Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Winter is Coming. It is Known. Also, could we maybe cool it a little on the rape scenes?

TigerBeat has a fantastic Beatdown of George R. R. Martin's Song of Fire and Ice (here's another primer, if you aren't familiar with the series, and beware, as this post contains SPOILERS!)

I loved the books as well as the HBO series based on them (Peter Dinklage's Tyrion is brilliant), but I also enjoyed the Beatdown because the author pens a fun, snarky read, and many of her points are right on.

As a woman, the first several chapters of Martin's epic fantasy series  were very disturbing to me; the violence against women made me nearly put the books down.

I'm glad I didn't, and I'll explain why, but first, responding to her take on Tyrion's story:

When Tyrion married Tysha, he was 13 years old. He believed she was a prostitute who never loved him because his father, the authority figure over him, and his brother Jaime, whom he trusted, told him so. And so his father tells Tyrion to watch while she she has sex with all the soldiers for money, and then demands Tyrion rape her as well, and give her a gold coin because Lannisters are considered to be worth more than soldiers.

I used the words "has sex" because although of course it is rape, at that point Tyrion believes the girl is a prostitute who has no problem with having sex with all the soldiers for money, as each one is paying her. He doesn't realize that she is just as much a victim as he is, at this point.

If a girl is coerced into doing something sexually by an authority figure in control of her, that's rape. The young women in this story, who are 13, 14, etc., are considered by the society in which they live to be "of age" at this time, but we obviously agree that is not okay today (I feel that Martin is making that point, actually, to show us how barbaric that kind of thinking was.)

I'm sure you agree that when a 13 year old child is coerced into sex by an authority figure, it doesn't matter whether the child is a boy or girl--it's rape either way. So I feel that we should give the same respect to Tyrion and accept that he is also a victim here.

Now, why I kept reading: many of the women in the series show strength, resourcefulness and really grow as characters, especially Danaerys. I disagree, also, that she has to release the slaves because she is a white woman and they are not, and therefore she knows better. Dani was made a slave herself, and sold, and that's why she empathizes with them. She doesn't feel superior to them. Dani has actually learned much from listening and respecting other cultures and races, something her brother did not do (which is why she is a survivor and he is not) and she is "the blood of the dragon," not her brother. She is a complex character trying to do the right thing in a world that George R. R. Martin has deliberately made the opposite of good vs evil. In that world, pragmatists and strategists live while the naive and trusting die.

And this is where I talk about that world of the series, because it is really significant to note that, while a fantasy world, it is modeled on Europe during the Wars of the Roses and the families fighting for the throne at the time. The patriarchal society, arranged marriages, plotting and treason exist because the historical background upon which the fictional work is based included all those elements and they are necessary for the factions to make sense. So arguing that Martin could have had the women in charge, etc., doesn't work in that setting. Yet he still has women play pivotal roles, and in the other countries in the book there are strong women.

The women of the wildlings are not mentioned, I notice, nor is Asha Greyjoy, all strong women who control their own destinies.

I disagree that Cersei is punished for her sexuality, also. Everyone suffers in this book, and I don't see a lot of moral posturing here that indicates Martin himself has a problem with sexually assertive women--he makes that point through Cersei, who tries to use her sister-in-law's sexuality to punish her, and instead ends up a victim of her own machinations. Cersei is undone because she does not think far enough ahead strategically; this is a weakness that the character has always had through the entire series of books. She solves immediate problems while creating long-range ones because she does not see the big picture. Cersei's pattern has always been to manipulate Jaime, who loves her, into solving those problems she creates, but he stops going along with her when he realizes she has been using him all along.

Tyrion does well because, as in chess, he sees the whole board and thinks several moves ahead. He learned, very young, the most important lesson of survival: naivete and innocence lead to suffering in this harsh world.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Screw the Heroes, Give Me the Villains

Welcome to Fright Night.
For Real.

Never underestimate the power of a great villain to really make the movie.

Case in point: I watched the original, classic version of Fright Night last night with my 16 year-old, since we're planning to go see the new version this weekend.

Hi, I'm 27 and trying to play 17. I totally
cannot pull this role off! Put a ribbon in my
hair and maybe no one will notice.
I had forgotten how, well, yeah, *forgettable* the lead and his girlfriend were (Amanda Beards was about an inch short of homely--were they *trying* to make Amy look plain?).
But Chris Sarandon always stood out for me. My teenage son agreed that his performance is what really sold the movie. The suave, sartorial vampire biting into an apple as he sauntered down the stairs reeled us in, and by the seduction scene in the club we were both rooting for him over the vampire killer.

Yes, I always dress this well. Vampires have the best tailors.

Of course, there's no doubt that Roddy McDowell makes an inspired Peter Vincent, but where does he do his best work? Opposite Sarandon, or the over-the-top Evil Eddie ("The Master will kill you for this! But not quickly. Slowly...oh. so. Slowly!"). The dying wolf, with its piteous cries of pain, changing into a man as McDowell's eyes grow soft and teary? That's the good stuff, right there.

Inevitably, when I look at the best fantasy/sci-fi/horror films, the consistent factor in all of them is a well-cast villain, from John Lithgow way back in Blowout to Bill Nighy in the Underworld movies, to Geoffrey Rush in the first Pirates.

I know what you're thinking, "Well, but the leads have to be good, too, right? Look at Johnny Depp in those Pirates movies!"

To which I say: Bollocks. Johnny Depp rules my heart, but the last Pirates movie was still pathetic, and his bizarro Willy Wonka couldn't hold a candle to Gene Wilder's lovable eccentric version.

And that's not all. Remember the spitting, acne-covered Baron Harkonnen spinning up to the ceiling in Dune? Yeah, he sucked. Even Sting, Kyle McLachlan and Brad Dourif couldn't save that movie (though Dourif later shone as Grima Wormtongue in LOTR. Again, great villain!).

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was meh largely because Blackbeard was just not physically intimidating enough. The real Blackbeard was a giant of a man. And the Spiderman franchise, which started out so well with Willem Dafoe as the maniacal Green Goblin, went and put a very nice, somewhat overweight actor in the role of Doc Oc and screwed it all up.

The very first of the many, many Batman movies isn't a classic because of Michael Keaton. It's Jack Nicholson's Joker (with a little help from sexy Kim Basinger) that made it both dark and fun ("Where does he get those wonderful toys?!"). When Director Christopher Nolan breathed new life into the franchise, Heath Ledger came along and acted circles around Christian Bale, re-creating a role that would have intimidated lesser actors (would you want to step into Nicholson's shoes?!).

Hugh Jackman? Fine, no problem, I like him. But Liev Schreiber's Sabretooth made Wolverine worth watching. Chris Hemsworth is likable enough as the blond and suitably buff Thor, but Tom Hiddleston's Loki? Brilliant.

Ian Mckellan (and then Michael Fassbender) as Magneto.

Ricardo Montalban as "Kha-a-a-an!"

I could go on, but I think I've made my point.

So, if there are any producers, directors or casting people out there, keep that in mind, okay? It's the villain that makes the movie. And Colin Farrell, don't let me down in this new Fright Night remake. I'm counting on you!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

King of Fighters XII: Why Bother?

We're fans of fighting games. We like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, no question.

We respect the fact that sometimes, when it comes to fighting games, graphics can take a back seat, while the very idea of a plot line is laughable.

Let's face it, it's all about the action. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

So, King of Fighters XII comes out, and we take a look at some of the gameplay videos before we get our hands on the game, and we say to ourselves, "Well, the graphics aren't really impressive, but there's a devoted following for these King of Fighter dudes, and maybe they know something we don't."

There was also quite a lot of press surrounding the release of the game. That's par for the course; you spend money making games, you spend money publicizing the games so the fans will spend their money buying the games, right?

But there's only so far we are willing to go when it comes to shelling out $60 hard-earned dollars for a game.

And King of Fighters XII left us cold.

It's not just the problems with online and multiplayer gaming right from the get-go, requiring patches straight out the door, though they might have waited to release the game until they got the kinks worked out.

[Blizzard is one of the few franchises that get that right, btw. They've pushed back Strarcraft II more times than we can count, but at least we have faith that when Starfcraft II comes out it will be godly straight out of the box.]

No, there're so many things wrong with King of Fighters XII that we couldn't find many willing to take it on just to go through them all here. Hence the delay for this review. We don't like sticking it to the game people, but the King of Fighters XII that won some early awards in pre-release play somehow morphed into this lackluster, 2D sprite fighting game with few options and frustrating game play.

Twenty-two fighting characters, first off. Twenty-two. I don't know about you, but if I'm playing a fighting game, I want to scroll through hella more choices than that.

And then what's with the backgrounds? There's what, five different backgrounds? Again, you've gotta be kidding me. Double that, at least, is what I'm looking for in a good fighting game. Though in this case, that might actually be worse. Bright, colorful, but bizarre, they actually take away from the game by pointing out how dreary and dull the sprite fighters look against them.
What the hell is going on behind us?!

No final boss. You think I am fighting for my health, here? We're already short on all the unlockables we were hoping for. Maybe we're showing our age, but we expect some kind of reward for toughing out the matches.

Now, I know the King of Fighters franchise fanbois think we just.don't. get. it.

Maybe they're only 22 frickin' guys, but they're your guys. You love your KOF cast, right?

Oh, yeah? Well, not only are you missing a lot of your guys in this game, but some of them have been seriously re-worked. We're talking bulked up or--how do we say this?--sexed down. In other words, you can only chose between have these huge brawny fighting guys, or these metrosexual gender-neutral anime emo sprite dudes (dudettes?), pale shadows of the franchise heroes.
We'e confused about our sexuality. Let us duel to the death.

Which is why we ask, when it comes down to King of Fighters XII--why bother?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Army of Two: 40th Day Weapon Design Contest

Yesterday, EA Montreal announced the return of the weapon design contest for ARMY OF TWO: THE 40th DAY.

From June 23, 2009 to July 12 2009, participants can submit their ultimate weapon at the game's official website for a chance to have it included in a future EA Game.

To enter the contest, gamers will need to submit an image of their weapon and a brief 200-word description. Please click on the game's official website to view the contest rules.

Once gamers submit their designs, the images will be posted to the site for the community to vote on. Starting on July 20, 2009 the top weapons will be reviewed by the development team who will then pick the two best designs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ubisoft (Cheap!) on Impulse

Ubisoft titles are NOW available on Impulse . Additionally, all titles from Ubisoft on Impulse are 10 percent off!

Ubisoft Titles Available:

Far Cry 2 is the next-generation first-person shooter that takes you deep into the most beautiful but also most hostile environments in the world: Africa! More than just a visual and technological achievement, Far Cry 2, the true sequel to the award-winning PC game, will provide you with an unprecedented gaming experience. It is now available on Impulse for $19.99.

In Assassin’s Creed* it’s 1191 AD in Jerusalem. The Third Crusade is tearing the Holy Land apart. You are an elite Assassin sent to stop the hostilities by suppressing the powers on both the Crusader and Saracen sides. But as you carry out your missions, a conspiracy begins to unfold. You find yourself tangled up in a conflict that threatens not only the Holy Land, but the entire world. Assassin’s Creed can be purchased for $19.99.

Also coming to the Impulse lineup is Heroes of Might & Magic V: Tribes of the East. For the first time, play as the Orc faction and recruit heroes, build armies and manage cities as you explore and conquer legendary lands. Use tactics, skills and magic to outsmart fantasy armies while developing your heroes and unveiling the dark plot that threatens to tear the world of Ashan apart. This epic chapter can be purchased on Impulse for $19.99.

*Editor's Pick! We loved this title on Xbox 360! Must-have for your collection.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Call of Duty 4, Prototype on Impulse

Stardock announced today that Activision's Prototype and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare are now available for download on Impulse .

With Impulse, users purchase their game and can then immediately download and install the game through the Impulse client which seamlessly manages updates, community features and more. Games become part of that user’s account such that when a user purchase a new machine, a user can simply re-download the Impulse client, logon to their account and re-download all their purchases, even years into the future.

Prototype lets gamers feel the power of being the ultimate shape-shifting weapon. You are the prototype: Alex Mercer – a genetically mutated man without memory, armed with amazing shape-shifting abilities, hunting your way to discover what created you and determined to make those responsible pay. As Alex, gamers tear through a densely populated contemporary New York City with Parkour-style agility, consuming anybody that gets in their way, assuming their physical identity, memories and abilities. Available for $49.99.

In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, you are armed with an arsenal of advanced and powerful modern day firepower and transported to treacherous hotspots around the globe to take on a rogue enemy group threatening the world. As both a U.S Marine and British S.A.S. soldier fighting through an unfolding story full of twists and turns, players use sophisticated technology, superior firepower and coordinated land and air strikes on a battlefield where speed, accuracy and communication are essential to victory. The epic title also delivers an added depth of multiplayer action providing online fans an all-new community of persistence, addictive and customizable gameplay. Available for $39.99.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Natsume Announces Lineup for 2009

Here are the latest scheduled game releases, straight from Natsume:

Adventures To Go (PSP)
It's adventure served your way! In this hilarious and innovative
strategy RPG, players take control of Finn Courtland and his band of
misfits in their quest for fame and riches. Each dungeon is randomly
generated according to the player's specifications, so the game offers
endless replayability and a guarantee of new surprises every time
players pick it up. The grid-based battles challenge players to think
strategically and make the best use of each character's abilities.

Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition (Wii)
In Animal Kingdom: Wildlife Expedition, players take on the role of a wildlife photographer exploring the exotic and diverse wildlife of Animal Island. Each day, they'll be given new photo assignments, such as taking pictures of particular animals, an animal herd, or an animal
in a particular pose. Players will see a variety of exotic wildlife on their expedition, including gazelles, gorillas, and elephants. Each animal is realistically detailed and behaves just like the real thing!

Afrika (PS3)
Explore the wildlife of Africa in this revolutionary safari game! Players will capture lifelike images of everything from lions and zebras to giraffes and cheetahs in this breathtaking PlayStation® 3
game that features photorealistic environments and animals that move and behave exactly like their real-world counterparts. Like real-life
photographers, players will need to be careful if they want to take photos of the animals without disturbing them, and make the best use
of their equipment in order to capture that perfect shot. The photography in the game is as meticulously modeled as the animals themselves; players will need to learn to compose their photographs with the eye of a professional photographer if they want to earn top dollar. Money can be used to purchase new licensed cameras and equipment, all of which behave just like their real-world counterparts.

Cheer We Go! (DS)
Take on the role of a cheerleader in this exciting rhythm adventure game! Use your stylus to guide your cheerleader through increasingly complex dances and cheerleading routines. The game's story mode takes players on an adventure through school as they try to work their way
up to star cheerleader! Players can completely customize theircharacter, enjoy a variety of mini-games, and may just find a little romance as they strive to become the best cheerleader in the school!

Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (Wii)
In Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, a divine tree which once stood in the middle of the Harvest Goddess' pond has begun to weaken, the creatures are beginning to leave the land, and the five bells have lost their power. Only the strength of the Harvest King can help revive the earth and bring the tree back to life. It's up to the player to ring the five bells, bring the Harvest King back to the island, and help revive the Goddess' tree and the land. Players will also help the ringmaster when the circus rolls into town. When the giraffe, hippo, and lion escape, players have to find them, befriend them, and bring them back to save the show! Players will find plenty of activities to experience in Harvest Moon: Animal Parade, including cultivating crops and caring for wild and exotic animals. Players can take their exotic pets out for walks, teach them tricks, and even ride them around town!

Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming (DS)
Something strange is happening on Sunny Island. Crops are popping up everywhere and growing out of control! If something isn't done soon, the once-tranquil island will be buried in an avalanche of vegetables! It's up to the players to solve the mystery of this produce predicament as they try to tame the crops and gather as many
vegetables as they can. Set in the world of the recent DS hit Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness, Harvest Moon: Frantic Farming continues the
tale of the island and its residents. Players can choose from 12 playable characters, each with their own unique story. See how the mystery unfolds from each character's perspective, and who they meet along the way. The game features a variety of modes including Story Mode, the brain-teasing Mission Mode, and the action-puzzle excitement of Score Attack and Free Play Modes. Players can test their farming skills against their friends and family in multiplayer. Players can also unlock character art, music, and some special surprises in the Collection Room.

Harvest Moon: My Little Shop (WiiWare)
Harvest Moon comes to WiiWare! You've just opened a shop in Clover Town. It's up to you to decide what items you're going to stock. Once you decide what to stock, you'll make the items in a series of fun and exciting minigames using the Wii Remote. Can you build a bustling business that will help Clover Town prosper?

Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands (DS)
The islands are in peril! Years ago, a powerful earthquake struck the Sunshine Islands. In Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands, it's up to the player to raise the sunken islands by finding the magical Sun Stones. By finding and collecting the Sun Stones, and using them to unlock the
islands, wild animals and crops, players can bring peace and prosperity to the Sunshine Islands and prevent such a disaster from ever striking again. Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands continues the story of Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness. Players will encounter all of the beloved characters from that game, as well as a number of newcharacters. Players will grow and harvest crops, care for animals, mine, fish, and compete in festival events in their quest to restore the Sunshine Islands to their former glory. With a little luck, they may even find true love and start a family along the way.

Reel Fishing: Angler's Dream (Wii)
Reel Fishing: Angler's Dream brings the most true-to-life fishing experience yet to the Nintendo Wii! Featuring a magnificent 3D fishing engine, lifelike fish, and soothing environmental sounds, Reel Fishing: Angler's Dream puts players on the banks of pristine lakes, raging rivers, and tropical oceans filled with the biggest, fiercest fish around. Players will be able to keep their best catches in aquariums, grow them, and then release back into the wild for an even bigger challenge. Get expert advice from the wise Fishing Master and learn how to fish like a pro. With a variety of realistic stages, tons of fresh and saltwater fish, and over 100 pieces of tackle, players can really make their fishing experience their own. Special Boss Fish will challenge even the most veteran anglers. Players can also take a more competitive approach to fishing with Versus Mode and compete with 1-4 other players. Players can try their hand at lure, bait, and fly fishing, using the WiiT Remote as a rod, and the Nunchuk as a reel. With all the sights, sounds, and action of real fishing, Reel Fishing: Angler's Dream is the closest you can get to the real-life fishing without putting on your waders!

Squishy Tank (DS)
Squishy Tank is a fun-filled puzzle adventure game! The gameplay challenges players to quickly match and destroy tiles before they run out of time. Wacky items and powerups keep the action fresh and exciting. The game also features a story mode that's sure to charm players of all ages with its whimsical characters and dialog.