The Brown Bunny


I bit the bullet for you guys. I watched "The worst film in the history of Cannes" , as Roger Ebert put it. The Brown Bunny . Any film that's received this harshly at Cannes makes me curious. The real draw of this film is, there's a real-life blowjob on screen serviced by Chloe Sevigny , who was Gallo 's BF at the time and was a widely known 90s street fashionist. Roger Ebert and Gallo exchanged verbal blows over the movie which makes for good film post-mortem entertainment. ( Ebert later gave it a "thumbs up" after seeing the edited version of the film).

Plot is, Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) is a pro championship biker who goes on a roadtrip to California. You're never sure why, so it might be one of those slow burners with a noteworthy climax.

Through the first half of the movie, it's just Vincent Gallo stroking his hand across various parts of his face and looking mopey. Nothing much exciting happens, and it's a great cure for insomnia. Very long shots of driving with mopey songs.

Then 40 minutes into the movie, Gallo takes out his badass bumblebee Honda bike out of the truck and rides it across the desert. It's a badass scene, and no matter how terrible the rest of the film might be, you can't deny how good that scene is.

50 minutes in, Gallo does something that shows he's not quite the chauvinist douchebag that he appears to be ( Buffalo '66 ; real-life interviews). In town, at each traffic stop, some prostitute comes up to his car to ask for a good time. He denies the first 2 girls, then changes his mind on the third because she has a nice necklace with the name "Rose". He takes her out, but instead takes her to lunch and pays her to make her money. No sex, he just lets her go and that kind of gentleman act kinda warmed me.

*SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT* 1 hour 4 minutes in, now the real shit begins. This is why you came to watch this movie. Daisy the character is foreshadowed before when Gallo talks to some grandparents. This is Chloe Sevigny . What is about to happen for the next 20 minutes is erotic love-making, indie style. What is so cool is that Bud is interrogating Daisy during the infamous fellatio scene. He feels she cheated on him with other guys. The blowjob is shot tastefully, if that's a possible feat. It's not quite porno level with cum going everywhere.

 

And now we go flashback style to a traumatic party where all hell breaks loose. Daisy is smoking pot, then these frat guys smoke with her. She goes unconscious. Then she gets raped. Clay sees this as he's outside the room, but doesn't intervene. An ambulance comes. "I was dead". "What do you mean?" "I died. I got sick. I choked. I died." Clay denies that she died, that she choked on her own vomit. Daisy was dead. That was a ghost blowjob! This was a whole post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) episode.

 

Now the rest of the movie makes sense. Why Bud Clay stops to talk to/kiss girls who have names of flowers. Lilly. Daisy. Violet. Rose. The "brown bunny" was Daisy 's bunny. It makes sense that Clay looks depressed throughout the whole movie. */SPOILERS END* 

So yes, if you're thinking this is a terrible movie, just watch to the very end. It's worth suffering through with zombie acting and slow pacing. The shocker of an ending makes up for the rest of the movie. It's worth watching the movie again after the ending to make sense of this slow-paced film.     

If you liked : Jacob's Ladder , The Jacket , Memento

  
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The Longcut's 2nd album ("Open Hearts") is fucking orgasmic!


I just came in to say that somehow, The Longcut surpassed their intense debut album with an album that is as memorable, heavily repeatable, and inspiring. It's hard to pin down what type of music The Longcut is going for, but to me it comes off as very experimental and atmospheric progressive rock.   

 
Most of the songs are 4 minutes, so this is not an exactly a pop record. But damn isn't every second on the song well-earned and is going somewhere. I never felt disappointed with any of the songs, although the vocals in "Out At the Roots" got grating (it would work a lot more in a live concert setting). They use a lot of instruments in some songs, that it sounds like a wall of awesome ("Open Hearts")!

Best of all, this isn't a dingy indie rock record. It's genuinely catchy and great music to dance to. The music is sometimes very emotionally sweet ("Something Inside"). But it also has the fastest tempo music I've ever listened to, topping metal or other thrash hard rock bands ("You Can Always Have More"). There are lots of moods in the album, which makes for a great album listen rather than an album to skip to the 4 or 5 catchy songs.

  

  Other than "At Any Time" (0:54), this album is full of songs that aren't repetitive, and have different tones across them to make them sound like journeys instead of trips.

These Manchester guys need more love! With only 2 albums, they've already explored so much in the rock genre. I think these guys can take their unique perspective on music anywhere. 

  

  

Check out the album and comment with your opinion. Am I overhyping them?

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The Splinter Cell fanboy division over CONVICTION


Hi, there.

The anticipation for Splinter Cell Conviction has been a worrying but fever-pitched ordeal for many fans. It hit a peak with the release of the single-player DEMO on Xbox Live. 

 
Fans are freaking out over the demo if they were worried of the new direction of making Splinter Cell more in line with an action game. These people are termed " darksiders". Then you have fans who are ok with the new changes to revitalize the Splinter Cell franchise after the series hit saturation levels with Double Agent. These people are termed " lightsiders". 

 
 
 
There are quite a few reasons why fans are very vocal about this particular Splinter Cell game. It's developed by Ubi Montreal, the team that makes the best Splinter Cell games, while Ubisoft Shanghai handled Pandora Tomorrow and Double Agent. For non-fans, it's pretty much the Treyarch/Infinity Ward situation. Chaos Theory might have been an evolution to the 1st Splinter Cell game, but Conviction adds so many new features that it doesn't feel like just another sequel. Some of these new mechanics and ideas are not loved by everybody, and the diehard fans are suggesting for removal of certain features or tweaking them so the game still stays as a Chaos Theory remake. Fans might feel betrayed that the "good" team is making such a ruthless change to the franchise, compared to if it was in the hands of Ubi Shanghai. But I don't think they need to be so worried. These changes are for the better.

 
The big changes to Splinter Cell are now, Sam Fisher is a lot more agile, fast-paced, and is out to kill. No more Third Echelon, no more needing the 5th Freedom. Sam Fisher is out for revenge for the death of his daughter, who might not have been killed by just a drunk driver. No more having to move dead bodies into the shadows (you can still move people if you grab a dude and smack his head against the wall in the shadows). The nightvision/thermal goggles are a bit of a mystery as to whether they're coming back. The game is no longer about trial-and-error high consequences. The previous games were built on trial-and-error, and this new installment benefits from giving you more of a fighting chance. You can now actually continue the game after being detected because of the new Last Known Position (LKP) mechanic. However, this all plays second fiddle to the most controversial new mechanic, Mark and Execute.


 

BOOM Headshot!

Mark and Execute (M&E) is a mechanic where you can mark enemies, and when you're in close distance, press a button for Sam to do instant kill headshots on them. People worried that this would make the game too easy, or makes the game feel automatic rather than a stealth simulation. First, we have to realise it's a demo and they made it easier to get a new audience excited about the game. More importantly, I see it more as another tool you have to utilise at the right time and it's a reward for all your planning. You need to get a melee kill first before earning the M&E, which balances it out. With M&E, you can have the most ridiculous setups and executions where you're cleaning out a room of 6 guys in 1.5 seconds. It's just another feature to make you feel like a predator, and pushing this franchise into more aggressive stealth.

  

  

Down you go, buddy

Aggressive stealth is the keyword here. Max Beland, Creative Director, had an overarching design goal for this Splinter Cell game: Sam Fisher should act like a panther at all times. Less waiting around for guards' robotic walking routines, and more of taking the fight to them. This would be highly reminiscent for anyone who's played Batman: Arkham Asylum. That game revitalised the interest into stealth games, and showed that they can be badass instead of being slow-paced affairs. The controls are much more streamlined, there are less menu-driven things of scrolling through your weapons to get to some sticky shocker. Splinter Cell being more accessible is a good thing, because I've always wanted my friends to see how cool stealth games can be, and now they can see their full potential. Before, I'd hand the controller over to my shooter-frenzy gaming friend to play a stealth game, leading to frustration and him giving up on playing again. Maybe they might finally see what's cool and distinct about the Splinter Cell series, and give previous games like Chaos Theory a go.

 
 
Splinter Cell
going accessible means it's not Splinter Cell any more for some diehard fans. They act very much like indie kids where now their favourite franchise is now popular, so it's sold out to the mainstream gamers. Splinter Cell, like the best of game franchises, means different things to different people. For me, it was about sneaking and grabbing every single dude in a room without being detected. Or using the gadgets to distract guards. To hear Sam's darkly humorous dialogue when he interrogated guards.

  

  

 
To use acrobatics to get the better of your enemies and the level layout. To have linear levels with multiple paths that made it feel like a sandbox. Even the music still feels Splinter Cell, compared to how they screwed up Prince of Persia on that side.

 

 

Enemy AI has been vastly improved, compared to Chaos Theory. There are alert levels, but they're not immediately obvious, and guards gradually start to freak out (like Batman: Arkham Asylum). If you shoot once, they won't look for it until you do it again, then they turn on their flashlight and searching from where the bullet fired from. Enemies don't just go back to their place after a while; they might stick into cover after a few alerts and hold position. They'll improvise, and inform other guards of the situation. They're much more tactical in their searching, and use the flashlight diligently. In fact, the AI here is the best it's ever been, if you're playing on Realistic difficulty. It'll be even more challenging in the full game, I hear.

 
All of this is still intact in Splinter Cell: Conviction, judging from only the demo. Only the action has been sped up. It doesn't quite play like a typical cover-based 3rd person shooter, so playing it like Gears of War will result in your humiliation. Ubi Montreal could have gone for a more traditional sticky cover system but they chose to have you hold down a Trigger, so you couldn't always be in cover. Sam Fisher now feels like the true badass in gameplay. Previous games had him felt like his age where he felt slow and clunky and unable to improvise in a combat situation. Even the new projected text reduces the amount of time you'd spend in menus looking over your map in previous games. Now that there's a decent shooting engine and accessible stealth elements, this opens the game to a wide variety of gameplay styles. I've played the demo more than 15 times and have tried at least 5 different styles: no M&E, only headshots; all melee kills; only using gadgets to get past; and ghosting (no use of gadgets and going past every guard). So many playthrough styles adds a lot of replayability which was also a trademark of Splinter Cell games.  

 
  

  

 
I hope this new direction pays off for the Splinter Cell franchise and bring in a new audience. Most game sequels rely on the core fanbase, and the whole "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mantra to get by. Ubisoft has been wisely avoiding boring themselves to death with that type of strategy by making wildly differing sequels like GRAW, Prince of Persia 2008, and Far Cry 2. I hope this revitalisation gives them the most success, and that Splinter Cell takes back the crown for best stealth adventure series out there.  

   

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Dante's Inferno review (longest ever)


Dante's Inferno is developed by Visceral Games, the same people behind my favourite game of 2008, Dead Space. While it's not as amazing as their previous game, and if you can forgive repetitive gameplay, I explain why Dante's Inferno is still an unmissable game for anyone wanting an unforgettable journey through Hell.

Link to the full review


 

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Uncharted 2: Too Cinematic for its own Good?


For gaining such critical acclaim and winning Game of the Year awards, I didn't feel I'd have anything new to say on the title. Everyone must have covered every angle, down to Chloe's creepy beady eyes. However, I believe the game was being lauded more for its technological spectacle than for the game part of it.  

Gameplay Shameplay

Uncharted 2 was a 3rd person shooter with some platforming. Uncharted 2 also was a cinematic experience sometimes, with dazzling action setpieces that were more for the eye than the thumbs. Raising the cinematic expectations so high, I think Naughty Dog found themselves in a rut. I felt like I was going through the motions of the generic gameplay just to get to those cinematic moments. In fact, I played through the combat and platforming sections, in fast motion. This had the benefit of reducing the amount of sluggishness Drake has, due to the reliance on player mo-cap animation (which was also a problem of Grand Theft Auto 4). Because of the many great movie action scenes, the problems of the combat and platforming came to front and center.


While level design and environments were more creative compared to the first game, that couldn't stop how this game had the same predictable structure of shooting and then "platforming". There were still very few portions where the combat and platforming mixed to give the game an identity. There were the Gears of War shooting bits, and then the Tomb Raider "platforming" bits (although that might be a disservice to Tomb Raider). As Naughty Dog themselves said, the "platforming" segments were the lulls to relax the player. But to me, I didn't feel relaxed. I was bored (and slightly offended) by the hand-holding, no-fail-state navigational experience that I couldn't even call platforming without laughing. It's so conventional, you could make a drinking game out of every time Drake landed on a platform and it broke (to prevent backtracking).

The clear disconnect of structure (40% adventure, 60% action) still makes me hold out for when the Uncharted series will have a great "game" on its hands. Oh did I forgot to mention the puzzles? Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw said it best, "puzzles which I usually solve by opening your journal and having it bold-faced tell you the solution; so the only thing being tested is WHETHER OR NOT YOU STILL HAVE EYEBALLS IN YOUR FACE!" There is only one single moment I could remember where you're platforming and in a combat scenario, which is when you're hanging off a street lamp and enemies come from all directions high-and-low. This is the only time where you had to actively platform around the street signs to avoid being shot in the back. Unfortunately for the rest of the game, I felt like I was moving from one movie set to another. So, what about the story?

The Uncanny Valley


Yes, the story. Wasn't it supposed to be "the best"? Amazing voice acting? Characters "so human and believable"? Amazing cutscenes? Amazing mo-cap work? 


Yeeeaahhh. I thought we moved on from declaring the story of a game can only be shown through cutscenes 11 years agoUncharted 2 had few moments where the storytelling and gameplay melded to memorable effect, such as the Tibetan village or where you're dragging Jeff Gerstmann across street alleys while avoiding incoming gunfire. Most of the storytelling was done through cutscenes, and that was a shame considering how many animations were piled on. However, what became a bigger problem was when another character from the cutscene transitioned into gameplay.

The graphics of Uncharted 2 were breathtaking at times, to the point of photorealism. Which caused much higher expectations for logic. When in that same above video of dragging the wounded Jeff you see Elena get hit with an RPG and then again and again, you lose the suspension of disbelief that she's a living, breathing character in this world. Whenever a story character was with you, they couldn't be killed by enemies, yet, in cutscenes they're completely fallable like any human. Of course, micromanaging non-playable characters would be frustrating if they could die, but the game lost its attention to detail that had been revered so much.

 It felt like "cutscene over, characters over too". The disconnect is very jarring for such a photorealistic and detailed game. If you're going to be a 3rd person shooter with emphasis on story and characters, you should learn from the very bestNaughty Dog got the narrating through gameplay part right, but forgot to put enough meaningful character interaction during gameplay e.g. when Drake sees a statue and does a mom joke to Flynn while he's trailing behind. To ruin the best storytelling moment in the game (the intro) with a rehash, but with added Drake unwitty narration felt like Naughty Dog was uncomfortable with Drake just shutting up for a second. They further ruined it with how fast in Chapter 15 he's fit for shooting duty. I wouldn't be jumping around with a gunshot wound to the gut.


I'd like to think Max Payne 2 heavily inspired similar hallucinogenic episodes in my personal 2009 Game of the Year (GoTY), Batman: Arkham Asylum. Tangent aside, I'd like Naughty Dog to learn that interactive storytelling is the future with the technology we have now, not mo-capped cutscenes. Max Payne games are very cutscene-heavy also, but they also know how to tell a story while you're playing to great emotional effect.

Will the Real Nathan Drake Stand Up?

 
After having formed my opinion on how the gameplay isn't anything to write home about and that the storytelling isn't quite there, we conclude on my biggest issue with the game. Nathan Drake, the protagonist of this pulpy adventure. Naughty Dog stated the character was a nod to previous heroes of the pulp genre, from Indiana Jones all the way back to the 30's. This is where they fell into another rut. 



Nathan Drake is a kitchen sink, borrowing fragments from so many similar characters, he loses his identity. Is Drake a thief, a simple adventurer, a player, a psychopathic maniac, a super athletic jumper, and a puzzle-solver? Nope, not buying it. I won't belabour the point about him being the most sadistic protagonist in videogaming history, and instead move straight to his inconsistencies. This guy has no problem in starting his own genocide, but he suddenly grows a conscience when he doesn't want to shoot museum guards.  He makes ridiculous leaps of faith that you can't gauge because this isn't a platformer, but to always grunt and heave each time? When did chronic smokers learn to be that athletic? During gameplay, he can die off very small heights, but survive much higher heights because they're part of a cutscene?! 

This massive disconnect in the character from cutscene to gameplay just didn't jive with me, and made me feel more disconnected than with Niko the psycho in Grand Theft Auto 4. Nathan Drake just isn't a very consistent character, and it doesn't help that I hate every single unwitty remark that he pulls out of his bag of cliches. I'm sure if you watch Zero Punctuation, you know how someone can hate such a character even more than me.  

There's Still Hope, Naughty Dog


I still have hope that Naughty Dog will one day be able to deliver a great game to go along with the great characters, cutscenes, and cinematic moments. I'm a little disgusted in how many GoTY awards this game rewarded, though. It makes a statement that gaming critics would rather award a game that tries to be a movie, instead of just being a damn good game like Demon's Souls or Batman: Arkham Asylum. I hope that Uncharted 3 is enough of a great game that I wouldn't mind replaying any part of the game, instead of skipping to the best action scenes like some Hollywood blockbuster.

Good luck, Drake, you'll need it.

39 Comments

What Were My Favourite Films of 2009?

This is going to be fun. My criteria for the list is, these films have to be great for a second viewing. Or, 50th. 

1. World's Greatest Dad

 

This film is just so goddamn amazing to me. Unfortunately, I can't even describe the plot of the movie, because it's a huge damn spoiler. Robin Williams is an unpopular poetry teacher (and never-published novelist) who has to deal with the worst son ever, but then he gets the perfect chance to write a great story and become famous. Just that, there's something deeply wrong with the novel. This is the film that has gotten me into watching any dark comedies I can find. World's Greatest Dad is very easy to put as my favourite, because even though I'm not a 50 year old washed-out novelist and poetry teacher, I can connect with the message. Be true to yourself. That might be a cliche, but true honesty hurts, and this film will remind you why. It's just so easy to put this as number 1, because I was moved so much just like last year's Waltz with Bashir.

Not just that, it's one of the most original screenplays I've ever witnessed. It has the most daring plot twist ever, because you never see main characters in a movie kicked out that fast. It's a golden rule of Hollywood to NOT have such a plot twist dealing with a main character, that fast into the movie. I wish I could talk to someone who has seen the movie. From the beginning with "THE END" credit titles to the almost perfect ending, it's just edited so damn well. Every single scene is damn memorable and funny as hell. Borat did that for me, making me love every single scene (yes, even the nude wrestling scene). If a film can make me love it for its whole runtime, not being able to pick out a flaw, I feel I've seen something special. Robin Williams gives an Oscar-worthy performance. That's all that needs to be said. 

I can overhype this film so much, because I feel I can defend it to the end of times. It also has a distinct visual look, with the school's colours (red and yellow) being very prominent throughout. I think the only people who might not like the film are people who might not be feeling the deadpan comical tone, or are disgusted with a German scheisser-porn loving pervert of a son, but that's what makes it so special. I love movies where music makes the film. I've also seen it 5 times, and never get bored of it. It's just so damn quotable, and I think that's the mark of a timeless film. 

2. District 9

 

I showed this film to my roommate the other night. Halfway through it he said, and I quote, "This is the most incredible thing I've ever seen; I've never seen anything like this". District 9 might be a critical darling (and overhyped to some people) but just like The Dark Knight, everyone loves an artful action blockbuster movie. 

The plot is a perfect sell for anyone. "An alien spaceship comes to Johannesburg in South Africa. But they're not there to take over Earth, they just want to go back home". Africa? Ok, that might be interesting, is what might some person might say. It's not just the incredible documentary feel, the incredible action scenes, and the flawless CGI Prawns-human interaction, that made me love the film. It's the fact there is so much humour to Wikus van de Merwe's character, the way he says the F word, how he loves his job to the point of making great jokes. I love when you start with an unlikeable-but-entertaining protagonist and they become more relatable. I love that moment when he's a fugitive, and he's just staring at the spaceship while hiding in the grass. I love how he transforms as a character and literally. I just love Wikus' journey, and yet he's able to crack jokes at the most inappropriate times. 

Sharlto Copley gives an Oscar-worthy performance. Bloody hell does he go the mile in this film. All ranges of emotion. The ending is so heartbreaking. I'm not sure about a sequel, but I can see a lot of potential for the world to expand even more. I also love that this was made on $30 million and that it never shows. 

3. 500 Days of Summer

 

Finally, a relationship movie for guys. The thing with this film, it rings so very true for many young couples, just like how Revolutionary Road does to married couples. My friend said that the "Reality/Expectations" scene was such a stomach-punch. This stands out from other romantic comedies in that, there's an autobiographical truthness to it, that comes from the screenwriter's past. "75%" of it actually happened, and it's always the true stories that give the most creativity to fiction because you can't come up with such stuff. 

The second half of the film is where the impact comes, and it leaves its hooks into you. Moving from one day to another, like (408) to (34) flows so well without breaking up the narrative. How Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) misreads the whole relationship gives a brilliant twist, so you don't expect what will happen next. It's also a damn gorgeous film, with the lighting, and colours. Very good feast for the eyes.  

Most of all, when the movie ends, it's so inspirational for me thinking about my life. I might even write a short story that is somewhat similar to this film. Just because it's inspirational, this movie will stay with me for a while. Watching this film a 2nd time is even more rewarding for an experience because of the non-linear narrative. Plus, the DVD commentary is a must-listen, because it's just four guys talking about how true the movie can be.

4. The Hurt Locker

 

If this was just another post-Iraq war movie, I'd have to compare it to better works. But because of its focus on a bomb worker and the life he has to go through, this film totally sold me because I'd never seen that perspective on a war. He's not really a soldier, he's just like some plumber. Get the job done, that's it. With unforgettable set-pieces like the sniper stand-off, how can I not love it? It's also for all the Call of Duty 4 players out there who remember "Ghillied Up". Like 500 Days of Summer, the creativity feels like it must have been somewhat autobiographical that allow some scenes to be so unforgettable. 

This is just a great companion piece to District 9 for its documentary look, and especially to Generation Kill. Jeremy Irons just gives again, an Oscar-worthy performance for someone who has to NOT care about the really tough stuff he has to do, like negotiate with a confused suicide bomber who doesn't want to die. When he develops a relationship for a bootleg movie-selling, confident kid and that takes a very sour turn, you feel what this unemotional soldier must be going through.

Just like District 9, without an out-there protagonist, these films wouldn't be as memorable or critically-loved as they are. They'd be soulless action movies, which is why I have to put up 2 great action blockbuster movies in my top 5, so people know that you can still demand for a great FILM from an action movie.  

5. Paranormal Activity

 

This is a controversial pick, because people judged the film based on how scary it was to them. Not on the fact of how good the film actually is. And just like The Exorcist, you don't need the film to be scary for it to be loved. Because this is about a couple living in a supposedly haunted house, I think this film will resonate if you are watching it in your home on the DVD. Some people will find different parts scary based on the context. Like in my apartment, I can hear people walking up stairs, so that's the scariest part in the film to me with the running-up-stairs sound effect.

Forget if you found the movie scary, it's just a great film that's foreboding and claustrophobic like never before. Completely believable performances from the 2 main actors root this generic story with a certain pinch of heartbreaking when the end comes. Also, it gives you those "HOW DID THEY DO THAT?!" moments, where you're impressed with the filmmaking. None of the effects feel cheap in a bad way, they just feel like very simple but highly resonant effects. Making footsteps on baby powder. Making an Ouija board set on fire. The time spanning shots. Please also, watch the original ending, and not the "in-your-face" theatrical ending. It's much more subtle, and gave me a lot to think about. How the couple is reduced to a mere statistic on the wall of weird is kind of depressing. 

While [Rec] was the best horror movie last year, Paranormal Activity is a great companion piece to it and clearly the only big horror movie success of this year.  


OH WAIT, I JUST REALISED THESE ARE ALL INDEPENDENT FILMS! 2009 WAS THE YEAR OF GREAT INDEPENDENT FILMS, I guess.  
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Avatar - what a disappointment.



 
Avatar sucked. I was disappointed coming out of the cinema. 
Bear in mind, I went into this movie completely fresh. NO REVIEWS, NOTHING OUTSIDE OF THE TRAILERS. 
Saw it in 3D, but not IMAX. 
 
Ok, time for pretentious opinions. 
$500 million won't buy you an interesting alien world. It won't buy you interesting characters. It won't buy you an interesting script, plot, or story. 
Pandora, the world itself, is bereft of creativity. There's hardly a single sci-fi concept here that's kinda new here. It's all prehistoric animals, and blue aliens. And the only blue alien race I care about is this:
 Asaris > Navis

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Avatar won't be remembered for anything than its visuals. And that's too bad. Because we all used to love James Cameron, no matter how pretentious he has become now.
 

What did I not like?


This is James Cameron's worst film to date. I know that's easy to say, because all of his films are great. If this was George Lucas, I'd say it's a step up from the prequels. But seriously, what makes James Cameron's sci-fi films stand out? Because they have cool characters and drama to go along with the cool sci-fi concepts and ideas.   

 My problem with the amazing graphics is (just like Star Wars prequels), if you don't have characters or a story worth investing in, it feels like you're watching a very long videogame cutscene. I was genuinely bored through a good portion of this movie. That's worrying for a film with a world so colourful and dripping in details. 

The plot. Why tell Jake Sully to learn how to acclimate to the Navi culture when the military will swoop in anyway when the plan fails? No need for 90 minutes of Jake Sully. When I can predict every single minute of a film, that's just depressing. Jake Sully had a great backstory, with being paraplegic, replacing his dead twin bro. Aaaaaaaand, that's about it. The villain in the film, like really? Even Guile (Street Fighter) looks less stupid! I don't care about any of these characters. The only character worth a damn, even if she's part of the predictable parade, is the Neytiri blue Navi chick. There's some excellent mo-cap work done for her. When she's crying, you feel it. 
 
The Navis. Replace them with Africans, Native Americans, Pocahontas, or any other marginalised tribe, and you've got these aliens figured out. They have a chief, the jockey, the comic relief, the disapproving dad and his hot daughter. It's as generic as it gets.
 
The sci-fi in this film is just insulting. "Unobtanium", honestly? At least Star Trek tried, with the red matter. You won't even explain how humans jack into the Avatars? Oh yeah, show a generic multi-coloured tunnel. Even the Matrix bothered to show a needle. Ghost in the Shell, a wire. How do the mountains float? I'll admit though, the hair connecting to every living thing was pretty cool. 
 
The mechs? Done way better some years ago, with Matrix Revolutions. Done way better many years ago with Neon Genesis Evangelion.
 
This is Cameron's Disney movie.  In a bad way. The plot, characters, and story are a joke. Good sci-fi films are not good because of their cool ideas or concepts. They're good because there is human drama around the ideas, so we can be attached to the weird stuff. Go watch Solaris, because the idea for it is so weird, and without great characters, story, or drama, that movie would have failed. James Cameron even admits in the Solaris commentary, that he'd never be able to make such a subtle and deeply profound sci-fi film such as it. Oh, how dangerous those words would come to be.
 

What did I like?

The Navi chick. 
The vistas. 
Jake's training scenes. The "run, Forrest, RUN!" scene is great. 
The 3D. Even though it's not convincing me that all movies need to be in 3D. 
Teh graphixxz! 

Disappointments of the Year


Aside from the visuals, this is another disappointing blockbuster to add onto the list of 2009. Public Enemies, Wolverine, Watchmen, Transformers 2, Terminator Salvation (I liked it quite a bit, but others...), Star Trek (yeah I'm one of those), and now Avatar

For the people that liked it

Don't watch it again. I don't want you to see the problems with the film, second time round. I don't want my review to ruin the good time you had with the film. You had a great night out with your friends, I don't want to spoil that. 
If you enjoyed it, good for you. 
I'm already trying to forget this movie, and it's working. Just another forgettable disappointment. Moving on.
This is not me trying to ruin your parade. Honestly, you're the one doing that the second you click on this blog with such a header title like "Avatar - what a disappointment".
 

What's the sci-fi action film of this year worth watching?


Go buy the District 9 DVD now. It's out!


 
 
 
 
 
 

What else?


Go watch the " 70 Minute review of Star Wars: Phantom Menace". I died in laughter!


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why BATMAN is my Indisputable GAME OF THE YEAR!


Let's not forget, everyone was super sceptical on this Batman videogame before it came out. There hasn't been a single good 3D Batman game. There hasn't been a single great superhero game (Spiderman games are only good for the swinging). So, BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM had a lot going against it. How will the game keep true to the Batman character? Will the gadgets have lame gameplay? Would the combat system be a generic beat-em-up? Would the story suck? Who's ever even heard of Rocksteady Studios?

NO ADDED JUNK

Thankfully, it was the exact opposite of those questions. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is a tight experience, with game design that sticks stringently to its goals. There is no Batmobile driving sequence. There are no Quick Time Events. There is no co-op. There is no multiplayer. There is no big Gotham city open-world where you do side-quests to pad out more hours. Rocksteady was confident in its single-player campaign, to not have to add any obvious filler.

That's major confidence from a fairly unknown developer studio.

I'M THE GODDAMN BATMAN!

So, what should a Batman game be? A platformer? A brawler? A detective game? Or, be like other clever developers, and dip into all those genres? Not many games combine different gameplay genres, or when they do, they're bloated. There's been only one game that I remember that did it well, which was BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL. Most games just rely on what they're good at, and stick to that. I think it's called the "if it's not borken, don't fix it" paradigm that has led to the most generic games ever.

BATMAN: AA isn't that. The developers put excellent gameplay that defines every aspect of the character. Due to this, everything about the game feels fresh. From the insanely refreshing and satisfying freeflow combat system (Batman's the best at martial arts, and it shows) to the exploration of the world with your grappling hook (he's gotta perch like a bat, too) and other geekgasm gadgets (no Bat credit card), you know you're playing a Batman game.

The Batman combat is just genius. Instead of combo mashing, every single face button is a tactic. Little input = big output. You must be an economical businessman with your button presses, especially when it comes to the Combat Challenges. Is it the only game where there isn't a single-button-mashing combo? The variety of moves leads into the animations, with some of the most beautiful mo-cap work I've witnessed from a protagonist. Animations never get old, because they hardly ever repeat. They're dynamic. This again is a huge achievement, to not have "animation fatigue" even in this HD era of having hundreds of animation cycles.

Stealth gameplay could've been screwed up so bad. How many good stealth staple games are there really? I have to give props to Rocksteady for making the most universally simple and elegant stealth system that anyone can pick up. This is the new wave of aggressive stealth. The artificial intelligence is great, which allows you for sandbox SPLINTER CELL-like gameplay where you're toying around with the enemies, and then snapping up the last enemy who's peeing his pants. When you're on a gargoyle, you feel so Batman it's creepy. SPLINTER CELL CONVICTION is also going along this new wave of aggressive stealth (which is resonating a lot more with people who've always wanted to try these games), so let's see what grandpa Sam can muster up. Wait-and-pounce stealth is dead.

Character gameplay even comes down to how Batman never kills, and so never clashes with the overall story unlike in UNCHARTED (let's face it, Drake is Marcus Phoenix in a half-tuck, and a superhero because of his unbelievable jumps of saving grace). To me, it didn't feel like the game was ripping off other games' specific minutia. Sure, if you're reductionist, you could say it's a mix of SPLINTER CELL, TENCHU, METROID but it never plays like one of those games. That's a huge accomplishment and shows Rocksteady are confident in creating Batman-centric gameplay. I want to see enemies' heartbeat in SPLINTER CELL now. I want to glide in every game now. Also, it's beaten TENCHU in the grappling hook department and is making SPLINTER CELL run for its money.

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY

Of course, I wouldn't forget the excellent storytelling. Notice, I didn't say the word "story". It's still a great plot, of Batman being stuck in a prison for 1 night with the Rogue's Gallery, but what shines is the multiple venues of storytelling used. There is soft storytelling through Joker on the intercom or on TVs and the audio interview tapes. Then there's the typical hard storytelling through cutscenes.

Hold on though, there's a new type of storytelling too. Non-linear storytelling. This was experimented with PRINCE OF PERSIA 2008, but felt disjointed at times. Here, you're going from one part of the island to the other, and while the game's missions are not linear, there is still interactional dialogue and reactions. For example, after the Medical Pavillion mission, you can go back and find out that the Doctors haven't escaped but instead have boarded themselves up behind desks! They stay there until the end of the game! Nearly all of the characters give context-dependent dialogue too, at certain points of the game. All the personnel of the island are free to talk to, at any point of the game, so for example Aaron Cash can cheer you on to finally beat Joker when Joker's "party" starts. Because of such reactionary dialogue, it can make the Arkham Island come alive no matter how dreary it is, and showcases that Paul Dini can also write games.

Blah, blah, ALWAYS WITH THE HERO SPEAK!

Now, I won't say it's the most original game ever, but for this year, I feel it sticks out against the crowd. For such a bold game, it also excels on execution which MIRROR'S EDGE (the most original game of recent times) and other original IPs couldn't be. It is in the very rare club of a first game being nigh-on perfect on Day 1 release, like last year's DEAD SPACE. There is no need for a sequel, or any improvements needed other than very superficial ones like more bosses. It also helps that it's the best superhero and licensed game ever made. Riddick, you now have a friend.

I'M IN CONTROL OF THE ASYLUM!

All the reviews of the Batman game have been very favourable. The only negatives about the game are things that are very nitpicky. Batman's figure covering a large part of the screen (there is a non-Batman centred camera). Yes, the Titan bosses repeat a couple of times, and yes, there aren't 20 types of enemies, but this is par for the course with nearly every action-adventure game ever made. Plus, as long as they're fun, I don't see the criticism of some good repetition. One that everyone can agree on is that the final boss battle is shallow but it does show how unpredictable Joker really is. BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM is so damn good, people are finding it hard to find legitimate criticism. Usually, with triple A games, you can bash the character gameplay or story, but here it's just damn good.

You also have to remember, a great game has to be as great for newcomers. It should be as pick-up-and-play as MARIO. Because of the excellent controls and simplified systems, BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM happens to be that. BATMAN: AA is definitely up there with MARIO games in terms of being accessible for everyone. Most of the games this year can have very specific audiences, like all of the shooters. Shooters are not every girl's best friend.

THE LONGEST JOURNEY

While most games up their pacing by putting more variety through newer locations or "palette-cleansing" gameplay (turret sections, vehicle sections), BATMAN: AA goes about it by completely changing the level design of Arkham Island at times. Rocksteady didn't feel the need to up the variety by letting you go to Gotham city (even though, you sort of do at one spoilerific point). Enemies appear where they weren't before, like snipers or crazed inmates. Poison Ivy's vines blocking away paths. Scarecrow, period. Batman's armour and face takes a ton of damage throughout the course of the game (for once, it's not a gimmick!). Because of such pacing and setpieces, the non-linear world never gets boring through the amount of backtracking you'll do. There's always something to look forward to.

Thanks to the magnificent pacing and every single moment being memorable, the game ends just at the right moment. So, while you might spend 15-20 hours with the game, it feels you've been through a lot with the characters and the island. This is one night you and Batman won't ever forget.


OVER? IT HASN'T EVEN BEGUN!

Because it stands out amongst the pack of games this year and had the MOST TO PROVE, this is easily the Game of the Year.

No sequelitis.

Totally new gameplay, like the freeflow combat where animations never recycle.

Most fun stealth gameplay ever.

Non-linear backtracking that's always interesting.

Great storytelling.

And that it's damn memorable! Every moment in the game was given love and care, from Harley Quinn's office to the Riddler.

Everyone loves the game, which is not something you can say for a game franchise other than MARIO. This is a great game for people not privy to Batman's loving cape. The best games are the ones where everyone finds something to love, and for 2009, it's BATMAN ARKHAM ASYLUM, in my opinion.


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