by Matthew Hawkins

Not much to report from the past few days. After a mentally exhaustive week, and SPX to look forward to, I figured that it might be best to keep a low profile till then. So this past weekend was spent entirely at home watching movies and playing games. There was work to be done (which actually meant playing games, though for the purposes of reviewing them), but I was most concerned with the massive backlog of films that “Mr. K” has been passing along, which I ended up going through quite a bit. Though my Saturday afternoon plans to watch the best of the Asian cinema was made complicated due to the noise outside. That was the day of the anti-gentrification street fair in my neighborhood.

First off, I’m totally sympathetic to the cause. I too am outraged with Columbia’s practice of buying up land and kicking out small business owners and lower income residents, all to make room for more obnoxious rich white kids. But the street fair was a pretty pathetic showing of public unity; I fail to see how playing loud rap music, which happens anyways on any given Saturday afternoon, except this time not our of a car but via an ultra loud PA system, is supposed to bring the community closer together. And the amateur hour at the Apollo ruckus made watching movies a near impossibility. Yeah, I know almost everything I watched was subtitled, hence hearing “yo my bitches” instead of the original Cantonese may seem like a dumb complaint, but still… so I ended up playing games loudly instead help to weather the storm. In addition to the titles I was assigned to play for review, I spent some good time with domestic version of Katamari…

… By the way, I finally got the copy that I preordered from EB on Friday afternoon, which was day four wasn’t it? Of course when it finally did arrive, they didn’t call me, I had to call them, and as expected, I got weird looks and “So what the hell is that supposed to be about?” comments, but the copy wasn’t gutted, so I bought it. And for the 4,000th time, I said I wasn’t interested in pre-ordering Halo…

Plus, I also got the chance to give Mega Man X Command Mission a try. Overall, it’s not that bad. Now, I’m well aware of the tons of complaints the game has gotten, but the thing is, I’m not a hardcore RPG player, so I don’t mind a game that isn’t seven thousand hours long or doesn’t have five million side quests that really aren’t side quests when you have to do them to get that special weapon that makes the game beatable (or even worse, when it’s a special card). Granted, the story doesn’t seem that spectacular, the graphics and sound are a bit underwhelming (which is a real surprise since this is Capcom we’re talking about), and I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing during combat quite yet, but otherwise everything is nice and clear. I’ve quit virtually every Final Fantasy game I ever start, and early on, simply because I really don’t know where the hell I’m supposed to go next.

I guess it also helps that it is Mega Man, which the main (actually, only) reason why I played it. Actually, the idea of a Mega Man RPG is something I’ve been dreaming off for a while. In fact… and not to go into some bizarro Mega Man fan boy territory… I’ve had an idea for one in my head for years now. It would basically be “Mega Man 9″ since the last edition of the original series ended with part 8 (I’m not going to include Mega Man & Bass, which most people have dubbed as part 9, though maybe I should…) and I won’t waste time by going into the details, though in the end, it would deal with the events which lead to the X series (and work as a natural prequel to “Mega Man 10″, or Mega Man X). Perhaps Mega Man & Bass already deals with it (I haven’t gone very far in that game since it’s hard as fuck) but the game would center of Mega Man going nuts, which lead to him getting contained and forced into suspended animation. I suppose that’s why I’m so attracted to the Zero series, which thrusts X’s partner further into the future where Mega Man really has gone nuts and is a mad tyrant ruler. Too bad those games are so damn difficult as well, though I was able to beat part 3. Then again, I sorta had to. Speaking off, I wonder how the Mega Man community is reacting to my less than glowing review in the latest GMR…

Anyway, I might just pick up the GameCube version when it goes down in price.

Back to the movies: I saw a bunch, including Lady Snowblood, which hails from the bloody samurai era of Japanese films (cira the early 70′s), and is all about one woman’s mission in life is to avenge the death of her mother by taking down the culprits one by one. It’s most famous for being a major inspiration to Tarantino when making Kill Bill, and is apparent even visually speaking (especially with that famous up shot), though it’s also pretty good in it’s own right. Plus there was Kaena, a CGI fantasy flick that I knew was pretty bad beforehand, but ended up watching the whole thing anyways (and not because of it’s somewhat subtle, but still overly gratuitous ass and tit shots of the main character).

Also saw Deadly Outlaw Rekka, a rather straightforward yakuza flick from one of my favorite directors right now, Takeshi Miike, It’s actually the weakest film I’ve yet to see from him, though I still liked it (and the guy makes like nine movies a year, so he’s entitled to a dud or two). It did have an excellent rock and roll vibe, plus the breaking of time in certain parts was well done, but overall, it’s a bit on the boring side. Though it was all worth it just to see Riki Takeuchi acting all crazy and shit, and with gray hair. He looked liked a out of mind, Asian cousin of Bill Clinton ins certain scenes.

Though the best film that I’ve seen from Miike this year has to be Gozu. It’s almost impossible to put into words, but basically it’s all about a jittery, sort of a pussy, yakuza member (Minami) who, via the order of the boss, has to kill his senior (Ozaki) since the guy’s a loose cannon and is becoming as a threat to the higher ups. Ozaki does die, but by accident, and when Minami ends up loosing the body, he find himself stuck in a town full of weirdoes as he conducts his search, which includes an older woman who lactates like crazy (much like in Miike’s masterpiece, Visitor Q). Eventually, Minami meets a hot chick that claims to be Ozaki, and who intends on killing the boss (who happens to be a sex crazed horn dog that can only get it up there’s a large spoon shoved up his anus), but then Minami ends up getting totally turned on my his former “brother” and…. Gozu is perhaps Miike’s strangest film ever, and that’s saying a lot. Actually, if Miike were ever to do his own version of Twin Peaks, this would be it, plus it has one of the best endings ever.

Speaking of Miike and television, I also started watching MPD Psycho, a.k.a. Multiple Personality Detective Psycho – Kazuhiko Amamiya Returns, a TV miniseries based on a manga. It’s about a detective that has multiple personalities that’s after a crazy killer or spirit or something. In the first episode, the killer kidnaps women, cuts the tops of their skulls off, and plants a flower in their exposed brains. The whole show is really strange.

But the best film I saw this weekend is maybe one of the best I’ve seen all year. Old Boy is from Korea and I can’t recall another movie that’s as shocking, intense, sickening, and sad. It’s about a man who, en route to seeing his daughter on her birthday, is kidnapped and made a prisoner in a small room without any reason. For 15 years he has no contact with a single soul, with his only connection with the outside world being television (and early on, he discovers on the news that his wife was murdered, and he’s been framed of the crime). Then out of the blue, the man is set free, and the film chronicles his search to find out who did this to him, and why. From the brilliant performances, to the amazing cinematography (and the fight scene between the man versus a whole slew of thugs that filmed in a single, uninterrupted take that’s beyond description), it’s simply a beautiful movie despite it featuring a torture scene that makes me cringe just thinking about it.

Other than movies, it’s been a banner week for crazy shit online. Late Sunday night I came across this site which I believe gave birth to that awesome homeless Transformers vid. It’s now my favorite site, and this my new favorite thing. Or maybe this. Or this. Or this. Or this. Or this? Okay, definitely this one.

Wait, I forgot this.

Also, here’s…

… a neat little vid that makes me wish I could drive.

… further proof why American commercials suck ass.

… an extremely thorough history of the Transformers.

… a great film about Scrabble.

… a Borg Pony.

Plus there’s a site about some Germans who recreated Pong out of machinery that’s been making around since late last week. Its worth is just to see that crazy pic of Nolan Bushnell, smoking a pipe while treading water.

As for other happenings in the world of games, nothing much to report that hasn’t been covered elsewhere. As mentioned before, the Tokyo Game Show just happened, but for all the major stories, you can check out IGN or Gamespot, but you won’t find anything too exciting. I already talked about the big bombshell, which is Gran Turismo 4′s lack of online playability (though I guess they’re releasing an online version, or an add on in 2005 or something?). The new “B-Spec” mode was also unveiled, which compliments the “A-Spec” which was introduced in part 3. Basically it allows a person to control races without actually getting behind the wheel, sort of like a manager or something. Hmmm…. sounds a lot like my old game for Ubi Soft, Pit Crew Panic! Seriously.

Anyway, the way it was described (which you can find out elsewhere… I’m almost sick of typing at this point) actually sounds cool. Plus the latest vids (Jesus fuck, the game keeps looking better and better) did go a long way to alleviate the hurt caused from the bad news.

Also, the latest, and perhaps last, trailer for Metal Gear Solid 3 was shown, and the game looks as amazing as ever. In fact, this latest clip (which you can check out on the official site) looks the best yet. And thankfully, there’s no last minute stupidity like the very last trailer for MGS2 (which let the whole world know “By the way, here’s some guy called Raiden. Get used to him folks.”). The Boss is a total bad-ass, as is the new Metal Gear mech. Though I hope the original Japanese dialogue is retained in the American release, as Kojima said might happen. I dig David Hayter’s performance of Snake in the past in all, but I’m not sure if he has the range that will be necessary in this one.

Plus, here’s a top 50 list of the greatest shooters of all time from Way of the Rodent. I like it and hate it at the same time. Props for having Rez as #5, but Radiant Silvegun is far too low on the list IMHO, and there’s simply no excuse for the absence of Life Force.

As for the “real” news, Conan O’Brian has been officially been named as the new host of the Tonight Show. He’ll take over Leno’s post when he retires in 2009. That just leaves five more years to enjoy the masturbating bear. Also, Spaceballs 2 is coming! This is awesome news, but Mel Brooks is going to have to work hard to properly parody the new Star Wars, especially since Lucas is doing fine job of it himself.

And lastly, I think this will be my last post for a bit. I’ve been meaning to post more often to avoid these stupid, too much work to read, massive posts, but that hasn’t really worked out. Well get ready for another one next week… when I come back from Bethesda.

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