Pixel du Jour

An ongoing expriment in entertainment.
Games. Movies. Music. TV. Fun.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

How About Demme Apples?

My building hosted the largest event it has ever hosted tonight. We showed this documentary entitled The Agronomist. The director came with it, as part of Tallahassee's "7 Days of Opening Nights" festival. The director, if you're wondering, was Jonathan Demme. You may have heard of him. He won an Academy Award for best director for a little film titled The Silence of the Lambs. The event was a huge success and the film was really quite good. It follows the story of Jean Dominique, a profound radio journalist who ran Radio Haiti. He was an amazing man who fought for the rights of the people of Haiti, despite being from the country's elite. The film was well shot (much of it by Demme himself) and stayed fairly objective. Obviously it sides with Dominique, but it's really hard not to when the other side of the conflict is ruthless dictators and shady politicians.

After the film there was a Q&A with lots of great questions asked and answers given. Demme was a really nice guy all around. He talked to anybody who approached him. Later in the night the J. D. Zydeco Band played in the courtyard. I had a blast and did a little bit of dancing myself. Watching Mr. Demme trying to get his young daughter to dance with him was hilarious. He really is a very down-to-earth kinda guy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What will I watch without Hockey? How about videogames?

NHL on Thin Ice
So the NHL and the NHLPA couldn't come to a decision. The greedy jerks (on both sides) were millions away from each other and just couldn't budge. There's officially no hockey season (for real this time). I'm so bummed. I was really hoping they would finally get it done at the 11th hour and I could watch the Devils play again.

Cesar would be proud
Shadow of Rome is pretty good. It's nice to see developers trying something new, even if the gameplay is pretty derivative of Onimusha (not that they're anything wrong with that). It stinks that the game is going to bomb hardcore. I've got to agree with Kasavin on this one, please take a chance and try something that DOESN'T have a number after the title (if not Shadow of Rome, then please God of War).

Money Matters
This whole Playstation Portable thing is sneaking up fast, I need to generate some funds, but how?

Touch me baby!
WarioWare: Touched! released in the states, finally. I've already given my two cents on the title, so check them out. Overall, it's ok but it's no WarioWare: Twisted! Hell, it's not even as good as the progenitor.

Constantine - not the Roman one
I saw about 50% of Constantine, missed the middle part because of work. Overall, I'd say the half I saw was decent. The visual effects were really great and the costumes looked cool. The plot seemed kind of dumb, or maybe that was just Keanu. You should probably wait to rent it.

That show that hates Muslims
24 is awesome. Why aren't you watching it?

Monday, February 07, 2005

God of War

My roommate Dan got a demo in from the PlayStation Underground the other day, for a game called God of War. I'm right now wondering why the fuck I ever dismissed this as a generic action game at E3. I feel like I owe the developers, Incog Inc, an apology for lumping their game in with titles like Devil May Cry and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence.

Let me say right now that God of War is primed to explode the whole "games as art" movement that's starting to bubble up right now. On the surface it really looks like a generic 3D action game consisting solely of a one-man army beating the crap out of a horde of demons. But below this surface is a game chock-full of deep storytelling and artistic design. Granted, it is very violent; where as most art-house games are not. This is actually God of War's biggest asset. It is in the very unique position of being able to appeal to players based on its looks (specifically to players who would not pick up an "art game") but hook them with a deep storyline and forward-thinking gameplay design.

Between cut-scenes, the game throws you into the role of Kratos, servant to Ares, the Greek God of War. Kratos is armed with two swords that can be thrown out on chains and used to wreak havoc on his foes. The player has the ability to string Kratos' moves into any combination he wants, which gives a sense of freedom and lets the player make Kratos a real manifestation of themselves. The game doesn't rely solely on the ability of the player to kill tons of enemies. From the demo, it feels like God of War is the thinking man's Devil May Cry. You can't just go and kill all the enemies by slashing them apart. Some bosses requite you to use the environment and really think about how to kill them.

The icing on the cake is the boatload of features being included with the final game. Highlights include a making of feature, other design featurettes, and a commentary track. Sadly, the commentary isn’t in game, but rather over a play-through video. There is one included with the demo, for the demo level. It’s amazing to hear the director talk about how Kratos’ ability to kick boxes (rather than just drag them around) speaks for the impatient personality of his character. Honestly, it makes me want to send them a big thank you card for caring this much about their game and the story they can tell with it.

Look forward to God of War, I'm telling you know it's going to shake things up big time.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

I Wonder How This Got Canceled

Tuesday marked the release of one of my favorite shows born of the “Fox Friday Night Death Slot,” Wonderfalls. The show chronicles the life of a character named Jaye Tyler. Things talk to her, things like little wax lions and lawn flamingos. They tell her to do things, things that end up helping people. However, it’s a pretty Machiavellian concept, as the means of getting there often result in some misadventures and sometimes-illegal dealings.

While it may sound similar to the CBS hit Joan of Arcadia, it differs in the fact that it has a bizarre style and a much more comedic style than CBS’s entry into the “magical girl” genre. For example, the show intro and many of the transitions use a style akin to that of the classic Viewmaster toy. Everything in the show comes together to create a real world with some very unreal events going on. The characters are really good and the visual effects are quite amazing, probably one of the reasons the show was canceled (see: Firefly).

So give Wonderfalls a chance, you just might like it.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Resident Evil 4: Final Thoughts (also: Beck)

I hate saying "Game of the Year" in February, but I think Resident Evil 4 is going to be a serious contended for the title. It's easily the current best game of the year, not that there is much competing against it. What I have to say is fairly spoiler-ridden, so I'd suggest saving it if you aren't at least 75% of the way through the game.

The cinematic feel the game manages to pull of is astounding. It's a shining example of how to really pull the player into the experience. I think what helps this title manage this so well are it's interactive cut scenes. You can't put the controller down during them. If you do, there is a very good chance you will be massacred in some fantastic fashion. Shenmue may have introduced Quick-Time Events (or QTEs) into gaming, but Resident Evil 4 is the first title to use them well. Who cares of Ryo gets hit in the face with a soccer ball. That's not life threatening. On the other hand, dodging a psycho's relentless knifing is in fact quite important. It also happens to be one of the best cinematic sequences in any game I have ever played. Plus, this game manages to mix the QTEs into both the cinematics and the gameplay. This brings a real sense of concession to the overall experience of the game.

The game's astounding graphics certainly lend a lot to the movie-like feel of the game, but the sound helps just as much, and if not more. The soundtrack running through the game does a supreme job of setting the mood, even if the mood almost always happens to be one of uncertainty. It's triumphant when you take down a boss and desperate when Ashley gets kidnapped (again, and again). The voice acting is a major improvement from "the master of unlocking" of previous Resident Evil games, and while it isn't as top not as something like Halo or Metal Gear Solid, it does a very good job of conveying emotion.


In other news, I snagged Beck's new "Hell Yes" EP off of iTunes this morning and frankly, it has downright blown me clear away. These four tracks are all remixes off of his upcoming album "Guero." From what I understand the new album (and these songs) are comprised partly of either actual chopped up music from NES games, or synth that sounds like it might as well have been taken from NES games. It is stuck in my head and I have a genuine fear that it will never be removed. Perhaps that's actually a sense of hope that they'll stay forever.