Hellboy II website

The Hellboy II website is now live. I like the little intro by Doug Jones, a.k.a. Abe Sapien. Also, the “Big Baby” gun looks badass.

Halo 3 review

Poe Ghostal snipes a n00b

Looking at that screenshot, I’m suddenly reminded of the first videogame I remember playing, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons for Intellivision. Man, videogames have come a long way in a mere quarter-century. But then, I suppose it only took us twice that time to go from flying the first plane to landing on the moon.

Incidentally, that screenshot was taken in-game by yours truly. It shows my digital avatar, Poe Ghostal, sniping some poor mook.

So, Halo 3. Its release received the kind of marketing hype once reserved solely for summer blockbusters (before they became manufactured a-dime-a-dozen products). It has already made hundreds of millions of dollars.

I was one of those people who was really into the whole “Haloverse” as well as the game itself, and I was greatly anticipating the end of the saga. Here are my impressions.

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No thought was put into this

For the second year in a row, a curious thing has happened once autumn has settled in. For some reason, I suddenly want to listen to Nirvana.

Growing up as a teenager, I was firmly on the Pearl Jam side of the Nirvana/PJ debate, though I certainly liked and admired Nirvana. Even then, I recognized Kurt Cobain’s tortured musical genius (which was underrated then and is probably overrated now).

Lately I’ve definitely been going through musical phases. In early summer, I picked up the Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist and listened to the Pumpkins non-stop for about two months. After that I suddenly and weirdly shifted to the White Stripes, who previously I’d never really liked at all. But then came the cold weather, and with that, Nirvana.

It’s not happy music, which may be part of the reason I’m drawn to it around this time. It has none of the bouncy funk or whimsical blues of the Stripes or the hypnotic drone of the Pumpkins. It doesn’t have the comfortable, classic-rock feel of Pearl Jam. Nirvana’s music is as troubled as its primary creator, full of poppy riffs clashing with discordant notes and Cobain’s sorrowful keening.

There’s a darkness about their music, especially on In Utero, that I seem to dig around this time of year. The first Nirvana song I really noticed was “Heart-Shaped Box” (yes, somehow I missed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” initially), and it’s still my favorite. Though by 1993 the conventional wisdom in rock was that there was nothing new under the sun, “Heart-Shaped Box” was one of the weirdest rock compositions to hit the mainstream (though maybe the freaky music video affected my youthful perception of the song).

I know this will pass in a week or two, as it did last year, and I’ll move on to my November standbys (“Alice’s Restaurant,” anyone?). But given the odd fact that I’m once again listening to Nirvana in the fall, I wanted to discuss it here for posterity. After all, I’ve got to put something in this blog.

Working on a big post about Halo 3. Hope to have it up soon.

New Halo 3 figures

Bubble Head

Speaking of Halo 3 toys, here’s a glimpse of some variant Spartans in McFarlane Toys’ upcoming line. Yay for bubble heads!

(On a side note, I recently scored a few more–non-Halo related–articles for ToyFare. Stay tuned for more info.)

The Return of Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla 1985)

Godzilla

I was introduced to Godzilla by my cousin Ed, who passed down to me his Shogun Warriors Godzilla toy as well as his love of WLVI 56’s Creature Double Feature. I took to the big green lizard like a fish to water–something about the fire-breathing, skyscraper-sized beast spoke to my young soul. I won’t bother to analyze that right now. In any event, I grew up on Godzilla movies. (In fact, Godzilla would eventually help me get into college–but I’ll tell that story some other time.)

In August 1985, at the age of six, I finally got to see a Godzilla movie in the theater. Godzilla 1985 (or The Return of Godzilla, as it was known in Japan) was an important event in my childhood.

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Friday the 13th, Part II

Here’s the second (and final) movie review I wrote before my mind began to melt. Enjoy!

Friday the 13th Part II: A stream-of-consciousness review from memory

Let’s see…the movie starts with a street. We find out later it’s five years since the events of the first film, though this movie came out in 1981, a year after the first. Anyway, we see a girl’s legs walking down a street and then she goes inside, and she’s followed by a mysterious guy in boots. The music tells me he’s bad. By the way, we’re on a suburban street or something. Then we cut to Alice (Adrienne King), the heroine from the first movie, who’s lying in bed dreaming of stock footage from the first movie, which recaps the climax of that film in excruciating, lengthy detail. Finally Alice wakes up, putters around for a while, then gets herself stabbed in the head with an ice pick. Then the credits roll. Ha ha, excellent job director Steve Miner, you made me think Alice was going to be the protagonist but then she died! Kind of reminds me of the opening of Scream.

There’s a noisy credit sequence featuring nutty, chaotic music by Harry Manfredini that reminds me of The Evil Dead. I forgot to mention the distinctive “K-K-K ma-ma-ma” sound in my review of the first film, which was allegedly created by Manfredini distorting his voice saying, “Kill her, mommy!”

Of course I know going into this that the killer is Jason, but the movie’s not exactly subtle on that point anyway. But it raises the question: why the heck is Jason alive? Later we discover that he’s been living in a shack for years?hold on, I’ll save that rant for later.

Once Alice has been dispatched, we join a cast of nubile young teenagers who are basically clones of the ones from the first movie. No, someone isn’t stupid enough to re-open Camp Crystal Lake, but someone is just stupid enough to open a different summer camp nearby. The camp leader/owner/authority figure tells a legend about Jason, hammering home the fact that he’s the killer in the first twenty minutes of the film. The Last Girl?by which I mean the heroine?is named Ginny, by the way, and she’s a cute blonde played by Amy Steel. The camp leader guy is named Paul and I didn’t like him enough to look up the actor’s name on imdb.

A bunch of the counselors go to town to drink, leaving us with our core group of victims. Somewhere in there a cop sees Jason and follows him to an old shack, where he gets himself killed (the cop, of course). It turns out Jason has been living in a shack his entire life. This is bizarrely explained through a monologue from a drunk Ginny, who somehow manages to divine the entire backstory with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. It seems Jason didn’t drown, and allegedly no one ever found his body (so one wonders why Mrs. Voorhees is so sure he drowned…anyway). Apparently Jason decided to live out the rest of his life as a hermit in the woods, rather than going to his mother and explaining that no, he lived, actually. Ginny speculates that he may have seen his mother die, which accounts for why he has her head in his shack, but that makes me wonder?didn’t the cops wonder where Pamela Voorhees’s head went? The film makes it clear that it’s known Pamela was the killer in the first film. So did Jason dig up his mother’s corpse later? Or just take the head right then and there? Actually, wait, he had her sweater, too…

Lots of people get killed and Jason gets revealed as a guy in overalls with a pillowcase on his head. No hockey mask or machete in this one?just a pitchfork. Ginny manages to thwart Jason by pretending to be his mother, which is a fairly interesting scene in an otherwise lame movie. For the record, Ginny’s clearly smarter and more interesting than Alice.

Ultimately, though, I was glad just to get through this thing. These straight slasher movies are so dull. I want to see some supernatural elements and maybe some character development, if that’s not too much to ask.

Troll Market

The more I read about Hellboy 2, the more it seems that there’s something of a Harry Potter-esque vibe to it. I think it’s the idea of the “Troll Market” more than anything else, but still.

I really can’t predict how well this film will do. The first one was a moderate success, but it was no Batman Begins or even X-Men. Maybe these Rowling-esque touches, while alienating some Hellboy fans (Hi, Scott!) will draw in the casual crowd.

Friday the 13th

I wrote this piece a few months ago, when I was still thinking I could sit through all the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Halloween movies. It turned out I couldn’t, but I did manage to write two reviews before I gave up. Here’s the first one.

Hello and welcome. I’m Jander Rothberg.

And my name is Sir Nigel Sandstone.

We’re here today to discuss the celluloid trash—I mean, the cinematic masterpie—the film Friday the 13th. Filmed on a budget of $700,000 and released in 1980, this so-called ‘slasher flick’ spawned—and I do mean spawned, as spawn is a word most often associated with slimy things with tentacles—spawned a series of sequels.

Now now, Jan, you’re getting ahead of yourself, no?

Oh very well. Hand me the tea, will you? The film’s plot, such as it is, can be summarized thusly. The movie begins in a place called Camp Crystal Lake in 1958. Two teenage camp counselors sneak off to copulate and are brutally murdered. Twenty years later, the camp is re-opened and teenage camp counselors are brutally murdered, usually after sneaking off to copulate.

Now now, Jan, there’s a bit more to it than that.

Is there? I was under the impression this was a quickie rip-off of John Carpenter’s far superior Halloween that happened to have enough nudity and gratuitous violence to be successful and give the filmmakers the wrong idea that they should keep making movies rather than turning their talents to some other medium that might better suit their talents. Like fabric sculpture, perhaps.

All right, enough. I for one thought the film was relatively effective at what it was trying to do, which is to scare you.

But what kind of goal is that for a work of art? Is there nothing more?

What about Psycho?

Touché. But I do hope you’re not comparing Alfred Hitchcock to Sean S. Cunningham, the director of this film?

What if I were?

Then I should beat you about the face and neck until I was certain your fit of madness had passed.

As everyone knows, the big twist in Friday the 13th is that the killer turns out not to be a masked male psychopath—that came in the later films—but a middle-aged woman, the mother of a boy named Jason Voorhees who drowned at the camp in 1957 while the counselors were off copulating, as you put it.

Hmph. ‘Twist.’ I suppose it was fairly clever. But once the woman, played by one Betsy Palmer, was revealed, I have to say the heroine did not handle herself very well. How many times did she beat the woman down, then leave without making sure she was unconscious?

Well, one must expect such conventions of the genre.

Oh please. But I did like the old crazy fellow in town who told them that the Camp had a death curse. If I had a nickel for every time I was told one of my vacation destinations had a death curse…

…then what?

Pardon?

If you had a nickel for every time that happened, then what?

I’d be rich, I believe the expression goes.

People have actually told you that a place you are going on vacation has a death curse?

I was merely making a joke, Nigel.

So no one’s ever actually told you a place you were going had a death curse.

Well, there was that one time, when I was going to visit New Haven. But that turned out to be true.

Moving on. What did you think of the cast? I thought the actors were generally a bit stilted and untrained, but that was fine, since all they really had to do was die in horribly violent ways.

Yes, it was a very rewarding film in that regard.

I suppose we ought to mention that this film features a very young Kevin Bacon.

Yes, he gets stabbed through the throat from under the bed. Excellent role for him. Unfortunately for those of you who like to play “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” none of the other actors in this film have ever done anything else.

Now that’s neither nice nor quite true.

It’s mostly true.

…yes.

Also, I’m unclear as to why I had to be subjected to Mr. Bacon wearing a skintight banana-hammock and, later, his exposed buttocks.

I did like the heroine, Alice. I thought Adrienne King made her charming and believable.

Aside from the character’s astounding lack of common sense and mild-to-moderate arm strength, I’ll agree with you.

Of course, it’s the next film that the infamous Jason Voorhees takes his place as the antagonist of the series. But I’ll let Mr. Clarke tell you about that. Until next time, my friends.

Enjoy the day.

Yet more Xbox drama

Two nights ago, my Xbox 360 died again.

This was my third, though it had been built around the same time as my previous two–September 2006. I was in the middle of playing Halo 3 with some friends when the DVD drive began to make a sound somewhat like a weed whacker. A moment later, it declared my Halo 3 disc unplayable, as well as any other disc I put in there.

This time I brought it back to Sam’s Club and simply requested a refund. I took the refund and bought a brand-new Xbox 360 at Best Buy. It has a manufacture date of August 4, 2007 (the day I got engaged–coincidence?). It has the new Zephyr motherboard with the improved heat sink. I made sure to confirm this–the word “Zephyr” was right on the box’s SN label.

Since the refund from Sam’s Club was for the full price in September and the 360 has had a $100 price drop since, I was able to get the new console as well as an extended warranty that would let me swap the 360 anytime it broke down for the next two years. Of course, by dropping the cash for the warranty, I virtually guaranteed this console will never break down (or at least, not for two years).

Hallowed out

As I hinted at in my first October post, I’m just not feeling the Halloween love this year. Maybe I burned out last year and need a year to recuperate. I’ll keep the Halloween theme, of course, but I’m afraid you’re not going to get daily postings. However, I’m hoping I can manage to pull together something for Christmas.

I had debated whether to post this next tidbit. But for anyone who’s curious, I participated in a faculty reading on Tuesday night at the college I work at, and they put the video up on their website (Quicktime MOV). I’m about half-way in. I appear to have been going for the land-speed record for reading a short story out loud, and I forgot to add, y’know, emotion. So you could say I’m not pleased with my performance. But I suppose it’s all a learning experience–next time will be better.

DG and I have finally started watching Heroes. And it’s great. I don’t want to discuss it here, though, until I’ve caught up.

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