I haven't updated this thing in awhile, so I thought I'd treat you to (another) huge blog entry. A lot has happened since I've been gone. I've been to the beach, gone places, played games, found new music, hung out with friends, seen movies, and my girlfriend came back from Europe after being gone for 8 weeks, so this update will be quite large. Anyway, I'll start with movies. By the way, there may be spoilers in every part of this blog, so don't read the sections about things you haven't experienced.
Alright So I've seen quite a few movies in the time I've been gone, most of them were old, such as Rambo: First blood, Predator 1 (saw the whole thing this time), American History X, Batman Begins (mediocrity at it's finest) but most notably: The Dark Knight.
Now onto the review portion (I'll break down my other reviews with a sentence or two, this is my featured movie for the summer). Most people have seen it, many said it's great, and there's now a site up calling for people to see it again to boost NA sales beyond Titanic. The fanbase is...rabid.
The movie opens with a well-planned bank heist orchestrated by the Joker himself, using a schoolbus to escape. The movie develops in fairly standard fashion from here, revealing the cast and giving us brief glimpses at their personalities. The Joker (played by Heath Ledger) is clearly did the best job out of the 3 major main characters. His pencil-trick introduction was fantastic, Heath Ledger captured the insanity of the Joker extremely well. Christian Bale, who plays Batman does an alright job as well, decently delivering his lines as Bruce and being the rich playboy sty1e character that he was in the first movie, Batman Begins. When he becomes Batman, his voice instantly becomes harsher and more grating, and is sometimes irritating to listen to. A minor nuisance, nonetheless. Maggie Gylenhaal plays Rachel Dawes, another main character who eventually meets her demise at the end of one of the Joker's schemes. This leads to the creation of Two-Face, who is the hospitalized and gambling-absolution crazed Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart). All of the actors in general gave a decent, if not subpar performance. Heath is the only really notable actor, although Aaron Eckhart performed his role fairly well.
The plot has to deal with Bruce Wayne's realization of his "other half," the relationship between Harvey Dent and Rachel, and the crazed Joker's plans to cause political dissent in the city of Gotham. A decent setup with a moderate amount of action. Of course this is a PG-13 film, so the action is fairly unbelievable and toned down in many parts (not to mention the cinematography during some of the action scenes was weak). However still a very solid job, and the ending is given away when Bruce begins his monologue, which sums up the movie perfectly. A few plotholes litter the movie but are generally excusable, such as the Joker's ending (he was left hanging and laughing). To summarize the movie is essentially a bunch of small events interwoven by the characters that drive the story, and it's executed fairly well. It is absolutely worth seeing.
A very solid 8.0/10. (If I didn't rate in .5's I'd probably say 8.3-8.4, you round down).
Other movies (that I generally try to rate given the timeframe they were made):
Rambo: First blood -- 8.0 (Solid action film with a realistic ending, better than 4)
Predator -- 8.0 (Solid action film, few flaws)
American History X -- 7.0 (a few notable story flaws in a story-based movie)
Batman Begins -- 6.0 (Nothing notable about this movie, move along)
I've bought quite a few albums since I've updated this blog, so here you go! More reviews (fun, I know :P).
Agalloch - Ashes Against the Grain (2006)
Genre: Disputable; Doom, Folk, Black, Progressive metal.
I'm not sure I need to do a review for this album. When I bought it (a few days after I finished by previous blogpost, ironically) after one listen I knew I was hearing something different, and altogether special. Clearly the best album I've ever listened to, from the monolithic intro of "Limbs" to the crushing sadness of "Fire Above, Ice Below" (personal favorite) to the apostasy of the three-part 19 minute epic "Our Fortress Is Burning", this album is a masterpiece. The melodic sophomore song, "Falling Snow" is a fan-favorite and easily the most traditional out of every song on the album. The short instrumental track "This White Mountain on which You Will Die" perfectly leads into "Fire Above, Ice Below." If you have any musical sensibilities, then you will definately want to check out this album. Absolutely beautiful.
10/10. :o :D
Agalloch - The Mantle (2002)
Genre: Disputable; Doom, Folk, Black, Progressive metal (mostly acoustic).
Another very memorable album, this one focuses more on the acoustic and natural sounds. The 17-minute opener (of course, including intro song), "In the Shadow of Our Pale Companion" is stunning and easily the most instantly memorable track on the album. The album progresses from there and in The Lodge Haughm uses a deer skull as a percussion instrument, which adds a unique sound to the instrumental track. The album essentially ends with "...And the Great Cold Death of the Earth," which harkens back to the two and a half minute intro song "A Celebration for the Death of Man" which brings the album full circle, leading up to a very sad and lonely song aptly named "A Desolation Song" for the closing. The acoustic guitarwork is great, although I personally prefer the electric guitars of their earlier work and Ashes Against the Grain.
Opeth- Still Life (1999, 2008 Remastered)
Genre: Progressive Death Metal.
Easily their most technical work, and one of my favorite (if not my favorite) album by them, I've had half the album for over a year now so I don't really feel like giving it a proper review, but it's absolutely stunning. The remastered version doesn't seem to be much better (that's hard to do), but it fixes some small quirks with the original. I find it to be Opeth's best concept album, including My Arms, Your Hearse and Ghost Reveries (all but Isolation Song were concepts). Very, very solid album with a great story. The ending feels a bit weaker than it could've been.
Anaal Nathrakh - Hell is Empty, and All the Devils are Here (2007)
Genre: Blackened Death, Black with (real) Grindcore elements. Vocal/Drum-based.
There has never been an album so misanthropic. This album is extreme, fast, and powerful-it's a return to the Codex Necro with modern sensibilities. The album opens with "Der Holle Rache Kocht in Meinem Herzen" (for those who don't know German, that means "the vengeance of hell is burning in my heart," strange for a UK band anyway). The sweeping, almost operatic choruses are remniscient of Eschaton. "Virus Bomb" brings back the catchy choruses, while "The Final Absolution" and "Lama Sabacthani"'s choruses tend to take a more black-metal lyrical approach, "Until the World Stops Turning" is a great misanthropic speed-ballad that draws from the duo's earlier work on Domine Non Es Dignus. This track leads into "Genetic Noose," which is apparently inspired by Napalm Death's Brutal Death Metal/Grindcore approach (and features guest members). "Sanction Extremis (kill them all)" is probably my favorite song on the album, with it's epic chorus and wide-variety of vocals used. The drums remain beating throughout pretty much every song here, consistent blastbeats and many other rhythmic genre standards pervade each song (drum-machine, since they do not have a drummer). The ending track "Castigation and Betrayal" is nothing more than pure hatred in song form, it's hard to believe such a song came from two ordinary looking people. It's easily the most extreme song I've heard in ages, maybe even the most extreme song. A very short album in all though, and that's it's biggest flaw. The Grindcore elements really got the better of this one with songs shorter than 3 minutes, but it's still a twisted and memorable amalgamation of their previous work, for the time it lasts anyway.
Opeth- Morningrise (1996)
Another great Opeth album, this one is harder to grasp initially (I don't think I've gotten it yet) but opens and ends quite well. The fan favorite "Black Rose Immortal" is their longest song (20.5 minutes), and has a great outro. Another great album.
Note: Watershed with the two bonus tracks on the LE is a 9.0, easily. :D
Another band I definately need to hear more from is Ahab, German "Nautical" Funeral Doom. Ad now for the moment you've all been waiting for (well should've been, this is ****ing Gamespot for crying out loud. :P).
As everyone here already knows, the summer is the dry-season for gaming. Very few notable games come out, or if they are notable they're niche and not very popular. I haven't played much since NG, but I was recently (okay, 2 months ago) addicted to...
Warcraft III - The Frozen Throne
Defense of the Ancients screenshot.
Of course, I generally played online. The Singleplayer portion of the game didn't strike me as unique or interesing right off the bat so I went with some friends to try out the numerous custom-game types online. DotA is easily the most popular, with two large bases and three set paths for the CPU spawned allies to travel and fight on, this custom game can lead to some epic team-based battles (none of which I have seen, other than in videos since I'm a newb and play with bots). A lot of fun if you're good, it was fairly fun to try out various heroes even though we had no idea what we were doing. Primarily we played Castle Defence (Fans 7.7, or an LotR variant which get boring), and Footmen Frenzy 5.4 (Footies!), although occasionally other versions (they're up to 14 I believe). Large-scale arena battles populate every Footman Frenzy game (or Footman Wars if you want to go old-school).
A general Footmen Frenzy map.
With randomized heroes and different strategies for each one, you'll need teamwork to win any Footman Frenzy game (or you can hope your opponents DC or are absolutely terrible :lol:). Anyway a very fun game type. WC3 offers plenty of variety with random game modes like Uther Party (Mario Party ripoff), and joke games like Do Not Talk. It's given me some memorable RTS experiences, even though all I played (for the most part) was the multiplayer.
I wanted to make this game the feature on the last blog entry, and I guess the feature for this one will be...it's length? :?
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
Mutated humans (Snorks) crawling down a hall in good ol' Laboratory X16.
An absolutely stunning FPS experience easily rivaling last year's best (The Darkness, Crysis). This game is easily more atmospheric and immersive than Bioshock, and with the Oblivion Lost mod itmakes STALKER what it originally should've been like. The graphics are superb due to the dynamic (realistic) lighting, the sound is realistic and frightening, and the survival elements are excellently well done. The horror elements will also make you jump a few times, especially if playing late at night.
Do you want that to pop up in your face? Damn things can go invisible like Predators.
The setting is superb, the twisted version of the real-life Chernobyl Zone is great. Of course the game is based around the 1979 movie, STALKER, which I have yet to see. The free-roaming elements aren't as well fleshed out unless you get the OL mod, which makes the entire game traversible from the getgo, making it feel more like a survival-FPS version of Oblivion. The biggest weakness is the story. I'll forgive it for being an FPS, but the whole game feels so surreal it's almost hard to find it believable, which can ultimately tear you from the immersion the atmosphere seems to give you. There's numerous parts where the grammar is poor as well (due to it being poorly translated from Russian and Ukrainian). The multiple endings and user-created mods give the game more longevity. The community is quite dedicated and if the initial Clear Skies impressions, screen shots, and reviews are anything to go by, it'll be like the original STALKER with OL installed; an instant win for PC gamers. :)
Soul Calibur IV
Sophitia beating on Astaroth, who would've thought?
Fighting games! Finally they're making a comeback this year and next. Soul Calibur IV is the beginning of the Fighting game reclamation, and it isn't a slouch either. The characters are well designed (although Astaroth and Nightmare's new looks are iffy, they have their old looks) and balanced if you discount the Apprentice (Starkiller) and Yoda in the 360 version (which is the one I play), both of which are rather cheap (moreso Yoda, Apprentice may be Bottom Tier). The online is generally smooth, and it's a new addition to the series. The animation is silk-smooth and the Tower of Lost Souls is an improvement over the previous' games "feature" modes.
Cervantes posing, just because he's cooler than you.
The game is essentially comprised of a bunch of small changes from the previous series' entries and a huge graphical overhaul. The character creation is a lot of fun, and the storymode is far more solid than the old "arcade" only mode of previous games (1 & II). The online community is generally a bunch of button mashers and input lag can really decide a match for good players, and sadly many of the kids who play online really wouldn't be doing as well as they are were it not for input lag (which is always apparent, especially for wireless consoles). Hilde feels like a weaker addition to the series, but has a different/unique weapon(s) so she's special, and the characters from the other games have more or less retained their movesets, bar those that were broken like Yung Seong. Maxi is still the button-masher's favorite low tier character. All in all it's a solid fighting game and hopefully there'll be many more to come!
With that big update, summer ends (officially in a week and a few days). Sadly this summer feels like it's just getting started with all the things that have been going on recently...:( I guess the big update this time was just...a large amount of reviews. Oh well, I hope it was interesting enough to hold your attention.
I'm sure there are some huge glaring grammatical errors up there somewhere. I'll find them and edit them out eventually.