There’s No Place Like Home

by Matthew Hawkins

A Japanese ghost story being retold by little kids and in the form of live Machinima, in this case using Halo Reach. At the Brick Theater, Game Play 2012.

Some of you may have noticed how, after a steady influx of NYAFF coverage, things came to a sudden halt the weekend before last. And then all of a sudden, this past Sunday night, a bunch of reviews magically appeared (which I’m hoping most of you have read by now, but if not, start here).

Long story short, I’m having some massive technical issues behind the scenes, which is one reason why the planned redesign hasn’t happened as of yet. Things are working once again, but IF ANYONE OUT THERE IS GIFTED IN THE WAYS OF WORDPRESS, OR KNOWS SOMEONE WHO IS, PLESAE DROP ME A LINE

Hopefully the relaunch will finally happen when I have my true 900th post (this is #883, fyi). Anyways, what’s been going on? You know, the usual…

Heading Back To The Emerald City (I)

First off, doing freelance dance, as always. As of late, been back to writing about a favorite subject of mine: cell phones. For TechRadar to be exact, reviewing Android phones. Though I’ve mostly been working on not just one, but TWO things that I can’t talk about right now. But trust me, I REALLY want to, because it’s way overdue. Hope to God that the trigger will be pulled later this week.

How’s the zine coming along btw? Splendidly! Actually, not really. As noted once already, it’s mostly done (with the exception of one piece that needs finishing up, and another that requires some re-tooling). Another problem is how I still can’t find a decent print shop in NYC. I’ve tried lots over the past few weeks, and they’ve all sucked.

Was going to ask once again for help, but had a phone conversation with a colleague earlier this evening who might have the key! So the goal is this (and I swear, if this doesn’t pan out, I’m jumping off the f*cking George Washington Bridge, like Solid Snake, sans the bungee cord): THE FORT90ZINE #4, AKA FORT90ZINE4ANSWER, WILL BE MAKING ITS DEBUT AT PAX PRIME 2012, GOD WILLING

Plus some other stuff will be happening around then. Again, will reveal more later! On a related note, am in the process of making travel plans for back home next month. Am going to spend some time with my father, like the tail end of every summer.

And once again, am planning it so, by the time I come close to doing something that might land myself in jail, I’ll be up north in Seattle for PAX. But this year, instead of heading directly to Tacaoma, I’m stopping by Portland first. To chill with Gerritt, Jen, and their new son.

Am also hoping to see the 2 Player guys, plus if I’m lucky, will be smoking cigarettes and doing some girls with Farel. Believe it or not, this is my first visit ever. You see, when growing up, we were told to avoid Oregon like the plague. There used to be an intense rivalry between with that place and my former home; they were the enemy.

It was kinda like much the Hatfield vs. the McCoys? Which has since cooled off considerably. Or maybe not? Sorry, but I’m far more wrapped up in the war between NY and LA to know or care these days. Back to Washington: what am I mostly looking forward to, btw? Why, the return of Almost Live!

Heading Back To The Emerald City (II)

As for what I haven’t been doing, seeing Asian movies is on that list. Like I said last time, I’m taking a break; there were a few Japan Cuts screenings over the past couple of days that I was supposed to attend, but had to skip. Like 9 Souls last Thursday, but I just discovered it’s an older flick and available on home video domestically, so now I don’t feel so bad.

Also had to pass on Isn’t Anyone Alive? on Sunday. Mostly cuz I was at the Denim Club till 5 the night/morning before, playing Dokapon Kingdom of all things. Also, and I’m sorry, but I just can’t endure yet another Japanese movie that reflects upon humanity’s ills and how today’s generation is paying the price of their forefathers’ avarice and blah, blah, blah. But I’m still totally down for Rent-A-Cat!

Though I did catch Return To Oz this past Friday night, on the big screen no less. Was a special midnight screening at the IFC Center (their late night, weekend programming has been seriously kicking ass; caught Big Trouble, Little China there not too long ago as well). Best part was how the director, Walter Murch, who is pretty much a God in the field of motion picture sound design, was in attendance!

Murch spoke a bit about his career for the audience, before the screening. He got his start in the late 60s, back when the motion picture industry was getting its ass handed to them by television, and Hollywood executives were too stupid to do anything about it. So a few of his friends? specifically, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola? started American Zoetrope and began making the movies the way they wanted to make them, which he helped out on. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It was especially nice hearing his thoughts on film as it stands today. Basically, he’s fine with things evolving, into something completely different from what he started with (which, again, was the last truly great era of American cinema), and even welcomes change. Like how, when sound mixing for a flick recently (the man is still very much active), there was an elevator guy at the building he was at who spent his time watching movies on a PSP. Including stuff he worked on, which was the best part. Quite the difference in attitude as some of his contemporaries (btw, I TOTALLY respect where Lynch is coming from).

Regarding his sole directorial effort, it was an idea that he had for a very long time, being a big fan of all the books and all. Murch somehow managed to get a meeting with Disney in the early 80s, and the timing could not have been better; they were in “a bad patch”, and because of his connection to such massive hits like Star Wars and The Black Stallion, they were desperate for a fantasy flick. So they basically asked him what he could possibly to for them, and simply throw out the idea for a brand new movie, based upon Oz.

Murch had been a huge fan of the original books all his life, and once again, the timing could not have been better. As much as he had dreamt of making an Oz movie, he didn’t want it to be a musical. But by this point, song and dance flicks were no longer in vogue. Nor did he want “to be on a set filled with midgets”; he wanted something that honestly felt like another reality. But along came Sesame Street, which made him realize that the Oz movie that he had envisioned was indeed possible. Murch even noted the irony in which Return to Oz was only really possible because of Frank Oz!

He also noted how the adventof Claymation was also a major source of inspiration, hence why Will Vinton was enlisted. Still, Murch threw the idea out there to Disney executives, without thinking that they’d bite. But their response was: “You do realize that we have the rights to those books, right?” Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there; the executives who had okay the project was almost immediately replaced, and the movie had to be pitched yet again. Murch was forced re-write the script and make it cheaper. Apparently, there was going to be a good degree of globe trotting originally, something similar to Indiana Jones.

Being a first time director, working on a special effects heavy flick, and with child actors, was tough going at first. When Disney executives showed up at the set in London, they all went “What the hell is this?!?!” and Murch was immediately fired, just six weeks into principle shooting. Upon hearing this, Lucas flew to England to meet with producers face to face, to basically go “‘Don’t do this? Be realistic; no one is going to take over this film” and also swore that, if things didn’t work out, he would fix things himself. Personally, that act alone almost singe-handedly makes up for those lousy prequels he did! Almost.

It was a long and difficult shoot, once again due to all the intricate special effects. Tick Tock in particular was super challenging to deal with, but anyone who has seen the movie will agree that it was TOTALLY worth the trouble. Also, big surprise: chickens don’t take much direction. By the end, there was yet another regime change, one who also didn’t care much for what was happening, but by this point, most of the movie had been made and they no longer cared. As a direct result, post production was hassle free; Disney even arranged the premiere at Radio City Music Hall, one of the last movies to play in that house.

No word on what the reaction was, but we all know how the movie bombed upon its release. That’s just what happens when something comes along that’s way ahead of its time. Thank goodness it has managed to find an audience over the years, and thank God that I was able to finally see it in a movie theater after all this time!

But Again, Brooklyn (lol)

Before catching Oz, I was in Brooklyn. And while waiting for Colleen to join up, this happened?

Which eventually led to?

So what was I doing in Williamsburg in the first place? Why, attending Game Play 2012, at the Brick Theater. Which I’ve written about before, for GameSetWatch, and this year I’ll be doing the same for Kotaku!

My first piece will be running later this week, which will include the latest from EK Machinima Theater. In the meanwhile, here they are again, this time tapping into Modern Warfare 3?

Why LSD When You Can DYAD?

Oh, so, video games. Sony was in town last week, for a mid-summer present event. And I was there. Here real quick is my two cents regarding everything I checked out:

Beyond: Two Souls
It’s basically Heavy Rain, but with actual gameplay. Sorta? The Quantic Dreams rep was actually annoyed when I went “Hey, it’s Ellen Page’s OTHER starring role in a video game!”

Assassin’s Creed 3
Have I mentioned how hot & bothered I am for this game? I used to not give a rat’s ass about Assassin’s Creed, though I did become moderately interested when learning that the games were about a bartender from Jersey who had been kidnapped and forced to relive the past because of the Freemasons (or something like that).

But once I heard that it was taking place during Revolutionary times (have I ever mentioned that I’m somewhat of an American history buff?), the deal was sealed, and part three honestly does look awesome. I also loved how the lead game designer can’t even say the new protagonist’s game either.

God of War 4
Sorry, but it’s not for me. Next.

I’ll be honest; I approached the thing expecting to hate it. The E3 demo almost made me threw up in my mouth. But after giving it a spin in real life, I think I actually like it? Mostly because I honestly don’t see this being the beginning of the end for children’s books after-all. And if it encourages kids to read, then I’m totally down.

Actually, the real reason why I’m onboard is because there will soon be a program that allows anyone to create content themselves, which will be distributed via PSN. And that’s hawt. Sorry, but I’m much rather make my own Wonderbook than something for Apple’s iBooks initiative.

PlayStation All-Star: Battle Royale
I’ll be honest; I approached the thing expecting to hate it. And while I certainly don’t feel as strongly, I sure as hell don’t like it either. If anything, I wish it had taken even more cues from Smash Bros; the control scheme is total garbage.

Didn’t really spend any time with it, since I was already familiar with the game, thanks to PAX East and while in Toronto, plus the pre-release copy that I was fortunate enough to receive. Anyhow, not sure what else needs to be said that you haven’t heard already.

It’s basically the ultimate combination of Rez, Tempest 2000, and the film 2001, yet so much more. And it’s pretty much the best indie game to come out this entire year, which is saying a lot.

If the unanimous praise from across the board hasn’t convinced you already, how about this brand new trailer, for the just released demo? Meaning you can at least give it a shot with no cost commitment (though I guarantee, you WILL buy a copy when all is said and done)?

Afterwards, I went drinking with the game’s creator, Shawn McGrath, the dud in the video. Really cool guy! Took him to the same dive bar that I had taken Jamie Woo the weekend prior. Man, the look on Jamie’s face when he discovered that a PBR and shot was only five dollars: classic.

The thing is this, ever since my trip to Toronto, I’ve seriously considered relocating to there. But McGrath, who used to live in the Big Apple, has strongly suggested that I stay put. And he’s got a point; we were out till six in the morning, drinking beers and eating pizza, and honestly, you can’t do that most anywhere else.

Still, I’d be lying if one of the main reasons why I’m spending some time in Portland is to see if it’s all that’s cracked up to be. Hence why I’m also looking to stop by Cali later this year as well. Specifically Los Angeles & San Francisco. Been considering a change of scenery for some time, and that time might be soon.

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