Early Casting: A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE HBO Series

Posted in Upcoming Entertainment on July 20, 2009 by DTB

I know we generally write reviews of things on this site, but I just found out about some absolutely exquisite casting for an upcoming fantasy project.  As such, I will deviate away from my usual ranting and raving into the world of heightened anticipation.

 The series A Song of Ice and Fire by American novelist George R. R. Martin altered my perception of literature.  Not since Lord of the Rings had a book impacted my personal tastes and goals as an aspiring fantasy writer, and the book I’ve been working on sporadically for two or so years owes a great deal to Martin.  The world Martin creates is dark and foreboding, medieval, gritty, but extraordinarily compelling and entirely original.

 For some time, HBO has owned the rights to ASOIAF but little to no casting has been revealed.  Today, we finally have a first slew of actors cast in the production, which starts filming in October.  Reactions begin NOW…

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Sean Bean as Eddard Stark:  Sean Bean is one of the most underrated actors working today.  He has this uncanny ability to gain genuine sympathy for every character he portrays, from IRA terrorists to broadsword-wielding Gondorian warriors.  His Odysseus was amongst the most memorable characters in Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy.  His casting as the noble, Arthurian tragic hero Ned Stark is as perfect as one could desire.

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Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister:  Dinklage has had memorable bit parts in countless films.  I loved him as the grumpy dwarf in Prince Caspian.  His casting as the lusty, scheming, vulgar Tyrion Lannister should fit like a glove.  I just hope he looks good with a blonde wig.

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Mark Addy as King Robert Baratheon: I haven’t seen much of Mark Addy, but from the few clips I’ve seen of him on YouTube, he has a decent “battlefield voice” and quite an impressive screen presence.

 Kit Harrington as Jon Snow:  Harrington is a young actor of the British stage.  That’s where his experience lies.  I’m glad they went with a relatively unknown actor for Jon Snow, who is hands down my favorite character in ASOIAF aside from Ned.

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Harry Lloyd as Viserys Targaryen:  I need to ask those friends of mine who watch the Robin Hood BBC series about Harry Lloyd, who portrays Will Scarlet.  He has the look of Viserys, and from the few YouTube clips I’ve watched, he seems to have acting chops as well.

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Jack Gleeson as Joffrey Lannister:  Jack Gleeson was the little slum boy in Batman Begins that Batman gives his binoculars to.  He was quite good in Begins, and that was 4 years ago!  Hopefully he can play rich, spoiled, snotty and arrogant.

 

So there you have it.  My early appraisal of the A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones casting.  I’m extremely excited about the series.  Too bad I don’t have HBO right now.

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Funny Games

Posted in Movies on July 20, 2009 by Scott

Apologies for the late “Weekend Free for All” post, but I have just finished watching Funny Games, and i felt it necessary to express an opinion of the film here.

Funny Games is a remake of an Austrian film of the same name, released in 1997, and the remake 10 years later. The same writer/director made both films, and without having seen the original film i am basing this on IMDB, but the 2007 film is a shot for shot remake. Let’s talk premise here. a family of three is taken hostage at their summer home by two psychopaths. That’s it. Inspires you to go find a copy of the film and watch huh? I implore you to do so, the film has more than enough merit to warrant a viewing or maybe 2, depending on the amount you wish to be able to analyze this twisted piece of cinema.

The thing with Funny Games is even with as formulaic as the premise is, the film breaks out of the mold of traditionalhorror movies, and makes something that is meant to make the viewer uncomfortable, and never allows for any release of tension. Michael Haneke has done a fantastic job of keeping the audience one step removed from all of the action in the film, wondering what and where the next moment of horror will show up. There is no background music, so there are no audio cues as to when there will be a scare, but then again, there are no traditional scares to be had in this film. All of the violence (sans a slap to the face and one other select scene) happens off camera, there are no “jump-out” scares, Haneke makes sure that while detached from this disjointed narrative’s action, the audience is still deeply engaged.

In essence, Paul and Peter (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet respectively) are the young, poshly dressed psychopaths that trap Naomi Watts and Tim Roth and their son played by Devon Gearhart in their summer home.  As well mannered as psychos could be, they come dressed in preppy outfits that wouldn’t be out of place at a yacht club, and each with a pair of golf gloves on. The trouble starts when Peter, the “clumsy” of the two asks to borrow eggs from Watts’ Anne, and after two attempts at taking 4 eggs back to their home, Anne gets upset, and asks them to leave, and when they refuse, George (Roth) steps in to make them leave. This starts the movie down a violent twisted path, and we are all lead by Paul. He essentially plays the role of ringleader and narrator. He commands Peter, and has most of the speaking parts in the film. Paul has a couple of instances where he addresses the audience directly, asking questions to the viewers directly, and these serve as one more tie to the tragedy that is befalling the family we are watching.

Technically, the movie does a few things out of the ordinary that are greatly appreciated by anyone watching from the behind the camera perspective. There are a number of shots which are longer than average; many times taking place when one character or another is going outside of the house. There will be about 30 seconds of the scene outside, almost as a still, then the character will move, breaking the tension. However, one of these long shots occurs at a crucial time in the film, and telling the circumstances would ruin the tension of the scene. Suffice it to say, a restrained Naomi Watts tries desperately to free herself from her bonds, and tries a number of things to no avail, then as she finally reaches her feet and hops across the room out of the frame, the camera pans to follow her, only to stop on an incapacitated Tim Roth, who awakens and is soon joined by a freed Watts. The scene carries so much weight, and the fact that it is one unbroken shot for 8 minutes (give or take) has such an incredible impact.

Another interesting choice by the filmmakers is the opening credits. The screen shows the two logos of the film companies, then shows the credit sequence of producers, stars, etc. as stark red letters on a black background. Until the first set of credits is over, there is no sound at all. Then, classical music and the family talking as they drive down a highway, while even more credits show. It has been a long time since a movie has been released with credits coming before the film that include assistant to the director, assistant sound people, and the like. These credits roll over Watts and Roth attempting to guess the music that the other puts on, and then suddenly changes to an experimental, noise rock song. Very jarring contradictions.

All in all, Funny Games makes for good viewing. But more importantly, it makes for a good reactionary piece. The intent of the filmmaker is to make you mad, to make sure that you are unable to decide what is going on, why it is happening, and what types of feelings you should have towards it. Haneke makes damned sure that you have an incontestable feeling towards the film by the end, and you want to know what kind of a person would make this film, and how can they sleep at night knowing what hey have crated? If you feel that way, then good. If not, I am not sure if you ave been immunized against unfeeling violence, or if this type of film just doesn’t resonate with you. I give it 3.5/5, specifically for the uneasy feeling i had the entire time. Thank the filmmaking heavens that someone has decided to come along and break some of the boundaries of horror movies, and maybe, if the stars align just right, the cheap slasher movie will have met its match.

Movie Review – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Posted in Movies on July 16, 2009 by DTB

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The following review is going to have a few spoilers.  I’ll provide a CAPITALIZED SPOILER WARNING IN RED before each major reveal, so you can automatically jump to them and ruin the movie (and the book) for yourselves.

 As usual though, I’d like to start with a bit of history first…

 I got into the Harry Potter series at the age of 11, when some close family friends returned from their trip to England with a fantasy book that seemed on the cusp of greatness.  This was before “Potter Mania” caught on, before the mainstreaming of the series, and a year after I’d read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  I was on a fantasy kick, and reading a story where the main character grew up with me, almost always my exact age, was amongst the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had with literature.  Also, I was 11 years old, and didn’t pay attention to what was “mainstream” or “underground.”  I just cared whether or not a book was good.  And Harry Potter was GREAT.  Even now, the Potter books remain amongst the greatest exercises in literary imagination.  What J.K. lacked in writing finesse, she more than made up for with a compelling cast of characters, witty humor and sheer creativity.  Haters beware, you will get no sympathy from me (especially those that refuse to try Potter because “OOOOOOooo it’s popular“).

 AAaaaanyway…

 The years 2000-2001 were the height of “Potter-Mania,” and the release of the darker, more adult Goblet of Fire showed a distinct shift of tone.  Simultaneously, trailers for a film adaptation of the first book were finally surfacing, accompanied with spoiler-heavy internet buzz.  I remember waiting half an hour for my 56K modem to load the trailer.  When the movie was finally released, my 15-year-old self was quite satisfied with it, especially in regards to the casting.  Each subsequent film built on what was established, the child actors refining their abilities.  Chamber of Secrets was enjoyable and light-hearted, much like the first entry of the series.  Prisoner of Azkaban was a visual feast, but a terrible adaptation of its source material, substituting character development for shrunken heads.  Goblet of Fire was an intense, hormonal, often hilarious but ultimately dark entry (much like its source material), and was a very strong entry in the series.  2007’s Order of the Phoenix took the longest and dullest of the novels and turned it into the most tightly-paced and well-acted film of the series, due largely to director David Yates.

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 So now we come to the sixth of the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, again directed by Yates.  From the get-go you know it’s a different ride compared to its companions in the series.  The familiar WB shield is muted and pale, with dark foreboding clouds swirling as we flash to Harry and Dumbledore being assaulted by the press immediately following the conclusion of the last movie.  Following this, we find ourselves in London as Voldemort’s Death Eater followers wreck terrorist havoc on some muggles, the Millennium Bridge and Diagon Alley.  There’s an urgency here, a foreboding, as if there’s a seeping, slithering tragedy establishing itself.  Rowling’s novel captured this feeling very well, but what Rowling says with adjectives, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves say with muted colors, implicative subtext and visual subtlety.  The film is amongst the most intense I’ve seen – quite a feat for a PG-rating – but it lies just beneath the surface.  While there is comedy and teen-aged angst, light-hearted conversations and mysteries to be solved, you can feel an insurmountable darkness building, an intensity waiting in the shadows, and the sinister lurking just beyond reach.  The brilliantly polished script exquisitely depicts this coming darkness with its pacing, subtext and dialogue.

 Half-Blood Prince is, without any debate, the best-acted entry of the series.  Each and every actor, from the bit parts to the leads, has an opportunity to rise above their previous work.  From what I understand, this is due greatly to David Yates’ direction.

 Let’s start with the “kids”…

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 Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) has evolved from a three expressioned child to a truly wonderful actor.  He displays an extensive range in Half-Blood Prince, including his usual emotions.  But his crying scene is significantly more convincing this time around, and he also gets to exercise his comic chops, which truly do prove to be present.  I had no idea that Radcliffe could be so funny!  Overall, he has truly established himself as a young leading man.

 Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) just keeps growing more extraordinary.  Hermione finally gets to flex her emotional muscles during this go-around, and Watson is certainly up to the challenge.  There’s a particularly effective crying scene that gives new clout to the saying “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” (and, well, change “scorned” to “ignored” or “betrayed” and you’re set).  Additionally, she brings more heart to her character than we’ve seen.

 Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) has an undeniable comic gift.  Not only is his timing impeccable (his scenes with Jim Broadbent are gut-busting) but his facial expressions are flat-out hysterical.  Grint’s dramatic acting is also up to par, but let’s face it…Ron’s the comic relief of the trio and Grint is truly funny.

 As a trio, Radcliffe, Watson and Grint have also come a long way.  Their chemistry together is so natural and familiar, you believe they are good friends because they are in reality.  It’s such a pleasure to see them grow up together.

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 Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) portrays Ginny in a very different (but in no way worse)  manner than I pictured reading the book.  Rowling writes Ginny as brash and forward, confident and fun-loving.  Wright captures these elements, but adds a subtlety (the word of the night!) and grace I never thought Ginny possessed.  The result is something very rare and very special – a love interest of depth, humor and sensitivity.  Onscreen, Wright absolutely shines.

 Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) has gotten the short end of the stick during the past few Potter movies.  What should have been a multi-layered villain was reduced to a mere high school bully.  In Half-Blood Prince, Malfoy is given his dues and Felton delivers!  His heart-wrenching portrayal of a misguided young man torn between fear for his life and what is right might actually be the most affecting performance of the film.  I know Felton has said he does not really wish to continue acting, but after his performance here, it would truly be a tragedy if he denies his clear talents.

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 Moving onto the adults…

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 Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) wasn’t Richard Harris (the original Dumbledore), and he had enormous shoes to fill.  Initially, I hated his portrayal of Dumbledore.  He was too loud and booming and lacked the silliness and cheekiness that Rowling wrote into the character.  After seeing Half-Blood Prince, I don’t think I can picture anybody else portraying everyone’s favorite headmaster.  Gambon IS Dumbledore, and his performance is beautiful, powerful, tragic, funny and altogether brilliant.

 Jim Broadbent (Horace Slughorn) is, alongside Rupert Grint, Half-Blood Prince‘s humor center.  From the moment he CAPITALIZED SPOILER WARNING IN RED changes from an armchair back into human form END CAPITALIZED SPOILER WARNING IN RED, his screentime is accompanied with chuckles, guffaws, and even a few loud laugh-fests.  However, his dramatic scenes are equally brilliant.  Broadbent is a fantastic addition to the extraordinary cast, and plays his role perfectly.

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 Alan Rickman (Severus Snape) brings a humanity to his character I never pictured in the book.  Rowling never really writes Snape as conflicted, just sulky, but Rickman’s facial expressions alone add depth and humanity to this extremely compelling character.  His line delivery, as always, is spot-on.  When he finally commits the infamous final deed of the film, there is sheer regret on his face.  I cannot see anybody else portraying Snape.  As always, Rickman was brilliant.

 Supporting roles are of course solid.  Of particular notes were Helena Bonham-Carter’s certifiable Bellatrix Lestrange, Helen McCrory’s tormented Narcissa Malfoy, Evanna Lynch’s always delightful Luna Lovegood, Maggie Smith’s pitch-perfect Prof. McGonagall, Jessie Cave’s hilariously clingy Lavender Brown, Dave Legeno’s ferocious Fenrir Greyback and Freddie Stroma’s crude Cormac McLaggen.

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 Half-Blood Prince‘s production values were outstanding.  Special effects were not blaring or gaudy, they supplemented the story and functioned subtly (agian, word of the night!), beautifully, and occasionally terrifyingly.  The CAPITALIZED SPOILER WARNING IN RED cave scene with the horcrux was particularly stunning, especially when Dumbledore spewed swirls of fire at the inferi END CAPITALIZED SPOILER WARNING IN RED.  Bruno Delbonnel’s cinematography was the best of the summer.  Camera angles were inventive, and the film could move from a sweeping panorama to an up-close chase view seamlessly.  An additional bonus: NO SHAKY CAM 😀 😀 :-D!!!  Nicholas Hooper’s score wasn’t bombastic.  It wasn’t virtuosic.  It was slow, tense, jovial, textured and understated.  Truly a beautiful job.

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My only complaint about the film itself, from a film-viewer’s perspective, was the slow-motion Dumbledore death.  It seems like deaths of major characters always have to be filmed in slow-mo these days, but I always find deaths more impactful if they’re done in real-time.  My two remaining (minor) quips about the film are in regards to important omissions from the book.  First and foremost, a massive battle between Hogwarts staff and Aurors against the invading Death Eaters at the end of the book did not make it into the film.  While I know we’ll have gratuitous action in the now-split Deathly Hallows, wouldn’t it have been alright to give us a taste of crazy wizard-vs-wizard combat?  Secondly, the formal funeral for Dumbledore was cut entirely, which is when Harry gives Ginny the Peter Parker “I love you too much to endanger you so I have to break-up with you” speech.  Anyway.  Those were fairly minor objections.  Won’t cost the movie more than half a point.

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 Ultimately, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a very strong addition to the series.  By far the best written, acted, and directed of the series, every element of the film is elevated to a new level of artistry.  It’s the first Potter adaptation that transcends simple entertainment and achieves a heightened place as a film.  For this reason, I must give Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince a resoundingly high 9.5/10 in my book.  How truly refreshing that children and adults alike can watch a highly entertaining yet beautiful piece of cinema.  It’s already started to break Transformers 2‘s records.  Let us all give thanks.

Movie Review – Public Enemies

Posted in Movies on July 9, 2009 by DTB

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Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are possibly the biggest male movie stars right now.  They’re certainly two of the most talented.  So when Michael Mann, an EXTREMELY talented director, hired these two juggernauts to go head-to-head in an action thriller based on John Dillinger’s bank robberies in the ‘30s, I got excited.  While I’m not a huge fan of gangster movies (The Godfather parts I and II being obvious exceptions), I AM a fan of Michael Mann, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.

Though I’m a self-professed student of history, Dillinger’s criminal escapades are in no way a specialty of mine.  I don’t know how accurate the film was to the historical facts, but it was ultimately very entertaining.  So I’ll judge Public Enemies as a movie.  How did it hold up?  Pretty well actually.  The script takes an interesting approach for a crime-sprawling biopic, essentially eliminating the “bio” prefix and adding a simple “e” instead.  We don’t get childhood flashbacks.  We don’t get a heart-wrenching examination of motivation.  Depp’s Dillinger emerges as fully-formed and defined as Heath Ledger’s Joker, and is ALMOST as much fun.  The entire movie is a cat-and-mouse intrigue/action fest of Christian Bale’s Melvin Purvis pursuing Depp’s charismatic Dillinger.  Scriptwriters Ronan Bennett and Michael Mann give Marion Cottllard’s Billie Frechette a real soul with precious little screentime and Billy Cruddup’s J. Edgar Hoover a very interesting and fairly accurate portrayal.  Dialogue is witty, fast-paced and intelligent.  The movie’s definitely not for movie watchers with low attention spans, as certain plot points could conceivably be missed easily if one is not paying rapt attention.  Still, I love movies that demand attention, and only think this furthers the positives of Public Enemies.  It’s a perfect counter-balance to the mind numbing stupidity of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Casting of Public Enemies is absolutely solid.  Johnny Depp shows a sly, smooth side I’ve never seen from him.  His Dillinger oozes a thick, molassesy charisma and a real lust for life.  He also portrays Dillinger as a man who’s never truly grown up or faced death head-to-head.  Christian Bale succeeds at something I’ve never thought possible…I highly disliked his character.  Bale brought humanity to Purvis, had a convincing Southern drawl, was essentially the righteous one, but also depicted an underlying insecurity I thought fascinating.  Marion Cotillard has truly emerged into Hollywood now.  She’s not a classic beauty, but has a wonderful, whimsical natural charisma that’s a perfect compliment to Depp.  I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.  Billy Cruddup was nearly unrecognizable as J. Edgar Hoover, and wonderfully portrays a seething frustration and subtle detesting beneath a rigid exterior.  Other notable performances include Channing Tatum as Pretty Boy Floyd, Jason Clarke as John “Red” Hamilton (a personal favorite of mine), and Stephen Graham as an unnervingly unpredictable “Baby Face” Nelson.

Technically, Public Enemies was pretty good as well.  Period sets were great.  Props looked shiny.  Special effects were exactly what they should have been.  In particular, the slow-motion bullet shot that finally kills Dillinger was an impressive feat, and very effectively done.  The length was perfect…editing knew what they were doing.  My major cinematographic complaint, however, was that there was TOO MUCH SHAKY CAM during action sequences!  I’m really starting to get sick of feeling like I personally filmed the majority of Hollywood movies as of late.  Cameramen and cinematographers are trained professionals, and the camerawork should show this.  Right now, I feel like P$’s ADHD chocolate lab could film a movie more smoothly than this.

Elliot Goldenthal’s score was pretty good.  I enjoyed his twangy bursts of bluegrass inspiration, acoustic guitar embellishments and overall minimalist approach, which I found appropriate.  I also liked the integration of the song “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” as a continuing theme.  It’s hands down one of the greatest jazz standards ever composed and the film definitely honors this fact.

Overall, I think Michael Mann has directed a solid movie.  Public Enemies is fun and intelligent, very well-acted, action-packed, and also thought-provoking.  It’s not a grand technical achievement, but it remains slick and nice to look at.  I couldn’t stand the gratuitous shaky cam action scenes.  Still, it’s solid.  Public Enemies is an 8/10 in my book.  Necca out.

Black Meteoric Star – Black Meteoric Star

Posted in Music on July 9, 2009 by Scott

As a lay-person when it comes to Electronica, i often have a hard time distinguishing god from just ok, from really poor. My original attitude was one of complete disinterest because of the lack of real instruments, and the repetition of the beats throughout the songs, and albums. Sure, i listened to Prodigy’s Fat of the Land as much as the next guy, and obviously college brought Daft Punk onto my radar, but other than a roommate who had a huge collection of rave music (or maybe just a lot of copies of the same song, i couldn’t really tell…) i was almost completely unexposed.

Through the power of the internet and the influence of some people who i became acquainted with, i discovered the mad ravings of Richard D. James’ Aphex Twin, the brilliance of RJD2, and Does This Offend You, Yeah? just to name a few of the better examples.  None of that prepared me for the sound of Black Meteoric Star, and their self titled album. A duo, hailing from the east coast of the US and working in Germany, BMS was introduced to me by a tweet from a webcomic artist, and usually liking what he suggests, i checked into it.

BMS is an album of long songs. The shortest clocks in at 6.15, the longest at 18.34. It certainly calls for some time investment to get the full enjoyment from a listen. Contrary to the world of popular culture and pop radio, long songs are not bad songs. The three minute pop song has been a staple since the Beatles started in the 1960’s, and apart from some underground, small market, or college radio stations, long tracks have gone all but unheard, or have been edited to fit the formula. The reason i bring this up is simply to suggest that if you decide listen to BMS, be sure to have some time set aside to really get into it.

Excuse my complete lack of knowledge on the different types of electronica, but in order to classify this album, i would suggest that one would hear it at a rave, or as the score for a fast paced, techo-thriller movie, similar to Eagle Eye, or any of the subsequent Matrix rip-off films to hit the market recently. [No, i am not saying this came from that movie, but it sounds like the type of score that would suit the genre of movie very well.] The songs have an industrial feel to them, and get deeper as the tracks go on; a new sound emerges fairly often, layered upon a repetitive beat from the section prior. A little bit of research on the band says that the music created by BMS is meant to accompany art installations, and the repetition is part of the visual art as well, provoking a trance, which i suppose would qualify this as “trance electronica” then.

Black Meteoric Star gets it right. They see when the beat is about to go stale, and add a new element at just the right time, leaving enough of the old to keep a connection, and adding enough new to make it fresh, and to keep it from getting boring. There are no vocals on this album, which works to its benefit; the duo has enough going on that adding any vocals would make the tracks seem overly cluttered, and lose some of the mystique. Tey save one of their best tricks for the last track on the album, which coincidentally is the longest track. The start is a rain storm, you hear rain falling, just as if you were out in a cabin on the plains. It’s heavy rain, and for 25 seconds or so thats all you hear. Then the rain starts morphing, swirling and skipping, until you realize it has become part of the soundscape of the track. It’s a killer way to start a track, and an even better example of how to use a sound sample.

As someone who can listen to, but not really discern techno’s merits, i give this album 3.5/5. Solid, fun electronica, but nothing to write home about either. Maybe those with a more discerning ear will question this score, and are certainly welcome to do that, but either way, give it a listen. If nothing else, you can blast it on your stereo as you pretend to be recreating the elevator fire-fight scene from The Matrix.

Ikaruga

Posted in Video Games on July 7, 2009 by Scott

First, let me start with apologies for the lack of posting last week, things have been a touch crazy, but hopefully starting with this and tomorrow’s review, things will get back on track. Onwards to the game!

Ikaruga is a Japanese sh’mup that was released in 2001 to arcades, then released for Dreamcast, and eventually the Nintendo Gamecube. This is where i got my first taste of this brutal game. It has since been released on the Xbox Live Arcade, and this is what the following is based upon.

Ikaruga seems so simple; black vs. white. In essence, there are 2 colors of enemies, black and white, which fire bullets that match their color. Your ship is either black or white, and you have the ability to change it at will, with 2  very distinct advantages: first, you absorb bullets of the color of your ship, which in turn powers up your special attack, and you deal extra damage to the enemies of the opposite color. Simple enough right? Think again.

While it would seem that only having to worry about half of the projectiles on the screen at one time, one still needs to heed the position of enemy ship of both colors, as touching them will make your ship explode. The enemies are fast moving and sometimes unpredictable, but that is only part one of the challenge. Part two comes from the sheer number of bullets fired on screen at any one time. Players will often be taken aback as they look at the shots filling their screen, coming from all angles, closing in on your ship, only to be avoided by a deftly maneuvered turn, or a timely polarity flip. The game consists of 5 fairly short stages, each with a prologue, a title, and a boss battle. The player is graded on performance during each stage, based upon the number of enemies of the same polarity they killed in a row, the number of times the player died, as well as other things.

Those people who think this is strictly a shooting game are sadly mistaken, however the game may seem on the surface. I think it safe to say that the real challenge is becoming a “bullet-eater”, or finishing the game without shooting. Since you are able to absorb like colored bullets, players can progress through the stages as the enemies fly by them, arriving at the boss of the stage. There is a timer for each boss, and after the time is expired he wil fly away. This provides another strategy for those who have quicker reflexes than i to play with.

There is nothing wrong with this game. The graphics are stellar (no pun intended), the controls are simple, fly, shoot, and change polarity, and special attack all assigned to their own button. The length of the game, while it appears short, lends itself well to multiple plays (if you can finish it), and is just right to make you want more, but still be satisfied with what you got. The difficulty is way up there, but well worth the frustration. As this is an Xbox game, there are the requisite Achievements, which include killing the bosses, and achieving good stage grades, and these give you something to attempt to refine your technique for.

Pros:
-The graphics are killer for a 8 year old game.
-Multiple strategies with a simple interface.
-Very challenging.

Cons:
-Difficulty could be offputting to some.
-Only 5 levels, but at 800 Microsoft Points, ($10 USD) it is well worth it.

4.5/5

P$ says Happy 4th of July! He also recommends a classic movie.

Posted in Movies on July 4, 2009 by dparkhurst

Well Happy 4th folks! It’s a great day to meet with family and friends, pop open a cold one and play with explosives. Ah yes, alcohol and fire-works: the staple of the 4th of July and America itself.  Have a wonderful and safe day. Hopefully you are all going on picnics and enjoying the sun. That is unless you’re from central New York. It has been grey for the past week and today is no different. It will be nice to add some color in the sky later tonight.

I was thinking about what to update LBR with on this holiday. I can’t think of anything better than touching upon one of my favorite movies.

Patton

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Patton: You know I actually pity those poor bastards we’re going up against, by God I do. We’re not just going to shoot the bastards, we’re going to cut out their living guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.

I love the beginning of this movie. It’s iconic, patriotic, and simply better than any speech in the LOTR: Return of the King. (Hey Necca, I dare you to disagree on America’s birthday!) A four star general in front of a gigantic American flag motivating forces before they go into battle. The writers of Patton took exerts from different speeches that Patton made and put them together make the speech that George C Scott gave in the movie.

The movie is awesome. It won seven academy awards including best picture and best actor. George Scott actually declined the award stating that he didn’t think he did Patton justice. Patton was bigger than life I suppose. The movie chronicles Patton’s campaign throughout northern Africa, the invasion of Sicily, and his contribution to the Battle of the Bulge. It shows his relationships with General Omar Bradley and the British General Bernard Montgomery. He is feared by the Germans for his drive and determination to never hold the line. He frustrated American military leaders by disobeying orders and taking over towns that were suppose to be given to the British. The movie portrayed him as a rebel of his time. He was almost indestructible. The movie is also filled with one-liners that Patton made throughout his World War 2 career.

The movie came out in 1970. At the time the country was in the midst of the Vietnam war. The studio didn’t think that the movie would make much money based upon the attitude that the country had at the time. The rebellions and protests against the Vietnam war gave the studio much clout in their argument. The producers had to think of a way to get this movie going and show the studio that it could make money. The way that the producers pitched the movie was terrific and made a lot of sense at the time. Patton was a rebellious General. The producers used that as their argument. They told the studio that they could get both the “hawks”(pro-war) and the “doves”(anti-war) to go see the movie. In fact, they were going to originally call the movie Patton: A Salute to a Rebel.

The producers were right. Patton came out and it drove people with diverse opinions of Vietnam to the theaters. The hawks saw the movie as a pro-war film with America in the lime-light while the doves claimed the movie supported anti-war sentiments. It’s actually genius because he does both brilliantly. The movie showed the patriotism that both the hawks and doves claimed to have for their country. The hawks looked up to Patton as a strong military leader that was the staple of courage and strength while the doves related to the rebellious side of him that was always going against authority and the status quo. Perfect!

I highly recommend this movie if you haven’t seen it. It’s a brilliant war film that is much more about battles and glory. It’s about the strengths and flaws of a brave American General in a time of great peril. He was unpredictable to both the Germans and the Allies.

Have a wonderful 4th of July and remember those who have fought for this country and for our freedom. Many countries cannot pin point the actual date that their nations were formed. We can… we have the documentation and signatures.

Alright folks, have a wonderful and safe 4th. I’m off to eat ribs and drink beer. I’ll probably blow some things up in the process.

Until next time,

Dizzle