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Archive for May, 2009

DVD of the Day #144 - Y’s Book One

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

I loved the original Ys for the Turbo-Grafx 16. It’s such a fun video game and I have great memories of playing it. Unfortunately I played the remake a few months ago and I was very disappointed. When I saw the first DVD of the anime on swapadvd.com, I decided to pick it up in hopes it would be better than the video game for the Nintendo DS.

Hurrah! it was. In fact, the anime follows the plot of the video games almost to a T. It even gives us a a bit of back story of Adol’s life from before he washes up on the shores of Esteria when the video game opens. For those unaware of Y’s (Pronounced YEES), This is the story of Adol Christen, a young man whose destiny is to save the kingdom of Esteria from a strange plague of monsters sweeping the lands. In order to uncover both the source and cure for this malady, Adol must collect the six ancient books of Ys, a magical kingdom of great power that fell to ruin long ago and to which mankind only remembered through the name and rumours. Can Adol save the Esteria, or will he and his friends fall?

Ys: Book One isn’t that great of an anime, even though it does do the source material proud. the acting is a bit week and the script is stilted. However, it was fun to see things play out exactly as I remebered. Even better, the menus and features are set up to resemble the old TG-16 game and this was a nice bit of nostalgia for those that have played the games. Although really, what would make you pick up this anime if you weren’t a fan already?

The animation seems quite old. In fact, it’s from 1990! Wow. I’m sad to say that the animation and overall art work just hasn’t aged that well. Again, long time fans of Ys will probably have a few whistful moments, but even then you’ll be a bit underwhelmed with the overall appearance of the series.

I’m glad I saw it if only to say I saw it. However, I can’t recommend it.

Is It Worth Keeping? No.
Rating: 4/10

Review #279

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Steal Princess
Developer:
Publisher: Atlus USA
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 05/21/2009

Ah, Climax. It’s a bit sad when your best contribution to gaming was helping Sonic Software Planning aka Camelot create Shining in the Darkness. Of course that’s not saying that Climax hasn’t made a few good games over the years. I enjoyed Dark Saviour for what it was and Landstalker was a fun game. I own Time Stalkers but I have yet to actually play it. Over the past decade though, Climax has been mostly silent. When they’ve actually released a product it’s been mediocre at best. Which of course brings us to Steal Princess. On one hand, I generally dislike platformers. On the other? Steal Princess appeared to be that magic mix of puzzle and platformer that made me love The Adventures of Lolo when I was a lad, so I decided to give this latest Climax game a try.

So has Atlus USA brought a hidden gem to our fair shores, or does Steal Princess continue Climax’s “decade of suck” streak?
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DVD of the Day #143 - Troy: Director’s Cut (HD DVD)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Wow, I didn’t think I’d be reviewing another HD DVD again, but this showed up on Swapadvd.com, so I decided to grab it. I’m a big fan of the Illiad, but I hesitated to see this in the theatres, knowing that I would nitpick the crap of of this. As the movie was a free HD DVD, I turned out to find Troy a nice little surprise that was well acted thanks to a large ensemble cast of awesome actors.

What surprised me the most was that the script stuck pretty closely to the Illiad save for a removal of the Gods as real life forces. There were references to the gods of Greece, but they are treated like how we in modern times view gods rather that being an active force in every day life.

If I need to explain the plot of the Illiad to any of my readers, I’m going to feel very sad. I mean, this is the story of Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships. it’s the story of Sparta Vs. Troy. The adventures of Agammemnon, Achillies, Odysseus, Hector, Priam and more. It’s the story of the Trojan Horse for crying out loud. The Illiad is one of the most famous stories ever told, and although it has been Hollywood-ized, this film actually does justice to the works of Homer and I would actually have loved to see a sequel about the Odyssey, especially with Sean Bean as Odyssesy. “One does not simply WALK into Ithaca.”

Such a great cast. Brian Cox as Agammemnon is awesome, although he will forever be the chief of police in Super Troopers to me. “No Priam, like the time we caught you fucking your cousin embarassed.” Eric Bana was the big surprise. He was amazing as Hector and yet so awful as Bruce Banner in the crappy Hulk movie. Of course Orlando Bloom was probably the weak point of the cast. He was awful as Paris, and he was such a sniveling coward that you can’t understand for a second why Helen would love this man. Bloom was so bad at acting here that you have wonder why Troy didn’t kick this guy out rather than letting everyone get slaughtered.

High-definition really brings out the true quality of this film. The special effects, sword fights, and detail that went into the sacking of Troy were simply amazing. This film would have been worth watching just for the visuals. The acting and script just topped it off. Troy ended up being one of those films I enjoyed even though I went in with very low expectations. Even though the film was a hair over three hours, it’s certainly one I would happily watch again.

Is It Worth Keeping? Yes.
Rating: 7/10

DVD of the Day #142 - Crowley

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Wow, this was a weird movie. Fun, mind you, but weird nonetheless.

Written by Iron Maiden and cowbell loving musician BRUCE DICKINSON, this movie involves, alternate realities, quantum physics, and posession. It’s a well acted acted movie and it has some great costuming and visuals, but trying to describe this plot is a bit baffling.

Basically an American and some Brits build a virtual reality machine. This stuttering oaf of a professor goes into the machine and ends up being possessed by the soul, or a computer program that mimicks the personality and teachings, of Aleister Crowley, aka the Great Beast or the leader of the Heremtic Order of the Golden Dawn. What follows if the Professor mimicking Crowley as he was nearly half a century ago, complete with murders, magic, orgie, and mayhem. Crowley’s plan is to enact a magical spell that will plunge the world into darkness, evil and overall strife. The key…the 2000 United States Presidentail Election. Crowley will use his magic to influence the result which is bound to be close. Only the last two disciples of Crowley and thhe American who built the machine can hope to stop him.

The neat thing is that they don’t stop Crowley. Instead, through the virtual reality machine, all they do is create an alternative universe/timeline where Crowley is successful. Pity those poor people in that alternate universe where GEORGE W. BUSH DEFEATS AL GORE. Ho ho ho. See, our reality is the bad one and the movie is the good one with president Al Gore. Witty political commentary.

Like I said, this is one weird film. Simon Callow does an amazing job as Crowley and it’s worth watching the movie just for his perfomance. The rest of the cast are unknowns, but they still do a fun job. I’m not sure who would really enjoy this movie aside from those truly familiar with Crowley’s wacky Victorian antics, as the movie requires (and expects) you to know a lot about this real life would-be anti-Christ figure. Still, for those that are, you’re in for an amusing, albeit it over the top and totally batshit insane film.

Is It Worth keeping? No, but it was worth watching.
Rating: 5.5/10

Review #278

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Gunbird 2
Developer: Psikyo
Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Vertical Shooter
Release Date : 11/17/2000

Ah Psikyo. This is the second of your games to be featured here in the 30 Days of Dreamcast feature. It’s another shooter, but unlike Cannon Spike and its Smash TV style gameplay, Gunbird 2 is a classic old school vertical scrolling shooter filled with seven levels of bullets, bombs and…cyber pirates? It also has an Alucard (although not the character from Castlevania and Morrigan from Darkstalkers (who also appeared in the recently published Cross Edge as well).

Does Gunbird 2 still hold up nine years later? Let’s take a look.
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DVD of the Day #141 - Laid To Rest

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Laid To Rest is one of those films I agreed to review for Amazon.com in one of their usual “We send you free stuff, and you’ll review it.” Here now is that review

Laid To Rest was an interesting film. For everything I really liked about it, there was something that took me completely out of it…or outright made me laugh.

Good: I loved the killings. Each death was brutal, gorey and very well done. This is not a movie for the squeamish and I was quite impressed with the realism and tone of the violence.

BAD: Inconsistency. A great example is that one knife used by the killer slice a man’s head in twain with one stroke. Later in the movie that same knife has to saw through a person’s neck. Okay then.

Good: The acting. The overall cast does a fine job portraying fear, confusion, and even a bit of jovialness in the face of certain doom. Everyone did a nice job, which is a surprise for both a low budget horror and a direct to video piece.

Bad: The Dialogue. The Girl (played by ex WWE Diva Search contestant Bobbie Sue Luther) did a fine job acting, but her overall performance by stilted by the script she had to work with. At times, she comes off mentally retarded because of the lines she has to spew out. There’s a lot of poorly written dialogue in this, but thankfully the actors make it work the best they can.

Good: Cinematography. I really liked how this movie was shot, from specific camera angles to the occasional clipping or the pacing of how one shot is held until the next.

Bad: Stupid stupid stupid decisions. If you are being chased by a crazy unstoppable killer, why would you stop the car repeatedly to check things out that don’t really matter. A lot of the plot is ham-fisted together with actions that just don’t fit - especially since the characters keep repeating them, and each time they do, someone dies horribly.

Good: No hand holding. A lot of American horror holds you hand through the entire film, giving you everyone’s back story, reasons for why specific people are targeted and an in-depth look at the killer. Everything is explained. Not here. You only learn a little about the main character at the very end of the film (And to be honest, I wish this had been left out as it’s not very good.), but you never learn the motivations of the killer, why he is doing this, why is he targeting specific people, why he kills over half a dozen people to get to The Girl, why he uses a video camera that still takes tape even though everything else at his disposal is highly advanced tech compared to what is readily available in the film. You are left asking questions, but in a good way. Sometimes there is no reason to madness nor any understanding of why sick, tragic events occur. Laid to Rest does a good job with this.

Bad: The killer. A lot of horror movie characters have stupid names for characters. In this case, we have CHROMESKULL. Wow is that bad. However we also have characters named Pinhead (from the Hellraiser franchise) for example, which is another stupid name. However a bad name can actually become a good one if the bad guy looks menancing and is well acted. Doug Bradley is amazing as Pinhead and he’s one of the best looking monsters in horror, so he makes the name work.

Chrome Skull on the other hand is so laughably awful looking that he becomes the single biggest issue with the movie. His mask is literally a chrome faceplate designed to look like a skull. On paper this may sound good, but in the actual film is is so awful looking that you can’t help but laugh several times throughout the film Honestly it looks more like something someone would wear to a bad rave. Even worse is the shoulder mounted video camera he has on him. I don’t know, maybe someone remembers when the Borg in ST: TNG had something attached to their shoulder or head emitting a red light for tracking/viewing purposes, but Chrome Skull is even harder to take serious with a shoulder mounted video camera.

The actor did a fine job as our mute antagonist, but the overall design and visuals for the character (complete with the box logo tattooed on his chest) constantly drew me out of the film and caused me to laugh where just moments before I was saying, “Oh ^&$*, that was an awesome death scene.”

Good: The extra features. I enjoyed the blooper real a lot, especially the look at filming the climatic death scene in the movie. It was really amusing and a lot of fun. There are also two documentaries on the making of this film, both of which are worth a look.

Bad: The ending. Laid To Rest sports the worst death of the antagonist I think I’ve ever seen in a film. It’s just flat out stupid. It has a nice visual and the special effects are quite well done for an indie film, but wow do you walk away saying, “THAT was the climax? Lame lame lame.”

Overall, I give this film a thumbs in the middle because I really am on the fence as to whether I liked it or not. This looked and felt good enough to be a theatrical release, and I enjoyed the film enough to pick up the director’s first film [[ASIN:B0009PVZHS Lightning Bug]] from a dvd swapping website right after watching this. In that respect the film did it’s job I suppose. Laid To Rest ended up being much better than I had expected and I’m sure I’ll end up watching it again down the road.

Is It Worth Keeping? No, but it was worth watching
Rating:: 5.5/10

DVD of the Day #140 - Crank

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

You know. I never had any interest in seeing Crank until I saw the Trailer for Crank 2. It looks so over the top that I assumed it HAD to be a parody of action films. None could be that stupid and take itself seriously, could it? With that in mind I decided to see the first Crank via swapadvd.com.

Wow. This was not good. I mean, it wasn’t bad, especially for a Jason Statham movie. However it was not at all like I was hoping. Sure there were a few moments of irony comedy, but for the most part it was a bad action movie that took itself far too seriously. Worst of all, I was expecting a high octane fast paced movie full of nonstop violence. Oddly enough, Crank was actually kind of slow for an action film and none of the violence or shoot ‘em up sequences were that impressive or original. it was just a dull generic action film hinging on a really bad plot point.

Jason Statham plays Chen Chelios who has been poisoned with a substance referred to as “that Chinese shit” that cuts off endorphins and eventually causes your heart to stop beating. They only way Chev can stay alive long enough to get revenge on the criminals that poisoned him is you constantly do adrenaline raising activities so his heart keeps beating. However, none of these activities are that interesting. Driving really fast. Punching some black guys. Driving really fast again. Drinking a lot of red bull and inhaling nasal spray. Having sex in Chinatown. Really the only interesting sequence was driving his car through a mall or trying to get adrenaline shots from a hospital. Even then this movie was too tame and unimaginative. There are a lot of crazy things they could have done here, but alas, they didn’t.

Of course Chev gets his revenge, but the end of the movie is so fucking stupid that it ruins the few good points in the film, most of which center around some quick takes and wacky cinematography. Let’s just say there is no possible way the fi;m could end the way it does with a body being intact rather than instantly pulped. Such a horrible and stupdi ending.

Crank is sort of the film that I guess appeals to people who just want something pretty generic with their action movies. It lacks the wit of the Die Hard franchise, the over the top zaniness of Shoot ‘Em Up and has no real character development or substance. In a genre known for bad movies, Crank isn’t even bad - it’s just dulla nd boring, which is the worst sin a fi;m from this genre can commit. I’ve never had an action movie bore me this badly before.

Is It Worth Keeping? No
Rating: 3/10

Blu-Ray Vs. HD DVD

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Okay. At this moment I now have 31 HDVD’s and 31 Blu-Ray discs. Actually I have 32 but I’m ignoring Royal Space Force as that anime is super shitty and I own it only because it’s so damn expensive and I want to sell it eventually.

Anyway, here’s the list of each. Which set do you think is better. I figure it’s time for one last format battle. As Blu-Ray has remained around for about a year longer the collection there might be at an advantage, but it’s all taste (or potentially lack thereof in my case). I should also point out that I’ve only paid full price for a fraction of these. Most were free, drastically reduced in price, bought with Amazon gift certificates or trades on swapadvd.com

Blu-Ray
1. Amadeus
2. Beerfest
3. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
4. The Dark Knight
5. Dead Space
6. Enchanted
7. Evil Dead II
8. The Fifth Element
9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
10. Hellboy
11. I’Immortal
12. The Incredible Hulk
13. Iron man
14. Life of Brian
15. The Magic Flute (Mozart, not Smurfs)
16. National Treasure
17. National Treasure 2
18. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
19. Paprika
20. Paris Je T’aime
21. Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End
22. Planet Earth
23. Postal
24. The Punisher
25. Shoot ‘Em Up
26. The Signal
27. Transformers: The Movie (animated)
28. Tropic Thunder
29. War Inc.
30. The X-Files: I want to Believe
31. Young Frankenstein

HD-DVD (Combo Format)
1. An American Werewolf in London
2. Appleseed: Ex Machina
3. Army of Darkness
4. The Bourne Ultimatium
5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
6. Hot Fuzz
7. Justice League: The New Frontier
8. No Reservations
9. Ocean’s Thirteen

HD-DVD
10. Blade Runner: Complete Collector’s Edition
11. The Bourne Identity
12. The Bourne Supremecy
13. Constantine
14. Darkman
15. Dawn of the Dead
16. DOOM
17. The Frighteners
18. Full Metal Jacket
19. Galapagos
20. Happy Gilmore
21. The Itallian Job
22. Lucky # Slevin
23. One Six Right
24. Relentless Enemies
25. The Skeleton Key
26. Smokey and the Bandit
27. Stardust
28. The Thing
29. Transformers (Richard Bey)
30. Troy
31. Aeon Flux

Looking at this list, there are certainly some from each I could get rid of…

My Trip to the Doctor

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I generally don’t like going to the doctor. This is because I generally here one of two things. “Oh my god you’re perfect.” or “OH MY GOD IT IS AGAINST THE LAWS OF NATURE THAT YOU ARE ABLE TO WALK.” The former is because I take care of myself the latter is because of eight years of wrestling Greco, Collegiate and Steel Chair to the Head styles. I injured my back in college in a freaky way and yet felt perfectly fine and had full range of motion when I was told repeatedly that I should not. Then again, I’ve always been able defy genetics so why stop now, right?

Anyway, I stopped going to the doctor for physicals after my first day at XSYS (Which was like 3-4 years now) because I was sick of hearing about my spine and how it’s just not right.

Well a month ago I injured my spine exercising because I do way more than I should for a person who isn’t on either steroids or looking to be a professional booty kicker. I got up from my situps with a horrid pain in my back and when I went to shower, I saw three of my vertabrae were protrufing from my back and the skin was purplish-black and swollen. I assumed it was just a bruise and decided to not work out…as much…for the next month. To be honest I haven’t done sit ups in two weeks and my abs hate me for it. I feel like a fat bastard.

Anyway, the month anniversary of my injury came up and although the bruise is nearly gone and the swelling is reduced, it is still there. I decided to go in and have it look at as a just in case.

You know it is a bad sign when the you disrobe and a lady says, “Oh my god, I’ve never seen something like that before.” Well, it would be a good sign if it was my pants be taken off…

Anyway, my doctor was shocked that it didn’t hurt and even more shocked that I had full range of motion and flexability, down to being able to stand on one leg while holding the other in my arm and touching my foot with my free arm. The doctor agreed it was probably just a muscle bruise but was still confused as to why the three bruise marks were perfectly around my spine. Her theory was that because my abdominal and back muscles are over developed, the internal brusing causes that bit of my spine to push out a bit more. So she asked if I wouldn’t mind being x-rayed. I said sure, because after all, it’s been 11-12 years since my back injury. it would do good to see what discs have degenerated, burst, or herninated.

Well this led to a brief bit of comedy. You know those paper robes they give you for x-raying. Well, this was mini-skirt length, meaning it came down to halfways down my thighs.

This meant my back sack was ever so slightly hanging out from the robe. This presented a problem getting me from the changing room to the x-ray room because an entire waiting room would have to see my hairy sac. I tried cupping it and holding it with my thighs, but I took like three steps and the head of my penis broke through the robe. It’s like the alien in Spaceballs peaking out to say hello to this middle aged black nurse. Now we all know I have no problem with exhibitionism, but I have to admit, this was a wee bit embarassing. FInally I got a second paper robe and they found a bathrobe to put me in. Seriously, do they not make x-ray robes that cover a man’s genitals?

Anyway, they took about a half dozen x-rays from my back and the results were….amazing.

Basically over the 12 years my spine has somewhat fixed itself thanks to the over-development of my back muscles and abs. All of the discs are in amazing shape and you could never tell I was injured… except for the fact that my spine no longer has a curve to it. It is perfectly straight, being held together by my exercise obsession and the only way my back could heal. The doctor described it as reverse scoliosis. Now this does mean I have the best posture on the planet, but it also means that this is my my migranes last for 24 hours plus when they hit. When my muscles seize up from the pain, it puts pressure on the spine and the nerves there, which makes everything that much worse. Oy.

Even weirded is that before I went in, I noticed I had two deep groves above and below my injury and that freaked me out a bit. I asked my I had such a crazy large indentation there and I was informed that those large gaps are normal. In fact, that those are the only gaps on my spine that are normal. The gaps between each vertabrae on me are ,uck smaller than they should be, which again appears to have been my body’s way of coping with injury and my muscle development. Interesting note, if my spinal spacing was normal, I’d be two inches taller. Crazy.

So that was my day. My spine is better and yet worse than I thought it was and thankfully all I have is a bruise. I’m not supposed to exercise for another month, which is hilarious as she said that once I’m better I can go back to doing like a mile jog or a few dozen situps/pushups. I was like, “Ummm, Doc, that’s less than what I do now even injured.” Whoops.
So hooray. I’ve got a pretty good indication that things are pretty spiffy and that for the most part, my body is just fine. it just needs a bit of rest. Thank god I’m not in that awful Neighbor to Nation desk chair and I’ll never do 1,000 situps on a concrete floor without a mat ever again. The end.

DVD of the Day #139 - Die Zauberflote (Blu-Ray)

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Better known to English speakers as The Magic Flute. I’ve heard for years that this 2003 Royal Opera House production at Covent Gardens is supposed the best recorded performance of the Magic Flute ever. Naturally I’ve always wanted to check it out, but these Opus Arte DVD’s are always so expensive. Finally I had an offer to get it for “only” $30 on Amazon for the Blu-Ray version. I used my $25 Amazon gift certificate and decided to bite the bullet.

Well, I have to say, the production really is the best version of The Magic Flute I have ever seen. The sets and costumes were brilliant, but the music. Oh the music. It’w ell known I love Mozart, but wow. I could have just closed my eyes and listened to this instead of watching it and it would have been just as amazing. I’ve never really used the Blu-Ray player specifically for High Definition audio before, but man, I really should be. This DVD is just amazing.

Like all performances of The Magic Flute, Papageno really steals the show. I love his songs and how funny the character is in his search for love. However, the opera really revolves around Tamino and his quest for Pamina, the daughter of the Queen of Night. It’s a wonderful story of love, magic, fantasy. My only problem is that it is over three hours long and I have a really hard time watching anything for that long. I’m not good at passive entertainment for that amount of time. I had to watch both acts on two consecutive days, even though I loved it.

After spending two days with this Opera, I really do feel it loves up to the hype. if you’ve never seen an opera and you’ve always been curious, Die Zauberflote is well worth the prioce if you have a Blu-Ray Player. It’s my favourite opera by Mozart (Followed by Don Giovanni) and this is easily the best rendition I’ve ever seen. What a wonderful introduction to not only Opera (Which is expensive as shit to see live) but Mozart’s last work before his demise.

Is It Worth Keeping? Yes.
Rating: 8/10


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