Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Billy Bob Thorton and Jon Heder team up in the somewhat promising comedy School for Scoundrels, which looks like the best bet this weekend, with ti being from the same director who gave us Old School, Road Trip, & Starsky & Hutch, all of which I found pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, the early reviews are mostly lukewarm, but I'll probably check it out along with finally catching Fearless either Saturday or Sunday.

Also this weekend, Ashton Kutcher faces off against.. Ashton Kutcher! No, it's not some horribly awful-twin movie, just a fairly mediocre-looking animated film & an even more mediocre-looking drama. Whose bright idea was it to put Kevin Costner & Ashton Kutcher in a movie? The Guardian will just be another example for both actors to show their complete lack of dramatic ability. Furthermore, whose bright idea was it to put Kutcher & Martin Lawrence together? In a family animated film? Lawrence isn't that funny to begin with, and when limited with a PG-rating, he's absolutely atrocious. As for Kutcher's comedic abilities? Sure, he was amusing on That 70s Show, but he has yet to make one entertaining film. I'm sure kids will eat up Open Season regardless.

Animation overload! Every single episode of Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, Family Guy & American Dad all in one convenient spot-This probably won't last long, so enjoy it while you can!

Finally, yet another game I'm going to have to put off getting until I beat one of the several I'm working on came out this week: Valkyrie Profile 2. I really enjoyed the original, and the reviews for this new entry are all really solid, unfortunately, I may not really get around to it til the new year with me very slowly progressing through Okami & Disgaea 2, and after those I still have to get back to Shadow Hearts: FTNW, and somewhere in between all that Final Fantasy XII will be out. Why I am even planning on picking up a Wii at this point again?


Halo gets real

Microsoft had their big XNA '06 conference today, and the really huge news was that Halo is going back to its original roots as an RTS. Sure, the first Halo ended up being an FPS as the final product, but the original plan was for it to be a full-blown real time strategy. Here's the trailer:

Other not so noteworthy highlights:

-Doom is now available on Xbox live and has online deathmatch! Whoopdee-fucking-do! Seriously, no disrespect to the game that really kick-started the FPS genre, but it just simply hasn't aged well in the nearly 15 years since it's been out. It'll be fun for a little nostalgia, then you'll quickly go back to Halo 2 & Counter-Strike.

-The Xbox 360 HD-DVD player will launch in North America in mid-November, will cost $199.99, and will include in the box an HD-DVD copy of Peter Jackson's King Kong. I'm sure king Kong will look amazing in in HD on HD, but this officially makes the 360 a lot more pricey than the PS3 if you want to watch a high-def movie on it.

-A Marvel MMORPG is on the way. So it's City of Heroes with a license? Big yawn.

-Banjo Kazooie is returning. Great, another well-remembered franchise that Rare can flush down the drain. They have had 3 releases to date since they joined Team MS, and they've all vastly underwhelmed at best, I don't see this finally fixing their recent track record.

So really mostly a somewhat underwhelming conference, especially considering that all they've really got for the near future is Gears of War to combat the launch of the PS3 & The Wii.

There was one big bit of news for the 4 PS3 fans still left-Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is going to be a launch title. Congrats on having a game us PC & 360 players have been playing for months already! If it actually runs much smoother and looks significantly better, great, but my bet is it won't...

But with potentially good news comes potentially horrid news (for PS3 fans anyways): Square is spreading the wealth this time around, saying they aren't really committed to any one system. Final Fantasy is still going to remain mainly a PS franchise, but others may end up elsewhere, namely Kingdom Hearts. Oddly enough, I've always said when the next Kingdom Hearts game is announced is when I'll probably break down and buy a PS3. Now that may not ever happen...

The Sony style store has "officially" listed Sony PS3 titles at a 59.99, same as most 360 titles. But the Sony store is just some little offshoot, I'll believe it more when I hear an official statement from Sony Corporate.

Unfortunately, I've been a little too tired from work to really make the effort to go see Fearless yet, but I'm pretty open most of Saturday & Sunday, so I'll be sure to check it out this weekend.



Gaming has gone to the dogs

But in a completely awesome way. I did pick up Okami this week, and unfortunately have only had a few scant hours to really play around with it, but it's easily one of the PS2's best titles in it's distinguished history. The creative use of nearly psychedelic colors and the look of old Japanese brush-style art rival anything seen on the flashy next-gen scene. The combat is a somewhat simple affair, with just one basic attack button, but as you learn new defensive techniques & powers for your "celestial brush", your combat options become ever more complex (my personal favorite so far is making trees form out of nowhere, it's a fun way to finish off enemies). It's a near perfect title, really my only complaint is that the characters all speak in a really annoying mumble, and many talk at length, which gets in the way of mostly creative and funny dialogue. And I reiterate my point that this would be an even more spectacular title on the Wii, so hopefully a port is at least being considered.

Part of the reason I got Okami was a desperate need to rid myself of the bane that is Lego Star Wars II for the DS. It's a slight change from my sort of recommendation last week, since I was unaware of the bugs that plague this particular version. I thought some fans & reviewers had simply gotten bad copies, as the first several levels I played were fine, but sure enough, a few levels later, they really made their presence known, as various levels were simply not even finishable. This is one of the shoddiest ports I've played in years, and I hope Amaze Entertainment gets tarred & feathered for it, it's completely inexcusable.

So, the Tokyo Game Show is going on at this moment, and some very interesting stuff is coming out from Sony's side. First, they dropped the price of their $500 PS3 to $430. That only applies to Japan, but that may hint at what may happen here as well. Furthermore, rumors about multiple tiers of pricing have been surfacing, but that may mean REALLY expensive games in order to offset the lower sale price of the system
(like in the $70-85 range). In my opinion, this move is far more suicidal than having a high-priced console. I mean, really, who's going to pay $10-25 more than you would for a game on any of the competition? Again, so far, this is all rumors and innuendo that so far only applies in Japan, but TGS is usually a precursor to here as it's the last really big show before the holiday season.

The DS avalanche of slick titles continues this week, as Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is out, and it promises some very fun & creative gameplay, assuming you have any money or time left for it, and there are at least 4 other titles coming out for the system in the next few weeks that look extremely promising (namely Children of Mana & FFCC: Ring of Fates
). This is starting to really make the DS look like the most versatile system out right now.

Unfortunately, work wore me out a little too much this weekend to really check out any movies, but I fully plan of seeing Fearless in the next couple of days, and I'll give my impressions in my next post.



The Wii Calculator

So just how much are you going to spend on Nov. 19th? The Wii calculator should give you a pretty good idea. Assuming I get 3 sets of all the controllers for me & my friends and family, and I'm only planning on buying two games at launch (Zelda & Rayman), and the cost rings out to: $681.46. Good thing I work at Best Buy, I'll be taking generous advantage of that employee discount.

Episode IV of Super Mario Bros. Z is finally up, this is easily the best flash series ever.

On to this week's movies. Pretty much the only one I'm interested in seeing is Fearless, Jet Li's "final" martial arts film (yeah, and the Rolling Stones only had one farewell tour...). Regardless, it looks incredible, and I am extremely pumped for it. I mean really, what else is there? Johnny Knoxville nearly killing himself again in Jackass 2? Sean Penn in another pretentious and sure to be overrated performance in All the King's Men? Or Flyboys, which features James Franco yet has barely been advertised? Sounds like a martial arts epic is the only realistic option this weekend anyways...


Universal tells Sony to WALK THE PLANK!!!

The title will pretty much be my one and only reference to Talk Like a Pirate Day. But getting serious, Sony has been dealt a huge blow in the next gen format wars, which may ultimately affect the PS3 as well. Universal has decided they aren't making ANY Blu-ray titles for Sony, essentially cutting out a huge potential library, and this is the first big studio to initially side with Sony and then leave them stranded for all intents and purposes, and others may follow suit soon after. Sony's determination to have the major proprietary format for games & movies may ultimately be what really does them in at this point.

We all know Nintendo is making a giant mistake by not having any actual online play when the Wii launches, but what is arguably worse is having an unfinished and broken system because you feel you have to have something to go with when you launch, and that's exactly what Sony may be doing. Now, I fully expect the first year of Sony's universal online system to be a somewhat rocky experience, just like it was with Xbox live, but if Sony's not 100% committed to making it a kick ass system, free or not, people aren't gonna go for it.

Zelda box art. I look at this and any fears I have about the Wii being anything less than a spectacular system pretty much melt away. Nintendo has yet to make a Zelda game that has been anything short of legendary, I'm positive Twilight Princess will be no different.

Finally, I've got a few videos to end today with:

Just cause it's cool-THE MUPPET MATRIX (Kermit>Keanu)

Weird Al's new CD, Straight Outta Lynwood, is out next week. Here's the first of hopefully many brilliant videos off of it: WHITE & NERDY (Donny Osmond dancing like a spaz is the funniest damn thing I've seen in a long time):

And of course the SCRUBS CLIP OF THE WEEK:


The brush is mightier than the sword.

Easily this coming week's biggest release, the much anticipated Okami finally arrives on PS2. It boasts a lush visual style for more appealing than the ultra-realistic looks most next-gen titles go for, and features very unique play centering around using a powerful paint brush that lets you affect the world around you. As good as the game sounds (and I fully plan to pick it up). This sounds like the kind of game that would be perfect on the Wii, so hopefully a port is being considered down the line.

Speaking of games that would be great to port over to the Wii, a whole ton of Sierra compilations for King's Quest
, Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest, and Space Quest are out this week as well. I would've preferred A Hero's Quest compilation to Police Quest, but otherwise, this is an excellent chance for somebody to pick up classic adventure games, I'm certainly at least enjoying some quality time with Roger Wilco, humanity's greatest space janitor!

And if last week's barrage of DS titles wasn't enough to satiate you, three more big titles hit this week. Slimes are apparently tired of being the whipping boy in just about every RPG ever made, so they finally have a game of their own in Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime. Although it's an action puzzler, not an rpg. It does appear to be a bit on the kiddy side, but it's gotten surprisingly solid reviews (even game of the month in the new EGM), so it's probably worth your time to check out.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, marks the series first appearance on the DS. I've honestly never really gotten into this series, though admittedly my limited experiences with it were mostly the weaker entries (namely Bloodlines for Genesis and the truly atrocious N64 3D attempt), but the concept of Metroid with an old school vampire hunting theme definitely are tempting me to give it another go.

And finally, the latest in the seemingly never-ending series of Pokemon titles: Pokemon Rescue Team. In this latest adventure, you actually play as a Pokemon for a twist rather than a trainer, so it seems to be more a traditional role-playing game where you naturally gain party members as you progress rather than just "catch 'em all!".

I picked up Lego Star Wars II for the DS. I think it's good, but it's the version I'd least recommend out of all the other systems. The camera angle is problematic and really limited and if it's possible the A.I. is even stupider than in the console versions.

And lastly, I did manage to see The Last Kiss. I feel a little misled by the advertising quite frankly, as calling this a light-hearted comedy is way off. It's a serious & heavy exploration about growing up. It's a little hard and depressing, as Braff's character makes plenty of bad choices that a protagonist normally doesn't, but the dialogue & acting are top notch. I'd overall recommend it, just be prepared for it not to be some silly romantic comedy.



Nintendo wants to make a profit? HOW DARE THEY!!!!

So, Nintendo's big American press conference was today, and it more or less confirmed what most realists thought, but irked a few idealists who apparently imagined Nintendo as this last bastion for extremely cheap ass jackasses. Surprisingly, the most "controversial" comment came from Reggie Fills-Aime himself, claiming that unlike MS & Sony, the Wii is designed to be profitable right out of the box. Historically, companies have sold their systems at a rather significant loss, making it up in game sales. But honestly, the system is already the cheapest on the market by a long shot with it's confirmed $250 price tag and it's the only system coming with a pack-in of a title (and Wii Sports looks like one hell of a pack-in with no less than 5 games included). Anybody who's complaining about it is just a moron.

Now, onto the stuff that actually matters, the launch specifics, broken down into three categories:

The Good:

-Launch price: Granted, $250 is a little more than most were expecting, but it's a extremely reasonable price for what's at least supposed to be a revolutionary new way to experience games.

-$50 games: This makes the system all the more attractive, of course at this point only Nintendo has confirmed that their games will stay at $50, much like MS has done with their 360 titles, but I can't imagine how you'd justify paying $60 for a Wii title.

-One Price: YAY!, finally somebody understands that it's fucking moronic to have one souped up model and one severely crippled one and claim it's an "option" for the buyer.

-At least 30 virtual console games at launch: By comparison, Xbox live arcade only has 29 after being out for nearly a year, this is an excellent start to really make it a superior offering.

The Bad:

-Nov. 19th Launch-Christ, they should at least launch before the PS3, not a mere 2 days later. This means they'll be fighting with Sony for big press coverage, and that battle they will most likely lose.

-Pricing for extras: $5 for a NES, $8 for an SNES & $10 for a N64 title? To be honest, I really can't think of more than a handful of each for each system that are still worth that much. But much more concern is the pricing for the controllers. Extra Wiimotes & Nunchucks are sold separately? And for $60 when you combine the two? That seems a little ludicrous to me. not too mention charging money for a browser that if you have a computer you can download for free.

-Photo/Video System: Is this what the somewhat unexpectedly high price comes from? Nobody's going to use this for anything. It's a stupid, useless idea that should've never come to fruition, especially if it would've dropped the console price.

-No DVD playback: Not a huge feature in the scheme of things, but it's a selling point that now MS & Sony can offer that Nintendo can't, and they did initially claim that it would feature DVD playback.

The Ugly:

-Controllers run on batteries: You have got to be fucking kidding me. Supposedly the batteries run for about 30 hours of gameplay. I play at least 30 hours worth of gaming a week, so do most serious gamers. To not make the controllers themselves rechargeable (you know, like on the 360) is pretty goddamn ridiculous.

-No online play at launch: What the fuck is wrong with you Nintendo? This is a major selling point of your competitors, you should at east have something to counter it. Once again, Nintendo has really dropped the ball on this aspect, and if they do fail yet again, this will most likely be the key reason.

Nintendo has honestly set themselves for a much rougher uphill battle then it initially appeared a scant few months ago. We'll have to see if it pays off. I still plan on getting one launch day, but after today you could see a little wavering in the previously unanimous enthusiasm for the system.

Several big movies opening this weekend, although not that many really look appealing. I already saw Gridiron Gang at a sneak preview, and although the Rock showed some decent acting chops, it was still your ridiculously run-of-the-mill sports film.

Everybody's Hero
just looks like the most generic "wacky" animated film ever. I don't even think little kids will be able to sit through it without being incredibly bored.

Black Dahlia features an intriguing true mystery about an unsolved murder, but odds are Brian De Palma's increasingly mediocre directing skills will muddle most of the potential.

And finally there's some little film called The Last Kiss, early reviews are about 50/50, but I think it'll be enjoyable and honestly the only film I'm seriously interested in seeing this weekend.

That's really it for today, I'll most certainly be back later this coming weekend, though.


Use the LEGOS, Luke!

Sure, the long overdue original versions of the Episodes IV-VI came out today, but what I'm really excited about is Lego Star Wars II. The original was a surprisingly fun game and the new one looks to a vast improvement, especially since it's based on the far superior original trilogy. I'm honestly still too wrapped up in Disgaea 2 to get another game right now, but I'll definitely be picking it up down the line when my queue isn't so backed up.

A ton of big DS games are out this week. Mario Hoops, a basketball game starring Mario & pals that makes extensive use of the stylus and focuses more on how many "coins" you accumulate than actual baskets. But maybe a more traditional basketball title would've been the right way to go, as the general consensus is that it's lacking in good play mechanics.

The first DS appearance for the seemingly never-ending Mega Man series, Mega Man ZX is also out this week. The reviews are solid, but Mega Man is more worn out than World War II games at this point, and I just don't have any interest anymore.

Never thought you'd see a MS franchise on a Nintendo system? Well, that day has arrived. Mech Assault: Phantom War is also out for the DS this week. Early word is that thid matches the excellent series it's based on pretty well, so Mech fans may want to give this one a look.

Harvest Moon makes it's inevitable DS debut. If you've played one farming sim, you've played them all (pretty much because this is the only farming sim out there).

And finally, one of Ds' more unique titles, Cooking Mama, is out this week. It sounds like another quirky title along the lines of Wario Ware or Brain Age. It's also a pretty good impulse buy at only $19.99

The absolutely brilliant 2nd season of The Office is also out today. Scrubs is still my favorite show on TV right now, but The Office is definitely the funniest show on TV in the last year. I really hope they can keep it up for at least a few more seasons.




-Seriously, this is just amazing how they got all the angles and it syncing up perfectly with all the different music, I just honestly wish most of the clips were a little longer.

Moving on, I saw several films this weekend, starting with The Illusionist. I thought Giamatti & Norton gave fine performances as usual, but they were anchored by a fairly dull & predictable plot.

I also did see The Protector. It did feature some impressive fight scenes, but star Tony Jaa just really seems lacking in the intangible quality that would make him a big screen star.

But easily the best film I saw this week (and one of the better ones I've seen this year) was Hollywoodland. Affleck does his best acting in years (possibly ever) as George Reeves, and a genuinely involving mystery that actually leaves you with questions unanswered (in a good way) anchored by a strong performance by Adrien Brody as the PI hired to investigate the "suicide".

We all know the 360 is cheaper than the PS3, right? Well, if you just want to play games, yes. However, if you want the full experience from each system (especially including the HD-DVD player for the 360 due out this fall), the PS3 actually comes out at a much cheaper price. It would be a much better selling point if PS3's weren't going to be so ridiculously scarce. Odds are that if the 360 doesn't have a major price drop by the time the PS3 launches, it will by the time it's actually easy to get.

A Suppossed early list of what should be available on the Wii's virtual console come launch day has been revealed, and it's already more impressive than just about anything Xbox's live arcade has to offer in terms of classic old-school gameplay. Though it will remain to be seen if the original titles developed for download will be as cool as Geometry Wars or the Upcoming Castle Crashers.

Finally, my buddy/arch nemesis Sean O'Connell has posted an interview with Zach Braff while he was promoting The Last Kiss, which in case you didn't notice the giant banner that's been hanging around all month, opens this coming Friday.

FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Starfighter: Quadrant Wars


Ben Affleck is just super, thanks for asking.

Hollywoodland, which focuses on the mystery surrounding the original Superman, George Reeves' (Affleck) death, marks what I think is Affleck's long overdue return to challenging dramatic roles that will hopefully end his cold streak. I've always thought his best work was his more edgy stuff-Chasing Amy, Dogma, even his short but memorable parts in movies like Mallrats and especially Boiler Room which showcased a much darker side than when he became a box office megastar were where he really shined. Hopefully this movie is a start back on that road, and most of the early word is very positive, and I am definitely seeing it this weekend.

One movie I'm sort of debating about is The Protector. I love kickass martial arts films as much as the next guy, but I wasn't as entranced by Ong-Bak as most others. I found all the fancy editing really jarring and distracting. But Tony Jaa merely starred in this movie as opposed to directing it, so that gives me some hope I'll be able to see it without having to bring motion-sickness pills.

One movie I'm not even debating is The Covenant, yet another in a long line of obviously horrible films not even screened for critics. I mean, I sure as hell am interested in going to a movie about incredibly bratty rich kids with superpowers that they use primarily for their own gain, aren't you?

That's all I really got for today, but I'll be sure to post sometime this weekend.



In a double whammy of extremely bad news (even for Sony), it turns out that the ever more important European market will not even get any PS3 consoles this year. Yikes, what could be worse than missing the crucial 2006 holiday season in Europe? How about slashing their projected launch shipments for those of us getting it this year by a whopping SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT. So, even if you can afford a PS3, you'll probably have to enter some sort of deadly tournament in order to procure one. You know, despite all the bad press, I always have been of the opinion that Sony would in fact pull it together in time to at least make a solid launch, but even that doesn't seem feasible at this point. What good are exquisite-looking games if even those with tons of disposable income can't get their hands on one? If they have as long a shortage as MS did with the 360 initially, this will definitely be the swan song for Sony.

Some extremely interesting details have leaked about Ubisoft's Far Cry for the Wii, specifically, that it will feature online support. Granted, this could be something as simple as downloadable content, but also could be fully-fledged online multi-player. Far Cry is a 3rd party launch title, which contradicts the report by IGN that no 3rd party launch titles would have online support. This may not be cleared up til we get closer to launch, but at least there's some hope.




Planning on getting a PS3 so you can bask in all the high-def Blu-ray glory? Well unfortunately, Sony has decided that their $600 system doesn't need the necessary cables included with the system so you have to go out and buy them yourself. Way to piss off what few fans they must have left. I can think of few things more frustrating than being informed that in order to get my shiny new overpriced console to work like it should, I have to go out and hunt down some expensive cable that should've been included with it in the first place.

I was pleasantly surprised by Crank. Make no mistake, it's completely mindless, but that's why it's fun. The action sequences are fresh and energetic and don't go too over the top like say the XXX movies; and the film has a good sense of humor and doesn't take itself too seriously.

I did something I haven't done in probably at least a decade and I'm not very proud of myself. I bought the strategy guide for Disgaea 2. Generally, real gamers don't buy strategy guides, especially today with most of the info easily available at various websites. It's not even that Disgaea 2 is that hard, but a lot of what is in the guide should've probably been in the instruction booklet to begin with, like detailed info on all the basic classes (there's well over 200, for chrissakes) and a much expanded explanation of the item world & weapon mastery. I consider it $20 well spent for a little piece of mind, as trying to manage my continually growing army of peons without any guidance was driving me nuts.





Want to play your original xbox games on your new Xbox 360?

Backward compatibility on the Xbox 360 is done through software*

Let Circuit City install it for you
For just $28.99

What are the benefits to playing original Xbox games on my Xbox 360 console?

• Every game* will be playable in high definition.
• Every original Xbox game* will be upscaled to 720p and 1080i, and will take advantage of Xbox 360's anti-aliasing capabilities, delivering a picture that is clear and crisper than anything available on Xbox.

*Refer to the original Xbox games list to ensure compatibility on the Xbox 360.

In case you didn't know, all you need to make your xbox 360 backwards compatible is AN INTERNET CONNECTION! If you don't have one? You can contact MS and they'll send you a disc that you can simply slip into your 360 to get backwards compatibility FOR FREE. Now give me my fucking $28! I have worked in retail nearly all of my adult life, and while I understand we as a industry constantly sell people stuff they don't really need, this is simply customer fraud. I actually used to like Circuit City, but the fact that they let this go on at ANY store is fucking inexcusable and they better hope a class action suit doesn't come out of it because they will lose BIG time. I am permanently boycotting this slimy fuck of a company and anyone else with any common sense should do the same. This is a true low for any buisness to purposely deceive customers like this. Unfortunately, I don't have enough info available to my to file a complaint with the Better Buisness Bureau personally about the specific store this photo was taken at(and there are no Circuit City locations in Seattle itself so I can verify if it's the same at other stores), but I bet someone else has already gone ahead and done it, I suggest if you see such a display in a local Circuit City, you do the same. I honestly too disgusted and pissed about this to write about anything else right now, so I'll be back tomorrow with my thoughts on Crank and a few other things.


Crank it up

What do Jason Statham & Nicholas Cage have in common? Two big movies with NO SCREENINGS FOR CRITICS! Which is becoming a startling regularity, but it sort of makes sense. I can just tell Wicker Man is going to be another pointless "spooky" mystery with some many plot twists that it makes absolutely no sense. And Crank seems like another mindless action vehicle, but it doesn't pretend to be anything else, and I really like Statham, so I plan on seeing it this weekend.

I'm really digging Disgaea 2 so far, lots of great humor and deep strategy and I'm not even at the end of the second chapter. Really my only problem is that I already have too many party members and have to decide whether to make a B-team or just delete some characters so I have a small but lean team.

So, just how fucked is Sony? According to this lengthy WIRED article, very. I admit that I always thought Sony was doing very well in pretty much all their departments despite seemingly minor setbacks like UMD. Even if the PS3 makes money, it may not be enough to really save the company, which is a very interesting thought that next round we may just be seeing MS & Nintendo duking it out.

That's really it for today, but I'll leave you with a little visit from Mr. Gates, circa 1995: