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Archive for March, 2009

Review #265

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume
Developer: Tri-Ace
Publisher: Square-Enix
Genre: Tactical RPG
Release Date: 03/16/2009

It’s no surprise to long time readers that I adore the original Valkyrie Profile. It’s my favorite RPG of all time (But not my favorite game – that’s Guardian Heroes) and it’s the recipient of the highest score I’ve ever given a game (back when we did numerical scores…). Sadly the sequel released seven years later was a huge drop in quality and many VP purists considered it an insult to the original game.

Now here we are two and a half years later and the THIRD Valkyrie Profile title has come out. Unlike the previous two, Covenant of the Plume has gone from an odd mix of action and turn based RPG’s to an even odder mix of TACTICAL and Action RPG’s. In fact, you can definitely tell that members of Quest (The development team that gave us Ogre Battle and Ogre Tactics) had some input into this game as there are some very obvious nods to Let Us Cling Together and Knight of Lodis in both story, gameplay and most of all, graphical styling.

On paper, a game that promises to be a mix ofValkyrie Profile and Ogre Tactics would appear to be a shoo-in for a Game Of The Year candidacy. What about the reality? Does Covenant of the Plume mark a return to unparalleled greatness ala the first Valkyrie Profile or has Tri-Ace once again failed to recapture the magic of its greatest creation?
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DVD of the Day #90 - Asylum

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

I’d been interested in watching this for a while now, and at times, i had even been tempted to buy it. I held off though, and eventually I picked this up from Swapadvd.com. I am so thankful I didn’t pay money for this.

Asylum is a generic horror film following the paint by numbers plot plaguing thousands of bad horror films from the 1980’s. Considering this is from 2007, this is all the worse that Asylum went this route.

This film is about an insane asylum that has been converted into…A COLLEGE DORM! WHOO PARTY! Of course, the asylum was run by a crazy doctor who used brutal and uncoventional tools to lobotomize and torture his patients, many of which weren’t even insane - they were just mixed up depressed teenagers. Of course, out of the six main characters in this film, each one has a major traumatic ewvent from their past that has caused severe emotional scarring thast they have never been able to get over ranging from watching relatives kill themselves to a mom who force fed her son so he would be a chubbie boy. The crazy ghost of the doctor is able to home in on these memories and make them replay one last time before killing them. Of course the main character and her love interest are the only ones still stand at the end of the movie.

What of the stupidest things about the film was that they repeatedly made it clear that the ghost of Dr. Burke could not leave his former asylum and that the kids had to escape through a sewage tunnel to survive. They do this…and then the ghost follows them out of the asylum and in a chase scene for a few minutes before catching them in the woods. What the hell was the point of all that exposition about him being trapped in the old Aslyum and only able to enter certain places while being barred from others. When a script doesn’t even have continuity within itself, you know it’s bad.

The acting was decent for what it was and the plot is a decent idea, although the haunted insane asylum has been done multiple times and in far superior ways, but I didn’t so much hate this movie as found myself bored with it and the constantly reuse of b-movie cliches. I can see why this went straight to DVD.

There’s nothing really worth seeing in Asylum and much of the movie is just plain stupid, but the acting was passable and the sets were…okay. That’s about as kind as I can be to this.

Is It Worth Keeping? No.
Rating: 3/10

Monday!

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Meetings all day. I had a two hour meeting about designing a Content Management system and now I’m off to a homeless shelter for two hours to talk about issues and incidents there.

Sad start to the morning. While walking to work I saw one of our neighborhood feral kittens was hit by a car and killed. The saddest part was that where it was lying meant that the cat could only have been killed on purpose, which makes me glad I’ll be out of this neighborhood in a few months. Who the fuck goes out of their way to crush a kitten’s skull. It was our only girl kitten too, meaning this year there won’t be a little of kitten in our shed. I have to admit when I first saw it my first thought was, “Please don’t let it be Ninja Kitten” who is the tamest of the kittens and keeps getting into our house and wanting to be a domestic cat. Still, there’s only two cats left from the litter before this one and this is the first casuality for this group which is something.

Poor little feral cats.

Saturday, Kim, Lewis, Bryan, Myself and a friend of Kim’s whose name I have already forgotten went to the GreenExpo and then went for a hike in Seneca. This was a lot of fun and I walked away with a ton of free stuff, which is never a bad thing. The best was a spicy vegan cookbook. Of course those recipes need delicious meat, but hey!

Work is good, DHGF is calming down but still not to the point where I can be hands off for a bit, and social life is finally being allowed to be active again while old job is still needing my help from time to time. Huzzah.

DVD of the Day #89 - Satanic

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Another day, another bad horror movie. To be honest, this wasn’t THAT bad, but it still wasn’t that good. From the name you’re probably expecting an over the top horror film involving demons, but what you actually get is a murder mystery with a hint of possible supernatural activity and a whole lot of attractive batshit crazy ladies.

The plot is kind of neat. A girl named Michelle awakens after a car accident that killed her father and left her so hideously injured, they had to rebuild her face from scratch. After months in a hospital, Michelle is finally healed up and ready to go to a halfway house (as she is now an orphan) filled with though love wacky Christians and naughty rebellious teens. Although Michelle is sweet and demure, she discovers an Ouija board inked in human blood and starts to have flashbacks of gruesome deaths, possibly murdering a young girl name Kayla, and a lot of devil worship. Although she can’t remember or even believe that she would ever do these things, the proof is undeniable that she was a rather naughty lass. Then one by one, people around Michelle begins to die.

As Michelle tries to figure out why these people are dying we’re given a wacky revelation about who she is and more importantly, who is doing the killing in a nice little twist that makes the movie worth watching. However this enjoyment is soon cut short by a very insipid ending which is also quite abrupt. The movie does sport a nice little cameo from Jeffery Combs, which is actually why I chose to watch this. A supporting actress role goes to Eliza Swenson, who was the stripper in the softcorn porno Pineapple I review 22 days ago. yes, we see naughty bits again from her.

In the end this movie was a slightly better than expected low budget thriller that had a neat story, but due to the plot rest on one particular gimmick, it’s not worth watching a second time. The acting is mediocre at best, and you can definitely tell why none of these actors save Combs has ever done anything major, but then this was a 1 day paycheck with 5 minutes of screen time for him where everyone else was considering this a “big break.” I’ve reviewed far worse movies over the past three months, and though I can’t recommend this for a purchase, I can recommend it for a rental or a one-time viewing for those of you who like thrillers or outside the box horror films.

No demons or satanic monsters though. Just a head’s up.

Is It Worth Keeping? No, but it was worth watching.
Rating: 4/10

DVD of the Day #88 - In Search Of Lovecraft

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Ah my two weaknesses wrapped into one -Indie Horror and Lovecraft. When will I ever learn that the two combined is generally shitastic?

In Search of Lovecraft has a decent plot ruined by a low budget and some of the worst acting you will see outside of a high school drama class. The premise is that a young cub reporter trying to make it big has been stuck with a fluff tv news piece about Lovecraft. In trying to make the story the best she can, she ends up encountered a few peopl who believe the Mythos is real and that, much like how Cthulhu spoke to Lovecraft’s characters in their dreams, Lovecraft too was touched by the Great Old One through his sleep. This is a neat idea as HPL freely admitted he dreamt his characters and was told in them how to pronounce the names of his creatures. Again, good concept that ties in reality with a nice fictional what if.

However, every single actor in this movie is god awful, the special effects are hilarious bad, and things make little to no sense. These range from Mike the cameraman getting a war background three quarters of the way through the movie and then coming down with something akin to Desert Storm Syndrome before blowing his brains out. There’s an awful Nyarlathotep in black face, a hilarious cult and a lot of dialogue that is made even worse by the actors who can’t speak a single line in a relaistic tone or with any proper delivery. Thank sweet baby Christ that this thing was only ten dollars.

As you might imagine the more the main character (Rebecca Marsh - OH NO LAST NAME IZ SPOILERZ) gets to the the real life Mythos cult, the weirder her life starts to become and the more strange unexplicable horrors begin to intrude upon her mundane world. Oh, also something invisible eats her catholic schoolgirl intern who is such a bad actress that she needs to have her jaw removed so she can never be in another film that involves speaking again. There’s also ex Playboy model Rachael Robbins as a witch who doubles as an expert on the Cthulhu Mythos who gives a laughingly bad performance.

I wish I could say that there is something good about this film, but I can’t. The camerawork is awful, the special effects are awful, the acting is GOD AWFUL, and the plot has that germ of greatness but that germ is extinguished by everything else that is In Search Of Lovecraft. Seriously this is not MST3K bad, this is so bad that Kevin Murphy wouldn’t watch this with me even if I gave him a pound of cheese filled tater tots.

I feel bad because you can tell the people behind this film wanted to really make something that honoured Lovecraft. However, there are a lot of indie low budget films that do the Mythos justice and you can find them for sale at lurkerfilms.com

Here’s just one example of a nice hilarious short:

So yeah, even at ten dollars, In Search of Lovecraft is only worth viewing if you are a diehard Lovecraft fan who owns multiple versions of Lurker in the Lobby.

Is It Worth Keeping? No.
Rating: 2/10

DVD of the Day #87 - Royal Space Force - The Wings of Honneamise (Blu-Ray)

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Well, I finally got my hands on this. It’s one of the rarest and most expensive Hi-Definition DVD’s ever. Currently the Blu-Ray Version sells for $60 and the HDDVD version goes for $72. Thankfully I got it new and sealed off Ebay for $30.

I have to tell you, it wasn’t even worth that.

Made by GAINAX along with another trite and vastly overrated little number called Neon Genesis Evangelion, Royal Space Force is long, boring, lacking any real character development and just plain sucks. The movie is two hours of nothing but a cast of vapid two dimensional characters on an alien world with the plot revolving around an attempt to blast off into space for the first time.

The main character is Shirotsugh Lhadatt, and you never learn anything about him save for his desire to go into space and his volunteering to be the first astronaut after meeting up with a religious fanatic named Riquinni. After the announcement of the first pending manned spaceflight, Lhadatt becomes something of a celebrity and finds himself achieving his dream but for the wrong reasons. Then, he blasts off into space anyway. The end.

yes, that’s really the plot and yes it’s really that boring. It’s literaly two hours of nothing happening and a complete lack of plot progression. It was like watching The Hills but without the comedy of how bad that show is.

Royal Space Force seems to be random events just stuck together and thrown at the wall in a vain attempt of making a movie that has any real substance. Not only are characters lacking any depth, but random things happen that are totally batshit, and then things go back to normal as if they never happened. No this is not an attempt at surreality or even existentialism - it’s just plain bad writing and stupid plot devices. A great example of this is the relationship between Lhadatt and Riquinni. They hang out and get emotionally close, but then out of nowhere Lhadatt tried to rape her, ripping her closes offf, grabbing her boobies and forces her into sex while she screams, cries, and begs for him to stop. Then she hits him on the head with a foreign object, knocking him out cold and the scene ends. The next morning Lhadatt apologizes and she apologizes back and things go back to normal. It’s just plain stupid on every level I can describe a film as being stupid.

This is a movie to avoid on all levels save for people who collect things simply for the sake of collecting. I’d trade it in if it a) wasn’t so hard to find or B) I could find someone willing to pay what I paid for this.

Is It Worth Keeping: No, but I will since it is out of print and I can eventually get my money back for this piece of crap
Rating: 3/10

DVD of the Day #86 - The Professional

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Golgo 13 is the greatest bad ass ever to come out of Japanese literature. He makes Jason Bourne and James Bond look like total pussies. He gets more tail than Wilt Chamberlain. He is a completely amoral bad ass that remains one of the biggest icons in Japanese pop culture. They have made two live action films (Starring Sonny Chiba), two animated films and currently an animated TV series about this Legendary assassin, and this film, The Professional remains the greatest of them all, and arguably the best straight up animated action anime flick of all time.

Warning - there is not even the slightest bit of happiness in this film. It is dark, it is morbid, it is depressing, it is violent far beyond what was acceptable in early 1980’s America, and it is mothering fucking awesome. Oddly enough the weakest link in the movie is Duke (Golgo 13) himself as he has no real character development, which makes sense as he is an emotionless killing machine. It’s the cast of minor characters, supporting aides and antagonists that make the movie, and make it exceptionally well done. Sure there are some over the top crazy bits, like the origin of the killing team Gold and Silver (Think Battle Royale but MUCH MUCH MUCH darker), but everything is within the realm of beliveability and it’s also the earliest Anime film to use CGI, which gives it another footnote in history. Also of note is the fact that even though this is an animated film, The Professional is often cited by film historians as being a huge influence on Western live action shoot ‘em up films. Tres impressive.

The plot of The Professional is a very deep and complex one. On his 62nd birthday, the richest man in the world, Leonard Dawson, is about to turn his company over to his son Robert. At the ceremony on a yacht, right as Robert takes control, he is shot with a single bullet in the skull and dies instantly. This was the work of Golgo 13. Leonard Dawson vows revenge and using his billions of dollars actually recruits members of the army, CIA, and FBI to track down and kill Golgo 13 in between, or even during, his assignments. They also start targeting Duke’s friends and co-workers in an attempt to weaken him. It’s pretty brutal and the lengths that Leonard is willing to go to are utterly batshit, including giving his daughter in law as rape payment to an assassin who wants her instead of money. The Professional while animated is a great look at how depraved some people can be, and the film is made that much stronger by its excellent voice acting cast which makes me miss the old Streamline Pictures and their fun Americanized dubs that were sometimes better than the original Japanese voice acting casts and scripts.

In all, this is one of, if not my favorite anime movies of all time, and I can’t believe I got it for only two bucks, especially as it’s been out of print for a while. If you like anime, action films, the old Golgo 13 NES games (Top Secret and The Mafat Conspiracy), then you need to see this. It’s a classic that has aged surprisingly well save for the very outdated CGI bits.

Is It Worth Keeping? Yes.
Rating: 9/10

Hey, Actual Personal Content For Once!

Friday, March 27th, 2009

It’s been a long time since I wrote about anything besides movies and games here. No longer! I actually have time now that Pokemon week is done, some of my staff are editing and I’m not working several jobs at once…mostly.

Last Friday evening I went to Mel and Kev’s party and played designated sober lad for people. Duties including picking people up off the floor, talking about Pokemon (as there were a strangely inordinate amount of people who liked Pokemon there) and driving Heather and Vlad home.

Saturday I went apartment/house shopping. I’ve found two places I like - one in Mount Rainier and the other here in Shirlington. The one in Shirlington is $400 a month more, but it has a balcony and a gym and it’s right off the metro rather than 1.5 miles away. Location plus amenities make up for the cost, but we’ll see closer to September.

The rest of this week has been writing Pokemon columns for Beckett, Pokemon columns for DHGF, Pokemon material for Pokemon, two reviews (About to start VP3) and getting adjusted to the new job.

I’m enjoying the new job so far although it’s been mostly training and I can’t actually do anything I need to until next week and the week after, which is a bit pants. However my boss agrees, but it’s the structure of the organization. Still, everyone is really nice and I’ve already made a few advancements. Plus it’s kind of neat having an office in an old cathedral. Being next to Nando’s helps a lot too.

My old job lasted 2.5 days without me. Weds I recieved half a dozen calls asking me for help and to come in. However the heads of NTN had them take me off the system so I couldn’t log in remotely. Considering I charge $50/hour for consulting/IT Work, what could have been a fifteen minute fix became a two hour fix due to driving there and having to do it in person and everyone wanting to say hi and “come back.” Eh. Easy c-note I suppose.

This morning I walked down to the Metro, realized I left my book with my SmartTrip card in it at home and had to walk all the way back up the hill and thankfully Heather and Vlad gave me a ride to pentagon City since Heather uses the metro as well. I made it just in time. Sweet.

Thankfully April will be an easy month. I have like three reviews and all of them are portable games. However, Demon’s Souls arrived from Japan so I’ll probably want to review that eventually as well. I need to finish off Legends of Wrestlemania though. I’m so close to finally getting a Platinum trophy.

Tomorrow I’m off to Gathersberg to the Green Expo with Kim. Here’s hoping it’s fun!

So that’s been my week. Busy busy busy.

Review #264

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Legends of Wrestlemania
Developer: Yukes
Publisher: THQ
Genre: Wrestling
Release Date: 03/24/2009

Hey, kids! Remember when wrestling used to be fun? When angles simmered for four to six, really allowing them to build? Remember when Wrestlemania wasn’t a throw away card put together at the last second and both world title matches revolved around the champion’s wives? Remember when wrestling wasn’t scripted by Vince Russo?

Well, that’s what Legends of Wrestlemania is all about. With drastically changed gameplay from the Smackdown Vs. Raw series and a roster of people who, in real life, are either dead or over the hill, LoW promised to be a harkening back to the golden days of the WWF from Wrestlemanias I – XXV.

Of course I haven’t been a fan of THQ wrestling games in a long time. 2k6 was the best the had been in years and it was followed by a few more years of mediocrity. Then there was TNA Impact which made me long for WCW Thunder and WWF Wrestlemania XXI. Still, I had fun with the demo, so I decided to review Legends of Wrestlemania in hopes that after three and a half years, I was in for a decent wrestling game. Besides there’s only so long I can play 2k6 with CAWS like La Parka, Jushin Liger and Ultimo Dragon without wishing for next-gen graphics.
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DVD of the Day #85 - Beneath Still Waters

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

I actually picked this up off of Swapadvd.com because I saw the preview for it before some other horror movie. I think it was Midnight Meat Train. As soon as I saw Brian Yunza’s name, I was sure the film was going to be entertaining. After all he helped five us Re-Animator, Dagon, Warlock, and From Beyond. Of course he’s also given us The Dentist, Necronomicon, and the fourth and fifth installments of Silent Night, Deadly Night (Although you need to see the first two. Seriously! They’re hilarious. “IT’S GARBAGE DAY!”). But hey, I had about 20+ credits still left on the site and they had a single copy, so I took the plunge BENEATH STILL WATERS. See how I did that?

Sadly, I wish I’d stayed far away from this film as the premise was actually really good, but the execution? Not so much.

The plot revolves around two towns and a dam. One town is a happy little Spanish village. The other is filled with satanic sex crazed cannibals. The happy town, in order to keep from being killed and eaten, blows up their dam with the intent of flooding and drowning the other town. Before they succeed though, two stupid little boys, unware of their neighbors being the Castillian Soddom and Gommorah accidentally slightly free the high priest of evil in the second town, allowing his spirit to become some all powerful ghostly demon thing (that still looks human) and vow revenge on the do-gooders…who just commited genocide, so really, are they do-gooders?

Flash forward to forty years later where the ghost-demon Satanist returns (Also, I should point out he looks eerily like the tall man from Phantasm which was cool). As the demon grows in power, people get possesed, the dead beneath the lake rise to eat the living in strange and gorey forms, lots of people die, lots more become corrupted and engage in rape, sodomy, orgies and acts of psychotic behavior. The eventual goal of the evil one is to turn the townsfolk into the same corrupt villagers that were drowned four decades ago, and then to burst the damn, killing them all. With the help of a young girl, who is the grandaughter of the mayor who ordered the damn to be broken, one of the young boys who set the evil dude free (now all grown up and craaaaaazy) and a few others, they attempt to defeat the evil and burn what appears to be the Necronomicon which will dispel the spirit. In the end, the good guys win, but just not really, as it wouldn’t be a horror movie without a swerve. The evil guy possesses a slightly retarded boy and uses some newfound psychic powers to explode athe damn anyway. Cut to the dam and the sound of people screaming. The end.

Like I said, the premise wasn’t bad, but the awful acting job and the stupid ending killed the film for me. The was also just random monsters and sex for the sake of having both, although neither contributed to the plot. But then, that’s a Yunza film for you.

Lots of potential, but the execution fell short of all that this movie could have been.

Is It Worth Keeping? No
Rating: 3/10