Probably should have left this beast “caged”

Just crashed back into my low-comfort flat after seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine with a couple mates, so I’m hoping to make this a short one and hit the hay.

I wasn’t expecting much going in to be frank. X-Men 3 (or The Last Stand) was almost universally despised when it hit theatres, but I kept telling myself things would gets back on track if Bryan Singer and the rest of the original crew were hired to bring about a possible X-Men 4. Well, here we are some three years later and nothing of the sort has happened. Instead the Box Office studios have decided that the big bucks are right back where the whole thing started, with our favourite mutants’ origins.

The first in what is believed to be a planned series of origin movies, Wolverine explores how the (almost) invincible man came to don the adamantium skeleton. Though I have not read every X-Men comic out there and certainly don’t consider myself one for the chronology of comic book law, I have followed the series long enough to know that the filmmakers took a whole fistful of plot threads and mangled them all up together to make this script. Cameos. Violence. Explosions. Love & loss. Hugh Jackman with his shirt off (for the ladies I’d wager). Plenty of “oh, snap!” moments. Yep, from the minute Lil’ Logan impales is first victim the movie pretty much writes itself.

I did enjoy the non-stop “slice, dice, pull jibe, queue surround sound decimation”, but unfortunately this film would rank underneath X-Men 3 in my list of ‘comic book movie favourites’. Heck, Watchmen may even sneak by it on a bad day. The main reason is that as cool as all the action was and all the tough love from old Hughie, X-Men doesn’t feel the same without the rest of the cast – it is the ensemble focus that makes X-Men what is for me. The moneymen can focus on big-name stars all they want, they can change the supporting cast all they want, but at the end of the day when the script lacks that character, that deeper meaning, that I know and love from the original movies and the cartoon series before that, it just isn’t X-Men.

Aw well, they tired, ay. Who knows, maybe the Magneto flick will be a little better. Right off the top of my head, coolest moments in the movie that fulfilled some weird idle thoughts of mine – Dominic Monaghan’s fairground light bulb trick, Wolverine dicing a chopper, Gambit (for about five minutes) and what a giant circular cooling tower collapsing looks like. Nice *nods blissfully*. Next on the movie menu is Fast and Furious (which I would have preferred to see tonight) and Star Trek (saw footage for the very first time today and all I need say is: “Mmm”). More reeling in soon.

Culture, Diary

Enter: Xbox 360

It’s strange to think that the Microsoft Xbox 360 has been out for more than three years now. Its December 2005 release saw it declared as a marvel of next generation graphics and technology. Being a PlayStation fan and someone who had already been sold on promised PlayStation 3 gems, like Heavenly Sword, Ratchet & Clank Future, MGS4 and, Naughty Dog’s then unnamed, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, I held off buying the console. Once I finally got my PS3 the thought of spending even more money to purchase a half-baked console that’s prone to failure became even further from my mind.

And so we come to the present. Last month, April 2009, I bit the bullet and picked up one of the old entertainment boxes. Personal views aside, I’ve been sure to stay up to date with Xbox 360 and Wii news, since it’s my goal to work in the games media industry. Also, from a work perspective, having two consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360) now means that I’m more equipped for the task of reviewing multi-format games – a relief in more ways than one. I’ve had the system active for two weeks now and in this post I’m going to let off some steam about Xbox 360 and its games. Without further ado let’s jump in.

Evading Microsoft’s shifty hardware packages, I waited some time and till the price-point was sufficiently discounted before deciding to purchase an Xbox 360 Elite. Once I unpacked the concave shaped home entertainment system there was the inevitable pile of wires and connects to deal with. After some fifteen minutes of wrestling with the HDMI cable and humongous power brick, I managed to turn the thing on and eureka! For the next hour I explored the original Dashboard blades and then began the somewhat complicated process of updating to the NXE (using the software on a demo disc I had recently bought).

It may have been a complete rip-off, but the new Avatar creation page was a refreshing way to begin using my console once it had finished changing its stripes. Although I have an Xbox Live silver account (needed to register the system for the ‘essential’ warranty) it’s not actually linked to my console. This means that practically every screen I visit and trial game I play is screaming at me to ‘join Xbox LIVE’. When you play trial games, they even have the audacity to prompt you to ‘unlock [the] full game’ when you accomplish would-be achievements. Since technical difficulties prevent me from connecting to the service currently it’s utterly pointless for me to worry about achievements and community features. It’s almost as if half the console is missing without a gold subscription and the system won’t let you forget it.

Games-wise the box is fairing a little better (thank goodness). Since the Xbox 360 has been out so long it’s not too hard to find pre-owned games going right back to its launch titles. Being a racing aficionado Bizarre Creation’s Project Gotham Racing 3 was the first game I played. Although it feels quite dated now (especially next to Burnout Paradise and, its sister title, PGR4) I’ve had a good time with it so far. Driving in Project Gotham is all about smooth corning and risky overtakes. For casual players I’d almost say PlayStation 3’s launch racer, MotorStorm, holds up better today, as PGR3’s arrangement of career challenges, soundtrack and aesthetic style seem to lack that certain ‘new hardware’ sparkle.

Rare produced two titles for the 360 launch, Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Elements of Power. The former was left at home but I did bring Kameo with me and this is also the title that’s grown on me the most in this time. If I’m critical, it’s a lot like a shiner, less cool Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy, but once you escape the rather poor opening level it actually gets pretty good. Rare has a knack for creating beautiful 3D worlds filled with weird creatures. The controls are also intuitive once you’ve wrapped you head around them. Sprite princess, Kameo, can transform into a number of element forms and the triggers allow you to use each of their powers. I’m not finish yet, but if it can keep up the pace it’s worthy of being called one of Xbox 360’s top character action games. Also tried a little Dead or Alive 4 – *ahem* nothing to say about that, except that I prefer Soulcalibur and Street Fighter, and I absolutely despise the 360 controller’s D-pad.

In the wake of Killzone 2 and every other slime-ball-alien-purging-fest I’ve almost had it with shooters. Yet that still hasn’t stopped me from picking up both Gears of War and Halo 3 on the cheap. Regardless of the self-serving fan hype, both of these titles are definitely two of the most polished under the Microsoft Game Studios label. I’m familiar with Halo 3 (as my erstwhile high school friend introduced me to the series on the original Xbox and we’ve completed the entire trilogy together), which is an anticlimactic end to the series in some ways, but on the flip side the enemy AI and vast battlefield skirmishes make it great fun in co-op. Forge – a mode that allows you to tweaking the multiplayer maps with a huge range of weapons, vehicles and objects – is somehow fun even when you’ve got nobody to play against online, so that’s pleasing.

Gears of War, on the other hand, I’ve only had brief contact with. Man, people were right about the story – you only get the bare bones to go with and the rest is just heaps and heaps of blood, guts and chainsaws. There’s a startling visual quality to the game that feels like surveying a desolate and decaying Roman city with a handheld camera. I certainly give props to both the art direction and the action, which is a blur of stop-n’-pop gameplay. However, as much as I love John DiMaggio and have lost faith in shooter narratives, Epic have got to sort out this story. It’s thinner than Lindsey Lohan’s prom dress right now. Perhaps the sequel will have a tad more depth than “shoot those guys” and “quick, run this way”. Though hardcore fans would object, I could most certainly do without the sight of seeing meaty alien brutes sawn in half and splattered across my TV screen. Enjoyable it may be, but this game isn’t one to play just before lunch (or after it for that matter).

So far I’ve have only bought Xbox 360 exclusives, preferring to save my money to get multi-format games on PS3. It’s a strange sensation now having the option to buy multi-format games on either console. I may pick up a couple titles here and there in the future, and I will of course be using the system for review purposes. Overall my experience with several of Xbox 360’s launch titles and platform exclusives has changed my option of its first-party titles, but it hasn’t changed my opinion of the console in comparison to PS3. I’m still extremely pleased I decided to wait and next I’m about to share some of the console’s most damning usability flaws.

I could practically write a laundry list of things that I’ve found overly complex, things that PS3 does better, or things that just are just plain out of order. Let’s start with the controller battery packs and chargers. Not only does Microsoft have the nerve to sell the controller battery packs and cables separately, but I almost broke the wretched thing removing the cable once it had finished charging. Other peripherals, such as the wireless network adaptor, vision camera and memory units, are also ridiculously overpriced. And that’s not the half of it. Despite running the console via HDMI to my sleek mini HDTV, Microsoft has once again handicapped its own software. The long and short of it is that connecting the console to the TV in this fashion removes one of the crucial options in the system’s display menu. This option effectively means I can’t set the console to ‘PAL-60’ to play ‘60Hz only’ Xbox 360 games. I’ve been able to play most games without incident, but one or two downloadable games have failed to start.

And as if that wasn’t enough, all that crock and bull about Xbox 360 being the “media centre of tomorrow” was just that, crock and bull! The system doesn’t allow me to copy or move any music or video files to the HDD from a memory stick. And despite Apple and every other piece of music playing software giving you the option to repeat single music tracks, Microsoft still haven’t discovered this obvious feature. I can stream media from a Windows PC, but what good is that when I don’t have the wireless connector to unlink it to my laptop’s network? Worse still, gamesaves can’t be copied from the HDD – it’s like living in the past all over again. Add this mountain of archaisms to the fact that every disc it plays makes the console sound like it’s about to launch into space and you’ll understand how perturbed I’ve felt. Suffice to say PlayStation 3 is miles ahead in terms of user interface, media capabilities and design.

I don’t wish to close out this post on a console-bashing downer though, so I’ve left one of the console’s most redeeming features, Xbox Live Arcade, till last. The console came pre-loaded with about nineteen free trial games and the full game, Hexic HD. Honestly, just this small selection of arcade rebirths – Pac-Man, Dig Dug – and new creations – Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Braid – have opened my eyes to the limitless potential downloadable games have to keep old games alive. Don’t get me wrong, PSN has been doing very well with its custom made indie games, but I’m afraid Xbox 360 has currently cornered the market for third-party support online. Alien Hominid HD, Banjo-Kazooie, Bejeweled 2, Frogger, Rez HD, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Soulcalibur, Worms, Zuma – short of PlayStation or Nintendo classics, you name it, XBLA has got it. Spurred on by the fact that I won my first game of Uno without even knowing how to play, I’ve been hugely impressed by the digital content Xbox 360 offers.

In retrospect I’m pleased to have acquired an Xbox 360. It’s by no means perfect and further still from what my idea is of a true media hub, but that isn’t to say it’s without merit. The exclusives I’ve played are fun and can indeed hold their own against other console exclusives. Copying games to the HDD is also another feature that I quite like – if anything it silences the noisy rotary engine that is the 360’s DVD drive. There’s tons of potential with XBLA and it’s my hope that eventually many of the third-party titles will end up on PSN someday. This summer I’m setting my sights on playing through a bit of Lost Odyssey, Fable II and Halo Wars. I’m interested to see what Microsoft has in store at E3 since they’re first-party line-up is shamefully slim this year. So it seems my resistance to the console has at last come full circle. How inadequate then that I must play in fear of the notorious ‘red ring of death’. Flying close to the sun? Yes, but at least for now it’s fun.


Batman Arcade Forever!

There’ve been a lot of bad Batman games over the years. Batmen Vengeance, Batman Begins, Batman & Robin – but there’s one Batman game that stands tall, and holds its mediocre reputation proudly. There’s a game that silently tugs at my feet in the middle of the night, willing me to just try one more stage. There’s a game that’s brutal in its arcade mechanics, yet addicted me all most to no end. There’s one game that doesn’t only throw in co-op just because the license practically says it should, it’s actually good.

That game is Batman Forever: The Arcade Game.

OK, OK. Let’s just backup here for a sec. I know Batman Forever (PS) is hardly going to win any awards for its repetitive side-scrolling fighter thrills, but if there’s one guilty pleasure I just can’t deny it’s this one.

Back in 1998 my brother and I didn’t have many PS1 games, so we aimed to get the most out of the few we had. As soon as we popped in the disc, we went straight for the two-player co-op option and began our mission to clean up the streets of Gotham. Jumping out of the dorsal fin-shaped Batmobile – or rather forcibly ejected against our will – we headed into the backalleys, a horde of goons immediately shuffling forward to greet us.

What really is the heart of this game is the aggressive/scavenger-like gameplay. What I mean by this is one minute you be surrounded by bad guys, you and your buddy will take them down and then you’ll be rushing to collect the energy power-ups they drop. The more energy you have the stronger your attacks and combos will be, the stronger your combos the more enemies you see blink into oblivion (and the more the screen will ritualistically flash – as if counter attacking an epileptic with strobe lighting). And with two-players it doubly addictive.

Many ‘game over’ screens and repetitive audio clips later and we eventually made it to the penultimate level, and of the most infuriating arcade bosses I’ve ever fought, the monarch bat. Explosive batarangs, grappling hooks, tasers – no matter what we tried we just couldn’t seem to beat this boss. Inevitably, our credits soon ran out and it was ‘game over’ yet again. Now normally at this point I would take out the disc and feel cheated for buying such a frustrating and repetitive game. Yet despite all of it numerous faults, dodgy collision detection, half-baked walking animations and bosses which required equally as much luck as skill, we continued to play it.

You see, after you’ve played Batman Forever for a long as we did back then you begin to see the puppet strings and clockwork that makes it tick. With the right combination of moves and equipment we soon found that you could have all sorts of fun inflicting pain on these CPU drones. It’s actually possible to pull off x99 combos or more by furiously repeating the same combo move while in power-up mode. Once we realised this we returned to the crimebusting scene, with a vengeance. Memorising most enemy encounters and with improved combo knowledge we fought our way all the way to the Riddler’s throne room. Success was finally within our grasp. Unfortunately, the monarch bat had cost us most of our saved credits so when one of us when down fighting Two-Face we defeat was only a health bar away.

We did manage it that time. And we still haven’t beaten it. But Batman Forever remains one of my all-time favourite two-player games, for its gameplay rewards button mashing mayhem.


Watchmen smile for the camera

OK, I’ve already mentioned that I was excited about this motion picture adaptation of a revered superhero graphic novel. I went to see the film tonight, so let’s just get straight into it. Damn. Watchmen is freaking graphic!!! I’ve seen some nasty films in my time, but never have I endured a comic book coming to life in such a mature fashion. People like to talk trash about GTA? Well, under no circumstances should anyone bring kids to see this movie, because if people believe “kids absorb everything they see” this is the kind of movie that could mess them up real bad.

I don’t wish to exaggerate too much. At the end of the day it is only another movie, and another filmmaker’s interpretation of a vision. I don’t mean anybody who doesn’t know how babies are made will go crazy the moment they finishing watching this. But I do enjoy films that connect with me on a character level and a personal level, and Watchmen succeed on both accounts. Tons of golden age Americana and 1940s nostalgia. Old friends taking on new struggles. *sigh* Awesome… like a jagged butter knife through an ice cube, tipped with a smiley comic edge.

So what was the film itself like? Having never read the graphic novel (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbsons), seen the trailer only once and knowing absolutely ‘nought’ about the plot – the film was a real treat in that sense. (Warning: from this point on I’ll be dropping some immense spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet I suggest you skip the rest of this post) The plot started off in the style of all good detective stories, with the murder of a key figure – in this case, Edward Blake (The Comedian). With the signature smiley face filling the cinema screen the opening credits took us straight back to 1940s America to see the Minutemen in their heyday. Certainly one of things that stood out most in this film was its non-linear storytelling.

In this alternative 1985, the world is on the brink of nuclear war and our five protagonists – Rorschach, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr Manhattan and Ozymandias – are only truly revealed through individual character flashbacks that tie-in nicely with the main plot. I have to say that I was anxious to see what the character of Rorschach was going to be like. To my delight both actor, Jackie Earle Haley, and crew have brought this troubled maverick crime fighter to life in an astonishing way. A personal journal, a grappling hook, an inconspicuous dress sense, throws unforgiving punches and he’s full of retribution. Absolute badass.

Every scene that this character was in I lapped up. The movie certainly didn’t disappointment me on the comic book vibe or its comi… wait better rephrase that… ‘humorous’ edge. Seeing The Comedian get all Rambo-style on a group of unarmed anti-Watchmen protestors was hilarious. Of course, that’s when they slap you in the face, as all good black comedies do. Juxtaposing this image with a scene where Edward Blake harshly assaults Sally Jupiter (the original Silk Spectre) and attempts to rape her, you soon realise that there are no heroes in this movie, only people who try to solve the world’s problems because they can’t solve their own.

From there I’m afraid things don’t any brighter – atomised Vietcong soldiers, arms getting sawn off, jaws breaking on pristine granite worktops. And that’s just the violence. Some way raunchy sex scenes between Silk Spectre and Nite Owl net this cookie an ‘18’ faster than the notorious GTA: San Andres ‘Hot Coffee’ mod ever could. Moreover, Dr Manhattan’s endless refusal to cover up his awkwardly noticeable blue you-know-what only served to distract from the serious moments of drama in the film, for which there were many.

I think the one that honestly made me bite my lip the most, had to be Rorschach’s flashback to one of his most early cases. Basically, he tracked a missing girl to a grimy shack somewhere in the city. He finds her remains, shredded clothes and bones, in a coal heater. Outside the killer’s dogs are fighting over what is left of the girl’s ankle. (Yeah, I was pretty squeamish by this point too, so if you’re still reading make sure you put some happy music on after this.) When the murderer returned Rorschach was waiting for him. There is no way I can convey all of the imagery in that scene but I’ll try. The atmosphere intensified as the dead bodies of the murderer’s dogs were hurled through the window. The fear in his eyes, in his voice, it filled the room. Then out of the shadows, the masked avenger stepped forward. Roughly he chained the girl’s killer down, ignoring his pleas for mercy. Rorschach told him he knew what he’d done and he must pay. Almost as if one had flipped a coin the killer’s attitude changed. Cut to a shot looking up at the killer, his rack of sadistic looking knifes just out of focus. He confessed that it was him, boasted even, claimed he needed help; wanted Rorschach to take him in. Oh no, not Rorschach. Needless to say he killed the murderer in a most brutal fashion. I’ll say no more, but the twitching, tearful, vengeful justice of the scene was almost unforgettable. Still, I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing everything I can to avoid violence for the next month, because I am grossed out!

I had wished to say a little more on the plot by this point as well as talking about some of the other scenes, but I’m running into dangerous post length here so I’ll start wrapping up now. If you’re not sick to the stomach right now or longing for me to end this gargantuan post-mortem I salute you.

Since it was seeing Rorschach in one of the promotional posters for the movie that got me interested in it in the first place I’ll stick with his storyline and close this thing out. Ever since the beginning of the film the plot had been building towards a seemingly inevitable conclusion: nuclear annihilation. The doomsday clock was creeping ever closer to midnight and our misfit heroes were so caught up in solving The Comedian’s murder and connecting presents events to the past, that following two hours of blood, bones and blue bits it didn’t look as though they were going to save the day. Well you know what? They didn’t. Yep, and again I haven’t read the novel but I bet this controversial ending must have been part of it. Yet there is actually some salvation as the world isn’t totally destroyed, actually, it is in fact saved! Accept it’s saved through the bad guy’s underhanded, betraying, cruel-to-be-kind scheme.

It was a surprise to say the least. Although others have done this already I’m sure, this must have been very original at the time. However, even if this next scene was in the graphic novel I absolutely refute the decision. Throughout the movie you were witness to Dr Manhattan’s growing disconnection with human beings. Rorschach, much to my approval couldn’t stand that world peace was achieved through human sacrifice, through a lie. The filmmakers had all ready show that they were willing to do most anything in this hyper-real alternative 1985. So, when Dr Manhattan confronted Rorschach, urging him to not to tell the public the truth, I already knew the outcome would be shamefully bloody. In his final moments Rorschach removed his mask, a brief choke of tears, his resolve never wavering. And then he was gone. Atomised by Dr Manhattan like so many spores in the wind. The howl that Nite Owl let out epitomised him as a best friend who just didn’t know how to show how much he cared. On a personal level this really hit home. Following this there isn’t really much to tell. Seeing my enigmatic antihero bite the molecular-bullet left a bitter taste in my mouth. The remaining characters, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre, had their storylines wrapped up and everything was rosy. But there was one more little hint to give the film its grinning punch line. Rorschach’s journal, the document he had recorded practically all of the film’s events in, including the identity of the real evildoer and the cause of all the cataclysmic destruction, had been posted to a newspaper before his unfortunate demise. The film ended with a taco-eating editor picking up the journal just before the music kicked in and the credits began. Yes, the truth survives in words!

Wow wee, this is way more than I intend to write. Overall, I did enjoy Watchmen as a mature film with some terrific characters and back-stories. It was certain a heck of a lot more graphic and violent then I originally bargained for, but I am glad for the experience. Besides the superpowers, the real world is a heck of a lot worse to be honest. It definitely isn’t something I would let my six year-old cousins watch and I don’t think it’ll ever give me as much pleasure as my other comic book favourites, but it is an enjoyable addition to the genre. Maybe at a stretch I’d call it a cross between hard-edged comic book capers, Pulp Fiction and Se7en, accept some people are actually left smiling at the end of it. Well thankfully Rorschach was totally cool, so if I do pick its DVD release it will still be primarily for that character. And with that I believe I’ve said everything I wish to. I have seen the face of these Watchmen, will you?


Not yet Famous

Avoiding any vulgar innuendo in this post about a comic book-inspired game, let me tell you why I can’t wait to become infamous.

Coming from the successful studio behind Sly Cooper’s devious capers, Sucker Punch, you take control of the electrically-charged Cole in the open-world superhero serial, inFamous. I’ve been a comic book-lover since the first time I saw the animated (and live action) escapades of Batman & Robin on TV when I was about four. The animated series of Spider-Man, X-Men, Silver Surfer and Marvel Action Hour all quickly forward, along with toys, costumes and comics. My brother and I use to play Batman Forever: The Arcade Game – which isn’t the greatest side-scrolling beat-’em-up, but boy we sure played the hell out of it back on PS1, Spider-Man (PS1), and a host of other comic book-inspired adventure games. Spider-Man 2: The Movie, I’d even go so far as to say, is one of the greatest superhero games ever and holds a special place in my gaming heart.

Sufficed to say I pretty much ‘geek out’, for lack of a better term, when stuff like inFamous is announced. Complex characters dealing with real life social problems juxtaposed with the complete destruction of an urban city and one man with the power to either help or hinder its residents. I can see why people are already calling comparisons to NBC’s much loved Heroes series, but there is a lot more to inFamous in my opinion.

The very nature of this being an open-world (or ‘sandbox’ if you prefer) game, and a superhero one at that, gives it tremendous potential. I’ve never really been into Grand Theft Auto but the appeal of driving around an environment at your own pace, doing whatever you feel (within the context of the game) is hugely enjoyable. I must have played Spider-Man 2: The Movie for many, many hours just swinging around New York, webbing up thugs and rescuing balloons. After a while though I will admit things begin to tire.

With inFamous, if the developers can balance the factors of story driven motivation and freeform gameplay with a broad selection of challenges to undertake, this may be a whole new shock to the system just waiting to be unleashed. Being a fan of Sucker Punch’s earlier work on PS2 – following the cartoon crimes of Sly Cooper and his gang – I also have great expectations for what set pieces and events may unfold in Empire City. I’m not at all trying to second-guess the developers by plotting out my hopes for the game before I’ve even played it, but my observations of their previous developments give me bit of an idea of what we might see.

With the Sly Cooper games Sucker Punch was particularly good at creating open-world hub levels and making use of them in the context of actual gameplay. For example, in Sly 3 there’s a hub world set in the Australian outback. Over the course of several jobs you complete a lemonade drinking contest (hey, it is E rated) in the local bar, steal keys from patrolling guards, destroy some polluting vats and then proceed to crush half of the world you’ve been traversing with a runaway bulldozer. While the PlayStation 2 hardware certainly had its limitations, in terms of scaling, drawl distance and graphical effects, Sucker Punch did everything they could to connect the separate elements of their worlds and make them fun.

If anything, their love for comic book artwork and stylistic character design alone would convince me to buy inFamous. All of this and I’ve not even mentioned the story. An explosion destroys half the city, and now Cole and bunch of criminals are running around with superpowers. Cool! Seriously though, the trailers and gameplay movies that have been released look phenomenal. Killer beasts made out of junk and scrap metal, exploring the city with Cole as if it were an oversized jungle gym, drawing power from the city’s electric grid and tossing shock-bombs at enemies. Yep, I’m totally wired for some inFamous right now. June can’t come soon enough.


Watchmen: below the waist?

Have you heard about the Watchmen? Well before I happened to pass one mesmerising promotional poster, coming out of my local movie theatre, I had no idea what this whole craze was about. And come to think of it, I still don’t because I haven’t even seen the movie or read the graphic novel. The movie is out now I’ve been fairly excited to see it. I’m a sucker for comic book movies, so when I discovered that Watchmen collides two of my favourite themes – comic book heroes and maverick detectives – my interest peaked quite considerably.

I don’t think I was prepared from some of the reactions I’ve hear though. Rorschach’s ruthless approach to justice (Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau now seems a poor comparison) didn’t deter me, but I had no idea that the movie was going to contain such mature scenes as frontal nudity and severe violence (as reported by friends who’ve already seen it). Then again, coming from 300 director, Zack Synder, I guess I should have expected as much. When I first saw 300 I was pretty grossed out by some of the scenes, but I’ve come to really enjoy the graphic artistry of it all.

Somehow though I’m not sure I’ll see Watchmen in the same light. With so much talk about how “Watchmen changed the face of comic books” I’ve already had my preconception about what it might be. I think I was hoping this movie might fall somewhere in between Spider-Man and Sin City – iconic, gritty and full of character, but at the same time, not outright hitting you in the face with sex, drugs and skin-crawling violence. Well, guess I was totally wrong about this one.

Regardless of the critics reviews (which I have not browsed) and the unavoidable word-of-mouth comments I’m hearing, I’m still excited about the movie. As long as this seedy, adult world is brought to life on-screen with competence, quality production values and, above all, an engaging narrative, then I’m should leave satisfied. And you know what? If it’s good enough maybe I will pick up the graphic novel.

Culture, Gaming

Invasion day: Killzone 2 arrives at last

Killzone 2, PS3, 2009, 01 (1280x720)Killzone 2 is out. Now that’s four words I almost thought I may never write. It’s also a little strange writing this post about the game now, on its release day, when I haven’t a PS3 within 10 metres of me to play it. I never envisioned this would be how I would spend my day on the release of such a long-awaited title.

Well I’m not hugely bothered. In fact, I’ve already played the game for review, and had a fantastic time doing so. The whole atmosphere and concept that Guerrilla Games has created – in regards to assaulting this hostile world with a couple of trash-talking soldiers, arriving on some extremely vulnerable landing craft – is very exciting, to me that is. I don’t wish to say too much about the game itself, as it’s only just come out, but I would like to say a couple things about my own feelings towards Killzone 2’s journey from hype to home console.

Culture, Music

Lions, tygers & bears

Jazmine Sullivan, 2008, J Records press photo 01 (975x548)Impulse. That’s what got me to buy Jazmine Sullivan’s debut album, Fearless, and it’s also the reason I wrote this post when I did. I’m not one to follow the music industry closely at all. In fact, the very idea of zealously buying singles from the so-called ‘pop music’ top ten just sickens me. That’s not to say that there aren’t many good artists around nowadays, it’s just that image and mass appeal has become so much of a factor in today’s music industry that I find it extremely hard to encourage myself to trawl through the endlessly unoriginal rehashes just to find the ‘good’ stuff. The phrase ‘style over substance’ has never been more fitting.