much like his picture above, actually) but never falling into caricature so much so that we don't feel sympathetic to Giovanni's plight. Good stuff and compares well to his breakthrough performance as Jabba the Hut in "Star Wars in 30 Minutes". Heh.

Amidst all the slapstick and volume, however, there is a message, and it's about desperation and hunger, both literally and otherwise. Each of the characters find their breaking point between the values society has placed on them and what they feel is right. Where the characters draw that line is where the comedy lies, and the director, Scott Rognlien, seems to know just how broadly to draw it.

Go see it. It's fast-paced, well-cast, well-performed and a fun night at the theater.

Nov. 4 - Nov. 20, 2005
Pan Andreas Theatre
5125 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
http://www.wwpwwp.com

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Get Your Greek On

I haven't had much time to play videogames in a long time, except for the occasional Gameboy Advance title, but that hasn't stopped me from buying them almost every week as they come out. Recently, I sadly noticed my pile of unopened games was getting higher and higher, so decided to set aside a little time every weekend to get my gaming groove back on.
The first game I tackled was a half-finished one I had set aside last April. I know this because that was the date of my last saved game on my memory card. Upon realizing this, I almost burst into tears. Anyway, it's named God of War, and how I set it aside, I'll never know, since it was such a joy to play.

First of all, it's a brutal, bloody game. One of the most savage I've ever played, actually, so if the sight of spraying, spattering blood and severed heads makes you queasy, stay away from this one. However, while brutal, it is also very beautiful. It's full of pseudo-Roman architecture, amazing vistas and finely detailed gods and monsters. I was actually amazed this game was running on my PS2, since the graphics were pretty much XBOX or Gamecube in quality, and running on my Sony XBR, in progressive scan widescreen mode, made it that much more breathtaking. Every head being ripped off, every bone-snap or jaw break was in fine detail. I almost felt sorry for all the gorgons, cyclops and minotaurs I slaughtered.

God of War is about an ex-Spartan named Kratos, who sells his soul to Ares in order to win a battle in which he and his army are on the verge of being defeated. Ares accepts, turning Kratos into an unstoppable killing machine with the conceit that Kratos must become Ares's slave and carry out his orders. After much bloodshed, and as generally happens with this sort of deal, Kratos soon regrets the bargain, and, wanting revenge on Ares but finding no help from the other gods, jumps off a cliff to his seeming demise. This is where the game begins, and the rest of the experience is finding out what events led Kratos to the top of that cliff in such complete despair and why he wants revenge. The story is okay and the between-stages cutscenes are extremely well done. Some of these cutscenes have a hand-drawn, 2d look that is very stylish and just plain cool but the fully rendered, 3d scenes are equally amazing. Once you get to the end of the game, a movie viewer opens up as an option, so you can see all these beautiful cutscenes over and over again.

The game isn't very long, which is fine with me. I'd rather have quality over quantity any day, and since I have a lot more games to get through, a short game is a blessing these days. You could probably get through the entire game in a weekend, if you were devoted. That is, if unlike me you didn't spend hours on a mini game where you control Kratos as he beds two topless ladies to win experience points. Okay, yes, I'm immature. This side game would probably make Jack Thompson's head spin, but this is a mature rated game, so parents shouldn't be letting their kids play this one anyway. Ahhh... virtual boobies.

The controls are tight, with a lot of different combos for each weapon. Unfortunately, once you power up your default weapons, the "Blades of Chaos" which have been seared to Kratos's arms, and learn a couple of moves which seem to work the best, there's no real need to learn or use all the combos, or even power up the other weapons you find throughout the game. Kratos animates nicely though, and eviscerating an enemy, then pulling off its head, or tearing off its wings, or pushing your blades down its throat soon becomes second nature, if only a bit monotonous after a while. I could've used a little more variety in how to deal with the baddies.

To wrap it up, I'd definitely recommend this game. The art direction is incredible, the action is great, and the story will keep you moving through the game, if only to see how it plays out in the next cutscene. I wish the fighting were a bit more refined (check out Ninja Gaiden for the XBOX if you want to see a game where the fighting is near-perfect), but this gets the job done. One of the best overall experiences I've had on the PS2.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

10,000+!!!

Just a quick post to thank everyone who has been reading my blog regularly. Last month I had over 10,000 hits to this site (11,580 to be exact), almost double what I've been averaging for the past several months! It's even more amazing given that my blog isn't searchable within Blogger so I don't get traffic from them; most of the hits I get are from people directed here from search engines and direct links. In fact, my top "Search Strings" this month leading people to this site include: "big lips", "flightpan" (must be people making typos in their search for the movie) and "naughty bathroom". But some of the hits I'm getting are from regular readers, so if you are one of those people, thanks again, and if you're here because you typed in "freaky deaky flapjacks" or "being naughty" in a search engine, you just might want to try my friend John's site for the latest in monkey porn.