Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Catch up post : October Edition

Remember when I said this was going to be a low content mode month? Well, this post is just to catch people up with where I'm at.

I had the flu, or rather, have the flu, as it's been four days and I still feel like shit. The worst part about the flu, for me at least, is that it affects my ability to concentrate; I can't read while suffering from influenza. This is intolerable. How am I supposed to keep up my ludicrous reading speed when my brain won't internalize anything I've read? Alas, since my previous post detailing the novels I have read, I have only managed to finish one book, which is The Anglo-Saxon Age: A Very Short Introduction. This barely counts. It was for school, and it was only 130 pages or so. I'm almost done Lady Audley's Secret and I'm almost done another book, but it won't be for another day or two until my brains manage to unscramble enough to conquer these tomes.

So what did I do the past week? Well, school, video games, and watching movies. My parents got me an early birthday/Christmas gift which was a 32 inch LCD flat screen TV. At 720p, this is the highest definition TV I've ever owned. I immediately went out and purchased the third Transformers film on Blu-Ray so that I could enjoy it in all of its detailed splendor. On second viewing, I liked the movie as much as the first time, maybe slightly more. I also watched Dawn of the Dead, the 2004 remake, which holds up, I might add. In fact, it almost highlights the tragedy of Zack Snyder: once a director with a mighty visual eye, he has become a joke, a repetition of the same tricks over and over again with too much of a reliance on green screen. I don't have to mention how much I actively hated Sucker Punch.

I also watched Mission Impossible 3 in high def, my favourite of the trilogy, soon to be tetralogy. Just as before, the movie holds up. In fact, I noticed that the Shanghai heist scene seems to have influenced the Beijing heist sequence in The Dark Knight. Both of them look very similar and both involve high-flying acrobatics. The MI3 scene might even work better if only because the method of escape isn't a convenient plane, but a pulse-pounding car chase through the city.

Gearing up for the remake of the video game, I watched the film version of Golden Eye or Goldeneye, I don't know which. I don't think I've seen it before, but I must have. Either way, it was all new. Sort of. I remember parts of the movie, but it might just be because I'm remember elements from the video game. Ah! Hyperreality! Baudrillaud you would have loved this. Anyways, the movie isn't very good, except for the bravura opening sequence in which Bond drives a motorcycle off a mountain to fall into a falling plane. It's fucking intense. Otherwise, the movie is a mess of simplified spy stories and 90's PC nonsense. In fact, one of the reasons why this film is lauded is because of the filmmakers' intention to modernize Bond, bring him into the 90's.

However, it's in stark contrast to spy novels of the 90's in which the post-Communist Russia is a confused, broken and poor country with rampant crime and numerous ex-KGB agents running amok with the burgeoning Russian Mafia. Not only that, but Bond's spycraft itself seems oddly reliant on convenience and luck. It seems he's always in the right place at the right time. On top of this, the villains' plan seems to rest solely on a magic helicopter that's resistant to EMPs being invented. What if this copter had never been invented? How would they have pulled off their plan?

Bond seems even more lecherous in this film than previously. By positioning Bond in an 90's, PC, gender aware kind of world, it serves to highlight how predatory and harassing Bond actually is. Moneypenny even mentions that Bond's advances could be considered sexual harassment, a moment where the audience is supposed to go "Oh that Bond is incorrigible!" but really, my reaction was "ugh". There's another scene in which Bond and the requisite hacker (it's the 90's! There's a mandatory inclusion of hackers in every movie from the era) escape a tortuously convoluted death trap and afterwards, even though they just fucking met, Bond leans in for the seduction. It comes off as opportunistic and manipulative, rather than suave or charming.

Despite these problems, which are more indictments of the 90's than of the film, Goldeneye manages to be somewhat thrilling, especially when Bond fights hand to hand. For some reason, the brutal, non-martial arts style of the pre-Matrix era seems to be visceral and painful. The sound of every punch is exaggerated and amplified but it sounds bone-crunching and epic. The climactic fight between (a skinny) Sean Bean and (a skinny) Pierce Brosnan is long and it looks like it fucking hurts. I long for the days of close quarters hand to hand combat. I can think of only two films that have managed this without seeming overly stylized: The Bourne Ultimatum and The Kingdom (directed by Peter Berg). In the latter, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner try beating up an Arabic terrorist, but it's not how you think it goes down. It's long, it's bitter and it's brutal and it's certainly not romanticized fighting. It's nasty. When Goldeneye has moments like this, it works. When it tries to be suave and charming, it's insufferable.

This doesn't make me want to revisit the other Brosnan Bond movies. I remember quite clearly my disdain for the third and fourth of his era. All they serve to do, in the stark vision of history, is highlight how fucking good Casino Royale is, the antithesis of the Brosnan-era self-indulgence and self-parody. I must stress that this is in no way a slight against Brosnan. In fact, I quite like him as Bond. I think it's simply the movies themselves are terrible, but he's a highlight within them.

In terms of video games, I've been playing Saints Row 2, which makes me laugh all the time. While not as satisfying as GTAIV, it's certainly more fun in the long run: more customization, more mayhem and more levity. GTAIV is fantastic, but too much serious. Plus, I'm stuck on one mission and I can't get past it, so that's why GTAIV gathers dust for the moment.

I also picked up Mafia 2, which was on sale for 20 bucks. It's hard to argue with that. In fact, and I might develop this into a full post, but it seems that with the rise of video games as a storytelling medium, there's more value to be had in a 60 dollar game than in buying a movie or going to the theatre. Especially when a twelve hour campaign is eventually sold for 20 bucks, including the DLC and all the side missions. Mafia 2 starts out fairly weak what with the bizarre inclusion of a WW2 shooter set in Italy, but then gets going once all the tutorial missions are completed. The driving feels fantastic and the city looks gorgeous. This is what I wanted LA Noire to be (I sold that shit because it bored me).

I'm stuck in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I think I can get past it. I bought Dead Island and I think it's okay. I wish I had been able to demo it before buying it. Also, I finished the single player campaign for Crysis 2, which was long and epic and awesome. That's a game that I got a lot of value out of. I also purchased Payday: The Heist off PSN, and I really like it, but each mission is soooo long and there are no checkpoints. In addition, I purchased Old World Blues and Honest Heart for Fallout: New Vegas. Check back here for an eventual review of all of the DLC.

Really, all I care about is Uncharted 3 and Modern Warfare 3. Those will be day one purchases for me, regardless of school or work. I fucking can't wait.

That's the catch-up post for you. I'll probably post a review or something of the books I've been reading.

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