That's a whole lotta turkeys

Did I miss something? I always thought Thanksgiving was a prime time to release big studio pictures and the first year-end oscar contenders, so what is with the dreck coming out this holiday weekend? Ok, everybody could smell the pile that Yours Mine & Ours was a mile away, but you need something for the kids who already saw Harry Potter. I just feel sorry for Dennis Quaid & Rene Russo slumming it in a crappy large family comedy that was played out last year with Cheaper by the Dozen (which was a perfectly all right film, but has a ridiculously unecessary sequel coming out next month).
Rent & Ice Harvest seem to have all the right tools (directors who have done good previous work, stellar cast), but even the most positive reviews on both films admit they are largely flawed attempts. And Just Friends seems like yet another waste of the usually funny Ryan Reynolds, who needs to start picking some smarter roles.

And the only other news worth mentioning is another tragic passing in the entertainment industry. Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita has passed away. The guy had a long history of good work, but was obviously best known for the Karate Kid movies. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

That's really it for today, hopefully I'll have some time to update Saturday or Sunday though.


To play or not to play

Yup, I got my 360 at midnight. I pretty much immediately listed it on ebay. But, being the rabid gamer that I am, it is taking plenty of will power to just let it and Perfect Dark Zero just sit in my room unopened. I just have to keep reminding myself that it will be worth it in a couple of months when I can most likely get one and a few games at a good used price.

Thankfully Dragon Quest VIII is keeping me very occupied so far. It really is old school in all the good and bad ways. good ways in that it has great focus on story and characters, bad in that you can only save at churches in towns, no auto-mapping and you have to go to church to determine how close you are to a level up.

I did see both Goblet of Fire and Walk the Line over the weekend, and definitely reccomend both. Goblet of Fire was pretty good, but anyone who read the book will notice a lot missing, which may hurt it for the hardcore Potter crowd. Walk the Line features oscar-worthy performances from both Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon (who do all their own singing and sound great), my only problem was this had sort of a deja vu feel as it pretty much follows the same path as Ray (poor & traumatic childhood, quick rise, lots of affairs, nearly ruined by drugs then makes a big comeback).

Ok, that's really all for today, but I'll talk about this week's movies either tommorow or Friday.


Well, I guess I won't be sleeping in on Tuesday then....

Okay, apparently there was a funny little mix-up and it turns out that yes I will be getting my 360 launch day. My reaction was somewhat akin to Balki Bartokomous doing the dance of joy. It was definitely an unexpected feeling, since I wasn't that pumped about the 360. It's the irritional gamer in me. The same one that I can normally keep under control cause if I didn't I'd max out my credit cards on just about every game system out there. The irritional gamer in me wants the 360 if for no other reason that it's a new system with new games. Luckily my rational side is a lot stronger and realizes that if I wait till a solid library of games I want are available for it (which at this point looks like next fall), I can probably get a used one and some games at a very good price. The only systems to date i have bought at launch were the Xbox & the Gamceube and although I don't regret the actual purchase, I regret not waiting about 7 months because they both dropped $100 in price and head a decent library rather than the meager launch lineup I was initially stuck with.

I've only devled a little bit into Dragon Quest VIII at this juncture, but my initial fears have been laid to rest. The characters are still a little to reiminiscent of Dragonball, but the world looks gogreous and the system is a classic turned-based one that actually does just enough to stay away from being archaic. But like any good rpg the real treat is the characters (who have some of the best voice acting I've heard in a long time) and the beautifully realized world you explore. This may actually be one of the last good traditional rpgs. so those who are fans of that dying sub-genre may want to pick it up.

Contained within the DQ VIII casing was a playable demo of the long awaited Final Fantasy XII, and boy are things different. I'm not even really sure how to accurately describe the rather bizarre battle system here. Actually I guess it would be somewhat akin to that of an MMORPG, where you sort of have turns, but eveyrthing is still pretty much done in real time and you engage enemies on the field map rather than go into some battle stage. It takes a little adjusting, but I like what I've played so far. FF XII is months awaym though, so we'll see what if any fine tuning will do to it.


Guess I can sleep in on Tuesday....

So, I just came back from my local Gamestop today after picking up Dragon Quest VIII, and I've been told that even though I reserved my 360 over 5 months ago, I won't be getting one on launch day. My local Gamestop is only getting a measly 12 units. I'll most likely get it within a couple of weeks after launch, but there's always something special about being able to get something on launch day. I'd probably be more pissed if I had allowed myself to get all psyched about the launch, but since I'm pretty much still set on selling the sucker anyways, that just hopefully means I'll sell it in time for a happy new year rather than a merry Christmas.

Moving on two very big movies are out tommorow-Walk the Line and Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire. I'm going to see the first showing of Goblet of Fire tommorrow morning and I can't wait, I've enjoyed every Potter film so far, and they seem to get better with each successive film, this one looking to be no exception. Walk the Line looks excellent as well and has good word of mouth, so I'll probably try and catch it this weekend if I have the time and energy. That's it for now, but I'll probably do another update this weekend.


Over 220 launch titles?!?

Well, technically speaking, that's what the Xbox 360 will launch with. Note that only 18 of these are actual stand-alone 360 titles though:
  • Amped 3 (2K Sports)
  • Call of Duty 2 (Activision)
  • Condemned: Criminal Origins (SEGA)
  • FIFA Soccer 06 Road to 2006 FIFA World Cup (Electronic Arts)
  • GUN (Activision)
  • Kameo: Elements of Power (Microsoft Game Studios)
  • Madden NFL 06 (Electronic Arts)
  • NBA 2K6 (2K Sports)
  • NBA LIVE 06 (Electronic Arts)
  • Need for Speed Most Wanted (Electronic Arts)
  • NHL 2K6 (2K Sports)
  • Perfect Dark Zero (Microsoft Game Studios)
  • Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie (Ubisoft)
  • Project Gotham Racing 3 (Microsoft Game Studios)
  • Quake 4 (Activision)
  • Ridge Racer 6 (Namco)
  • Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 06 (Electronic Arts)
  • Tony Hawk's American Wasteland (Activision)
The other 200+ titles will comprise of the rather impresive starting list of backwards compatible titles you can play with the hard drive, you can get the known list here.

Not quite enough you say? There will also be a nice mix of titles in the Xbox live arcade for download come launch day including classics like Joust & Gauntlet (which if I've heard correctly, can be played on live against other people, that's pretty fucking sweet). So there will be something for just about everybody come launch day.

A few reviews are up already as well, and so far the killer app appears to be Project Gotham Racing 3, which I have seen in action and looks amazing, but it's still a car game and I'm not a car guy. Perfect Dark Zero has not been reviewed yet, so we'll have to see how that goes.

Two rather noteworthy rpgs hit this week for the PS2. Magna Carta: Tears of Blood & Dragon Quest VIII.
Magna Carta oddly enough has nothing to do with the famous document that is its namesake, it is more along the lines of games like Shadow Hearts, with a dark twist and an interesting timing system instead of your traditional rpg bouts. I said my piece awhile ago about the really poor demo of Dragon Quest VIII, and while I stand by my views of the demo, reviews across the board have been nothing short of stellar, so I am very tempted to pick it up.

Sonic's other archenemy, Shadow the Hedgehog, also gets his own game out this week. Again, I still have an issue with giving a character from Sonic's stable a gun as that not only doesn't really fit the traditional gameplay, but obviously disposes with the rather light-hearted feel of the series. it does sound interesting that they've added a whole pick your side element, but in reality the last good Sonic game was for the Sega CD, and I feel that won't change here.

One other thing before I go. Eddie Guerrero passed away this weekend. I admit my interest in the WWE has waned greatly the past few years, but I always made sure to watch any time Eddie Guerrero was on. He was a brilliant athlete, and although I can't claim to know him personally, seemed like one hell of a guy. He overcame being a minority, a cruiserwieght, a car crash and a long addiction to painkillers to get to his spot in the WWE the last few years. He will be sorely missed and my deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and the millions of fans like me who would give just about anything to see him lie, cheat and steal just one more time.

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Jumanji in space, what a brilliant idea!

Ok, Jumanji was by no means a brilliant film, but it was kind of a fun stupid big effects movie. But Zathura is exactly what it sounds like-wacky adventures playing a board game that takes place in space instead of a deadly jungle. It's gotten suprsingly solid reviews so far, but it really just looks annoying to me, especially with the two annoying kids in the lead.

But Zathura seems like a better bet than this week's other releases. Derailed-With Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston is just gonna be another one of those mysteries that just twists and turns til nothing makes any sense. Pride & Prejudice-another crappy Jane Austen inspired pile that is once again about upper class vs. lower class and how love gets over all that. And finally, 50 cent doing his best to follow in Eminem's footsteps with Get Rich or Die Trying. I'd actually be interested in seeing that if I could ever understand a fucking word the guy says, he just mumbles everything.

The only noteworthy game release i haven't already touched on this week is Suikoden Tactics. This reperesents a new direction for the series, but maybe not in a good way. It counts down the massive character list by half and while it does away with all the horrid things in the last entry, it also ditches the cool things from previous episodes in the series with it's focus on turn-based strategy. But then again I could use a solid SRPG so i might at least give this one a serious look.

All right, that's really all for today, but I'll try and update again sometime this weekend.


Annie get your GUN

Ok, so after thinking on it a little while, I've sort of decided that not talking about the games coming out every week doesn't really work either, so I'll compromise and talk about games that I give a rat's ass about, so this particular entry will also somewhat focus on catching up on releases the last couple of weeks.

But first, I'll talk about this past weekend's films. I saw both Jarhead & Chicken Little. Jarhead was a very solid film with really strong performances. Especially Peter Sarsgard in what should be an easy supporting actor nomination. It actually manages to be very different from most other wars films because it speaks of the boredom of war. It's all about the endless waiting and anticipation of action that never seems to come.

Chicken Little was suprisingly weak. Maybe there is some special spell that Pixar knows to crank out magical films one after the other, but nobody else can really seem to create films that are not only visually impressive, but have memorable and endearing characters as well as good stories. Chicken Little lacks all of that in spades. It's poor story seems like several bad ones cast together, his sidekicks are about as generic as they come, and the laughs are few and far between, which is saying a lot when it's only 77 minutes long. The opening box office was expectedly strong, but I hope it dies quickly so Disney at least learns that you shouldn't be able to get away with flashy crap like this and label it "entertainment".

This weekend's films don't look too promising either (I'll get into why on Thursday), but I can highly reccomend two recent video releases for you to check out instead-Millions, a brilliant family movie by Danny Boyle about two boys who discover a bag full of stolen money; and Refer Madness: The Musical-A brilliant sendup of the original cult classic with lots of funny song & dance numbers thrown in. Either of these films would be a good bet for this weekend.

Want to play a 360 game now? Not only do they have display kiosks at Walmart & Best Buy, but some 360 games have already hit the shelves-Kameo is already out. All I'm gonna say is that it would really suck to buy the game and not be able to get a 360 on launch day. The 360 controllers are out too, but they have a function-they are also PC compatible.

Alas, any lingering shred of doubt about selling my 360 dissapeared with the quiet delay of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion into the next year. I think this is a true blow to the 360 launch, as a lot of people I know were sold on that game alone. Now, don't get me wrong, there are plenty of stellar-looking titles for launch (Perfect Dark Zero is looking better by the day), but for me that was the killer app, and now I can most certainly wait.

Now, catching up on past releases: I am extremely tempted to buy City of Villains. It just sounds cool (especially with my credit for Oblivion just sitting at Gamestop) to have your own fort and legions of doom, not to mention battling City of Heroes players (although from what I've read the Heroes far outnumber the villains right now, which could lead to obvious problems in PvP. But I'm certainly not done with Warcraft and the last thing I need is another huge time suck like it. I'll probably hold off til I'm bored with WOW(which may happen relatively soon since i'm nearing the level cap and the expansion isn't out til July), but there are severa MMOs that look extremely interesting now (I've always wanted to get into Final Fantasy XI) and plenty on the way (Dungeons & Dragons is finally getting its own MMO early next year).

The latest James Bond title also came out recently from EA, and like most EA titles, it's big on presentation, and lacking in sunbstance. I'm not shocked but dissapointed that EA has chosen to mine old titles Goldeneye & From Russia With Love. The Bond titles sucked for years. The first good one in a long time was the original Everything or Nothing. It really seems like the last few years EA has been sitting on nothing but their past laurels. It may not be anytime real soon, but eventually that's going to really kick them in the ass. And I will be laughing when it does.

I also recently played Soul Calibur III & Spartan. Soul Calibur is an excellnt game series, and the third one doesn't really change that. The probably is that it barely changes anything. The new modes are repetive or pathetically boring, the new characters don't really add anything, and where the hell is online play? The underlying engine still rocks, but you can buy Soul Calibur II and get the same experience with better modes. In Spartan I was just lost. You are one soldier in a huge crowd and although you get really cool manuevers, just try pulling something fancy off when enemies are gangbanging you left and right. It's much more effective(though admittedly really dull) to just hack through everything). Plus, it has escort missions, which are the ultimate evil in gaming.

But the most recent releases this week and last week mostly focus on guns, lots of them. War freaks can get their war on with several different titles-Star Wars Battlefront 2, Call of Duty 2 and Battlefield 2. SW: Battlefront 2 seems like the best bet if for no other reason than you can not only fight in space but kick major ass a a Jedi. Plus, modern day or historic war games are a dime a dozen. Oddly enough, futuristic ones are few and far between.

GUN, Activision's attempt to do something other than Tony Hawk games also comes out this week. They are selling it as a GTA style game in the old west, but I've seen the gameplay and the reviews seem to concur that's it's not nearly as deep or offers as many hours as other "sandbox" titles.

Finally, a new Matrix game hits this week. And it finally lets you play as Neo. The problem is that will anyone care? The original Matrix game was pure crap. The Matrix online is a massive failure, and most fans felt burned by the rather lackluster sequels. Who knows, maybe this will finally redeem the franchise.

Ok, that's really all for today, but i'll be back tommorow for sure.


Did the Mouse lay an Egg?

Today's question won't really be answered til monday, but a whole lot is riding on Disney's Chicken Little, their forst computer animated film without the seemingly infallible Pixar touch behind it. I'm sure the kids will flock to it, but unless it's in near record numbers, Pixar will be laughing all the way to the bank as Disney will desperately try to lure them back. But I think the real question is, just what the hell has happened to Disney animation over the last decade or so? Their last truly venerable animated hit before Pixar came along was The Lion King. There has been an undervalued gem or two since then (Emperor's New Groove), but otherwise the House of Mouse has released many tepid offerings that appealed to neither kids or adults (Treasure Planet, several forgettable Winnie the Pooh films, etc.). The quality of the animation itself hasn't died down, but that's probably part of the problem-too wrapped up in how a movie looks than whether the characters & story is actually interesting. Maybe the recent shakeup at Disney is a long overdue sign of change-only time will tell.

This weekend's other big offering will tell whether people are tired of war stories-Jarhead features an acclaimed director (Sam Mendes) and a stellar cast (Jake Gyllenhal, Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard), but it may be an all to often visited view on war from a soldier's perspective, especially in a time when people are pretty tired of war.

That's really all for today, I'll definitely update again tommorow or sunday though.