Saturday, May 30, 2009

Nosferatu - Black Sabbath Style

The Web can be a funny place; one day you are surfing for the newest in pop culture phenomena, the next day you discover a fascinating labour of love. 

Much respect goes out to a bloke named Neil Swint; he has painstakingly given the 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu a score using Black Sabbath music. 

I encourage you all to check it out here.  You will be amazed at how well the song selection complements each scene choice and you can see the care taken on this project. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Punch Out (Wii)

We all have a favourite something that can instantly take us back to childhood. Maybe it is a smell, or a movie, or a favourite food that reminder you of when you were ten. For me it is the thought of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. Punch-Out was one of the first games I had for the Nintendo Entertainment System (the other being the Mario/Duck-Hunt combo) and it still is one of my favourites. The character design was great, the controls perfect, and the challenge could go from pathetically easy (Glass Joe) to impossibly difficult (Tyson himself).

So it was with great enthusiasm that I purchased the new Punch-Out for the Nintendo Wii. Being a huge fan of the series, I was cautiously optimistic when approaching this “remake”. The game features 14 different fighters: 12 from Punch-Out and Super Punch-Out, 1 new character (Disco Kid), and one unlockable character. I was surprised at the inclusion of only 1 new character. If you are going to bother with new blood in a game series why would you only create 1 new face? It may have been better to use all known faces or add 2 or 3 more new ones.

The control scheme is either motion controlled (nunchuck and remote) or the normal way of playing video game (remote held sideways. The motion control method is good for a laugh; it is clunky, tiring, and apparently a prerequisite for any first-party Wii game, but you can’t actually play the game properly using these controls. Try it out once or twice and then switch to the way that most people play videogames.

The normal controls are great with a tight scheme and quick response, drawing from both Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out and Super Punch-Out and taking the best of both games. Stars are much harder to come by and require a trick to acquire them. They can be saved up so you can do a 1, 2, or 3 star punch with incremental levels of strength. This adds some variation on speed knockdowns and trick TKOs which fans of the series will appreciate.

There are 3 game modes: career, title defence, and last stand. In career mode you face 13 other fighters to gain all the belts. In defence mode you must defend your championships against the 13 fighters again. This is a great addition as every fighter is much harder than their championship mode counter-part (even Glass Joe is tricky at first). The final mode is a sudden death type mode where after 3 losses you quick. It is only notable for helping you unlock the hidden character.

If you are a veteran of the series you will have no problem with career mode (I actually finished it in within the first day of playing), but you will find they real game begins in title defence mode. Those who have never played a Punch-Out game before and have no sense of the timing required to stop the Bull Charge will find the career mode enough of a challenge.

At a $60 CAN price-tag they aren’t giving the game away, but Punch-Out fans will get $60 worth of fun out of this one. For those of you who have never played a Punch-Out game before I would suggest renting or waiting until it hits the $30 mark.

Friday, May 8, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I must admit that I was pretty sceptical when I first heard that Hollywood was considering making a Wolverine prequel to the X-men movie franchise. Wolverine is a great character, but his origin has become so muddied and convoluted that adaptation from comic book to feature film would be fraught with pitfalls. I do think that a Wolverine solo movie is a great idea (he has been able to carry his own monthly title for some time now), but his origin should always be shrouded in mystery, maintaining his loner mystique for a legion of fans.

Mysterious characters with an unknown past are, unfortunately, all too common today. More distressing is the current predilection of revealing the background of these uber-cool pop culture icons (remember when Boba Fett was silent, super-cool, and NOT a ten year old kid). But I digress, this is a review of the Wolverine movie.

First of all, I did see the leaked version and I went to the theatre and paid my $11. It was actually sort of fun to see the differences and note where special effects, music, and sound make a much more polished product. For anyone who enjoys any of above-mentioned aspects of movie-making, I suggest you watch both versions of the flick.

I was pleasantly surprised with the film. The characters were well cast, Hugh Jackman does a great job in his fourth outing as the character, and Liev Schrieber has a great turn as Sabretooth, but, for me, his performance was slightly marred by the fact that somehow he will become the monosyllabic giant seen in the first X-men movie.

The plot hums along, blissfully taking bits and pieces from 25 years of comic book storylines and weaving them into an enjoyable, but nonsensical tapestry. Those who study the scriptwriting art will especially cringe at the plot device used to explain Wolverine’s memory loss. The movie does suffer from the all too common “too-many-character-itis” that is found in several super-hero movies (e.g. Spider-man 3, Batman Forever), and would have been better served scaling back the number of mutants solely in the movie to appease slavering fanboys .

However, when all is said and done the movie is still a fun ride and a great way to kick off the summer blockbuster season. This is not the Citizen Kane of superhero movies, but you already knew that. At $11 for two hours of entertainment you are getting your money’s worth, but just barely. Let’s hope the sequel in Madripoor ups the ante with less random mutants and more ninjas.