Monthly Archives: September 2010

Shattering Dimensions

Today’s post will be the first of hopefully many that will involve reviews of recent videogames. However, they’re going to be ones that I buy and play, which means that at most, you’ll get one a month. I’m not  Game Informer ladies and gents.

Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
Spider-man: Shattered Dimensions is the best game featuring the wall-crawler since, well, ever. Instead of just taking the open-world environment format of the old games and throwing in a few new villains, Dimensions is a level-based affair, with the player bouncing between not one, not two, but FOUR different versions of Spidey.

The story is pretty standard Spider-man shenanigans. After finding Mysterio in the museum, the two scuffle, and the “Tablet of Chaos” that Mysterio was after is broken into segments. Since the tablet is mystical in nature, its various fragments are scattered throughout different alternate dimensions, and Madame Webb assembles the Spider-mans Noir, 2099, Ultimate, and regular to retrieve them.

One of the great things about this game is that each dimension definitely has its own feel. In a lot of ways, Shattered Dimensions is four different Spidey games in one.  The Amazing (regular) universe is an action game, Noir is a stealth, and so on and so on. Many of the levels are extremely well done as well, and make for some really cool moments. The Sandman level is one in particular that really stood out, as you have to web onto the different pieces of buildings that he throws at you. Another stand out was the Carnage level, which made that character more terrifying than he’s ever been in the comics.
 

Unfortunately the game does start to lose steam by its fourth act, in which the numerous cool and innovating things that you were doing at the beginning of the game start to become the only thing that you seem to do. Every level starts to follow a pattern of beat up these goons, fight the boss for about 4 minutes, chase him, rescue the civilians/scientists, fight the boss again. This pattern really only applies to the Noir and 2099 levels, which also start to feel like extended boss fights. Thankfully the deep combat system allows you to mix it up when you start getting bored, but I really hope that we see a little more variety in future Spidey games.

The voice acting was another aspect that was a little hit or miss. While it is impressive that the four voice actors who have spoken for Peter Parker each play one of the different Spider-men, the only real standout is Neil Patrick Harris as the regular Spidey. Maybe I was just excited to hear him voice Spider-man again, but everyone else sounded flat, especially Dan Gilvezan (from Spider-man and His Amazing Friends). Last I checked, the Spider-man from 2099 was supposed to be hispanic, but  I guess one of his super powers is being able to sound like a middle aged white guy.

Despite the repetitiveness of Shattered Dimensions, it’s still the best Spider-man game since Spider-man 2 was released back in 2004, and a must by for fans of the wall-crawler. It has a deep combat system and the ability to level up for more rewards, like bonus costumes. There’s also a slot on the title screen for “downloadable content”, so perhaps we’ll get even more inter-dimensional wall-crawling adventures in the the near future.

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Franken-Castles and Giant Spoons

This week I’ve got some strange comics up for review. It was a slow week this week for releases, so I grabbed one comic that I haven’t read in awhile, and one that I’ve loved so far, but unfortunately this issue wasn’t up to snuff.
COMIC REVIEWS!!!!

Franken-Castle #21

First off, Franken-Castle is indeed The Punisher series renamed. After the events of last year’s extremely bloody (and extremely AWESOME) “Punisher: The List” one-shot, Frank Castle was killed by Wolverine’s son Daken , but was soon resurrected by the likes of Morbius, Werewolf By Night, and other Marvel monsters as a Frankenstein-like creature in order to protect them from a monster hunting madman. This of course caused numerous Punisher fans to throw a shit fit, but I myself embraced this concept because of its amazing silliness, and the fact that an idea as ridiculous as this was ever allowed to see print (I would love for the inevitable hardcover release to include footage of writer Rick Remender’s pitch to the Marvel editors). For once, I was actually interested in the Punisher enough to pick up his series, even if it was for only a few issues.
However, nothing new ever really sticks in comics, and the newest issue of Franken-Castle is a testament to that. In fact, Castle is only the monster for the first few pages, and is somehow returned to his normal look due to the use of the bloodstone, a mystical artifact that Frank has been using to fight monsters and up his power level.
After the quick change, the monsters go to Frank to try and get the bloodstone back, and Frank starts fighting them. Then the Mummy tells him the bloodstone is corrupting his view of who needs to be “punished”, and Frank rips it out of his chest and returns to New York City. And I’m totally aware that I just wrote that.
I may pick up the next Punisher mini-series if only to see if it gives me any insight into this part of Frank Castle’s history, but I doubt it will. While it was completely silly, at least this whole “Franken-Castle” thing was original, as opposed to another story where Frank kills some gang member/rapist/drug dealer.

Action Comics # 893
It figures that the issue of Action Comics that I decide to review for this installment would also be the weakest installment of the “Black Ring” storyline. A few issues back, this Man of Steel title switched gears and started focusing on Lex Luthor and his quest to find a Black Lantern ring. While I still don’t know why he wants a black ring when he was using an orange one in Blackest Night, writer Paul Cornell has crafted a really entertaining story, as well as shining a new light on one of comics’ greatest villains, especially considering his android “assistant”.
That being said, the newest issue was fairly weak. Lex is traveling through Uganda searching for the energy source of the Black Lantern Corps. While there, he comes across Gorilla Grodd, who is quite possibly the dumbest villain I’ve ever seen. At one point, he attacks Lex with a giant spoon, in order to eat his brains. Again, I’m well aware that I just wrote that.
While this wasn’t the strongest issue of Action Comics, it at least served the plot, and the next issue looks to be a whole lot more promising, and may even turn out to be an even bigger game changer for not only DC, but its Vertigo imprint as well. Whether you’re a Superman die-hard, casual fan of Kal-El, or enjoy seeing Lex Luthor fighting other DC villains, you’re bound to find something to enjoy in this series, and you should pick this up, regardless of this lackluster issue.

On a sadder note, comedian Greg Giraldo died today. I really enjoyed his stuff on the various Comedy Central roasts, as well as when he was on the short-lived Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn. RIP Greg, you will be missed.

How’s Your Pancreas?

Friday night I watched a movie.

Repo Men (2010)
Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whittaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga
Directed By: Miguel Sapochnick

Repo Men was one of those movies that I heard both really good and really bad things about from both reviewers and friends. So I was a little apprehensive about popping it in this past Friday night. However, I was really surprised by the movie, and I enjoyed its mish-mash of other futuristic movies.
The movie finds Jude Law playing Remy,  a man who works for “The Union”. “The Union” is an organization that gives people artificial limbs and organs at ridiculous prices. Lucky for their clients, they offer a payment plan. Unlucky for those clients is that if you miss a payment and don’t pay within 90 days, Remy will come knocking at your door and will reclaim the organ.
Remy is joined by Jake (Whittaker), a fellow “repo man” who is slightly more unhinged than his coworker. Schrieber is their smarmy boss, who, along with Whittaker, insert an artificial heart into Remy after his equipment misfires on the job. After falling behind on his payment, Remy must make a break for it with the help of Beth, a fellow “anti-forge” user.
While Repo Men‘s visual of the future may not be entirely original, the idea of “replacement parts” for humans is pretty cool, and one that I’m surprised wasn’t used already. The fight scenes are very impressive, and the movie contained a lot of instances of humor interjected with the fight scenes and gore.
4 artificial hearts out of 5

The Sentinel of Liberty….and GNC

What a day. You would think that a half day as an educational associate would not be that stressful, but it’s quite the opposite. In fact, it’s more like school at warp 10: everything is crammed into a half-hour lesson, regardless of what it is.
Anyways, while I was at work, guess what appeared online? The first picture of Chris Evans on the set of Captain America.

His biceps also double as nutcrackers

Now I know, I know, it’s not him in the costume. But look at the size of those guns! it looks like his arms are trying to escape his shirt. Mr. Evans had apparently started working out the second he found out he got the part, but goddamn! Methinks the good folks over at GNC had something to do with it. Either that, or the supersoldier serum actually exists*……

*Nerd reference! Boo yah!

Comic Reviews!

Man this week has been crazy. Not “oh my god I can’t get any of this stuff done” crazy, just a series of very full days. However, that doesn’t mean I ain’t got time to read comics!

Nemesis #3 (of 4)

Well, Nemesis, it’s about f%*(@ing time you showed up. This third issue of the series by Mark Millar (Kick-ass, Wanted) and artist Steve McNiven was supposed to be released way back in June, but due to  Mr. Hollywood’s quest to turn every comic (including this one) he’s written into a movie, Nemesis got delayed, big time. Part of this can also be attributed to Steve McNiven’s art, which is known and admired for its super detailed style.
While I am annoyed by how late this book shipped, I can safely say that this issue was worth the wait. When we last left Millar’s “anti-Batman”, he was being sent to prison after being caught by police chief Blake Morrow. However, the four issue series wasn’t going to end at issue 2, and getting caught was all a part of Nemesis plan. And what a plan it is.
From the opening sequence of Nemesis’ very, VERY violent escape, to completely destroying Morrow’s career and family, the issue delivers on every level. I have never been as shocked by a villain’s actions I have been in Nemesis, and as long as you can handle its very adult content, you’re in for a rollercoaster ride of   explosions, violence, and one very good lesson on why you should never get into law enforcement.

Thor #615

Thor has always been a character that I’ve tried to follow, but for some reason or another, I would forget to pick up the next issue. By the time I would realize that I had forgotten an issue, 4 would have gone by, and I would just give up. I’m a big fan of the character in books like The Avengers, as well as new writer Matt Fraction (currently writing the awesome Invincible Iron Man series), who starts his arc with this issue.Teamed with artist Pasqual Ferry, the issue is designed as a “jumping on point” for new fans, and it succeeds.
The main crux of the story is a race of mythological creatures that are crossing into different worlds and wiping them out. The issue starts with a scientist talking with a fairly famous rotund Asgardian about his theory of multiple Earths and societies living as one. This basically gives new readers a sense of how the Marvel universe can contain Norse, Greek, and Christian mythological figures without collapsing their universe. The scientist goes on to explain that he believes that there is something big coming that will threaten all of the worlds, including our own.
At the same time, Thor is brooding over the death of his brother Loki, who, while his nemesis, was also his best friend. These eventually leads to Donald Blake’s subconcious showing up and talking with Thor (Blake’s conciousness is transported to another dimension while Thor is in charge, and vice versa), which led to some of my favorite moments in the comic, as the banter between these two is hilarious.
The art by Pasqual Ferry was a little bit of a let down for me, but I do believe that it will improve over time. Some of his faces look a little too cartoony, but the big splash pages that he draws of Thor standing in the hills of the mid-west and his character designs are really cool. If you’ve always wanted to get into Thor or want to see what all of the fuss is about before his big-screen debut next summer, then check out this book.

Pahk The Cah In Hahvahd Yahd

This weekend I saw a movie.

The Town (2010)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively
Director: Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck has done it again! While I wasn’t a huge fan of Gone, Baby Gone, the former Matt Murdock‘s newest film is one of the best movies of year. Seriously.
The Town focuses on a bank robber named Doug (Affleck) from Charlestown, an area of Boston that has the highest count of bank robberies in the country, a fact that the beginning of the movie lets you know numerous times. Along with his sociopath best friend Jem(played by an INTENSE Jeremy Renner), they proceed to knock off numerous banks in the Boston area.
But all that changes when they take a hostage. Doug takes it upon himself to follow up on the hostage after their robbery, and to make sure that she doesn’t rat them out to the feds, led by that always awesome Jon Hamm.  Before you can say “Yawkee Way”,  Doug finds himself falling for the witness (Rebecca Hall), and trying to out run the feds.
I already said it before, but Ben Affleck rules this movie. I know I just wrote that, but it’s true. The Town is an tense crime thriller that works on every level, and features solid performances, even from Blake Lively. While it has a lot of the “crime-movie cliches”, it’s still an awesome movie, and I would not be surprised to see it get a nomination come Oscar season.

I Have Returned.

I felt your pain kid

If you’ve been wondering we’re I’ve been this past week, I was at camp. Camp Merrowvista to be precise.
“Wait,” you may be asking yourself, “don’t you work at a school? Tell me you didn’t already lose the job!”
Fear not, my two faithful readers, for all will be explained. You see, the school that  I work at allows the different upper grades to go on extended field trips. The 8th grade goes to Washington, D.C, the 7th grade goes to New York City, and the 6th grade goes to Camp Merrowvista in Center Tuftonboro, NH. Exciting I know.
However, it was a really good experience for me to not only get to know the other people on my staff, but the kids as well. We all experienced many new things together, and it was really inspiring to see the kids make connections with one another and overcome whatever preconceptions they may have had of their fellow classmates BEFORE the ‘clique’ system of school kicks in. It was a phenomenal week, but also exhausting.
I’ll be back to my semi-daily schedule soon, but to tide you over, I watched a movie on DVD last night.

Prince Of Persia (2010)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, (Sir) Ben Kinsley
Director: Mike Newell

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this movie….and maybe that’s why I enjoyed it? It seemed like Prince Of Persia borrowed certain elements from not only the game that it’s based on, but also Disney classics like The Lion King and Aladdin. However, it’s still a very entertaining movie.
The plot follows the adopted son of the Persian king (Gyllenhaal), who, after being tricked into attacking the kingdom of Princess Tamina (Arterton, playing nearly the same character she did in Clash of the Titans), comes into possession of the dagger of time, a nifty blade that turns back time when a button on its hilt is pressed. After being framed for the death of his father, he must return to the kingdom, clear his name, and return the dagger to its proper resting place, where it will be sealed away forever.
As a fan of the video game series, I was a little dissapointed that they took out the sand creatures that you fought in the game, however, the movie is still a pretty solid rental, and the scenes where the Prince and Tamina banter are really well done. Some of the effects were a little dodgy, and there could have been some more fleshing out of the characters ( you can tell Sir Kingsley is the bad guy from the beginning), but all in all this is a solid movie, and one of the better video game adaptations out there.
I’d give it 3 “time…will erase everything”s* out of five

*NOTE: Sir Ben’s “time…will erase everything” line from the trailer is NOWHERE to be found in the actual movie. I was fairly upset, as it would have complemented his line from Shutter Island( “it’s as if she evaporated….straight through the walls”) very nicely. 

Bat-Reviews

This week’s comics came out today, thanks to labor day. This week we’ll be looking at the two big Batman releases.

Batman #703

 The latest issue of Batman is a textbook example of a “filler issue”. It’s still too early to “officially” return Bruce Wayne to the DC universe, but they’re gotta put out a Batman issue, so here we get a decent, if unmemorable, story from Fabian Nicieza and artist Cliff Richards.
The issue finds Dick Grayson, Damien Wayne, and Tim Drake (or Wayne now) dealing with the recent emergence of someone named “The Getaway Genius”, an art thief whom Dick had tangled with way back when he was the original Robin. We also get an appearance from Vicki Vale, although not looking like Kim Basinger like I remember.
Everything about this issue was average. From the story to the art by Richards. While it was nice to get some of Damien’s feelings on his relationship with his “dead” father, even the revelation that is revealed to him seemed like something I had read before.  Again, this issue is just “filler”. It doesn’t move the whole “Return Of Bruce Wayne” story forward nor add any new details or insights. It just exists. Unless you are an absolute die-hard Batfan, save your cash for something that actually contributes to the ongoing Batman saga.

Batman and Robin #14

Remember how I was complaining about Grant Morrison and his plan for Batman a few weeks ago? Well, it’s incredible how he can come up with really stupid ideas and be completely maddeningly cryptic in one comic, but be easily accessible and firing on all cylinders in another. This is an example of the latter.
B&R issue 14 is the second part of “Batman Must Die!”, in which the new dynamic duo must try and survive the deadly machinations of not only Dr. Hurt and Professor Pyg, but also The Joker. Fraser Irving’s art is amazing in this issue, and his Joker is one of the creepiest recent incarnations of the character. I won’t spoil the issue, but I actually enjoyed this issue and I’m anticipating the next issue, mainly because I really like the way Morrison writes the clown prince of crime. Plus I find Prof. Pyg to be delightfully disturbing. 
Morrison’s pacing is spot on in this issue, and it almost makes up for the last issue of Batman that he wrote. Almost. It’s really frustrating having a writer like Morrison sometimes, mainly because of his tendency for epic, potentially ground-breaking ideas. When they work, they are awesome, but when they don’t work, they go train-wreck-meets-school-bus-accident horrifyingly wrong. The unfortunate thing is that it’s extremely hard to tell what kind of book you’re getting until you read it. Batman and Robin is still the safest bet for casual Batman fans, as it appears that Grant Morrison has YET to deliver a bad issue.

Exhausted

Man today was a loooooong day. After working all day at North Hampton, I then helped rearrange the comic book store. while it was a long day, I got some Chinese food out of it, and it was really cool to finally hang out with my co-workers at someplace that wasn’t the comic store. I also picked up the new Spider-man video game (the review’s gonna be up whenever I finish it).This weekend was pretty busy as well, and guess what? I saw a movie.

Machete (2010)
Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Robert De Niro
Director: Robert Rodriguez (and Ethan Maniquis)

 For those who didn’t know, Machete started as one of the fake trailers that was inserted into Grindhouse, the criminally underrated flick by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez that celebrated crappy B-movies. Also directed by Rodriguez, the trailer told the story of an ex-federale who was double crossed by a dirty senator, and his brutal quest for revenge. Now, three years later, we have the movie that was promised to us.
Machete is the perfect movie for people who love the following:

-ridiculous action
-corny dialogue
-lots and lots of gore and violence
-boobs
 
Like Grindhouse before it, the movie is a love letter to the flicks that dominated the cheap theaters in the 1970’s. The thing that makes this movie even better is the fact that everyone is in on the “joke” of the movie. Even Lindsay Lohan, though I’m pretty sure she wasn’t  aware that she was being filmed.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is a straight up revenge flick. That’s really all you need to know. It’s a movie that you know you will either love or hate based on the preview alone. Sure it could’ve lost ten or twenty minutes in the middle, and some of the jokes fall flat, but none of that takes away from the movie’s charm. Unfortunately it seems that not a lot of audiences were in on the joke either, as the film only came in third or fourth place at the box office. However, I think this movie is going to have a pretty huge cult following, and I can’t wait to have a double bill of this and The Expendables.
3 and 1/2 Machetes out of 4

NOTE: Rumor has it that Rodriguez is in talks to direct the “Deadpool” movie. If this happens, I hope he can make it in the “grindhouse” style, as THAT would be the best way to use the character on the big screen, in my opinion. 

Day Off!

Today I’ve got a day off from North Hampton. Apparently they believe in 4-day weekends, which is a-okay with me. Basically all I’ve done today is go see my lady friend for lunch, and attempt to turn my apartment into Mr. Freeze’s lair. So far it’s been successful, but if Batman shows up an busts through my porch window I’m going to be pissed.
My lady works at the campus bookstore, and today was the first day I’ve gone on campus since I finished the UNH teaching program. To say I felt like I was an outsider would be an understatement, although it was refreshing to see that there were still idiot freshman and that the guys at ATO were still “regulating”. However, I could feel the bad choices in the air that were going to be made this weekend already, and in a way I’m glad that I’m not going back. But anyways, I watched a movie.

Harry Brown (2010)
Starring: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer
Director: Daniel Barnes
Consider this Michael Caine’s Taken. Or to put it more aptly, the British Gran Torino, except with actual killing. Michael Caine stars as the titular old fogey, who was a member of the British Marines years ago. After his wife dies in the hospital, he turns to his only friend for comfort. Unfortunately a few weeks later his friend is murdered by the crack heads who live in his complex, and after learning from the police of his death, Brown decides to take the law into his own hands.
I have to say, this movie was awesome. I had been looking forward to it ever since I read about it in Empire Magazine (the best movie mag out there, hands down). Unfortunately it’s a British movie, which meant that I’d have to wait for the DVD.  It was definitely worth the wait, and Caine is a badass in this movie, which is pretty unexpected, especially since he’s pushing 80. However, the way that he takes out these lowlifes is really awesome and brutal, especially since he’s using real British Marine tactics to take these guys down. Emily Mortimer did a pretty good job as the police captain who suspects that Brown is killing these drug dealers and pushers, but the star of the show is Caine. He goes from being a lonely old man, to a depressed old man, to finally an old man who will kill you without skipping a beat.
As a big fan of the revenge flick, I can honestly say that Harry Brown is not only worth the watch, but one of the best recent examples of a man taking the law into his own hands. The violence is definitely not for the squeamish, but Michael Caine’s performance alone more than makes the movie an excellent experience.
Now I want a team up with Harry Brown and Liam Neeson’s character from Taken!