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Archive for June, 2009

Books Read 06/09

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

1. Sucks To Be Me by Kimberly Pauley

Another book I had to review for Amazon. This was a cute little written for teenage girls book about a teenage girl whose parents are vampires and she has to decide whether she wants to be mortal or undead. In spite of some erroneous folklore citation due to bad sourcing, the characters in the book are really cute and it’s a fun little YA book for a daughter, niece or whatever you might have. It’s more a romance/coming of age tale that happens to have vampires.

PAGE COUNT: 293

2. Johannes Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard

Another book I had to review for Amazon. This was a paint by numbers book about a guy who sold his soul to Satan and wants to get it back. It’s a cross between Faust and Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s written by the guy who did the script for the Broken Sword games. It’s a very gallows humour read but also quite dry in that British sort of way. Worth checking out when it hits book stores in mid July.

PAGE COUNT: 291

3. Are You Being Served by several people

This is a PBS book you got back in the day for donating money to public broadcasting. basically it’s a history of the TV show, an episode guide, and a biography on all the actors. A cute fluff little read I picked up for a dollar.

PAGE COUNT: 212

4. Eat My Globe by Simon Majumdar

Oh man, another book I had to review for Amazon. This was an awful globe trotting book about food. Majumdar is a pretty poor writer as it all writes like blog entries (which is what he is known for). The book is also borderline racist and does nothing but focus on the stereotypes of various cultures and foods. it also doesn’t help he sets back British food thirty or forty years by declaring premade Pork Pies that you can get at Tesco’s the best food in England. What a fucking dolt. Bad writing + racist brit + lack of any real knowledge of food = must pass.

PAGE COUNT: 279

5. There’s No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled

Anthology of Travel storys from Travelers’ Tales. It was okay, but also largely forgettable. Dave Barry is a shithead and the only pieces worth reading are two by Bill Bryson found in his other books.

PAGE COUNT: 184

Page Count for 06/2009: 1259
Page Count for 2009 so far: 8863

Three our of Five ain’t bad.

Review #289

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Atlus
Genre: Tactical RPG/Turn Based RPG Hybrid
Release Date: 06/24/2009

Once upon a time there was a video game series. This video game series called Shin Megami Tensei: Akuma Zensho AKA Devil Summoner. Now this Devil Summoner series had little in common with the Action RPG series on the PS2. No, this was another turn based Megaten spinoff series similar to Persona, except a little more Cyberpunk. DS was one of the more popular games for the Sega Saturn and one of the better Megaten titles in general. Its sequel, Soul Hackers was even better. Soul Hackers took place in the Japan of the (then) far future where all these computers were hooked up to a network and that most people took part in virtual cities and secondary lifes. Not a bad prediction for a game made in 1998. Anyway, your protagonist was an 18 year old hacker (Part of a group known as “The Spookies.”) and while hacking you discover a secret virtual city called Paradigm-X which has been made by a company called Algon Soft. Soul Hackers was a very Shadowrun-esque gamewhere your computer and its programs would allow you communication with various types of demons, new attacks, and so on. It was one of the most popular of all Megaten titles, and I still remember the holy hell that occurred when the game wasn’t brought over to the US after Atlus USA said it was going to be. There are several conflicting reasons as to why, but as that was a decade ago, let’s leave them in the past.

Devil Survivor is a spiritual successor to Soul Hackers as both games involve the Internet, using computer technology to summon demons as well as adjust powers and gain new skills for your human characters. Both also involve government conspiracies and have a great cast of characters. However, gameplay is quite different due to SH being a first person dungeon crawl and Devil Survivor being a Tactical RPG with Turn Based battles. Still, this is as close to Soul Hackers as we’ll ever get in English, so how does both the first Strategic RPG and the first Nintendo DS title in the Megaten franchise for North America fare?
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DVD #181 - Meet Bill

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

This is yet another Swapadvd.com freebie. I picked it up after seeing the trailer a few times on other DVD’s. I like Aaron Eckhard films (except Thank You For Smoking and Jessica Alba (who I usually don’t find attractive) is smoking in this so I decided to give it a try, I found myself actually really enjoying this thing. It’s a wonderful look at the one-two punch of a mid-life crisis and the realization that you are not who you wanted to be when you grew up.

Bill is an average guy married into an very unaverage family. His wife is the daughter of a bank comglomerate. Bill has a job of VP of Human Resources at the bank, meaning he’s a kept man by his father in law. He has a sweet tooth that is guaranteed to give him diabetes and he really wants to open a donut franchise. Why? We don’t know./ He just wants to get out from under the thumb of his father in law. He is also forced into mentoring a student at the local private school by the bank. Basically Bill hates his life. Then he learns his wife is cheating on him with the local anchorman and he kind of snaps. Bill’s student that he is mentoring, really likes Bill and so he tries to helping him out by enlisting the aid of his sort-of girlfriend (Played by Jessica Alba) who is a lingerie saleswoman. Together, the three of them cook up a scheme to fix Bill’s life, get his wife back and get revenge on the TV news dude.

The movie is funny, tragic and very much a black comedy. All the characters are very realistic, flawed and tragic. I felt bad for Bill and his wife, both of which are equally to blame is the destruction of their marriage and yet you can tell they still love each other. Sometimes, love isn’t enough to make a relationship work and people grow apart.

In the end, the film doesn’t have a happy ending. Bill doesn’t get the girl (either of them), he quits his job, and basically leaves everyone and everything in his previous life behind. Howeverm there’s a promise that there WILL be a happy ending that we don’t get to see as Bill tries to find himself and what truly makes him happy as a human being. Which of course, is the best possible ending for him.

Meet Bill is a sober and yet amusing look at what happens when you allow others to take control of your life or do the bare minimum to get by instead of making your life truly worth remembering. A neat little arthouse black comedy that I’m happy to have serendipitously found.

Is It Worth Keeping Yes
Rating: 6.5/10

Life Update

Monday, June 29th, 2009

As I get closer to moving into the new place (5-6 weeks), I’ve been really busy with writing, DHGF, work and life in general. It’s interesting how busy I am lately, yet none of it seems to be of any interest in regards to blogging about it.

Friday night Kim came down. This was the first time she’s actually been to my home area here in Shirlington. Usually I go up to PA or we meet in DC. She really loved the area and was ever so tempted to consider living there herself someday. We went to Aladdin’s Cafe for Lebanese food,w hich he had never had. Then it was off for a walk and then back to Busboys and Poets for coffee and dessert. Fun little evening. I’m glad she got to come down to DC.

Saturday I got a huge run in only to be felled with a migraine that killed me for the rest of the day. I still had it Sunday albeit it to a lesser degree and there’s still a dull ache behind my left eye and in my neck today but I’ve been able to work through it.

Played a lot of Devil Survivor and Crimson Gem Saga lately and both are contendors for my GOTY. Happy to see some truly good games actually coming out this year.

Sunday I ignored the migrane and jogged to the local Farmer’s Market and bought beans, buffalo half smokes (i’ve never had a half smoke) and some homemade Apple-Honey sorbet. Yum to all!

This week is pretty laid back. No real 4th of July plans.

DVD of the Day #180 The Blu-Ray Experience - Opera and Ballet (Blu-Ray)

Monday, June 29th, 2009

This was a seven dollar Blu-Ray sample I got off Amazon.com (I know. I actually PAID for a DVD for once!) Consider the opera Blu-ray discs from the BBC and Opus Arte are 25 dollars a pop, this was an awesome find. I get a selection from each of their DVD’s and I can decide what, if any, I want to add to my collection next. I’ve already cover The Magic Fluter that they put out, and although this is only fifty minutes long, it’s still an amazing price for a Blu-Ray diss - ESPECIALLY for an Opera or ballet disc.

There are thirteen different pieces on here that come from

Il trovatore
Swan Lake
Die Zauberflote (I already own this)
La Boheme
Carmen
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mendelssohn’s ballet)
Gianni Schicchi
Die Fledermaus
Zoroastre
La Cenerentola
Norma
Jewels
Cecilia & Bryne

After watching this I’m probably going to get Swan Lake, Midsummer’s and Die Fledermaus, even if it does seem a bit elitist to bad my collection with opera and ballet. What can I say? I enjoy both, even if it’s not cool or mainstream. Both are beautiful forms of art that everyone should see at least once in their lives. For seven dollars, this is a blu-ray purchase ANYONE with a blu-ray player really needs to get. It’s supporting the arts and high definition records of some of the best performances of these pieces EVER.

DVD of the Day #179 - Hellraiser: Deader

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I’m a big fan of the Hellraiser series. Even when the films get bad, Doug Bradley is fucking amazing as Pinhead. I also had a general rule going on with the films. The first two are amazing. The second two are awful. The fifth and sixth are quite good, so I always assumed the 7th and 8th were shite so I never bought them especially as the price has never gone down. It’s still 27 dollars years after it came out. INSANE. Anyway, I put this film on my Swapadvd.com wish list and although it took a year or so, it finally came up on the site. Of course I grabbed it.

Much like Hellraiser: Bloodlines which was hit with an Alan Smithee director (How can you fuck up Pinhead + Yunza? HOW?), Deader was originally a screenplay that wasn’t even remotely attached to the Hellraiser mythos. However someone somewhere thought the idea would fit in perfectly with the Mythos and so the last third of the script was rewritten to feature the cenobites and make the movie fit in the mythos’ continuity. What surprises me is that even though the film is a straight to DVD affair and a script re-write, that the eventual product is actually pretty interesting and enjoyable, even if it’s not as good as the last two psychological thrillers Hellraisers: Inferno and Hellseeker. Still, Hellworld sounds pretty freaking awful. I want to say just stick to 1,2,5,6, and 7, but 3 has some of Pinhead’s best lines and his origin story, while Bloodlines has the hellhound and Lemarchand. So yeah, just watch them all. Or just get the best bits of 3 & 4 off Youtube.

Deader stars Kari Wurher (who does not get naked in this film, for once) is a reporter named Amy who is tracking down a cult known as “The Deaders” who appear to be able to bring the dead back to life. Amy travels to Romania to find the cult and encounters far more than she expected. She finds a the corpse of the woman who sent her paper a videotape of the cult dead in a bathroom, holding a strange ornate box. From there Amy finds herself in a war between Hell and and life-in-death with the winner getting her soul and the loser getting eternal torment.

This is a fun little film that gives Pinhead more screentime than he had in the first Hellraiser and he’s got a lot of great lines. Much like the 1st, 5th and 6th Hellraiser films, Pinhead and the Cenobits are neither evil nor demons, but merely creatures beyond human understanding where they lurk in the further regions of experience.

It’s insane that a low budget horror film still costs $27 (and that’s on the cheap end), but for a freebie, this was a lot of fun and pretty unexpected as to how good it was. Don’t pay full retail price, but certainly check this out.

Is It Worth Keeping? Yes
Rating: 6/10

DVD of the Day #178 - Hitman: Unrated

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I’ve never played the Hitman video games, but this was another Swapadvd.com freebie and I haven’t watched a mindless action film in about two weeks (Highlander), so I thought I’d give this a try. You know? Much like Dead or Alive this was a pleasant surprise. It’s not as good as Mortal Kombat, but it’s a well done action film that is not only another chapter in the Hitman series, but people who didn’t even know this was a video game can watch it and have fun with it.

Agent 46 is from a secretive agency where selected children are raised from birth to be assassins. They have no names, only numbers, and exist only to serve the agency. In this film Agent 47 is asked to kill one of the heads of the former Soviet Union only to discover it was a set-up led by the premier’s body double. Now, with it appearing that Agent 47 has failed, the Russians, the CIA, and even 47’s own agency is after him. Armed with only two guns and a hooker, Agent 47 has to make his kill, clear his name and survive the hunt.

The movie is about two-thirds action and one-third political intrigue. I really enjoyed all of the actors in their various roles although 47 (played by Timothy Olyphant) was pretty wooden at times. There were a few strange plot points, with the big one being the four way agent dance involving swords, but for the most part this was pure fun and entertaining crap that actually tries to have a coherent plot most of the time. A fun and “mostly” solid

I enjoyed the film enough that I’ll hold on to it a while. I might watch it again down the road and change my mind, but for now, I know I wouldn’t mind seeing it again and that’s what counts.

Is It Worth Keeping? Yes
Rating: 5.5/10

DVD of the Day #177 - The Flash: The Complete Series

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Man I loved this show in 5th grade. Barry Allen was my favourite DC super hero after Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. I wasn’t happy with Iris being written out in the first episode, but wow! A live action TV show with superheroes. How cool is that.

Now it’s twenty years later and holy shit, has this not aged well. In fact it’s downright awful. The scripts are hammy, the special effects are cheesy, the the acting is wooden and the show really did deserve to be cancelled after a single season. The two best actors are John Wesley Shipp who plays Barry Allen/The Flash and Mark Hamill who plays The Trickster. In fact, the Trickster is the source material for Hamill’s eventual Joker in Batman: The Animated Series, right down to the laugh.

The series consists of twenty-two one hous episodes that revolve around The Fastest Man Alive fighting crime. Thankfully two other classic Flash villains like Captain Cold and Mirror Master show up, but they’re very different from the comic versions. The other episodes The Flash just fought normal criminals, which was a bit boring.

The tv series has little, if anything, to do with the comics. Most of the show is taken from early Wally West episodes rather than the classic Silver Age bits. As a little kid I was a bit put out as Wally was a REALLY boring Flash at that point. Now, I just find the show boring across the board. This is one of the problems with letting something sit for two decades. You build fond memories and find it just ages horribly.

Thankfully this was a Swapadvd.com freebie and even better, someone picked it up the second I put it back on the site. Huzzah.

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

Review #288

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Taito
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 06/15/2009

Okay, I’m a well known fan of Bubble Bobble and Puzzle Bobble AKA Bust-A-Move. Last year’s Bubble Bobble: Double Shot won our Puzzle Game of the Year award and the original is on the favourites list of nearly everyone on staff. In fact, when we used to do multi person awards, Bubble Bobble Old & New had the highest average score out of any game ever.

However, the Rainbow Island series has never gotten as much love - neither from my staff nor gamers in general. It’s kind of the dark sheep of the Taito family, but not deservedly so. People just like Bub and Bob as weird dinosaurs, not nerdy kids.

Now here we are with a new Rainbow Islands game for the Wiiware. It’s only eight dollars and Square-Enix was kind enough to provide me with a review copy code, so I decided to give the game a whirl. I’ve always loathed platformers, but I’ve never minded the Rainbow Island series save for the horrible DS version made by the same people that did the equally awful Bubble Bobble Revolutions. Thankfully those dark days are long past. Now let’s see if Towering Adventure is worth your eight dollars.
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DVD of the Day #176 A&E’s Collector’s Choice: The Unexplained

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I actually own this set on VHS. I purchased it for fifty dollars back in 199…8? I found the dvd collection on Swapadvd.com (for free) and ended up saying, “What the hell? Let’s see how it has aged.” One night Heather, Vlad and I sat down and watched this. All of them. In one night. I actually have to say it hasn’t aged that well. Most of the information is out of date or is really cheesey by today’s standard. The core information of each of the four documentaries is solid, but the grainy and all to mid 1990’s styling has me harkening back to dripping blood bards and dancing babies.

The four documentaries include:

The Vampire Myth - this is the best of the documentaries, but all three of us spent the full hour being snarky about the “real” vampyres, the guy in MN who channels Vlad the Impaler for his wife to have sex with and old “Bite Clubs” in New York City and DC that no longer exists.

Poltergeist - This is a look at real life poltergeists with time equally spent on ghosts and psychic energy.

Extreme Sacrifice - this is the worst of the documentaries and has no supernatural focus at all. It’s about Secret Service agents and the like who are willing to die for others in the line of duty. Bleh.

Spontaneous Human Combustion - This is the most interesting to me and I think the one Heather and I enjoyed the most (Vlad was falling in and out of sleep at this point). It was a serious and scientific look at people who have actually spontaneously combusted in front of witnesses. Really neat.

Overall it was fun to watch these again, but it’s not a keeper. I don’t need to see people who think they are actually vampires more than once a decade.

Is It Worth Keeping No.
Rating: 5/10