Sunday, December 19, 2010

Keeping Enemies Closer: My Favorite Video Game Bad Guys

THE TAKEN - I recently beat Alan Wake. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, primarily because of the enemies players encounter throughout. Referred to as 'The Taken' these shadowy, possessed human beings pop out of the darkness hurling hand-axes and scythes, screaming and growling at Wake as he makes his way through a demon-infested landscape. 'The Darkness' itself is your enemy in Wake and the game does an excellent job making a rather abstract enemy and abstract concept very tangible thanks to great sound design, physics and visuals, and the literal manifestation of the darkness in these local madmen chasing after you in the night. What makes these enemies so enjoyable to battle is not just their definitive characterization and how they are intimately linked with the narrative, it is the mechanics of how a player defeats them that adds so much to the experience. Players rely on their flashlight throughout the experience to strip away the darkness that gives The Taken their power. Once the darkness has been peeled back by the light, they are vulnerable and players can shoot/disintegrate them. This one little gameplay mechanic of first shining a flashlight on the enemy before you can shoot them sets these villains and Wake's combat apart. Where almost all other shooters would just have you pop your enemy in the head, Wake creates a unique and simple combat system that is both fun to play and strengthens the metaphor of the entire game.

The experience got me thinking about other video games where the enemies were unforgettable. Most video games, especially shooters, enlist a series of nameless, thoughtless henchmen who are not interesting to fight nor look at, much like the sea of dead g-men Bond has taken out over the years in the pursuit of getting to his villain. In the course of any video game players can face a variety of bad guys depending on the genre, but usually there are the grunts/henchman/lower tier enemy, variations on the lower tier, a boss, and then possibly a main villain. That first tier often gets boring because you are battling that enemy throughout the entire game. It's rare for the last battle you have with the lowliest video game bad guy to be as enjoyable as the first. But there are a few games where that happened for me and I'd like to share, to give these games a good recommendation primarily because of the villains and combat therein.SPLICERS - BioShock's world is so alive, brilliant, beautiful, and terrifying in large part due to the bad guys you face throughout the entire game. The Splicers (a variety of genetically enhanced and mutated human beings) are, like any good enemy in a good game, intimately connected with the story and an excellent metaphor for the dystopia of Rapture. They are sad beasts, screeching and growling thoughout Rapture's decaying corridors. They are hideous and beautifully rendered and attack in a variety of ways from a variety of places. There are Spider Splicers, Houdini Splicers, and several others that keep combat fresh and frenetic. Again, excellent sound design gives life to these enemies, as well as the use of light and shadow to give you a sense of their presence at all times. If these enemies weren't actually fun to fight then they wouldn't be so memorable, but there are few times I've felt more empowered and immersed in a gaming experience than when battling a group of Splicers. The combat does not simply demand that a player have accurate aim. The combat demands a player use their brain, and encourages them to be as creative as they would like to be, especially the sequel. In the way that Wake adds light to create a shooting dynamic that is more interesting and more fun than most games, BioShock adds Plasmids to the mix, allowing players to hurl fire, ice, and electricity like a modern day, shotgun wielding wizard.
THE NECROMORPHS - Another enemy that lurks in the shadows and is that much more memorable as a result, The Necromorphs of Dead Space are some of the most terrifying and enjoyable enemies to battle. While Dead Space's intense campaign is punctuated with big boss fights, it is the unexpected and more common Necromorph conflict that succeeds most. The Necromorphs are interesting less because of how they exist within the Dead Space narrative (the game is somewhat vague on their origin. Something to do with an ancient relic and such), and more because of how frightening they are and how fun they are to destroy. The combat in Dead Space relies on dismemberment. Where such is usually just a fun little adage in other games where limbs can be shot off, Dead Space makes dismemberment the primary combat mechanic. With a unique arsenal that works to flesh out Isaac Clark, the protagonist, players can choose from a variety of ways to dispatch these foes in a visceral and brutal fashion. Players cannot simply shoot wildly and expect results. They must be precise, innovative, and thoughtful to succeed. Dead Space doesn't trouble itself with metaphors the way Alan Wake and BioShock do. It simply wants to create a thrilling and immersive horror experience. It succeeds completely and while these baddies might not be as "deep" as The Taken or The Splicers, they're certainly more terrifying. They do serve a slightly esoteric purpose that functions as an intelligent contrast that fleshes out the game's visuals. Their slithering, multi-tentacled torsos and growling, disfigured skulls work in tandem with Isaac's grunts and screams, his multi-plated and menacing mining suit, and the harsh environment to create something constantly violent and visually painful. The world of Dead Space is cold and unforgiving, the environments heavily industrial and lifeless. The Necromorphs are the polar opposite. They are extreme humanity, extreme flesh set lose on a world of dead metal. Like The Taken and The Splicers, the presence of the Necromorphs is pervasive and players never know when they will be besieged on all sides. This sense of tension, and the constant threat of an enemy that is fun to battle, will ensure a game's villains and combat will not be forgotten.
GRUNTS - There are an assortment of enemies in the Halo franchise. Jackals, Brutes, Elites and variations within. None of them are as enjoyable to kill as The Grunts. While these little guys aren't menacing in the least, and while they are in no way meant to be anything other than fodder, and while Halo doesn't bother itself with an extra bit of combat intricacy beyond aim and fire, Grunts are so funny that I have to put them on the list. They lost a bit of their charm in Reach because they no longer spoke English. But in Halo 1, 2, and 3, hearing these crazy little aliens scream "Oh no!" and then seeing them flop over after a headshot was always entertaining. From the beginning of the game to the end, regardless of how easy they were to destroy or how little the combat changed, shooting Grunts was such a blast that I still consider them one of the best, most memorable gaming bad-guys.
KOOPA TROOPA - The Koopas are much older than The Splicers and the Necromorphs. But they are a worthy predecessor and an indicator of things to come. The Koopas are one of the earliest examples of varying combat so as to keep it interesting throughout a game. Where as players simply jump on top of Goombas to flatten them, they encounter something new in a Koopa Troopa. They can jump on a Koopa, which then pops it out of its shell, and then players can kick the shell (later grab it) and hurl it back at the Koopa to kill it, sometimes taking out several enemies at once. This little differentiation creates a fresh combat mechanic that, like the other aforementioned games, encourages player innovation and precision.

A good video game enemy is both interesting to fight and usually connected to the narrative of the game. It works to give life to the game-world and provides a challenge for players. The best enemies are not the faceless, nameless terrorists of the Call of Duty franchise or the roided up Locusts of Gears of War. The best enemies are enemies that evolve along with the combat, or are so interesting from the outset that they are always fun to fight. They must be constructed in consort with the combat design. In each of these games, with the exception of The Grunts, there is more than one step taken to defeat them. You must do one thing so that you can then do another thing. That very simple two-step dynamic is what separates a memorable enemy from a forgettable one, as well as a certain level of intangible charm which must come from the creative minds of intelligent game designers and good writers.

Who are your favorite video game enemies?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ten Brilliant Works of Art You Should Add To Your Netflix Instant Queue

1. Beavers: IMAX: Because beavers are like people and really, really, really funny to watch.

2. Bigger, Stronger, Faster: Because it's a maniacally compelling documentary and steroids really aren't that bad.

3. Black Dynamite: Because it's one of the best movies made in the last five years.

4. Degrassi: The Generation: Because it's about the most fucked up high school in history and you went to high school too.

5. Friday Night Lights: Because football and exceptional television writing are compatible.

6. I Am Comic: Because there's no other documentary centered around stand-up done well.

7. The Signal: Because you're gonna watch this movie then you're gonna be all like, "oh shit."

8. The State: Because sketch comedy shows with really amazing/talented ensembles are funny.

9. Thankskilling: Because the entire crew is aware how terrible this film really is.

10. That’s My Bush: Because you can't go wrong with Matt Stone and Trey Parker in their prime.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Green Lantern Teaser Impressions

First off, I hate teaser trailers. There are a few exceptions but usually they suck. No story, no marketing scheme, and just a mishmash of cool looking shots. The real deal is the theatrical trailer. So for me its hard to judge a movie by its teaser trailer. That being said, here we go.

Green Lantern debuted its teaser on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - second best Potter movie next to the Prisoner of Azkaban. Anyway, I had already seen it on my computer a few nights earlier and I have to say I'm disappointed. I was so looking forward to something for Green Lantern on Harry Potter but this teaser was just bad. Visually I am sold. I think it looks great and that they have totally nailed the the ring and its powers. The thing I didn't like was how campy it seemed. I can't stand that Hollywood has to add so much camp to super hero movies. Its disgusting and the main reason why super hero movies have been held back for so long. Anyway, I would have thought that Warner Bros would have learned from the Dark Knight that serious is the way to go. To me the teaser made it look like Ryan Renolds' Hal Jordan was more of a comic than his comic book counter part. Now, they may be trying to appeal to a larger crowd early on with a teaser focusing more on the humor which I hope is the case. I mean, it is a new super hero that people haven't ever seen on the big screen.

I just can't help but feel disappointed. This could be the Avengers for DC Entertainment, but better. They don't need the Justice League movie if a Green Lantern movie is done well. Green Lantern encompasses all of the DCU so well that it unite all the characters and continuity under one film franchise in a way that the Justice League couldn't. I just hope that this is just WB testing the waters with which way they should approach marketing this movie.

On a better note, Sinestro looks pimp as hell, Kilowog is awesome for the split second we see him, and Tomar Rey looks killer.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kinect Review: Part 2: "To The Core"

Kinect is a motion sensor designed by Microsoft that is compatible with the Xbox 360. It promises to reinvent the medium of video games by allowing players to control their on-screen avatars without the need of a controller. The concept is simple: you are the controller. A player stands in front of the sensor and performs a series of simple movements; jumps, ducks, flails arms etc and the character in the game mimics these gestures. The effectiveness of the system is dependent upon the software (the game) and how many points of reference on the human body the game itself is aware of. A game like Kinect Adventures which comes packaged with the sensor only picks up the most basic movements and the most dominant parts of the body. Head. Hands. Legs. A game like Dance Central, however, is cognizant of the entire body and the subtleties of various movements.

There is much skepticism and even disdain directed at Kinect. Some of the skepticism is purely technical, a healthy disbelief in the functionality of the system. The disdain comes from seasoned gamers or the "hardcore" or the "core" gaming elite who recognize Kinect for what it is, a concerted effort to bring a casual audience to the Xbox 360. Nintendo and it's wand has dominated the casual audience for a while now, and Kinect is clearly Microsoft's take on the motion control concept and their way to tap into a market that has alluded them up until now. To someone like myself who loves the mature and intelligent video games one finds on Xbox, someone who loves shooters and RPGs and competitive online play, Kinect represents a threat to serious gaming. It also represents an insult. I recognize what you're doing, Microsoft, we say and I'm not falling for it. Give me Black Ops. I'm not eight years old.

I want to demonstrate how both the skepticism and disdain for Kinect that comes from the "core" gaming audience is not only hypocritical, but, very simply, wrong.

Before you read further, know that I consider myself a "core" gamer. I do not care for "casual" games typically as they are almost always directed at a nonexistent intellect. I play Halo: Reach almost every night and have played Halo competitively for nearly five years. I'm just getting into Black Ops, which is fantastic, as well as the other Call of Duty games, and my next games will likely be Dead Space 2, Gears of War 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Batman: Arkham City. I have not owned a Wii, nor will I ever. I have had fun playing it on occasion, but it is almost entirely devoid of the kind of intellectual, artistic experiences one can find on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Casual games and casual consoles are almost always meant, very simply, to make money. One can praise the Wii for being revolutionary, but, in my eyes, all the worth of its innovation becomes moot when considering the library of games it offers, and the endless sea of money-making peripherals. If an iPod cut your thumb every time you turned up the volume or selected a new track, would you want to praise its touch-sensitive technology? For me, that's the Wii. Little cuts to the thumb, and punches to the gut, thanks to its spotty control mechanics and its terrible game selection. There is another aspect to the Wii I find particularly insulting and that is its growing predilection for nostalgia. Nintendo lures not only the casual audience into its deceptive embrace, it now manages to lure those "core" gamers who rail against the casual market, by offering them up new incarnations of the games they grew up on. "New" Mario, Super Smash Brothers, Resident Evil 4, and now GoldenEye.

And this brings me to the issue of hypocrisy among the "core" audience that refuses to acknowledge Kinect. Almost all of those core gamers who bleed their eyes out in front of Black Ops have a Wii seated right next to their PS3 or Xbox. They will make fun of the Wii because they are aware of its purpose, but they simply will not be able to control their love of nostalgia. They will buy every version of their favorite games such as GoldenEye, despite not needing said experience to happen ever again. But Kinect...well Kinect is stupid. Kinect is for kids. Kinect is just about money.

The hypocrisy of refusing to experience Kinect because it's meant for the casual audience while partaking in the nostalgic experiences the premiere casual console offers, is very clear, but there is another layer of incorrect thinking to this line of thought which leads the core, elitist audience to a fundamental error. Ironically, the core audience is refusing to experience something they have longed for their entire lives.

Ignoring the marketing campaign directed at family fun and children, smiling people, and cartoony avatars, there is an aspect to Kinect unrelated to the actual software itself that directly appeals to the core gaming audience.

Sorry to generalize, but chances are that if you are among the gaming elite, you, at the very least, tend to be aware of the science-fiction genre, Star Wars, Star Trek, or you tend to be unabashed fanboys of such things. Even if you hate these franchises and have never really been impressed by the sci-fi genre, you most likely have fantasized about living in a world where you could tell a computer what to do or that you could cycle through holographic menus with your fingertips not unlike Tom Cruise in Minority Report.

Kinect gives you this experience.

This is the irony. These core gamers obsessed with their worlds of blood and battle and experience points, who adore Jean Luc and his futuristic toys, who long to live in a world where their technology is just as advanced and responsive and personalized, who refuse to experience Kinect because it's childish, are actually shutting out an experience meant for them, an experience that offers them the futuristic world they've always craved.

Once a player plugs Kinect into their Xbox and goes through the Kinect ID process, all they need to do is stand in front of the sensor, wave, and then the system will recognize their face and sign the player into their profile. This gesture takes a gamer to the Kinect Hub, a series of menus not unlike the dashboard. It is separate from the Dashboard, making Kinect function like a console within a console. I like this, because it in no way interferes with what the "serious gamer" wants to do. It simply accentuates it.

In the Kinect Hub, players can hold their hand before the screen and cycle through the panes presented, select applications like ESPN or Zune. The more enjoyable way to navigate this menu is by your voice, however. At any point I can say, "Xbox" and then a list of options will come up. The rule is simple: if you see it, you can say it, and the Xbox will recognize your command. If there is a lot of ambient noise or if the volume on the television is loud during a video it may not be able to hear you. But I have rarely encountered a scenario where the Kinect did not recognize my command, even when speaking softly. I can say "Play disc" and the disc in the tray will start to play. "Pause". "Rewind". "Play". "Kinect Hub". All of these commands and several others elicit the appropriate response from the technology. This may sound mundane on the page, but I cannot emphasize enough how enjoyable it is to play with the system in this way. I went to my kitchen and as I was walking I said, "Xbox...pause" and the video paused as I got a drink. On my way back I told it to play and it obeyed. You truly feel like you're in the future and thus far, this is my favorite aspect to the technology. What's interesting is that the impressiveness of this functionality wears off after a few days. You simply become used to it. You casually talk to your Xbox and it obeys. You become one of the characters in said sci-fi stories that nonchalantly have a conversation with their computer.

It is simply good technology. And, unlike the Wii, it is truly revolutionary. In Kinect we see the future of all interactive technology. To miss out on it would be like refusing to watch a "talkie", refusing to turn on a light, refusing to listen to a CD, or refusing to talk on a cell phone. You will miss the first significant step into the sci-fi worlds we have only previously dreamed of experiencing.

And, above all, it's just fun. Fun is something the "core" audience simply doesn't care about anymore. The blowhards at IGN and their legions of followers, the jaded and lifeless gamers that trade in their cartridges and discs at their local Gamestop to get their next digital hit, have lost sight of what this medium is actually supposed to be about.


So many gamers don't actually enjoy video games any more. They play to accrue experience, to be able to talk with their friends about a shared experience, to beat opponents, and to forget about their real lives. This is understandable but the fundamental need to experience a childlike joy and wonder has been lost, traded for the non-innocent and overly critical world of "hardcore gaming". There are quips and witticism about every game that fails, undo praise to franchises that succeed only due to their name, and scores are assigned, reducing opinion, thought, and idea to a simple numeric value, something that saps the life out of these artistic and interactive experiences.

It is as if the core audience doesn't want to have fun. If people are smiling and jumping up and down and if something isn't hyper realistic and dripping in blood, they are disinterested and dissatisfied and formulate their unjustified opinions and disdain on nothing but air. This is a shame because they will miss out on an experience that is so universal that it appeals to all audiences, both core and casual. This is the brilliance of Kinect one will not find anywhere else. It appeals to your Grandma and your eight year old cousin, but the technology is so brilliant and tangible that it will appeal to you as well. And, unlike the Wii and most casual games, the technology and the software is intellectual. You have to think and you have to move on your feet in order to play a Kinect game. It's not the deliberative intellectualism one finds in an RTS or a lengthy RPG. It's more akin to the intelligence and activeness required in an actual sport or athletic activity.

The simple act of seeing your avatar move as you move reignites the childish joy one felt the first time they pressed A to make Mario jump. I firmly believe that you simply must not have a soul if you don't smile as you play River Rush or Rally Ball, or see anyone do a little dance and their avatar do the same dance. There is something magical in this experience that turns everyone into an laughing child. It is unavoidable and wonderful. Kinect reminds us of the days when we wanted to play video games with another person in the same room. It makes watching people play video games fun again and it inspires us to stand up, in the same space, work together, and laugh together. It tears down the layers of social etiquette and self-awareness we build up during the course of our daily lives.

Thanks to the file-share system in Kinect Adventures which allows you to share the photos taken during games with your friend, and the built in mic in the sensor which allows voice-chat without the need of a headset, the sense of distance between you and your online teammate is not so noticeable anymore. Watching your avatars interact in the middle of a game also strengthens your sense of connection. Video Chat works well also, with only a minor delay, and allows your online pal to be more than a disembodied voice in your ear. You can have a conversation with one another as if you're in the same living room.

If it were buggy and did not work, the magic would quickly fade away. I would not be so quick to praise Kinect if it did not work. My critical mind would win. But it does work and it works surprisingly well. There are occasional blips and a game like Kinect Adventures will not recognize certain things you do, but it doesn't have to. It's so much fun and the games themselves varied enough and actually demanding of one's skill, that a little moment of "lost translation" will go unnoticed.

Only the most cynical and jaded gamer will ignore the joy this console immediately evokes. Kinect succeeds where any other motion control technology will fail because there is no barrier between you and the game beyond the television. It reminds us of our childhood by making us jump up and down and behave happily and unselfconsciously, so it succeeds in the way of nostalgia. It sneakily gets us off the couch and moving, and it brings people together (a concept we Xbox Live gold members who sit in dimly lit rooms in our underwear in beanbag chairs sipping Coke as we kill each other in Black Ops believe refers simply to our ability to join a party and talk to each other through a headset), and it does revolutionize gaming.

Prior to experiencing Kinect I never thought that it would actually appeal to the core gamer in me. I thought it would, at best, provide a little distraction and maybe a few laughs. But, when I play, I find myself taking it seriously, strategizing, using my body as I would use the controller. I realized today that River Rush, one of the Kinect Adventures, is a combination race/platforming game. I had previously not actually considered its gaming influences or how it related to my gaming life. I realized, while timing my jumps from cloud to cloud and ledge to ledge as my raft hurtled downstream, that I was Mario in this situation. I was the Prince of Persia. I was Tim of Braid. While this is not a traditional platformer and only a mere microcosm of what this technology has to offer, I realized that I wanted to collect those coins and hit a good jump just as much as I want to earn that kill and that XP in Black Ops. You will find yourself anxiously and vigorously trying to succeed so long as you keep an open mind. We gamers love seeing flashing corns and rising experience bars. We have a "gamer lexicon" ingrained in us and Kinect recognizes this. If we see a coin or an orb, we yearn to have it. What Kinect permits is for us to reach up and grab it in a new way.

So far I have only played Kinect Adventures and Dance Central. Adventures is a fun compilation that will quickly get old. But it's always fun to do a quick River Rush or Rally Ball and the gauntlet is a legitimate workout. This is what I love about Kinect. It forces me to move. It forces me to literally play a video game. This is a good thing and it's an interesting new way to play the medium I adore. There's a level of tangibility to the experience and there are real-world results thanks to the experience one simply cannot find in traditional games. I actually feel better because I have played Kinect Adventures and Dance Central almost every night since release and done situps and pushups during load screens. It tricks me into working out. It's so much better than the gym because it's actually fun. I can earn achievements, score higher points, play with my friends and family, live out a fantasy, and actually enjoy myself as opposed to enduring the sterile drudgery of a gym.

In the future I would like to see Kinect function with the dashboard so there is uniformity to the experience. It does not work with essential applications like Netflix and this is a bit of a disappointment. Microsoft likely did this on purpose so as to extend the life of the system by gradually making it applicable to other parts of the dashboard. All Microsoft needs to do is keep making games and fund artists who will think of using this technology in new, fantastic ways that marry traditional gaming with this new format.

Kinect in no way destroys serious gaming. It simply offers a totally new and innovative way to interact with the medium you love. It is so much fun to head over to the Kinect Hub and play one of these games and get moving for about 30 minutes and actually be happy, and then settle on down to a game of Halo or Black Ops. It works the body, the mind, and provides a more complete emotional experience of video games.

You will find joy here. You will find a challenge. You will find the future.

Kinect is a welcome addition to the Xbox that makes the system feel more complete, rather than fractured between casual and core, and it will in no way deter the core audience from having the experience they desire, which makes their ire all the more misguided.

The first time I saw my avatar move along with me, a huge smile came on my face, and I felt that sense of revelation which has punctuated a variety of great gaming moments in my life. I wish you the same experience.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kinect Review: Part 1: "I have measured out my life games."

I can measure my life in video games. Some of my earliest memories revolve around that simple, gray brick called Nintendo, a pair of plumber-brothers, some ducks desperately attempting to escape the flash of my plastic death-dealer, and a handful of uneasy wild gunman. I would sit in a dark room in the first house I remember living in, three years old, excitedly tapping A to propel Mario over that next obstacle, timing the jumps perfectly so that he could latch onto the flagpole at the highest point to earn me the best score.

And then, along with my life, video games evolved. I can recall the Super NES and a new, exotic land for Mario to roam, Link's journey into the past that I simply could not complete, the red and green shells of Mario Kart, reliving the adventures of Luke, Han, Leia and the rest of those far away characters from my favorite childhood films in Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. I remember Streetfighter II, The Adventures of Batman and Robin, my heart racing as I leaped from rooftop to rooftop in pursuit of Catwoman. I remember when there was no such thing as a save game. I remember when you rarely played video games by yourself. I remember when it was fun to watch someone else play and to learn how to overcome the game's obstacles together. I remember renting games. 3-days. Late fees.

And then again, things changed, drastically. The two dimensional worlds that had trapped our beloved gaming mascots suddenly and shockingly expanded into the third. One of the most vivid memories I have was after getting N64 and powering up Mario 64. Mario's 3D face juts out at you and he proclaims "It'sa meeee, Mario!" and it was as if we had never seen him before. "Oh my God!" my brothers and I said, huddled round the television together in awe. "It's like virtual reality!" This seems so naive now, but then, having never seen anything like this before, having only experienced games that scroll from left to right, up and down, this was a revelation.

And then there was the first time I ever became truly lost in a video game world; The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The land of Hyrule and its inhabitants moved me in a way I had never experienced in any book or film. Riding my trusty steed Epona from Temple to Temple, agonizing over the puzzles, watching my brother figure them out, marveling at the beauty and depth of the story, I became aware of and fell in love with the artistry of video games. While I was cognizant of Playstation, I simply wasn't fortunate enough to have one. So the years that followed the N64 were somewhat dissatisfying for me. But I made the most of it. I discovered the world of PC gaming and recall many a happy hour spent in the dark and mature worlds of Thief, Diablo, and Deus Ex. This is when my desire for deeper, more intellectual experiences was born. It was nearly impossible to find such on The Gamecube until the release of one of the first truly next-gen games Resident Evil 4. Never had I actually seen a video game that looked and moved quite so well before. With rumblings of a new generation on the horizon, the inevitable Playstation 3 and the supposedly destined to fail X-Box, Resident Evil gave us the first taste of what to expect in the way of next gen shooters. The simple act of peering over Leon's shoulder, seeing the world from this perspective, was as jarring and refreshing as moving Mario through a three dimensional space for the first time.

And then there was Halo. I had renounced Nintendo's childish ways and graduated to a world from which I will not return. Though the Halo franchise has soured a bit for me, at the time, the first Halo game for the original X-Box was every bit a revelation as Zelda and Resident Evil 4. I was a junior in high school by the time I was able to play it, and I found that this big black box appealed to my sensibilities. Whether it was the Chief, Sam Fisher, or the world of Morrowind, I found Microsoft had crafted a console that contained the intelligence and depth I craved. Then came Halo 2, and I discovered, for the first time in my life, that I was better at a video game than my brothers. I took them online and beat them and I was proud. I took this pride to college where I discovered the world of online gaming. I would spend days with my newfound friends, our bond forged by a common interest, a common love, and deal out death, joy, and frustration in the glorious maps of Halo 2 multiplayer.

And then there was Xbox 360, and it was good. The new generation had arrived and with it came unparalleled graphical quality and potential for new, powerful stories. Finally, I had my own Xbox 360 and I could play with my friends online in the wonderful world of Xbox Live. Demos, Arcade Games, voice-messages, video chats, parties, and the like completely altered my video game life. No longer would I just toil for hours alone in dark rooms pushing levers and earning XP. I would also take to the virtual world with friends, working together, forming strategies, and laughing endlessly in the pursuit of victory and recapturing that very simple, childhood need for joy; the thing which began all of this. Halo 3 would be released in one of the most aggressive and epic marketing campaigns in history and for three years following its release I would return to its online component in search of a higher rank and better abilities night after night.

But my video game life seemed incomplete. I had still never experienced what the Playstation had to offer. Then came the summer of my junior year at college. Finally, I saw what I had been missing all those years, and my eyes were opened even wider yet again. I immersed myself in the role of Snake for two weeks straight and had one of the most pleasurable, seamless gaming experiences of my life thanks to Metal Gear Solid 1, 2, & 3. Then came Ico and Shadow of the Collosus, the only video games I have ever played that have actually incorporated Zen into their worlds.

There are a host of other experiences worth noting, blips on the radar of my gaming life that forever alter how I perceive this medium. BioShock was one such experience that ushered me into its world and convinced me there is no question of whether or not games are art. The "Would you kindly?" reveal is one of the few moments, in any entertainment experience, that has caused my jaw to literally drop.

Whether it's Link, Snake, The Chief, or Andrew Ryan, Nes, SNES, N64, Playstation, or Xbox, I can easily recall how these devices and these games have impacted my life. It is almost always positive and worthwhile. I had thought that my future gaming life would only be punctuated with a few, small revelations in the way of excellent gaming experiences such as Red Dead Redemption. I did not believe that the fundamental way I played games, thought about games, or enjoyed games would evolve much further.

But it has, yet again...thanks to Kinect.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why You Must See Inception

This is not a review by any means. I just walked out of Inception and it might be the best film I have ever seen. It was mind bending in concept, flawless in execution, pitch perfect in pace, dynamically scored, wonderfully acted, and all pieced together by one of the greatest directors working today. I haven't felt this good about movies in a long, long time. This film is on a different level than anything I've seen. It challenges the audience but doesn't leave them behind, it holds your hand but runs too fast for you to keep up. Christopher Nolan has followed up his masterpiece that was The Dark Knight with his masterpiece Inception. This film is quite simply amazing. Beautiful. Perfect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Than Just Sex

On June 13th 2003, as Paramount Pictures was engrossed in matters such as releasing Rugrats Go Wild in the United States, Germany revealed an atrocious situation arising within their borders. The announcement informed the public that German eurodance project, E-Rotic, had disassembled. Today marks the seven-year anniversary of this split.

Joining together in early 1994, E-Rotic, would be founded by Lyane Leigh and Raz-Ma-Taz. The group’s mission statement was simple- to provide the public with an onslaught of filthy sex and innuendo to the sound of highly danceable European-pop music.

With singles such as “Max Don’t Have Sex With Your Ex,” “Help Me Dr. Dick,” and “Fritz Loves My Tits,” E-Rotic soon found themselves on the Top-10 charts throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Later in 1996, France and Belgium would catch the E-Rotic bug too with fan favorite: “Fred Come To Bed.”

Despite the simplicity of saturating lyrics with sexual puns, E-Rotic managed to develop a game-changing structure behind their words, the intertwining narratives of reoccurring characters. Each player was first given an origin story, usually a single with his or her respective name in the title, “Willy Use A Billy… Boy,” (Willy fancied unprotected sex), “Oh Nick Please Not So Quick,” (Nick suffered from premature ejaculation), “Billy Jive With Willy’s Wife,” (Billy was an adulterer), etc.

From there, those characters were now accessible pawns to appear in all future albums developing a soap-opera-like essence to their existence. Dr. Dick would move in with a private checkup on Molly Dolly as poor Nick Not So Quick was left in the dust. Meanwhile, Willy Use A Billy would learn the importance of safe sex as his poor decisions led to unwanted pregnancies and diseases.

With the exception of one album, Thank You For The Music, (a tribute to their strongest influence, ABBA), the discography of E-Rotic proves they have stayed honest to their goal from start to end. Just browse through the album titles alone, Sex Affairs, The Power of Sex, Sexual Madness, Sexual Healing, Mambo No. Sex; hell, even their Greatest Hits compilation was cleverly dubbed, Greatest Tits. This very well may be the only group in history to ever reach a level of such immaculate consistency.

E-Rotic never quite made a name for themselves in America aside for several greatly watered-down Dance Dance Revolution tracks. This is unfortunate but should come as no surprise. As liberal and sexually explicit as the U.S.A. has become, we’re still ten blow-jobs and half a boner behind Europe. Don’t anticipate this changing anytime soon.

E-Rotic is the Freddy Got Fingered of music, you like it or you despise it, and nobody is in the middle on this one. As with all art, there should only be satisfaction held in this position. This group has managed to hurdle past mediocrity and land drastically on the side of brilliance and insanity- two fields that always overlap. Seven years have now passed in the world without E-Rotic and as much as I miss them; I could not claim their library to be anything but complete. Like an ideal television series, they left before the material got stale- and that’s saying so damn much considering the content they wrote about.

Here’s the music video to “Help Me Dr. Dick” for your viewing pleasure:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reflections On My Life and Lost the Past Six Years

There are few things in this world that I am truly passionate about. Yes I like a lot of things; comics, movies, books, dogs, boobs etc. But when it goes just beyond liking something, when it transcends from entertainment to experience, when I am challenged not just as a viewer but as a person, and when I am touched deeply by people that will never exist, that is what I truly love. And never in my life have I ever cared more about something like I do Lost. I can't just say that I've never cared for a TV show more, because I've never cared more about anything else in my life that wasn't directly connected to me. I've so deeply invested myself and my life to the mythology and characters that now that it is over, I feel like I have lost something of myself. And now that I think of it, I can't remember exactly what my life was like before the show.

Over the past six years not only has this show kept me glued to my couch every week but it has ensnared me in its allure and mystery that there hasn't been a time since it began that I haven't thought about it or it influencing my life somehow. Never will I look at polar bears the same, never will I be able to say "son of a bitch" without thinking of a salty someone, and never will I forget some of history's most famous philosopher's names. This show has not only brought me joy, sorrow, laughter and anger over the past six years, it has also made me a better person. It has opened my mind to new ideas, turned me on to dozens of books, inspired me in my own career, and taught me what true story telling is like.

I have said before that I truly believe Lost will go down as being one of the greatest TV shows of all time. And the finale tonight has completely solidified that for me. I have never felt more satisfied by a series finale than I do right now. I thought that I would be frustrated or angry that we didn't learn more, but I see now that though the show was serialized and the story kept you through thick and thin, it was about the redemption of the characters and their journeys on and off the island. Without these characters we never would have cared. And over the past six years I have come to love Kate, adore Juliet, want to be Jack, wish I had Sawyer's courage, and aspire to be more like Hurley. Our journey was just as important as theirs and now that one has come to a close, ours can begin.

But where do we go from here? There will never be anything like Lost again. And good, there shouldn't be. Nothing would ever be as genuine or as beautiful as Lost. It will remain where it belongs, in our hearts. I apologize if this sounds corny or geeky but I truly have loved this show since I first laid eyes on it. It has been a big part of my maturing adult life and I owe a lot to the show. I know I will never be the same as I was before it began. And I love that.

So thank you Lost for everything you have given me. I will truly miss you. I'll see you in another life time, brotha.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Long Live The Coco (Part 3)

Ratings tanked. Don’t talk about “lead-ins”, please…Conan did this all to himself.

I'm busting with so many things to say about this one that I'm finding it difficult to begin. Conan did this all to himself. I suppose that's true in an existential sense. This person seems to believe that Conan is currently in a terrible situation or that he's sitting quietly in a dark room somewhere feeling the horrific affects of his bad decisions (which contradicts the poster's later statement that he's a millionaire in a wonderful situation so we shouldn't feel bad for him). When John Doe finds himself alone in an alley scrambling for a crack fix, abandoned by all friends and family, you look at John Doe, nod and say, "Well he did it to himself." Conan O'Brien is not in a bad situation, at least not in terms of his future as an entertainer, I don't presume to know his personal life. This "did it to himself" statement is doubly inaccurate as, very simply and obviously, NBC played a part and Jay Leno played a part in Conan's current circumstances. So, very literally, Conan did not "do this all to himself".

Ratings tanked. Don't talk about lead-ins, please...

Why don't you want us to talk about lead-ins? Could it be that they're a good explanation for Conan's lower ratings and you don't like good explanations? Could it be that you simply like Jay Leno and want to ignore the fact that Jay's ten o' clock show was quite dull and uninteresting and shockingly dirtier than his Tonight Show? Could it be that Jay's dirtier sense of humor and horribly written "comedy" segments featuring comics no one knew or liked alienated Jay's older audience?

Do you not realize that Jay's ratings were bad? Do you not realize that if Jay's ratings are bad then that means everyone turns NBC off at ten o'clock and goes elsewhere? They do not watch the local affiliate news and then they will not watch Conan. Now lets consider those who simply want to watch The Tonight Show. They want the show, they aren't aware of host affiliation. But as far as they're concerned Jay has been and still is the host regardless of his move in programming. They're not aware of Conan, the real host of The Tonight Show. So far as they're considered there's nothing to watch at 11:30 because Jay is on at 10:00, the host they've always known. How is Conan to gain ratings when there's an entire segment of the population that is confused by a poor programming decision or simply doesn't know Conan is the new Tonight Show host?

This whole issue of ratings, touched on arrogantly by Jay in his Oprah interview, the idea that Conan was "destroying" the Tonight Show franchise, is so obviously idiotic and fallacious that I'm astounded when it's even brought up as a valid argument. Apart from the reasons stated earlier that contributed to Conan's lower viewership, let's consider the fact that it's rare for any new show of any kind to garner the audiences and viewership studios demand. Gaining an audience simply takes time. Transitions take time.

Furthermore, why do people care so much? I care about whether or not Conan is on TV or entertaining somewhere, but that's it. I'm not about to charge into NBC with demands. I'm not going to damn them or support them one way or the other. I don't care about NBC. I care about the quality of their shows. On the other hand, Conan's detractors seem to be rooting for NBC. I find this often amongst people who don't want their favorite video game bashed, their favorite movie bashed, or their favorite show bashed. They side with "the man" as if they're employees, as if they firmly believe NBC cares about what they think. Why do these people support conglomerates when they have no actual stake in them and use it as some kind of support for their arguments? Surprisingly enough, this is the course of action of youths more often than not. What in the name of Jesus Christ has happened to the youthful voice of dissent in this country?

And finally we come to this little gem.

The fact of the matter is that America made up its mind. Conan at 11:30 pm was HORRIBLE. It was unwatchable. It was awful.

It was unwatchable. It was awful.

You would have to have watched an episode to know this. On a very basic level that this poster is unaware of, they contradict themselves. You have to have watched something to formulate an opinion about it. If the poster watched even five seconds of Conan's show, they would have seen it, which proves that it is, in fact, watchable and that their eyes did not melt in their sockets upon viewing. I suppose "it was awful" is merely a matter of opinion; relative and therefore unable to be attacked. If you don't like Conan's silly sense of self-deprecating humor then you likely won't enjoy his show. However, I believe it's possible to prove, objectively, that The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien was not, in any way, awful.

Your head exploding is awful. Your boyfriend or girlfriend cheating on you is awful. Transformers is awful.

The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien always started on time. It delivered comedy. It delivered extravagant sketches and segments that featured an enthusiastic host getting crowds and viewers excited. It had movie stars and celebrity guests. It had a beautiful set and vivid colors. It fulfilled the definition of a late night talk show. Can it be considered awful then, in the way this poster so objectively and steadfastly states?

Conan at 11:30 pm was HORRIBLE.

I really wish people realized that putting words in all caps in no way enhances the quality of their statement or argument. Caps is good for positive email greetings to friends, but little else.

I get really, really thought it was bad so you touched caps lock with your pinky-finger (if you're using home row properly). But you get your emphasis across with your redundant followup statements, it was unwatchable, it was awful, which renders your caps-lock unnecessary. A good argument is one that presents an idea, explains the idea thoroughly, and offers it up for the rest of humanity to dissect. A good argument does not angrily pop out at you. It does not resort to cheap visual tricks to make itself heard.

The fact of the matter is that America made up its mind.

More often than not, to begin any statement with the phrase "the fact of the matter is" makes whatever words come after that statement entirely pointless. Simply put, America did not make up its mind because a country does not have a brain. A country is a piece of land with fictitous divisions implemented by a government. But the figurative way in which the poster means to express their notion lends itself to rebuttal just as easily.

I did not make up my mind that Conan's show was terrible. I did not contribute to his low ratings. I am an Americna. Even if 99% of Nealson families did not watch Conan there would still be a 1% margin that did. Is that 1% not American? Not to this poster. It's this kind of thinking that starts the long, painful road to segregation and fascism.

When there are large segments of the population that enjoyed Conan's show and tuned in to watch his final episodes, when there are protests in support of Conan, it's very clear that America's collective mind was not made up in opposition of Conan. If anything, there was a divide and that's good. Arguments are good. Discourse is good. But that's not what our poster is after. This poster made up their mind. NBC made up their mind. Conan made up his mind. When did America make up its mind? What clear evidence is there of any collective American mind being made up in a unanimous fashion?

In the end, let us realize that random expressions of anger and negativity are like slashes and punches upon a person's flesh. Perhaps they're small enough not to show, but they hurt, and eventually they become visible. Negativity on the whole is in no way beneficial or constructive. No one achieves anything worthwhile through hatred or self-abasement. No one achieves anything by saying, "I can't, I won't, you can't, you won't". Only hatred is achieved through hatred, destruction and pain.

In order to grow as a people we have to logically and kindly interact with each other, especially when interaction has now been so easily reduced to internet soundbites.

Inject a bit of honest good into humanity's system. See how it makes you feel. See how it can change someone's day. Conan O'Brien did this on a nightly basis, which is why I respect him so much.

Long Live The CoCo (Part 2)

Enjoy the college circuit.

This statement is fantastic. It contains just the right amount of biting sarcasm, unreasonable anger, and the perfect amount of idiocy. I assume the poster is attempting to undermine The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour.

It's not a college campus tour. It's a multi-city musical comedy show that spans the entire nation in sold out arenas and casinos like The Mohegan Sun. And even if it were just a college tour why is that something to snub your nose at? Did Conan O'Brien personally murder this person's dog?

Why should we care? In fact, we don’t. Adios Conan.

What's troubling here is that this person has taken it upon themselves to speak for the rest of humanity. Please, do not speak for me. You are a stranger and have no right to speak for anyone but yourself.

If anyone watched television for even five minutes back when the NBC fiasco was taking place, it was fairly clear that Conan had a large number of supporters who did care. I cared. I care because I've grown up watching this man. I care because this man and his troop of fellow comedians and musicians have provided me countless hours of joy.

To use adios instead of goodbye or bye-bye or so long is so blatantly obnoxious for two reasons:

1) people who like to pepper their sentences with foreign words are pretentious and have acid for blood.
2) If this person is saying "Adios Conan" as a reference to "Conando", Conan's Tonight Show Spanish sketch, that means this person watched Conan enough to witness this skit. You have to be fairly knowledgeable of the man's Tonight Show run to make such a reference. If the poster hated it so much, why watch it enough to be able to reference it? And how could anyone on this planet with eyes and a soul not like Conando?

Also, doesn’t the guy already have like tens of millions of dollars in the bank? Why should we care?

This is the only valid statement this person makes. It suggests that we shouldn't feel bad for Conan because of what happened between him and NBC. Of course we shouldn't. He is a millionaire and he can do basically whatever he wants and he will. Even he told us not to feel sorry for him. Even he is aware of this. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't care about what he does or be interested in his future as an entertainer.

Long Live The CoCo (Part 1)

Conan O'Brien will give an interview on 60 minutes this Sunday. I just finished reading an article describing bits of the interview and Conan's thoughts on Jay Leno's actions. The article and Conan's interview isn't what inspired me to write, however. It was the comments section below the article. The idea that every article written on the internet offers a comments section for its readers to articulate their opinions in an environment that permits them to spout off without repercussions--and without the pressure of a natural discourse which requires them to think on their feet--is infuriating. It is a symptom of a culture that revolves around self-importance and vanity, a culture of individuals whom study their digital reflection the way a self-absorbed yet ironically timid teen might study a mirror. We've come to love ourselves and our easily crafted quips so much that we've quickly lost touch with reality and humanity.

The comment I read that infuriated me so much was the following:

"The fact of the matter is that America made up its mind. Conan at 11:30 pm was HORRIBLE. It was unwatchable. It was awful. Ratings tanked. Don’t talk about “lead-ins”, please…Conan did this all to himself. Also, doesn’t the guy already have like tens of millions of dollars in the bank? Why should we care? In fact, we don’t. Adios Conan. Enjoy the college circuit. What a loser."

I'm going to address this comment from finish to start. "What a loser". Though it's too easy, I cannot avoid pointing out that anyone calling someone else a loser via a message board or comments section is wonderfully hypocritical. I can't simply stop there, however. There is a deeper problem with this statement, a problem that is yet another symptom of our vastly disgusting and insipid race of beings. "What a loser" is a remarkably hurtful comment. Why spread negativity so directly?

One could easily argue that I'm spreading negativity in a similar fashion by attacking the person that posted this and saying the human race is insipid. I contend there is a fundamental difference. You have the benefit of exploring my thought process because I'm explaining myself in a clearer, more controlled and detailed manner. There may also be a touch of irony in my writing. I am not reducing my opinion to an angry, hateful remark to be found in the internet ether.

What does this poster gain by spreading hatred in this manner? Does she/he feel as though they are victorious in some manner? If that's the case then they are grossly mistaken for there must be a conflict in the first place if there is to be a victor. There is no conflict save the one created by this person's mind to feel as though they, in some way, are at odds with Conan O'Brien due to some wrong he committed against them. Or perhaps the poster's purpose is simpler and does not in any way stem from a desire to gain anything. Perhaps this person just had a thought, an opinion, and wanted to share it with others without needing to defend it. The problem here, then, is that this person has simply launched hate into the world without provocation and without real reason.

I have had the phrase "what a loser" forced into my inner-monologue as a result of this person's post. Now, I chose to read it and that's my own idiotic mistake, but there are others that purposefully read others' comments to get a sense of what people are thinking. This means that all of these people, whether or not they're on Jay's side, Conan's side, or indifferent to the NBC situation have had the extreme negativity of the phrase "What a loser" infect their consciousness. This negativity has now been plugged into their brain by someone with no real purpose and with no awareness of their own actions. This is negativity for negativity's sake. It is negativity without the nuance of human interaction and without identity. Even a mob has an identity. Even a mob has a purpose and a justification for their hatred. Even a mob can be disbanded, humanized. But not this. Not internet comments. Not message board battles. It is a direct shot of hatred to the system.

What makes this so destructive and potentially harmful is that it can be found everywhere, but when people read such comments they don't consider the ramifications to the level which I am describing. They don't consider what someone else's hatred or anger does to their thoughts, because of how harmless and disconnected the internet allows it to appear. But it's not harmless. Negativity of any kind from any source, especially negativity without provocation and negativity that cannot be countered in a legitimate fashion, affects us deeply. It's like a small, unnoticeable seed slowly growing in the back of our brains of which we are not entirely aware. Even if this negativity does not manifest itself in our actions, it's still there, flowing through our minds and potentially compounding with previous forms of anger or hatred, resulting in bad moods that we simply do not understand.

Are you ever angry and you're not sure why? Have you ever felt sick as a result of a bad mood, stress, anger, or someone's illogical attempt to mess with your head? While I do believe in "negative waves, baby", I think that there is an even more practical, tangible application of this idea that people could respond to.

The internet allows us to think we are all little islands of information. We are not and have never been islands. We are not encouraged to consider the affect words and the thoughts of others literally have upon us. It is difficult to see how connected each of us are (reality does not literally unite us unless we're making love), but it is impossible, literally, to be completely unaffected by people. Their opinons and prejudices reveal themselves to the world in speech or action and both impact their listeners ineternally and sometimes externally. To read their negativity is to inject their negativity like a drug, without realizing it. It rests in your brain, a nasty cournel of hate destined to spread in some way. What's even more troubling is that this sort of negativity has gone mainstream and even been sanctioned by entire news/media organizations, allowing radio talk show hosts the chance to rant and rave incoherently to a sea of unquestioning followers.

And, finally, there's the very simple truth that undermines any validity of the statement "what a loser". Conan O'Brien is, simply, not a loser. Anyone who succeeds at their dream is not a loser.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quick Kick-Ass Review

So I just saw Kick-Ass two days ago and it has taken me those two days to finally come to a solid conclusion on the movie. I went it ready for one of the best superhero movies of all time, mainly since I have been hyping it up for so long in my head and IGN gave it 5 out of 5, though I should know by now never to trust their movie judgement.

Anyway, after the movie I was happy with it but the ending left a very bitter taste in my mouth. The movie was realistic to a point and very fun to actually see how a real superhero would fair in today's world. The best part of it was that Kick-Ass wasn't a good superhero if you could even call him that. He sucked, was stupid, and got the shit kicked out of him. The thing I loved about that though was the message that the film carried. That it wasn't about being a superhero, it was just about helping each other out, that we should all be inspired to do good. To me that was the true message that this pubescent teen brought to the silver screen that really hit home with someone like me. Someone who has always wanted to be a superhero.

Nicholas Cage was awesome and extremely disturbing at the same time. Chloe Moretz was amazing the fucking awesome. And Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass was getting a 40 year old pregnant.

Lost Finally Redeeming Itself

I've been getting emails, texts and phone calls from all my friends about Lost since it started. And its sad that I haven't had the heart to even write back. Lost, my favorite show of all time, has brought me to the breaking point. But right when I thought all was lost, it finds a way to bring me back. Like usual business, as soon as Desmond returns the show takes a momentum swing in the direction of good television. Movement and development and answers have finally started to come and most important of all, the alternate universe is finally relevant.

I felt the change when a friend of mine was complaining about the show and I started to defend it again! I was elated to finally find myself on the side of Lost once again, willing to rationalize and defend her to the end. I am genuinely excited now for what is to come and I feel my faith being restored that it will be a satisfying and amazing end to my favorite show of all time.

Lost Island Finally Answered!

I have finally figured out what the island is on Lost. CAUTION: SPOILER AHEAD!



May god help us all....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chris Evans to Don the Captain's Shield

Not that I am the biggest fan of Captain America or Marvel for that matter, I find myself compelled to write at least something about this casting news. For me Captain America is in the same boat as Wonder Woman when it comes to moving to the big screen, with the Flash following in a dingy close behind. To me they look too goofy for real people to be wearing those costumes while audiences try to take them serious. I know its silly to say but on paper things work differently. As soon as a real person steps into a super hero costume, the first reaction can't be a giggle, or even an uncomfortable seat shift for that matter. You have to say "Cool" or "That's awesome", something to that affect because that's what comic books and comic book movies are, cool and awesome. Most of the time they lack the depth that the Dark Knight brought to the table though I do believe that things are changing very rapidly.

Which brings us back to Chris. In the Fantastic Four, he was perfect. The teen, action junky, heart throb, smart ass. And sadly, that is what most people remember him as. The Fantastic Four movies were some of the worst pieces of shit I have ever seen and I always look before I flush. But Chris Evans is definitely a better actor than that. He is absolutely a better actor than his movies. Sunshine is one of the few times where he actually shows his truly colors. Whether they are red, white, and blue or not, you would have to ask a Captain America fan. Plus with Hugo Weaving as Red Skull? Fuck me that sounds awesome. But that fact that an actor like Evans is now Captain America has me breathing a little easier. He's funny, smart, good looking, and jacked. Wait, am I gay?

Has Lost Lost its Way?

Quite frankly, I think Lost has sucked this season thus far. Sure there have been plenty of great moments, subtle answers, and great character work, but as a whole, it has been slowly dying. With such a great start I truly believe that this was going to be the season we all thought it would be. But alas, it is not, and even more troubling, it is far from that.

Like Tim has said before, ever episode should have some earth shattering answer or revelation about at least one of the thousand questions we have had since day one. Grant it, there have been tons of subtle answers that either solidify speculations or flat out clarify theories. Though, as Lost often does, they build answers out of vague hints or analogies that ultimately lead to more questions. Its just how they do it and we have to deal with it. I just have been completely unhappy and fed up with the season. "Sundown", Sayid's episode, was powerful and compelling because things were happening. And therein lies one of my biggest problems with the show.

Nothing is happening. Everything seems to happen in the alternate timeline, while the main story which matters and we all care about, nothing happens. Ben's episode, "Dr. Linus", the alternate timeline had a fantastic story, but on the island Ben dug a hole, ran away, and then came back. That's it. The island story is what matters and to have only that happen is piss poor for the last season of Lost. Even "Recon" Sawyer went to the Hydra Island, had a conversation with Widmore, and then came back. That's not enough! Not now. Maybe in season 3 it would have been fine but we loyal fans have waited too long for that bull shit.

The other problem is that the alternate timeline is where all the action happens. That's fine and very compelling to watch because the character work and acting is top notch but that timeline means nothing to us. Its past and its future effect nothing on the island. If Sawyer or Jack or Kate dies in that timeline, oh well. And the fact that the producers keep saying that it all makes sense in the end is frustrating. They are wasting an entire season with it, proclaiming that it all adds up later. NO! This is it. Its now or never to get it right. The last season of shows are primed for emotional story telling, for gripping action, and for down right great entertainment. And right now, Lost is not entertaining. Its boring and quite frankly annoying now.

I find myself picking about the dialogue, my eyes wonder while its on, and I talk badly about it like right now. That's now how its supposed to be. I love Lost. I think of myself as one of the biggest Lost fans. I hate that the show has brought me to this point, and that is not caring about what happens next. After every episode I love to see what's coming next and how exciting it looks, but now I know its not going to be good. I read everything I can about Lost online and IGN gives every episode 8's and 9's. They may be good TV but they are not good Lost. If you can sit down and watch it without seeing any other episode before it and enjoy it, its not good Lost. It should be full of references that casual fans won't get, flashbacks to things from previous seasons that now are revealed in a new light, and with major things happening to major characters which would move the fans that truly love these characters.

I could go on and on about this, mainly because I only know a few loyal Lost fans, being those of you that read this, that get my level of Lost fandom. Please, help me to like the show again. Leave comments that might make me feel better. I am off to watch "Ab Aeterno" which looks amazing, but we shall see.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Simpsons Creators Write Funniest Joke

Last month’s Olympic-centric episode of The Simpsons has sparked controversy over what is being seen as the funniest joke of the decade.
Quick Recap: Homer and Marge Simpson form a mixed-doubles curling team with Seymour Skinner and his mother. The team qualifies for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but the Skinners see Homer as the team’s biggest weakness and plot to have him replaced. Elsewhere, Lisa becomes obsessed with collecting Olympic mascot pins and its up to Bart to save her.
The Joke: The camera pans leftwards from the National Curling Trials to a lot marked, “National Curly Trials.” We then see an expansive flock of Curly Howard impersonators mulling around, each with their own significantly exaggerated “woo-woo-woo, n’yuk, n’yuk, n’yuk, ruff, ruff,” or “n’gahh!” Moe Szyslak then spots the Curlys and exclaims, “Oh, wiseguys eh?” before slapping each in the vane of Moe Howard in one brilliant continuous strike.
While there is much debate in the entertainment world if this is literally, the funniest joke of the last ten years, without debate it clearly is.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

4 Things That Will Finally Be Answered on LOST

1. Was it Rain Lockheart's plan to reset time when he sent the particle transmission to Laura?

2. If the gruntnick gang planted the triptonium seeds in vantage point K, does Gregory still impregnate Fyvish's daughter in Clark's reality of the Reim-Chin system?

3. When the faloopadoodle puddle quake hit phillistine balm-baddosh-theremin, can Phyddyck Thistlescumps re-postulate tenacity whilst reticulating splines blundery bastionalisig kumkwatzacoatloscopy?

4. Let me get this straight...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mormons To Be Bashed Again... Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum

Sticking with their vocation to offend everybody as often as possible, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, (creators of South Park), will be staging a Broadway musical based on the lives of members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

Cheyenne Jackson, (9/11 victim from United 93 or Danny from 30 Rock), an especially gay Broadway superstar is set to play the lead role, a Mormon missionary, in the show aptly titled Mormon Musical.

Stone and Parker will also be working alongside Robert Lopez, who wrote Avenue Q, the award-winning musical that dismantled the divinity of the educational children’s television standard, Sesame Street.

While the crew is making every effort to keep the details of this project “under wraps,” it is a given that it will infuriate the Mormons as the South Park team has done to countless other groups in the past few years: Blacks, Canadians, Catholics, Homosexuals, Jews, Scientologists, Old People, and of course… Mormons. The musical is slated to release off-Broadway in August of this year.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Alternate Timeline

Okay now that my review is out of the way, its time to stretch those Lost analytical muscles and churn out some theories and observations based on the encyclopedic knowledge of the show. I am going to focus on the new timeline that the bomb created where Oceanic 815 lands safely in LAX.

I'll begin with saying that this is fascinating. It is so interesting to see what would actually happen if they landed. And its like a breath of fresh air to see the real Locke alive and well. I missed him very much and it was good to see him.

The shame of the new timeline is that this isn't how it would have happened.

Things aren't how they were. The first huge inconsistency was that Desmond was on the plane. Desmond being my favorite character, I delve deep into what this could mean. If he is there why I think he's there, and that is because he knows something's up, than that's fine. But if he is there otherwise, I'm going to have a problem with it. It just so happens that Desmond was on the same flight back to LA, I don't think so.

The second major inconsistency was, for me, was that Shannon wasn't there. That's really when it first hit me that things weren't right aside from Desmond. And Hurley being lucky? Things are really wrong here. Plus Hurley and Sawyer were in the wrong seats, which would leave them in the tail section of the plane. But therein lies the intrigue. This timeline isn't the timeline that would have been. This is an entirely new beast. But the one thing that has truly piqued my interest, was that Jack's dad is missing.

This little detail leads me to believe that this new timeline is incomplete. Its missing key components that the original has. I am about to list my potential theory so if you don't want to read it don't continue. I believe that the two timelines, in the end, will somehow merge, restoring our heroes to their lives but redeemed and knowing everything that happened on the island.

I know there are holes in this theory but, that is how I feel as of right now. I can't think of another reason why they would introduce the idea of another timeline. And why is the island underwater? And how did Juliet know the bomb worked? It was funny, right as the episode ended I found myself saying what I always say at the end of an episode, I fucking hate this show.

Lost s601 "LAX" Review

I apologize for not writing this earlier but I was away for the last few days, which gave me plenty of time to think about the premiere of Lost. I will say that I did not like it as much as Tim did, but I did think it was great. To me, it did what Lost does best, the unexpected. When last season ended it could have went a few different ways. Through the off season everyone was speculating which actually happened and couldn't wait to see if they were right. What the Lost writers did was combine all the theories into one, unexpected outcome that was more shocking than we could have ever thought.

So the bomb worked, but it didn't. And now there are two timelines, one where Oceanic 815 landed safety and the other where they crashed. That's awesome! I was blown away when I first saw it. And now the flashbacks are flashes to the alternate timeline. Also we finally were shown the Temple, which I has been dying to see since it was first mentioned in season 3. But my favorite was when we got some hints towards the black smoke monster. Season 5 is already shaping up to reveal, just as Tim was saying, answers that are subtle. A lot of conclusions I've made about this episode came later when I put some thought into it, and whenever a show or movie does that, its fantastic.
My gripe with the episode it that you can count one constant in Lost; that big things happen in the premiere and final episodes. For a premiere I felt that not much actually happened. The pacing was off for the first hour and the characters were in one place. Finally with the Temple, the story picked up a bit but still, I felt like not much actually happened. I was way more interested in the alternate timeline. And then there was Juliet's second death. Okay, maybe she survived the bomb with a flash to a new time or something, but to have her die again was comical. I thought Josh Holloway's performance was amazing but the material he had to work with left a lot to be desired. "I have to tell you something...ugghhhh...." That is way too cliche for Lost but it in no way made me hate the episode.

The main thing is that I am more intrigued by Lost than ever before. I can't stop thinking about it. Locke aka Jacob's nemesis aka black smoke monster are all the same thing. It solidifies what people have been speculating for years that the black smoke monster is actually all the dead people we have seen on the island. But what the shit is it? How did he know Locke's last thoughts? Why in the alternate timeline was the island underwater? What the hell is it all about? I love it! The premiere answered as many questions as it raised but it is all fresh and new. Lost always changes and that's why its so great. I can't wait to see what is going to happen. Thank god its Tuesday tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kevin's Countdown to Lost Season 6 Premiere: Top #15 Favorite Episodes #1

So it comes, the end of the begining of the end. As I sit here at 7:30pm waiting impatiently for the season premiere I write this blog entry. Lost is flowing through my veins and my mind races with anticipation for what is to come. So here goes my last entry for the countdown with my #1 favorite Lost episode of all time.

The Constant. In the midst of season 4's hints of science fiction, Desmond Hume found himself on a journey through time itself. Again, Desmond is my favorite character and I fully believe that his relationship with Penny is the heart of Lost. Everytime they are on screen together or apart, the magic of their relationship transcends any other on the show, giving us the greatest episodes of Lost. And this episode was the absolute best.

The time travel aspect was introduced perfectly, getting us used to the idea through the concept of someone's consciousness being sent through time and not their body. It prepared us for what was to come and it also introduced Faraday as the voice of knowledge and importance in the Lost mythology.

But really, the story of Desmond is what makes this episode so fantastic. His self imposed exile and his fight to return to the love of his life has never been more genuine and never felt so potent in an episode. The final moments of the episode when Desmond and Penny speak for the first time in over 3 years was choppy but pitch perfect. It was a swirl of emotions and excitement as not only our hero was able to reconnect with Penny, but his life was saved in the process.

The Constant also furthered Desmond's importance in the show's story. He is an exception unlike any other character in the series, and I do believe he will come back in a big way. He and Faraday will be instrumental in the show still and I can't wait to see them both return.

The Constant is a showcase of direction, writing, and acting for not only Lost but television as a whole. It has more power than most films nowadays and it retains its magic everytime you watch it. I can't say enough about this episode other than I have never seen anything as good as it on TV. Period.

And that's it for my Lost countdown. Sorry Brian that you're episodes didn't make my list, maybe you should do one too. I hope everyone writes something about the new episode. I don't care if we all write reviews or even just thoughts. I want to hear all of it, since I will be writing plenty. So enjoy the premiere and "I'll see you in another life, brotha."