Sunday, September 6, 2009

Review - Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3/360)

Superhero games have somewhat become known for being not a very good idea. The known good superhero games have either a movie tie-in (Spiderman 2), or a mashup with a plethora of diverse characters (Marvel vs. Capcom). But not all superhero games have to be like Superman 64 or Aquaman. For example, games like Amazing Spiderman and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction weren't bad games, yet didn't quite receive critical acclaim. This is where Batman: Arkham Asylum comes in. Metacritic shows that Arkham Asylum received an average score of 92 out of 100. And the game is completely deserving of that score.
The story of Arkham Aslyum starts with Batman, once again, taking Joker back to Arkham Asylum. But this is all a part of a ruse set by the Joker. Joker, with the help of some freed inmates and an obnoxious Harley Quinn, take over the Asylum and Batman travels the asylum to try and stop them. The writing feels just like any Batman comic you've ever read, although it does sometimes make you wonder how the game pulled off a Teen rating.
Graphically, the game looks great. Textures are almost overly detailed and the characters look like their comic book counterparts. The only time where a hiccup was noticed was when Batman's arm looked as though it went through an inmate's head during a punch. What may take some getting used to is the third-person over the shoulder viewpoint that most of the game takes place in. The environment of the game reminded me a lot of Bioshock. There are also references to a plethora of Batman characters, which makes exploring the environment well worth exploring. As far as the sound goes, the characters are all voiced by their counterparts from the animated series. All of the sound effects are well done and the soundtrack suits the feeling of the game.
Throughout the development of this game, what's pulled the most attention is the combat system. The game uses a freeflow combat system, allowing Batman to jump from enemy to enemy. The combo system is fairly simple (you have one button to strike and one button to counter) yet it still feels like you are fighting like Batman. Batman is also armed with gadgets, like the batarang and explosive gel, which aids in opening new areas and disarming enemies. Other than combat, the game fulfills the Batman experience with stealth rooms and Detective view. As you explore the asylum, some rooms will have inmates armed with rifles. In true Batman form, you're required to take out these enemies without attracting attention. You can do this either by sneaking up behind the enemy and taking them down, glide kicking them from your perch on a gargoyle, or hanging from a gargoyle and snatching them up as they pass below you. The Detective view allows you to see things as Batman does. When activated, a blue tint comes over the screen, and enemies are highlighted. The Detective view also highlights possible escape routes, alternate paths, and clues. The only gripe I have with this is that the game requires the Detective view so often, that the actual view of the game isn't seen as often, which is a shame since the game looks so good.
Overall, Arkham Asylum is a fantastic game with minor flaws. The story mode took about 10-12 hours to complete and there is a Challenge Mode that gives the game some replayability. Whether you're a hardcore Batman fan or a casual fan of the movies and/or comics, the game will entertain you. Developer Rocksteady has said that if the game does well enough, a sequel may be in the works. So please, at least check out this game, because it really is one of the best superhero games out there currently.



Sidenote: If you have a PS3, the PS3 version allows you to play as the Joker. Xbox does not get any exclusive characters, but that might change with downloadable content.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rant: Explicit Content in Games and Why It Should Be There

Since the dawning of games like Mortal Kombat, the ESRB rating system has kept a close eye on the content shown in video games. But still, 15 years after the ESRB was formed, video games still get criticized for showing explicit material such as over-the-top violence, sex, and drug use. Why is that true? Some may argue that this sort of content does not belong in a video game regardless of what the rating on the box says, because kids under the age of 17 will inevitably get their hands on it. But who's fault is this really? Should game developers be doomed to strike out content from their games just because parents are unable to understand how the rating system works? Also, it's almost as easy for kids to be exposed to the same type of material in mediums such as movies, especially with the internet making explicit material incredibly easy to access. Now, I'm in no way advocating that explicit material needs to be placed in games. Personally, I don't find gratuitous violence incredibly entertaining, but who am I to criticize what other people find enjoyable. I just thing it's ironic that an incredibly tame "sex scene" in a game like Mass Effect can cause an uproar amongst the media that the game is immature and disgusting. Parents just need to stop pointing fingers at the game developers and spend more time keeping an eye on what their kids are getting into. But let's face the truth, if your kid wants to see the sex minigame in God of War or the Hot Coffee scene in GTA: San Andreas, all he has to do is enter a phony birthday into the video player. Blaming game developers is not going to fix that problem. In this day and age, there really is no true solution to the problem, but if parents are really worried about what their child is being exposed to when they're playing video games, just read the back of the box. It says EXACTLY why the game got the Mature rating. And if you still have doubts, talk to the people at your local game store. They'll give you the full details on what's in the game and whether it's appropriate for your child to play.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Preview: Borderlands (PC, 360, PS3)

Earlier this summer, famed game designer CliffyB (Gears of War, Unreal) stated that role-playing games are the future of shooters. We've already seen the first few steps in this direction with games like Fallout 3 and Mass Effect, but 2K Games' Borderlands looks like exactly what CliffyB was talking about. When you start out the game, you are given the choice between four characters, each with a respective class. Roland is a Soldier, who plays more like a traditional paladin in that he has good combat skills and can also be a healer. Lilith is a Siren, a mage-like class with psychic abilities. Mordecai is a Hunter, equipped with the standard hunting sniper rifle and a pet eagle. Finally, rounding up the group is Brick, the powerhouse Berserker with great melee abilities and is basically the group's tank. The game plays with standard FPS controls (left trigger is the scope, right trigger fires your gun) and features beautiful cel-shaded graphics to portray the post-apocalyptic setting.
The single-player game plays like an RPG in that you go into town and the people will give you quests. These quests are a lot like those you see in any MMO (Kill X amount of creatures, loot X amount of items, etc.) and as you complete these quests and kill monsters, you're awarded experience points. Rack up enough and you'll level up (wow!) which will award you points to allocate in your skill tree. Each character has three different trees in which they can place their points in. These skills will enhance each character's special abilities. For example, Roland can spend his points in the healing tree that allows him to fire his bullets at his teammates to heal them, or he can spend them to enhance the turret that he's allowed to place as support fire and cover. You also level up your proficiency with different weapons the more you use them, which increases your accuracy and damage with that weapon.
Where this game really shines is the co-op multiplayer. The game features four-player multiplayer, allowing each player to control one of the four characters. This way, each player has a specific role in the group, whether it's DPS or tanking or healing. The game also allows two players in game to duel, allowing players to test their abilities with their class. Along with voice-chat, this game may just bring the MMO experience to consoles. It's going to be exhilirating to discuss strategy with your teammates as you come upon a boss or fighting over loot that drops. Hopefully, this game will fulfill it's expected drop date of October 23, 2009.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Youtube Rant!: Gaming and Girls.

I don't really know much about this guy Daniel Floyd. I just happened to stumble upon his video and thought it was well orchestrated and just made a lot of sense. So I thought I'd share the video with you and maybe you'd like to weigh in on the topic:

Personally, I also feel like this hyper-sexualized version of females in video games has gone a little too far. I'm okay with some sexual humor in my games a la MGS3, and I understand the old marketing adage that sex sells, especially to a market with a large population of teenage/young adult males. But I would like to see more games with a strong female role model. Then again, I don't really understand the female mind, and therefore am not sure if it would be enough to pull in a larger female audience. But I will tell you straight up, going "LAWL YOU JUST GOT PWNED BY A GIRL!" and "ZOMG! YOU'RE A GIRL?!?!" in a game of Halo is not helping the situation. I understand that this reaction stems from a history of video games being primarily a guy thing, but why is it like that? If video games are just what they say they are, games produced via video, then what is it that makes it primarily a guy thing?


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

Alright, let's not cut any corners here. I love this movie. I love this movie so much it makes me question it's existence. I have loved this movie from the moment I saw the trailer and I loved this movie after the credits rolled and I still love this movie while writing this review. I will probably continue loving this movie in the years to come. (This opening paragraph may be a sign that I'm a little biased and you may not take the review seriously now, but hold on, I'm going to explain myself.)
The plot of (500) Days of Summer at first seems like the standard indie romance comedy: Average guy meets quirky girl. Guy falls in love with girl. The girl changes the guy's perspective on life. But where this movie differs from other indie romance films is what the narrator tells you up front; it's not a love story. It's a story of relationships, of feelings, and of fate. The acting was superb. I'm not saying that the acting will win any awards, but there was not one character that I thought was miscast at any point in the movie. The lead male role of Tom Hansen, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a character that all men can relate to at one point or another. I found myself predicting exactly what Tom would say or do because that is exactly what I would have said or done in the same position. The chemistry that Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, who plays Summer Finn, is astounding. Deschanel's role may seem like every other role she's played in every other movie, but the way she connects in this movie with the other characters makes this her best performance yet. The jokes were incredibly funny, and I found myself laughing more than I have watching any Judd Apatow movie. A great move that was made with this film was that it's not completely linear. The movie jumps between days, letting the audience piece together what went wrong and how Tom develops his feelings of love. Another thing I love about this movie is how it takes the city of Los Angels, which is primarily seen as the center of star life, and portrays it as a city of beautiful architecture and everyday people.
I would also like to point out that the soundtrack to his movie is phenomenal. Essentially, it does with The Smiths (one of my favorite bands) what Garden State (One of my favorite movies) did with The Shins. The soundtrack album also features a cover of The Smiths song "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" done by Zooey Deschanel's band, She & Him. I'm sure that this movie will sell a lot of The Smiths records and possibly cause another uprising in popularity for the 80's British pop band.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Loss of a Legend: Michael Jackson 1958-2009

As all of you probably know by now, the world has lost a king. The great Michael Jackson passed away today due to cardiac arrest. He was rushed to the UCLA Medical Facility, where his death was officially announced.
Despite his strange behavior in recent years, you cannot deny the impact this man had on the music industry as well as American culture. His work defined a generation and there are millions around the world with memories of his music. Personally, I remember sitting in my cousin's apartment in China as the "Black and White" music video played on TV. My dad used to tell me that when he first came to America, he worked as a construction worker and they would listen to the radio play Michael Jackson all the time. I can also recall the first time I saw the "Thriller" music video and being astounded at what this man was capable of.
Like him or not, Michael Jackson was a man of great talent and will be greatly missed. He was preparing for a great comeback this July in London and it's a shame that people will never be able to experience the magic that Jackson was known for bringing to his shows. He will be greatly missed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Album Review: Far - Regina Spektor

Last summer, I went through a phase where I would listen to nothing but Regina Spektor's Soviet Kitsch album. Her style seemed so unorthodox yet so carefully engineered that it creates the perfect blend of innovation and classical poise. But when Begin to Hope dropped, it showed that Regina was starting to stray towards the pop scene. While this was not necessarily a bad thing, I did feel myself wishing I had more of the jazz singer side of Regina Spektor. The song that I listened to most off Begin to Hope was her tribute to the great Billy Holiday, "Lady". I remember listening to that song and thinking "This is what I love about Regina Spektor." So when I heard that she was coming out with a new album this summer, I had my fingers crossed that I might get more of the old Regina back. This did not happen. Far is even a further deviation from her classic style into the realm of pop music. Now, I must stress again, this isn't a bad thing. There are a few tracks like "The Calculation" and "Eet" where it works nicely for her, but feels like she's becoming more of a Yael Naim or a Sara Bareilles. "Blue Lips" is a little darker in tone but feels too orchestrated that it puts off the balance so it doesn't really feel like her stuff. Then we get to her juvenile songs, "Folding Chair" and "Machine", where in the former, bubbly melody and improvised dolphin sounds take the reins, and in the latter, Regina pretends to be a robot with a mechanized dark sound that just feels out of place on the album. The single of the album comes next, "Laughing With", which talks about how much of a bummer life can be sometimes. This is more fitting on the album but once again, it feels more like a Yael Naim song. The rest of the songs on the album seem so cookie-cutter piano-pop that I don't even feel like mentioning them. That is except for the song "Genius Next Door". With this song, Regina gave me one little ray of hope that she had not forgotten of the days of Soviet Kitsch and Eleven Eleven. This is the clearly the "Lady" of this album. The piano is absolutely beautiful while the lyrics portray a boy and the solitude he finds in this lake. In the special edition of the album, Regina gives another song that's reminiscent of the older albums with "The Sword and The Pen". It's a beautiful song about the fear of a loved one embracing death. It's songs like these that remind me that Regina Spektor has the ability to put out mature songs that tug at the heartstrings.

Score: 5.5/10
Key Songs: "Eet", "Laughing With", "Genius Next Door", "The Sword and The Pen"


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 2 of E3 09: Sony

Oh Sony, where do I even begin with you? Having what seemed to be one of the longest presentations this year, Sony had a lot of announcements for E3 09. Not being a PS3 owner, it was hard for me to really get excited for most of these announcement, but Sony did keep me entertained during the 2+ hours they had the stage.
Once again, CEO Jack Tretton came on stage saying that 2009 is going to be the best year ever for Sony. According to Tretton, there are 364 games set for Playstation platforms this year. He went on to name some big titles set for PS3 and claim that Sony will remain committed to the PS2 as long as there is consumer interest in the product.
This first game shown in Sony's press conference was Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. The first Uncharted was known for it's gorgeous visuals and Uncharted 2 remains committed to the same cinematic quality. A demo of the single player game was shown, where the main character climbed buildings and engaged in combat with a helicopter.
Last year, Sony announced their 256 player game, MAG (Massive Action Game). No real in-game footage of the game was seen until today, when the developers showed off a real live 256 player skirmish. Players are divided into platoons and squads, and each squad has a leader. The leader can assign objectives and look at a top-down tactical map to see where the squad should move for best tactical advantage. With such a large amount of players in game, you can expect that the maps are massive in size. The game also has an XP system similar to that of the latest Call of Duty games, where kills and successful objective are rewarded. Expect to see MAG in stores this fall exclusively for PS3.
Prior to E3, a lot of rumors of possible Sony announcements were leaked out online. One of which, the PSP Go, was confirmed today by Sony. Called "the worst kept secret of E3", the PSP Go centers around digital distribution of content and eliminates the need for physical UMDs. It's 50% smaller and 40% lighter than the original PSP, slides up to reveal all the same buttons and nub (singular), carries 16GB of internal flash memory, has built in wi-fi, and allows bluetooth and memory stick integration. The PSP Go will not, however, replace the PSP 3000, as Sony understands that there are gamers who prefer having tangible software in their hands. PSP Go will be released October 1 in North America and Europe, priced at $249.99. Sony also announced Media Go, a program that will allow faster, intuitive download and transfer of content from PC to PSP. The PSP will also be able to download apps like SenseMe, which will analyze your personal music library on PSP and create playlists according to moods.
Going along with the confirmation of PSP Go, 2 new PSP games were announced: Gran Turismo PSP and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Gran Turismo is a full GT game with 800 different cars, 35 tracks, and 60 different layouts of those tracks. The game runs at 60 frames per second, making it look like the best driving simulator on handheld consoles so far. It will also allow players to trade cars between garages and supports adhoc multiplayer with up to four players. It's set to release along side the PSP Go on October 1st. Hideo Kojima came on stage to talk about the new PSP game Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Set 10 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3, Kojima promises that this is not just another spin off or side story, but another step in the Metal Gear saga entirely. It's being developed by Kojima himself along with the MGS4 team. Expect Peace Walker to appear in 2010.
Tretton came back on stage to give a glimpse of the PSP lineup of 2009. Some highlights seen include LittleBigPlanet, Jak & Daxter, Dissidia, Soul Calibur, and Motorstorm. Tretton also announced that Final Fantasy VII will be on sale on the PSN Store starting today. After boasting some stats and another montage of PS3 games, Tretton announced the PS3-exclusive Rockstar title, Agent. Set in the 1970s, Agent will bring forth the world of espionage and assassination of the time. No footage or screenshots were shown.
The people from Ubisoft came on stage to show off a demo of Assassins Creed 2. Why they didn't do this during their own press conference, I don't know, but the game looks beautiful. It stars another ancestor of Desmond, Ezio. As mentioned in the Ubisoft conference, it's set in Renaissance Italy. Shown in the demo, Ezio befriends Leonardo Da Vinci, who provides Ezio with upgrades, gadgets, and inventions. For example, Ezio was shown utilizing Da Vinci's flying machine to swoop from the skies. The game will have more assassination techniques and 30 different weapons (with a bonus 6 if integrated with the Assassin's Creed Bloodlines game on PSP). It will be on shelves this holiday season.
Another trailer for Final Fantasy XIII was then shown, this time showing a little more gameplay footage but still focusing on the cinematic quality of the game. Afterwards, Tretton announced that the SquareEnix people have prepared a video of Final Fantasy XIV to show the audience. Not only that, but the game will be released in 2010, the same year as the release of Final Fantasy XIII. After the video, it became clear that Final Fantasy XIV will be another online RPG, thus reducing the amount of shock of it being released so close to FFXIII.
Keeping up with it's competitors, Sony announced that it has been hard at work in developing a motion controller. They came on to demonstrate their prototype, which appeared to be a microphone-looking device along with a Playstation Eye camera. Keeping in mind that the controller is still in development, what was shown was somewhat impressive. The controller does have buttons, such as a trigger button for integration with shooters. It's motion detection is amazingly precise and it will be interesting to see which company will end up having the superior motion controller.
Expanding on the motto of LittleBigPlanet (Play. Create. Share.), Sony showed a demo of the new kart racer, ModNation Racers. The characters are customizable, so each player can create a racer to fit their personality. The game will supposedly harness the full power of the PS3, graphics and physics-wise. It contains a track creator mode, which appears to be very user-friendly; the demonstrators created a fully-playable track within 5 minutes. Look for it around 2010.
Sony officially announced the next game from the Ico team, although it was leaked weeks earlier. The game is called The Last Guardian. If you haven't already seen the trailer, I suggest you look it up as the game looks gorgeous (most of this team's work is). The game is a PS3 exclusive; no release date yet. Next up was a trailer for Gran Turismo 5. Not much to say about it other than it's still the same hardcore driving simulator.
To close the show, a demo of the God of War III gameplay was shown. This game will be the last of the trilogy, as Kratos attempts to gain revenge on Zeus and the gods of Mount Olympus. The demo showed the brutal executions that all God of War fans are familiar with. Kratos also has some new weapons, such as gauntlets which he can pound the ground with. The final chapter is set for a March 2010 release.
Sony's presentation showed some really cool games and innovations. It's a shame that some of their shock value was reduced due to press leaks. Overall, Sony gets a B+ from me this year. I will agree with CEO Jack Tretton in that 2009 looks great for Sony.


Day 2 of E3 09: Nintendo

Last year, Nintendo left us questioning the historic game maker as we were sorely disappointed with a lack of strong announcements. The presentation was laden with big numbers, "paradigm shifts", and unexcitable casual games that left the hardcore audience with their tail between their legs. This year, Nintendo attempted to fix all of that.
They kicked off the presentation with what seemed to be a huge announcement; a new Mario game for the Wii. This time, Mario reenters the 2D side-scrolling platforming genre with New Super Mario Bros. for Wii. Looking very much like the same game released on the DS years earlier, the Wii adaptation has enhanced graphics, boasts new items and enemies, and supports up to 4-person multiplayer. While somewhat interesting, the game seemed to lack real depth and appeared to be fun for a couple of minutes here and there. It's set to launch this holiday season.
Building upon the success of Wii Fit and the balance board, Nintendo upped the ante on competing fitness games with Wii Fit Plus. Being more of an expansion on the first Wii Fit, Plus adds new exercises, new minigames, and a choice of where players want to focus their workout. It's set to release this fall as a bundle with the balance board and as a standalone game.
Last year, Nintendo also gave a glimpse of their new addon, Wii MotionPlus. This tiny cube attaches to the bottom of the Wiimote and provides enhanced precision control. To help demonstrate this, Nintendo gave a further look into Wii Sports Resort, which was also shown briefly last year. This year, archery and basketball were displayed on stage. President of Nintendo America Reggie Fils-Aime also shared that third party developers like EA, Sega, and Ubisoft were also working with the MotionPlus technology.
Nintendo brought out some videos of upcoming RPGs from SquareEnix, including Final Fantasy: The Crystal Bearers for the Wii and Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. Final Fantasy wasn't much to talk about but Kingdom Hearts seems to bring the action RPG to the portable DS, instead of the card-based action seen previously in Chain of Memories for the GBA. Nintendo also displayed their own contender in the RPG genre, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. In this branch of the Mario & Luigi saga, the dynamic duo go inside the Koopa King himself. Currently out for the Japan, Bowser's Inside Story will hit North American shores this fall. Nintendo then announced that they were reviving another RPG name in their arsenal, one that hasn't been heard from in years. While most people, like myself, were expecting this to be a new Earthbound game or at least a Mother 3 port, the game they were talking about was Golden Sun DS. Although somewhat of a disappointment, I did enjoy the Golden Sun games for GBA and am excited to see what the game brings to the DS.
From here, the show started to go downhill. Nintendo tried to show off their diversity in games pandering to different target markets; Women's Murder Club, C.O.P: The Recuit, and Style Savvy. They talked about some upcoming downloadable programs for the new DSi. Some interesting things shown include FlipNote Studio (a mini-animation program available this summer) and WarioWare DIY (create your own minigames in true WarioWare fashion). This summer, DSi owners will also be able to upload their edited photos taken with the DSi to their Facebook profiles. Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was also mentioned, but no new information was distributed.
CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata came out to talk about Nintendo's goal in further expanding their gamer population. And just as I predicted, he had another new peripheral to show off. This time, he brought out the Wii Vitality Sensor. What this essentially does is measure the pulse from your finger and it can tell how nervous you are, your focus level, etc. Iwata's goal with this device is to help gamers achieve greater relaxation, but he failed to show the device in action or any games that would utilize such a device.
Nintendo had another trick up their sleeves this year. They unveiled yet another new Mario game; Super Mario Galaxy 2. The game builds upon the first game, but adds new levels and everyone's favorite little green dinosaur, Yoshi.
Reggie attempted to get the audience pumped about the future third-party games in development for the Wii by showing off Sega's sci-fi shooter The Conduit, Capcom's Resident Evil: Dark Side Chronicles, and EA's Dead Space: Extraction. Yet no one seemed too intrigued since these games have already been revealed earlier.
To wrap it all up, Nintendo came out with a big announcement. Teaming up with Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive), Nintendo announced Metroid: Other M. The new Metroid game returns to the 3rd person, something we haven't seen on consoles since the SNES. It's set for a 2010 release. Great ending that I'm sure not many in the audience were expecting.
Overall, Nintendo's press conference this year gets a C+. Though they did have some exciting new announcements (Metroid: Other M, new Mario games, and Golden Sun DS), the lackluster games overwhelmed the extraordinary. I will commend Nintendo on at least attempting to satisfy hardcore gamers while still concentrating on the casual gamer market, but the process of achieving a perfect balance between the two has yet to be perfected.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 1 of E3 '09: Ubisoft

Day 1 of E3 2009 ends with Ubisoft's press conference, which was laden with French accents. To start, CEO Yves Guillermot announced the UPlay service that comes bundled in Ubisoft games; it's basically an XBox dashboard but exclusively for Ubisoft games. They talked for a long time what they're doing to advance in the media realm to become more than a game developer. From here, they transferred to introducing film director James Cameron, who talked for what seemed to be an eternity about his new movie Avatar (not based on the nickelodeon show, but his own creation) in great detail. Once everyone woke up, they finally brought out the games, starting with Red Steel 2. This time, the game is set in a Samurai Western setting. The first game had serious problems with controls but this time, they're utilizing the Motion Plus Wiimote addon. Hopefully, this will fix the problems that made the first game so unplayable for me. From there, they went on to the sports games in their arsenal which include Shaun White Snowboarding: World Stage and Academy of Champions, which is an arcade soccer game introduced by the great Pele. After sports, the men behind Splinter Cell: Conviction came out to show off what Sam Fisher has gotten into now. The game boasts a fully interactive environment for interrogation, Mark & Execute (Sam is able to target an enemy and stealthily assassinate them, allowing for quick execution of multiple enemies), and Last Known Position (shows where enemies think Sam is so he can gain tactical positioning). The game has revived my interest in the series as it comes with an aesthetically appealing design (the game turns into a B&W filter when you are hidden and objectives are projected onto the environment).
A little known project teased during the presentation was the touch based RTS Ruse. From what they showed, units are moved by hand movements on a touch screen table, although I think the table will be replaced by the iPhone/iTouch.
Then, a few statistics were shared. Ubisoft claims the biggest selling IP in 2008 was their Imagine (yeah right) and that the biggest growing genre is fitness games. Supposedly, Ubisoft is making big steps in ensuring that tween girls have plenty to play as well as weight-conscious people. They announced their contender in the fitness genre, Your Shape for Wii, which will come bundled with a camera that will track all movements.
Other games shown include Rabbids Go Home for Wii, which is basically Ubisoft does Katamari Damacy, and the TMNT Smash-Up, basically another Super Smash Brothers clone.
Ubisoft closed the evening with the Assassins Creed 2 trailer. Set in Renaissance Italy, the game looks like more Assassins Creed but with more weapons and assassination possibilities. It's set for a November 17 release date.
Ubisoft started off the evening very slow and though they did gain a little momentum later on, they failed to really get me excited for Ubisoft games. A couple final questions for Ubisoft: No Beyond Good & Evil 2? And no Jade Raymond?


Day 1 of E3 '09: Electronic Arts

EA started off big, showing a trailer for the God-Of-War-esque Dante's Inferno. Following the book of the Divine Comedy, the game follows Dante (is it just me or is it weird having another protagonist named Dante?) as he journeys through the depths of hell. Very ultra-violent and in no way putting down the remarks of it being a God of War clone. Out of nowhere, EA pulled a complete turn going from the bloodbath of Dante's Inferno to Littlest Pet Shop and Charm Girls Club, leaving everyone with a confused look on their faces. They also talked a little about the upcoming Sims 3, which carries several upgrades but all in all just looks like more Sims. From there, they switched gears to Need for Speed: Shift, which has stunning visuals along with an interesting take on the racing genre that seems to mix the more simulation aspects of Forza to the arcade-like gameplay of Burnout. The people of EA Sports came out with a multitude of new games including Fight Night Round 4, a MMA game to rival the recent UFC game from THQ, NCAA Football and Madden 10 which both carry integration with the EA Sports website (NCAA allows you to build your own team, while Madden will allow you to manage an online franchise), EA Active for the Wii, and Grand Slam Tennis (with Pete Sampras showing his moves with the Wiimote). Tim Schaefer came out to talk a little about his new game Brutal Legend, a game starring the voices of metalheads like Jack Black, Lemmy Kilmister, and Ozzy Osbourne. EA closed their set by showing their two MMOs in the works, Realtime Studios' All Points Bulletin and BioWare/LucasArts' Star Wars: The Old Republic. All Points Bulletin is an open world city in which players can choose how to achieve their rise to fame; either by crime or by upholding the law. Gameplay looked very Saints Row and all in all was not very appealing to my tastes. On the otherhand, LucasArts came on with an entourage of Jedis and Sith Lords to debut the first cinematic trailer of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Being a recovering WoW addict, Star Wars: The Old Republic may just be my new drug of choice.


Day 1 of E3 '09: Microsoft

Wow, this year my Microsoft predictions weren't as accurate as a I thought they would be. It seems as though Microsoft knew what people were expecting (motion controller, avatar stuff, etc.) and went a step further with it.
In response to the motion controller rumors, they showed off Project Natal with Steven Spielberg, which is a camera that detects faces and motion and responds to voice commands as well. They demoed the new camera by showing several games as well as Peter Molyneux (Fable, Black & White) showing off Milo, an interactive character that responds to real-life actions through Natal.
As far as avatars go, they will be upgraded with the ability to earn awards and props that allow you to further customize your avatar. They will also be further integrated into the NXE; both games and interface-wise.
Microsoft made, in my opinion, a great move when they announced that the 360 will support, Facebook, and Twitter. will allow Gold members to use the free listening/music discovery service. No word on whether you will be able to use it while in-game. The Facebook integration allows users to take game snapshots and automatically upload them to their profile. Users will also be able to update statuses and view photos and friends via Facebook Xbox. Twitter allows the same twitter service to be used on Xbox. Nothing too special there.
More importantly, Microsoft gave an excellent view of what games they have lined up for the upcoming year. First off, they had a diverse cast of celebrities come up to help present what Microsoft has to offer. They started out with Rock Band: The Beatles, where the families of John Lennon and George Harrison as well as Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr came on stage. This was followed by Tony Hawk showing off the new Tony Hawk Ride game, which is controlled by a skateboard deck peripheral. The Square Enix people gave a glimpse of FFXII running on the 360. Shooters shown include Left 4 Dead 2 and Modern Warfare 2, both looking badass as expected, as well as Halo: ODST and the announcement of Halo: Reach, which is a prequel to the first Halo. A sequel to Crackdown was announced for 2010, supporting both competitive and co-op multiplayer. Finally, following on the heels of the FFXIII announcement of last year, this year's shocker was the appearance of Hideo Kojima who announced that the Metal Gear Solid franchise would be coming to XBox 360 with Metal Gear Solid: Rising. It stars Raiden from MGS2 and MGS4 fame.
Overall, great press conference from Microsoft this year. I give it a B+ on the grounds that they do have some great games lined up and some great ideas, but how well those ideas will be executed in the mass market is debatable. Also, no price changes or even possible bundles were announced for the upcoming year. While the MGS announcement came as a bit of a shocker to some, it is not the first time the franchise has come to Microsoft consoles as MGS2 was released for the first XBox. Microsoft has certainly set the bar for Sony and Nintendo and it will be interesting to see if they'll be able to compete.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Possible E3 Predictions?

Ahhh, it's finally here. We're officially on summer vacation. While summer often means swimming pools, cookouts, and beach trips, to the gamer it also means E3 is upon us. This year, the granddaddy of video game shows arrives a little early, hitting the LA Convention Center from June 2-4. And every year, I like to make some predictions on what the Big Three (Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony) might bring to the show floor. But first, let's recap last year's E3:

Microsoft went on the first day of the show, showing off the new 360 interface with avatars and all. They also talked about the new party system that allows players to join up together but play different games at the same time. A big advancement for the 360 interface is the addition of Netflix, allowing owners to stream videos via their XBox. They showed off a couple new games like Lips and Gears of War 2, but the real big announcement was the addition of Final Fantasy XIII to the lineup.

Nintendo's press conference was sadly disappointing, giving us nothing too big to talk about and pandering mostly to non-gamers. Their big game for the holiday season was Animal Crossing: City Folk, which they bundled with the Wii Speak apparatus. The game ended up being...just more Animal Crossing. They also showed off Shaun White Snowboarding with the Wii Fit balance board, Wii Music with a crazy drummer dude, and Wii Sports: Resort with the Wii MotionPlus attachment. No real strong first person title was showcased, leaving the hardcore gamers empty-handed.

Sony came in claiming 2008 to be the "year of the PS3". They showed off their social interaction program Home, once again adding avatars to the mix. While people clamored for a price drop on the PS3, Sony instead gave them twice the amount of memory for the same price; an 80 GB PS3 for $400. Games shown included Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty, Little Big Planet, and Resistance 2. They closed off their conference with MAG (Massive Action Game) that supports up to 256 players per game.

Now for my predictions for this year's show:

- Main showcase shows off shooters (Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3 ODST, Bioshock 2)
- Bioshock 2 will attempt and fail at multiplayer
- More bundles released.
- Half Life 2: Episode 3 is shown
- Show a motion controller to compete with the SixAxis.
- Sega revives the Jet Grind series on the 360.
- More XBLA games utilizing the avatars are announced

- Once again, more "celebrity" guest stars make an appearance
- The DSi gets downloadable Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games.
- They play with virtual dogs via Nintendogs for the Wii
- Big holiday title is Kid Icarus.
- Will appease hardcore gamers by finally porting Mother 3 to the DS.
- Another expensive peripheral is announced.

- No price cut, but another better deal appears.
- The new PSP has a touch screen and slides up to reveal buttons and two nubs.
- The new Kojima game is not Metal Gear Solid 5, but Metal Gear Solid 4: Substance.
- Square Enix tries to make up for expanding FFXIII to the 360 by giving more useless titles to Sony exclusively.
- God of War 3 is the big title for Sony this year, and they milk it for all it's badassery.
- MAG is given a distinct release date.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review: Terminator Salvation

And we're back! Although busy, summer is nearly here, and my first summer blockbuster was Terminator Salvation. As always, never fear, as there are no spoilers here.
The first thing to begin with is the title. Several news outlets have stated that the title makes no sense without a colon. Clearly they haven't seen this movie. Moving on. Terminator Salvation's trailers showed a very dark film, including Nine Inch Nails music and all kinds of existential quandaries. Well, Terminator Salvation is not quite that same movie. It does stray from the usual sci-fi fare which actually made me proud of it, as it presented some interesting ideas within the Terminator world, however, it did not create any thought on a larger scale. This ended up being okay because Terminator is ultimately the most bad-ass of sci-fi action films. If there was one thing that I was disappointed about in Terminator, it would had to have been Christian Bale. He is one of my favorite actors, and I don't always expect much out of him, but in Terminator Salvation, Bale left me wanting more from his performance. Maybe someone was messing with the lights during his scenes, but in all seriousness the cinematography was excellent. The film has a darkly beautiful tone which is helped by the rich, obliterated environments. I must say that it was not visually exciting most of the time, as it just looked intriguing. A performance I was shocked at was that of Sam Worthington, whose character bears a great deal of significance throughout. Worthington also pulls out all the stops and his character Marcus becomes the bad ass that he was meant to be. Terminator is a very good movie, although I have yet to decide where it fits in the series. It is an enjoyable experience, having both the cheap thrills and memorable moments that we expect from the series, Terminator is quite satisfying for anyone looking for a great action movie. I must conclude with a warning that if you see Terminator, you must not expect the darkest of movies (tonally anyways, as the lighting is pretty damn dark) or you will be somewhat disappointed.


Monday, April 20, 2009

We've Taken a Hiatus!

Hello Readers! As you may have noticed, there's been a bit of a drought of reviews on this site lately. The reason for this is that it's coming to the end of the school year for us and our classes are starting to really buckle down. Thus, we haven't really had the time to review anything. But hold fast, the site is not closed. Once things start to cool down, which will probably be sometime after AP exams, the site will get buzzing again. Stay tuned, I've got a lot of good stuff planned for the future.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Script Review: Balls Out

I haven't read very many scripts, but I do every once in a while. I am aware of the entire practical subculture of unproduced scripts that read anything that can be found. I look for the unproduced gems. And the few I have read are beautiful. Balls Out is far and away the best. Balls Out is rude and raunchy and knows it. It was a pretty short read, about an hour and a half, but worth every part. The dialogue is witty and the script is filled with plenty of allusions, to itself and other works. A good number of the jokes are very offensive and politically incorrect, meaning it will stay unproduced until society doesn't care as much about censorship. The script was written by "The Robotard 8000", and I'm pretty sure there is some talent in there. The script flaunts its jokes, without being too flashy. It is very simple. A good portion of the laughs come just from the scene headings and action. If this were ever made, it would probably not be as good as the script. If it was, man would lament over its beauty. Whoever "The Robotard 8000" is, they are either a genius, or just very, very bored. Either way, I look forward to hearing more of this screenwriter(s). The script may be read in its entirety here:
Balls Out


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Album Review: Klang

The Rakes are a band that I've been watching for a good deal of time, knowing them from their first album, Capture/Release, through Ten New Messages, and now Klang. Klang presents The Rakes the same way they have been, but modifies the formula a bit. The band took off two years after Ten New Messages, and I feel it was well advised as that album is hit and miss. But Klang returns to the joys brought by Capture/Release. Klang's beautys include "The Woes of the Working Woman" which seems like a modern Talking Heads song, "1989" a very upbeat song with a history lesson to it similar to Strasbourg from their first album. "Muller's Ratchet" is helped by a piano background, and squeaky, at times ballad like, guitar. "You're In It" builds itself up and creates the climax that the song's lyrics imply. It may be admitted that there are songs that only aspects of them are enjoyable, such as "Shackleton," but this album is much more consistent than Ten New Messages and is an overall great experience. All of the tracks from Klang, as well as selections from earlier albums, may be listened to at I would suggest buying this album, but listening online works well.


Album Review: Dark Was The Night

Just by purchasing this album, I had a good feeling about myself. Why? Well, I'll get to that in a second. First, let me explain what Dark Was The Night is exactly. It's a two-disc compilation album of new original works as well as some covers by some indie rock greats. It was put together by The Red Hot Organization, a group that has put out several charity albums in support of AIDS/HIV research. In 1993, they put out No Alternative, which featured Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Pavement. Dark Was The Night is no exception. But besides going to a great cause, the album is absolutely magnificent.
The first disk is relatively mellow. Some key tracks include Bon Iver's "Brackett, WI" (named after the town Justin Vernon retreated to to create his debut album), The National's "So Far Around the Bend", My Brightest Diamond's rendition of "Feeling Good" (which I find to be much better than the Muse and Michael Buble covers), and Grizzly Bear's collaboration with Feist on "Service Bell". Other notable artists on the first disc include The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, and Iron and Wine. The Books along with Jose Gonzalez do a cover of Nick Drake's cello song, adding electronics to the cello sound. Dirty Projectors and David Byrne kick the album off with "Knotty Pine" which holds the fastest rhythm on the first disc.
The second disc is more of a mix. It starts off with Spoon's "Well Alright", which like the first disc starts the second disc with a fast pace. From there on out, it alternates between highs and lows. It's got some big names such as The Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers, Cat Power, and Beirut. But none of the tracks really do anything to wow the listener. About midway through the album, it gets progressively slower, starting with Yo La Tengo's "Gentle Hours". Continuing with this is Riceboy Sleeps' "Happiness" which features many of the members of Sigur Ros. Andrew Bird adds on with "The Giant of Illinois" whose strings and lullaby guitar playing induces a state of calmness. This is followed by Connor Oberst who does a rendition of his own song "Lua" with Gillian Welch. Finally, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene fame ends it with "Love Vs. Porn" which provides a light, airy finish. One track that does seem a little out of place is Buck 65's "Blood pt. 2" which is a dark hip-hop track. Maybe the track wouldn't feel as foreign if the album featured a little more variety and added maybe another hip hop track as well as some electronica. But overall, Dark Was The Night is a fantastic album and well worth every penny.


Monday, March 23, 2009

A Different Way of Looking at the World

As I was browsing the internet, I found a website, a beautiful website at that, which showcases videos on futurists and the top people in all kinds of fields giving talks on our future, our culture, and our past. The website I am referring to is one and is quite informative. TED is a kind of conference, offering up all kinds of knowledge that is out there in the world on subjects such as why the economy is the way it is, simplicity, the pressure of genius, and applications for new inventions. It is astounding to hear the bioeconomy we are shifting into or how Benjamin Button was done and all of this can be found in one place. The videos are categorized in such a way that a user may browse based on a specific topic and delve deeper if they are intrigued. The videos range from about fifteen to twenty minutes. TED offers insight into the importance of technology and innovation in our society and offers its videos up to the general populace for no charge. I say it is best to embrace this newfound knowledge, and it is best to share this knowledge rather than horde it, so whether you are already aware of it or not, please spread the word about as I have tried.


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Most Significant Musical Event in Years

Forget Michael Jackson's farewell tour. Don't worry about those up-and-comers in the music world because, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest band of our time, Pixies, is reuniting for a festival gig in London. They also plan on a tour. When I say this, I say this as the biggest Pixies fan I know. I've been checking out the careers of Pixies band members since for years on a daily basis. I was listening to a Frank Black song when I found out they were touring. I even checked some stuff out just yesterday about some quotes Frank made last year about a possible album. I am psyched. For the uninitiated, Pixies basically influenced all modern rock in one way or another. Usually I would not be so anecdotal in an article, but this situation is very emotional for me. I admit that I cried upon reading the news. If you live in the UK the only chance to check them will be at the Isle of Wight festival, so please take the opportunity to see this fantastic band. The band had a reunion tour back in 2004 and released a single entitled "Bam Thwok." Who knows, maybe this reunion will be for good?


Friday, March 6, 2009

Review: Watchmen

Never fear, no spoilers here! I went into Watchmen hopeful, optimistic even. I wanted Watchmen to be good. I really did. I am not even that much of a finicky fanboy. My moviebuff-self always comes before my nerdy self. I tried hard. And honestly, it was not terrible, it just was not good. It got off to a good start. I even thought about the great review I was going to give it as I watched the opening scene and the title segment. But, unfortunately, that's about the highlight of Watchmen. Aside from a few other scenes spread out that honestly would have been impossible to get wrong, it was bad in all aspects. First off, the acting, particularly that of Sally Jupiter and Nite Owl, were borderline bad, delivering lines a bit too dramatically. A majority of the characters were oversimplified as well to fit whatever vision Zack Snyder was trying to achieve. I believe he was going for something about good vs. evil and the lines drawn between them, which at this point is a bit too standard for super hero movies if you deviate from the source material. Snyder could have won me over easily if he had either stuck entirely with the novel shot-by-shot or had completely strayed away from the beginning. But Snyder's changes to the story leave plot holes, multiple ones at that. Alan Moore has every right to despise adaptations of his stories, and Watchmen only adds to the list of botched graphic novels. The movie is sloppily put together at the ending, and a good beginning cannot make up for a paltry ending. The action was good, as was the cinematography, but I cannot seem to get past the poor writing of the end. Alan Moore practically storyboarded the entirety of a movie for Zack Snyder, and he could have just adapted it directly, but he instead had to steal most of it and then contort the ending for his own needs. Zack Snyder's additions to the story are pointless and feel extraneous, as the exclusion of other scenes for these scenes feels like it is cheapening the work. Snyder also was forced by the studio to leave out some parts because of time. This is a massive setback, as Rorschach's origin is never discussed and many things are left unanswered or appear confusing to the audience. By limiting time, there is a strained connection with the characters and this creates no emotional appeal to the characters, so when something happens, no one will care when they are gone. What Zack Snyder should have done is not resorted to compromise even in the face of armageddon. For a movie that is 2 hours and 45 minutes in length, Watchmen feels rushed. If you are searching for cheap thrills in an action movie on the other hand (which is basically the opposite intention of the comic, but whatever floats your boat), then see Watchmen in IMAX. I firmly believe this is the only way I found it to be remotely good and I find IMAX to be crucial in the future of film viewing. Overall, see Watchmen if you want cheap thrills, blood, and sex, but if you are a fan of the graphic novel, only disappointment awaits you.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Good Trailers

Maybe it's just me, but the trailers for movies this year seem astounding. They blow away trailers from any previous years. Maybe, I'm just getting to be more of a movie nerd, but I've seen some fantastic trailers and teasers. I thought I could share some that I feel are not getting noticed as much and that are getting a lot of attention.

Watchmen- The Watchmen trailer from last year was shocking in front of The Dark Knight. After I saw that in IMAX, I told my dad, "We are seeing that in IMAX." And so I'll have a review as soon as I see that. I found the trailer with the Smashing Pumpkins music in the trailer to be very effective. (If you must know the song is The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning.)

Powder Blue- It's been a long time since I've cried during a movie. I've never cried during a trailer, but Powder Blue makes me want to. It is simply beautiful, what it shows with color and despair of the characters with such little dialogue and even information of any plot synopsis. This is a film that I highly look forward to in the coming months.

The Perfect Sleep- I wish I lived in LA for many reasons. But next week, this will be the only reason, as it gets a limited release in only LA. The Perfect Sleep reminds me of the underrated masterpiece that is Miller's Crossing combined with some creation of David Lynch. The resurgence of film noir is a subject that is near and dear to me and this seems true to the genre.

Inglorious Basterds- I love Grindhouse. It's not quite Quentin Tarantino's usual cool style, but it remains a favorite of mine. The trailer for Inglorious Basterds demonstrates QT's return to cool and ability to put it into a war movie. This has been a project of his for years, so I have faith that it will be good.

And some others that I don't have time to talk about (but are still good):

This looks righteous, but was not embeddable:


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Comic Review: Scott Pilgrim

Growing up, I've unintentionally grown fond of all things Canadian. Canadian bands (Broken Social Scene, Stars, The Unicorns), Canadian women (Evangeline Lilly, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Chalke), and more recently, Canadian comics. The Scott Pilgrim series comes from Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O'Malley, and is published by Oni Press. The basis of the story is of a 24 year old Canadian bassist who falls in love with an American delivery girl, but in order to date her, he must fight and defeat her 7 evil ex-boyfriends. The latest trade book that came out is the 5th volume (shown in the picture). The writing is cleverly humorous and develops the story without long weary dialogue. It's very cute at points and unique in the way that it shows the relationships that each of the characters have with one another. The fights between Scott and the ex-boyfriends are fun to read and hyperstylized in the manga fashion that it kind of pokes fun at the way Japanese comics do combat. Speaking of which, all of the art is also done in the manga fashion but it's also very unique to O'Malley's style. The characters are drawn in a simple style in some panels and in great detail in others. All in all, this series is very much a bridge between the Western comics and Japanese manga. Reading each volume is an enjoyable experience unlike any other. When I picked up the first two volumes for the first time, I read through both of them non-stop. The books are about 200 pages each and run for $11.95.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Emerson's Academy Award Predictions

Oscar turns 81 this year. From Wings to No Country for Old Men, many movies have gone through the Academy's ballot. Now it's my turn to provide my predictions of this year's winners.

Leading actor: Sean Penn "Milk"

Supporting actor: Heath Ledger "The Dark Knight"

Leading actress: Kate Winslet "The Reader"

Supporting actress: Penelope Cruz "Vicky Christina Barcelona"

Animated film: "WALL-E"

Art direction: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Cinematography: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Costume Design: "Revolutionary Road"

Directing: Danny Boyle "Slumdog Millionaire"

Documentary: "Man on Wire"

Documentary short: "The Final Inch"

Film editing: "The Dark Knight"

Foreign Language: "Waltz with Bashir"

Makeup: "The Dark Knight"

Original score: "WALL-E"

Original song: "WALL-E"

Best picture: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Animated short: "This Way Up"

Live action short: "New Boy"

Sound editing: "The Dark Knight"

Sound mixing: "The Dark Knight"

Visual effects: "The Dark Knight"

Adapted screenplay: "Slumdog Millionaire"

Original screenplay: "Milk"

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jordan's Picks for 2009 Oscar Winners (Subject to Change)

As many of you know, it's film award season. And so, in the spirit of the moment, I would like to present my predictions for the Oscar Winners of 2009. Hopefully, my fellow staff members will post their predictions up shortly as well.

Actor in a Leading Role: Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep - Doubt

Actress in a Supporting Role: Viola Davis - Doubt

Animated Feature Film: Wall-E

Art Direction: The Duchess

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Costume Design: The Duchess

Directing: Slumdog Millionaire

Documentary Feature: Man On Wire

Documentary Short: Smile Pinki

Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire

Foreign Language: Waltz with Bashir

Makeup: Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Music (Score): Slumdog Millionaire

Music (Song): "Down to Earth" - Wall-E

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Short Film (Animated): Presto

Short Film (Live Action): The Pig

Sound Editing: The Dark Knight

Sound Mixing: The Dark Knight

Visual Effects: The Dark Knight

Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Reader

Writing (Original): Wall-E

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reviewing A Classic: The Killing

I've had a day or two to reflect on Stanley Kubrick's The Killing. Within this time period I've seen about four or five other movies, some better than others. The Killing was far and away the best of them. Stanley Kubrick's early work challenges even many modern films in it's impact and ability to make the viewer feel some emotion. Now, I must say that spoilers are a pet peeve of mine, and it is for this reason that I won't divulge any myself. I must say, however that The Killing is not only a great heist movie, it is the perfect heist movie. If you know me well, then you know I have aspirations to be a film director. I recognize how difficult it is to pull off this genre, much less pull it off well. If I were to make a heist movie, I would either not because it would not live up to the standards of The Killing or directly rip it off. The Killing, however is what I like to call a travesty movie, as it is a travesty that more people do not know about it. It also deals with the travesties that befall normal men and what the must go through to make their given situation better. The Killing also proves that voiceovers in film do not have to be lazy writing, but just be informative. I also doubt that Stanley Kubrick was a lazy writer. I highly recommend The Killing to anyone and everyone, as it is a caper film that seems to be the basis for even Tarantino's work. The acting in the film is quite good, filled with bit parts that prove interesting. I don't want to sound like a cheerleader for the film so I must say that the pacing at the beginning just did not feel good. The movie messes with its sequence of storytelling, which eventually gets the viewer to relate to the character, but proves to be initially somewhat confusing. If you enjoy a good crime thriller, then please check out The Killing.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Symposyum Presents: Broken Social Scene Presents: Brendan Canning

Ah, Toronto. Home of the CN Tower and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but more importantly, home to the indie supergroup, Broken Social Scene. If you know me personally, you will know that I am a huge fan of BSS. Founded by Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew, the band is composed of several members of bands signed to the prestigious Canadian indie label, Arts & Crafts. Some people who have lended their musical talent to BSS include Leslie Feist (aka Feist), Amy Millan and Evan Cranley from Stars, Emily Haines and James Shaw from Metric. Needless to say, this culmination of minds never ceases to produce mystical musical magic.
BSS have released 4 albums as a group, including a collection of B-sides; but more recently, the two founding members have produced respective solo albums with the band backing them up. These albums include Kevin Drew's Spirit If..., released in 2007, and Brendan Canning's Something for All of Us, released last year. I'd like to bring the focus to the latter album.
Throughout the entire album, Canning channels the BSS feel, with the uptempo songs like the title track Something for All of Us, Hit the Wall, and Churches Under the Stairs (which feels very Fire Eye'd Boy-ish). After Churches Under the Stairs is the track Love is New, which starts to bring the tempo of the album down a notch. The song carries a 70's disco feel, while still being reminiscent of Hotel off BSS' title album. From there, the songs dive into pool of mellowness, with the synth and brass-driven All The Best Wooden Toys Come From Germany, and the lite collaboration of voices on Been At It So Long. Canning's solo album has me salivating for a new BSS album. Till then, you can always catch Broken Social Scene on tour, since they seem to be touring 365 days a year.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Broken Promises and Bon Iver

Hey everybody! So I know I promised everyone a CES update, but I never actually got around to it. I'm really sorry about that. This blogging thing's a lot harder than I imagined (go figure!).
But do I have a treat for you all:

That, my friends, is the link to where you can listen to Bon Iver's latest track off his upcoming EP.

For those unfamiliar with Bon Iver, allow me to shed a little light. Bon Iver is actually a guy named Justin Vernon. He released his debut album, For Emma Forever Ago, with Jagjaguwar Records on February 19, 2008. I first discovered Bon Iver from a recommendation from my older sister. After listening to Skinny Love one time, I was absolutely enthralled by his voice. There's a certain appeal to the mix of folk guitar and falsetto singing. A perfect album for the bitter cold, it almost feels as though he's singing through the malaise of winter. Could it possibly be that the album was recorded in a cabin in the woods of northern Wisconsin? Or maybe the fact that "bon hiver" means "good winter"? I'm not sure. All I know is that For Emma Forever Ago was one, if not the best, album of 2008 for me. I'm expecting to hear some great stuff in the future from this upcoming artist.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Resident Movie Addict

Hey, this is Emerson here, the local movie reviewer. I am a bit of a film nerd/buff/junkie. I'll be posting reviews of the classics and honestly anything I see. My reviews will cover films from different perspectives, as a horror movie, a comedy, and a drama must all be taken differently, at least to preserve each director's intended message or lack thereof. And if you disagree with me, be neither daunted nor dismayed to confront me head on to discuss or argue or flame me. Things about me to know as a movie lover: I don't like The Godfather, I have about 100 favorite movies (all of which will recieve a review), the Coen brothers comedys are not funny, my pet peeves are having a movies spoilers revealed prematurely as well as when people don't pay attention to a movie but say they don't like it, and the greatest travesty of all time is that all people are not forced to watch Citizen Kane. Whether you agree with me or disagree with me, I hope you enjoy reading and find insight in what I have to offer.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

CES 2009

It seems as though the Consumer Electronics Show has creeped upon me once again. What I know currently is that there's been a decent amount of information from the Macworld Keynote about Apple's lineup for 2009. A full report will be posted here shortly. As for other company conferences, I will try to keep up with them to the best of my ability and report back what I hear. I also realized I failed to add our contact info in case any readers wish to make requests on reviews or have a question to ask us.
So, any requests/questions can be sent via e-mail to


Friday, January 2, 2009

Welcome to Symposyum!

If somehow, you've stumbled upon this blog in it's premature state, welcome to Symposyum. What we here at Symposyum are about is geek-culture media and news. What that means is that here at Symposyum, we're devoted to bringing you reviews of top movies/video games/comics/music as well as sharing opinions on matters of the tech/media industry. Currently, we are a bit short on writers, so it will be a few days until the first review is posted.
A quick word of warning. The reviews written on Symposyum will be from mostly teens. The reason for this is because more often than not, teens make up a huge percentage of the target market for media. Thus, what better review can you get than that of the target customer? Additionally, I hope Symposyum will help more teens (as well as any other reader) make a judgement on what to seek out media-wise.
Concluding this short introductory post, I hope you continue to follow up with Symposyum. I feel as though great stuff is gonna happen here. Happy reading!


Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Entertainment Industry in a Slump

The recent economic problems within the United States have caused people to become more frugal. It is apparent that cutting back on entertainment will be necessary to make it out alive. Will the entertainment industries adapt to suit the needs of the people, or will the people need to stick it through. With so many medias at everyones disposal people will more than likely resort to illegal behavior. Watching movies on the internet will probably become more popular, as will downloading music illegaly. But what can the industries do to prevent this? Should they publish more amature media or tighten budgets. Can movie studios even afford to produce or distribute bad movies. Could this economy be the death of horror remakes and sequels? Video game developers are closing like crazy or at least suffering layoffs. Video games are an expensive media and the industry is supposedly recession-proof, but can it truly stand strong? Movies are getting more expensive. I payed $9.75 the other day to see a movie. I considered leaving my friends and watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button from the comfort of my own home, but decided $10 was not that much, at least for now. People are making sacrifices. I did not have enough cash for a consession. Where does the line get drawn? It is up to you to decide if cheap thrills suddenly are not cheap anymore, but please, before you go out and buy a new entertainment center, mind the economy.