May 29, 2009

Analog Games for Analectuals: Ra

It's only the second in this posting series, but I played a couple new board games recently, the first being Ra. Ranked #25 on boardgamegeek, it's well worth the praise.

Its motif is obviously Egyptian, but doesn't really involve warmongering. The major mechanic is a constantly rotating bidding war for different ways to obtain points. Fitted with some equally clever negative pieces, the careful juxtaposition of bidding tokens is a key element to winning. Tokens aside, it plays sort of like Princes of Florence without restricted building codes. Intermixing a humanized randomization with the point value tokens for bidding (hard to explain unless you see it in action) is executed in brilliant fashion.

Really it's no surprise coming from such a talented game designer in Reiner Knizia (yes, another German). His ludography is astounding, a few of which I've had the pleasure of trying: Samurai, Lost Cities, and Tigris & Euphrates.

After trying Ra only once, I'm definitely looking forward to many more plays. Now if only I wouldn't have to go to Pennsylvania for the next time.

-- "Give my regards to King Tut, a**hole!"

May 27, 2009

Five-Fingered Feet

It feels good when you think you've discovered something not quite popular yet. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are definitely not something you see everyday. I bought a pair last week and have been enjoying them immensely thus far.

They're mainly meant for people who enjoy being barefoot regularly. I like walking around barefoot but wouldn't regularly do it only because I have generally cold feet. Thankfully, it's not a problem with these. Overall, they feel just like barefoot with a little extra protection. There's no fear of stepping on rocks or getting worn out quickly on pavement.

There is some getting used to them though. I did a small hike on some paths through a wooded area and random meadowy surroundings; it was nothing that made me feel too uncomfortable. The pads of my feet just weren't used to feeling so much more than normal. It did feel good to have the extra grip from the contour shape and my actual toes.

If you want a new pair of shoes and can find them near you (I had to go to Bloomington), try some on to feel for yourself. Plus if you have to do sock laundry too often or just dislike socks in general, they're a great boon. I've only had them 'em for a week, and they're already my prefer foot protector now.

-- "Come on. Don't make it weird."

May 25, 2009

Hiatus Over, Write-Time for Theatre

Been a longer-than-usual break from the blog, so I have plenty of films from the vault to discuss. Surprisingly, there are a few really new ones in here this time. But leading the pack are a couple of early films from "The Master of Suspense," Alfred Hitchcock.

Saboteur was an okay work featuring convoluted character design and a fickle plot. Hitchcock still held it together, but you could tell it was early in his career with designs on the verge of greatness. Lifeboat kept afloat much better bereft of much setting beyond the sea itself. The characters were interesting. The story played out extremely. Although I'll still admit drifting off during some more drab scenes.

Atonement earned many accolades for its intriguing story, great character acting, and art direction/costume design (don't all those era pieces get points for costume enough?). And it was very interesting to see James McAvoy (of Wanted fame) in a completely different role. But this movie irritated me; I almost stopped watching after the idiot little sister did what makes the story interesting. I get it, but stories like that just piss me off.

Thankfully Stranger Than Fiction was a playful enough endeavor to atone for any lost time the previous film squandered. The casting felt natural and the story felt right, predictable though it may have been. Coming as no surprise, I discovered the director, Marc Forster, also helmed a few films I only recently delighted in: The Kite Runner and Quantum of Solace. Also of note is his foray into the zombie craze adapting Max Brooks' World War Z (still need to read this).

Finally, a couple movies added to my "Loved It" category: August Rush and Fanboys. August Rush chronicles an unfortunate orphan who reunites his star-crossed parents with the ever-present music surrounding his life. If you've ever dabbled in music creation or carry a great imagination, it's a must-see...also if you think Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is an awesome child actor.

Now Fanboys was a delicate, geeky treat. As a grown manchild who appreciates Star Wars in most of its facets, this comedy adventure tickled my funny bone in a way few films can. All the characters were outrageous, yet still grounded enough in reality to feel real. Trekkie and nerf-herding jokes abounded, and I couldn't have been happier. Plus Kristin Bell became even hotter somehow (and this even before her slave Leia outfit in the end) due to being in on such geekdom. Haven't done so in a long while, but I'll be buying this one.

-- "Nobody calls Han Solo a bitch!"

May 14, 2009

Wolverine or How a Game Surpasses the Movie

The new Origins: Wolverine movie and video game just came out. I've heard varying opinions about the film from "extremely terrible" to "pretty cool if I didn't think too hard". Okay, that last one was me, but it was a fun flick. Though from what I've heard (and the little I played), the game is much better.

Like many kids my age, Wolverine has always been one of the coolest super heroes.
He's the most brutal of the X-Men, yet he's still one of the good guys. And though I really didn't read a lot of comics, I understand his origins to be more like The Joker's: a mysterious quandary. So coupling all that with weird takes on Sabertooth (his also-regenerating brother) and other super-heroes, further fouls up this shredded look into James' Logan's past. But the action and effects were outstanding, save for the adamantium claws which somehow looked worse than the movie before.

Wolverine's universe is perfect for a video game: he decimates hordes of enemies, can actually take a few bullets without flinching, and conveniently regenerates his life force. The demo spans only the first level, but I hear the rest of the game is just as brutal with frantic, never-ending action. The word is favorable, so I'll likely rent it.

I think Marvel should stick with their up-and-coming Avengers movies instead of whoring out the X-Men. Or maybe just hire the talent producing Ironman, the newer Hulk, or what I'm sure will be an amazing Captain America film to do the other X-Men origin stories.

-- "Give me a scotch. I'm starving."

May 07, 2009

The Boomer: A Character Study

No, this isn't about Mr. Esiason, Bengals fans. Thinking in between respawns of versus mode in Left 4 Dead, I pondered, "Who is/was the Boomer?" He's a puke-filled grenade with projection abilities rivaling little Linda Blair's, but what was he like before he turned and how did he gain such bile-bending talents?

He wasn't just a random, morbidly obese person turned zed shown by the 5 sizes too small shirt; at least he had the foreknowledge to wear sweat pants, amiright? He has no facial hair, so he could've been a child for all we know. With the presence of festering boils and a constant gurgle in his step, something just didn't agree with his zombie digestive system. He couldn't have just eaten too much human; I don't think that happens (plus Boomers wouldn't be such a rare spawn).

My first thought was he tried to eat other infected people when savory survivors were scarce. It would be an easy answer to his ultra-severe indigestion. Though why does the scent of his bile attract hordes of other zeds? That candied concoction wouldn't attract more zombies to the piƱata party. But also why would the Boomer want to share the tasty treats if he had a problem with overeating anyway? Those hordes would also want to destroy the Boomer before he even was able to tag the survivors with his scent. He can't tag other zeds either, so it must be a combination of vomit + survivors; I imagine it's like cheese-covered broccoli for them.

This all relies on the presupposition that zombies eat humans, which doesn't seem the case in this zompacalyptic universe. It's an odd situation when nearly all other games recognize this tenant. The undead just wish for genocide in this case. The living can't be turned. There's no room for greed over food. It's just killing and hate, an even finer distillation of zombie culture.

Or I could be wrong. The Boomer could just be distraught and angry at himself for eating away his stress only to cause more. That's it! He's a new breed of suicidal zombie!

-- "I can understand the attraction, but I hate the clingy ones!"

May 05, 2009

Insurmountable Pile 'O Movies

If I don't regularly post these massive, recently seen movies posts, the backlog will become too great. I'm even going to redact a couple flicks from this so the length isn't too extensive (still too many amassing).

First off the sad but great films: Life Is Beautiful and Kite Runner. La Vita was high-spirited and funny for the most part. I just had no idea about the presence of the concentration camp in the film, quelle surprise! The message was solid and kept a nice spin through the sad reality though. The Afghan tale was rather sad throughout but heavily grounded. 'Twas a beautiful and thought-provoking film very deserving of its accolades.

Now a pair of movies based in fighting/MMA: Never Back Down and Redbelt. The former was very close to what I thought it would be: an exaggerated (hopefully) high school experience fraught with teen angst and well-filmed action sequences. Onto my favorite of the two, Redbelt. It was more story-driven, focused on the essence and honor in fighting, and featured the always amazing Chiwetel Ejiofor (see Serenity).

As for comedies, let me present Be Kind Rewind and Darjeeling Limited. Jack Black and Mos Def together? Cheesy movie recreations? A film that doesn't take itself seriously? Yes, please! It was a delightful film that had me delving into the bonus features. I wasn't sure about Darjeeling; Wes Anderson can be hit and miss. Plus his style is rather dry (see Tenenbaums or Zissou). Jason Schwartzman surprisingly didn't deter my enjoyment, and the soundtrack was on par with Wes' other films (which is to say awesome).

Finally, an oldie and a recent unknown: Bullitt and RocknRolla. The oldie features classic Steve McQueen with car chases and no-nonsense police work; it was that and little else. I'm not saying it was bad...just okay. Guy Ritchie then brought his natural flare to what's supposed to be the first in a trilogy. I hadn't heard much about this, but Netflix thankfully recommended it. I think Ritchie basically makes the same movie over & over but better each time. The only thing this could've had to make it better would be Brad Pitt & Jason Statham.

-- "Instead of telling our young people to plan ahead, we should tell them to plan to be surprised."

May 03, 2009

Snippets of New Government Issue Joes

A short new series has come out via Adult Swim that rocks a bit of nostalgia and a whole heap of unexpected death. G.I. Joe: Resolute introduces a new animation style with a story penned by noted comic writer Warren Ellis.

Resolute composes 11 episodes in about an hour for one complete story of the Joes versus Cobras. I liked G.I. Joe growing up, but I was never a huge fan; the nostalgia can only keep me interested for so long. This series relies little on rekindling past wonder and more on great action with focused zeal. The essence of the old cartoon is there, but the execution is so much better. It reminded me of the Clone Wars cartoon series by Genndy Tartakovsky.

The biggest highlight lies in the Joes' most notable character and resident mute: Snake Eyes. Just like you might hope, the story travels to the past in his training origins with Storm Shadow. Though not the penultimate outcome of the series, the confrontation between the ninjas steals the thunder from Cobra Cmdr. and Duke.

-- "I have traveled many miles and now have come disguised as a pimp to help you."