Total & Complete BS

I'm going on record right now as stating that Penn & Teller's Bullshit! should be mandatory viewing for its no holds barred approach to issues. It figures that the best investigative journalism I've seen in my lifetime would be from a couple of Vegas performers. Penn & Teller bascially investigate and take a very critical look at a bunch of controversial topics. They do take some easy potshots at easy issues (exercise-anybody who actually bothered to pay any attention in high school knows that your body is based a lot more on genetics and no amount of exercise will change that, the hypocracy of the drug war, most of that new age crap), but they also rip apart what most people would consider sacred cows like PETA, Recycling, 12-step programs and even the Bible. It's essentially what soft news shows like 60 minutes & Nightline should be, they hold these jackasses feet to the flames and don't let them off easy in any sort of way (heck, most of the time, they don't even need to push, these idiots normally hang themselves if allowed to talk long enough). The first two seasons are available on DVD right now (and it's on Showtime if you have that channel available). Go rent it or put in your queue and strap everyone you know into a chair and make them watch. Again, this should be MANDATORY viewing for all Americans.

Speaking of total & complete BS, tonight is Oscar night, and no, I'm not watching the ceremony. The oscars are just like any other awards show-Deserving movies & people get snubbed and awards are NEVER given because someone deserves it. They are given usually either because they are long overdue, because it makes a statement or because the academy was split so someone who doesn't deserve it won.

Several big videogame titles are releasing in the coming weeks, most notably Star Wars: Republic Commando & Devil May Cry 3. DMC3 is supposedly a huge turnaround for the series which slumped horribly in its sophmore effort. Its also supposed to make Ninja Gaiden (which is arguably the hardest game of this console generation) look likes child's play, which means I'll play, but most likely not buy. I like a challenge, but there's a difference between a challenge and sheer insanity that will make you scream and break stuff (which Ninja Gaiden made me do on a regular basis before I wisely got rid of it).
Republic Commando seems to be missing the things that most cool Star Wars games have-Jedis or Starships. But advance reports & reviews say it's a pretty solid squad shooter. I'll hopefully get my hands on both this week. Till next time...


One last chance...

The only movie of any note opening this weekend is Cursed, and while I swore I would never pay to see another horror film after so many dissapointing films the last few years, there are a couple of key factors that may get me interested enogu hto check it out-First it's from the uber horror team of Wes Craven & Kevin Williamson, who know how to make some damn entertaining horror flicks. Second, it stars Christina Ricci, who I've had a major crush on since she was Wednesday in the hilariously dark Addams family movies, so I'll see just about anything with her (yes, even the horrid That Darn Cat), but it's also been tamed down to a demographic friendly PG-13 and has had numerous reshoots, rewrites and recasting, so I may wait for some sort of consensus that it's at least watchable before wasting my money on it.

The other "film" opening this weekend is the latest example of great older actors that are wasting their talent on complete garbage-Man of the House. Tommy Lee Jones, one of the best hardasses in the history of film, plays an FBI agent who is protecting dimwitted cheerleaders that witnessed a murder. I have to wonder what major medication Jones was on to accept this film, especially since it seems somewhat similar to another horrible looking film-Vin Diesel's "The Pacifier". A least "Be Cool" will be out next week.

I picked up the latest OXM (Official Xbox Magazine) yesterday since it had a few playable demos I was interested in. Namely Unreal Championship 2, which manages to be one of the most original shooters in years by pretty seamlessly blending melee combat with chaotic FPS action. A lot of people are comparing it to Halo 2 and they really shouldn't because it's an entirely different beast. It's faster, more chaotic and looser with anything that you could definie as reality. It's also a ton of fun, spent many hours on it last night. Too bad it's still two months until the actual game comes out (I'm gonna be busy in April between that, Doom 3, Jade Empire and Wrestlemania 21 if it actually turns out to be good).


There is no Spoon...

Alright, I did see Constantine yesterday, and it wasn't great (essentially a lot of things just happened without much explanation and nobody had their A-game going on in terms of acting (hell, saying they had their B-game on might be stretching it), but it showed enough interesting ideas and promise that I see good sequel potential.

I finally took the plunge and bought a full year of xbox live so if anybody who bothers to read also has it (or have friends who are looking for people to play with) look for Eradicator30 on Crimson Skies, Halo 2 & Phantasy Star Online. I haven't played since the Dreamcast days, and was sort of reluctant to get back into something that ate up so much of my time, but the xbox service makes it incredibly easy to just play a quick pickup game, and it'll actually probably save me money in the long run, since I'll be too busy playing online to spend money on any new games, no onto to blow up more guys in halo 2....


We don't need no water let the motherfucker burn

So apparently there's been a major recall on some 14 million xboxes because a fairly minute percentage may overheat & start a fire if just left plugged in. Now, I'd like to state for the record that I've had my xbox since launch day, have always left it plugged in unless going on a trip or moving, and it's never caused me any trouble. Recalls & advisory warnings can be serious & should be taken as such, but honestly most of the time they are minor problems in a small percentage that only occur if someone isn't using it properly in the first place, but I don't blame any company for covering their asses so some dumbass doesn't sue because the product wasn't idiot-proof.

I finally caught American Dad on Cartoon Network(I really wish they'd let you order cable channels a la carte or something, I really only watch about 10 channels out all the ones I have available) last night, this is the highly touted new show from the creator of Family Guy, Seth Macfarlane. It's about a paranoid CIA agent who has a wife, 2 kids, a talking goldfish that openly lusts after his wife and an alien who has a weight problem. Just your typical American Family. From what I understand, the show hasn't really started yet (it's supposed to start on Fox sometime soon), but the pilot has been popping up repeatedly in order to push the show. It took me awhile to warm to Family Guy & I still don't think any show can match the first 10 years of The Simpsons (if only they had stopped after 10), but it's off to a promising start, and I'll be looking foward to it, which means Fox, geniuses that they are, will put in an obscure timeslot, barely advertise it, and yank it off the air before it even has a chance to find an audience like they've done with almost everything else. You gotta wonder why they were willing to let 24 grow into the phenom it's become when it didn't start out so hot either but let so many other brilliant shows fall by the wayside with no effort (namely Firefly & Andy Richter Controls the Universe, but it's a LONG list). Course, Fox isn't the only culprit, NBC buried Boomtown, ABC never gave Clerks The Animated Series a shot. And apparently if Michael Eisner had his way, we never would've gotten to watch Lost or Desperate Housewives because he considered both shows trash. Just makes you wonder what qualifications these programming & studio execs actually have since they continually approve so much crap and let the actual gems wither & fade away.

Now onto movies: the only thing of note opening this weekend is Constantine, the latest comic book turned movie, starring who many people consider one of this generation's worst actors, Keanu Reeves. I'm sort of puzzled by that. Sure, he's had some fairly crappy films, but he's been in some damn good films over the years as well-Bill & Ted, Devil's Advocate, Hardball, Speed, Matrix (just the first one). Constatine looks like another solid film IMHO, I'll let you know when I see it tommorow.


This segment brought to you by....

So to start off, I did actually beat Suikoden IV early Sunday night thanks to the tried and true method of power leveling my choice guys for the final battle. This does technically leave me with an rpg void, which is dangerous with Xenosaga Episode II coming out tommorow (I even put a down payment on it when I trade in Suikoden just in case, but I'll be taking it off), but I wsiely decided to spend my money on The first volume of Batman: The Animated series instead (all the batman animated shows rock, they should come out with some mega collection considering there's around 10 of them). I've also virtually ignored Resident Evil 4 for the last two weeks, so that'll hopefully keep me busy for awhile.

And finally getting into the meat of today's topic-Ads in videogames. Ads in videogames have been around longer than most people think (anybody remember Global Gladiators? great little game back in the 16-bit era that was pretty much a massive McDonald's ad, and I've lost count of how many games were horrid ads back in the Atari days because even cereal companies made videogames back then), in fact, many games are still nothing more than poorly developed ads for toys, movies or cartoon shows, but one game in particular is getting gamers cheesed off-The latest Need for Speed title from EA. Mainly because not only is the game littered with ads for companies that have little if nothing to do with cars (i.e. Burger King), but also because EA is the world's biggest publisher and it seems like a move strictly motivated to make even more money off an already top selling franchise rather than a sacrifice a little integrity so a quality game can get made. In all honesty, I could care less if every sword in my next rpg has a brand name on it, as long as it doesn't interfere with the gameplay. Much as I don't like EA, they (and most other established, credible companies) are smart enough to realize if they flood a game with ads and no gameplay, it will have repercussions in the bottom line where it will hurt them the most. Besides, extra cash flow will probably allow for them to do more experimental & edgy titles and take risks on things such as Oddworld: Outlaw (which based on the lackluster sales of previous Oddworld games, I'm suprised anybody would publish, not to mention those great games had many ads for Sobe placed throughout the earlier games). So, in the end, I honestly don't think us gamers have much to worry about...


Mini Review Smorgasboard

ok, the website has been down for awhile and for the last couple of weeks I've been talking mainly about what movies I don't want to see, so I thought I'd start off with some quick reviews of the movies I have seen recently, starting with:

In Good Company: Excellent comedy and commentary on the buisness world and ludicrousness of corporate mergers. Dennis Quaid & Topher Grace have suprisingly good chemistry on screen and they are really what drives the story along with a good performance from Scarlett Johannsen as well.

The Aviator: A great example of how people like Howard Hughes constantly straddled the line between genius and insanity on a near daily basis, and Dicaprio brings it across brillaintly. Also one of the few Alan Alda performances over the last last decade that didn't make me sleepy.

Hitch: Yes, it's a predictable and formulaic romantic comedy, but what romantic comedy isn't? What makes this one of those rare ones that work is two key things: We believe and like Will Smith & Eva Mendes as a couple. They fit and make sense (and you aren't really wondering why one is putting up with the other like so many mismatched romantic couples). And secondly, Will Smith & Kevin James are incredibly funny together, as every scene they are in is pretty much an absolute riot.

Million Dollar Baby: I just finally saw this today, and it seriously ranks as one of the better films of 2004. What could've been a cliched effort about a female Rocky instead makes belivable, real characters you feel for, a great and (mostly) uplifting story, and incredible perfomances from the power trio of Swank, Freeman & Eastwood. The only thing that deflated it a bit for me is the rather shocking ending was spoiled for me awhile ago, so I won't say anything about it here, but it's deifnitely the kind of movie everyone should see.

On the videogame front, I am literally at the end of Suikoden IV, the last save before the final boss, unfotunately it may be awhile before I beat it just because this is a rather cheap boss who unleashes not only extremely powerful spells that majorly damage your entire party, but a cheap ass sleep spell that ALWAYS works. There are few things I hate more than cheap ass spells in rpgs there are no defense against, it's a cheap trick to desperatley try and stretch out the length, rather than let the game flow more naturally and organicly. If I am able to trounce standard enemies in the final dungeon of an rpg, than the boss should be a challenge, but not nearly impossible, which is less & less the case but still annoyingly pops up every now and again.

And finally, the next big rpg in the Xenosaga series comes out tuesday, and while just about any rpg gets me interested, this will definitely be a rent first. The Xenosaga story is scaringly similar to the Star Wars story. While the original, Xenogears, which took place after the newer games in the series (I believe 3 more games are planned which will make it six episodes just like Star Wars as well) is a revered rpg classic. The new Episode One was a huge letdown with an overdone blah story that made little sense a spurious connections to the previous game (sound familiar yet?), now Episode II is coming out, and while the creators claim all the problems have been addressed with much shorter and more relevant cut scenes, revamped battle engine and even new more realistic graphics, reviewers seem to be saying only the hardcore (and somewhat in denial) fans will enjoy this dissapointing entry as well (hey, just like Episode II of Star Wars!), oh well, maybe episode three will finally turn the franchise around (that goes for both Star Wars & Xenosaga)...


Sounds like something out of Dilbert

"This is the design that we came up with. There may be people that complain about its usability, but that's something which users and game software developers will have to adapt to. I didn't want the PSP's LCD screen to become any smaller than this, nor did I want its machine body to become any larger.

"The button's location is [architectured] on purpose, it's according to specifications. This is something that we've created, and this is our specification. There was a clear purpose to it, and it wasn't a mistake."

This is a direct quote from SCE president Ken Kutaragi, responding to various reported design flaws with the PSP, Sony's portable that will be on American shores next month. I'd like to also note that it's going to be available here only in a dissapointingly high $250 bundle package, and while I would never reccomend cheap third party alternatives (they tend to outright cripple if not destroy your system of choice), it'd be nice to have the option if you wanted to save a few bucks. You know, when people complained about the xbox's massive controllers, they came out with new smaller ones, when people complained about the N-Gage's ridiculous way to insert games (you'd have to remove the battery pack every single time and put it back again), they came out with a new model that solved the issue. But not Sony, they say deal with it. Good way to burn your loyal customers and continuing the Sony tradition of crappy hardware.


Taking it like a grown up.

Apparently Rob Schneider has finally taken decided he's taken enough abuse from critics continually questioning why he has a career, as rather than take the high road, he bothered to take out a FULL PAGE ad in the Hollywood Reporter, blasting one critic in particular, and basically whining that his buddies will get him in the parking lot after 5th period. How fucking childish is this? Now personally, I consider Schnieder an incredibly unfunny hack that only has a career because Adam Sandler (who has limited talent, but is generally smart about the roles he picks) is a good buddy of his, but that has nothing to do with him as a person, Schneider is taking this whole thing to a personal level. Facing harsh criticsim is a big part of your job Mr. Schneider, EVERYONE in your profession and several others have to put up with it (especially with movies like The Animal & Deuce Bigalow in your resume). Most just laugh it off or completely ignore it(and with the amount of money you make, they should), you'd be best off doing the same, rather than making yourself sound like an insecure bully who needs to yell and threaten anytime someone dares to question him.


Boldly Going where many series have gone before...

It's official, Enterprise, the sole remaining Star Trek series, is being cancelled, without any replacements planned anytime soon (and no upcoming movies either). This will be the first time in nearly 20 years Trekkies will have nothing to watch. I've never been a huge Trek fan myself (I always thought Babylon 5 was superior and my favorite trek series: Deep Space 9, never got its due), but it's sort of sad to see such a formerly strong franchise with such potential limp off into the land of cancellation rather than go out with a bang. Granted, it's very likely we'll see some form of Gene Rodenberry's seminal vision sometime in the future, but after a couple of fairly mediocre films and abysmally awful shows (especially Voyager, the previous show), you've got to wonder if it'll ever be back in form or if anyone will care anymore. Oh well, there's still Andromeda....

And in the land of dumbass petty studio decisions, apparently the people at Fox studios are pissed off that Bryan Singer not only abandoned the X-Men franchise to direct the new Superman movie for Warner Bros, but he's also recruting X-Men stars to be in the film, such as James Marsden, Famke Jensen, and reportedly pursuing other cast members as well. It should be noted that while the new Superman film has a director, script and most of the roles cast already, the latest X-men film has no director or script or definite stars attached, but is planned to start shooting around the same time, which obviously would create scheduling conflicts, and Fox is going on the offensive, essentially telling anyone who signs up for the Superman film will not be in the next X-men film. What a brilliant way to totally destroy the series. Maybe if the more established actors of the X-men franchise take a stand (Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart), Fox will realize it would be smart to at least not make any decisions until they actually have a definitive direcotr and script chosen, and quite possibly play nice with the actors because the one thing fans hate is changing in actor that has already grown into the role and been accepted.


Ok, maybe world domination ain't so bad...

I spent most of my freetime this weekend playing Oddworld: Stranger for Xbox. It is published by EA, who I'm expecting will be competing with the likes of Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch in order to own every inch of the universe any day now, but if the results are excellent games like this, I may not mind. It's developed by Oddworld Inhabitants, who have brought us quirky, original and hilarious platformers the last few years (unfortunately, they have all been criminally ignored by the average gamer), but Stranger is mostly an FPS with a bit of third person actioner thrown in. It's sort of like an outerspace western, but what really sets it apart is that your ammo is actually living creatures that act as all different kinds of ammo, allowing for a very cool variety of strategies for all kinds of players. The only minus is that it's one player, as I think co-op and a mode of bounty hunters vs. outlaws would've been cool. If EA allows more great edgy titles like this to be developed under their banner, that would go a LONG way towards regaining some credibility in the gaming community.

One scary side note, I noticed that EA's deal with the NFL includes the option to do "other" games aside from the already established franchises like Madden & Street. Now, while this is most likely referring to a highly rumored management-themed title, this could lead to other bad idea to milk the franchise dry, like action games starring popular players like Terrel Owens. You think it won't happen? Just remember Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City and Shaq Fu.

On the movie side, the only things opening this week are Boogeyman (what the hell is it with all the bad horror movies this month? Why didn't they release them in October?), another horrible looking horror film with some guy from the WB whose name I can't remember. Then there's "The Wedding Date". Now, I love a GOOD romantic comedy, and Debra Messing is one of the funnier actresses out there, but this just screams bad rip off of My Best Friend's Wedding combined with a bad rip off of Pretty Woman, just with a male gigolo. Looks like another weekend of watching movies at home....