Review: Terminator Salvation

  • What’s Good: I’m always up for an apocalypse! The film is a disappointment from top to bottom except for the sound effects and a performance by Anton Yelchin who channels a 1980s Michael Biehn.
  • What’s Not: The film is caught between Connor’s story and Marcus’s. It ends up favoring Connor to its determent. If only the machines in Skynet’s doomsday clutches knew that all they need to do is wait for McG to come along to solve their John Connor problem once and for all. This film offers a poorly envisioned future with bad effects. And, sigh of sighs, Christian Bale as John Connor is just not good.

The tides of time have been hard on poor John Connor. He grew up under constant threat, was constantly emasculated by his mother, lived on the fringes of society and his reward for doing so was the end of days and a really lame futuristic tale that he has no business staring in. Of all the robots that have tried to kill Connor in the past, present and future (the list includes the T-100,200,300,400,500,a step-dad,600,700,800,900,1000 models and of course the sexy TX) nobody and nothing could silence the boy/man until a robot named McG came along. In one swift and stupid 90 minute battle waged by this menacing figure I am certain the savior of all mankind will never surface again in film form. It can finally be written that the robots have won the battle for the future.

I didn’t care that a new “Terminator” was coming out. Despite a love for wacky robot antics, the apocalypse and wackier Christian Bale freak-out remix songs I anticipated at “T4” with as much energy as one of Arnold’s early T600 line readings. It didn’t help that the adds, despite a fittingly cool NIN tune about the “day the whole world went away…,” made the film look puzzling. The John Connor future-is-now Jesus figure bit I get but there was more. Something about a robot that’s also some sort of savior that also thinks he’s human despite also having robot parts spilling out of his head and, um, cars and bridges blow up. That about sums it up but with the twist that John Connor ends up being the least essential factor due to a lack of character development.  

Despite my curious case of disinterest and the whole McG factor, this is the “Terminator” that had to happen. As plots go the setting for “Salvation” is almost predestined considering the futuristic framing device has been used in all the “Terminator” films. The future, in other words, is where’s EVERY “Terminator” plot motivator has come from–robot from the future comes to the present to do this, resistance fighter from the future comes and does that etc. Besides “the future,” the only other commonality is that everyone must be naked. In this respect whenever I watched a “Terminator” film what always bothered me was that the flash-forwards to the post-apocalypse battlefields –a tasty vision of things to come– were always brief and always followed by a cut to emo John Connor and his butch mom. ARGH! I don’t know about you but I always wanted to fast forward to the future again where all the cool stuff seemed to be happening. Well, “Salvation” takes us there and now that we’re, um, here… all want is to return the past again. Funny how things work out.

So where are we, exactly? I would describe it as a sad and bleak future. No, it’s not so much that the tone of this post-apoc world brought about by pre-Matrix man made robots is a downer but, instead, the way its all rendered by McG. Namely, “Salvation” takes us to a bland wasteland where everything is either burned or burning. And of all the scenarios of things to come I never knew the future would be dominated by chases followed by more chases. This is odd considering –and correct me if I’m wrong– there there’s no fuel! I call this the “Mad Max” fallacy except “Max” is thoughtful and actually addresses the scarcity of power sources.

The fight for fuel is just one of many small details the film glosses over. “Salvation” not only fails to fill in tiny gaps such as that but the broad stuff too like: how did the robots gain so much in the way of artificial intelligence (we’re only talking about a decade into the future) and why are these “thinking” robots kidnapping humans; if they just want one or two prime suspects can’t they just scan them on the spot? The bigger issue is not related to logic nitpicking at all. The shooting style is (fittingly) robotic and lifeless and surprisingly tame considering this is the ADD jerk0ff that spawned a pair “Charlie’s Angels” abortions. What makes matters worse is that the grungy effects are neutral when they’re not flat-out forgettable. Next to the grown up resistance fighter we all knew and loved (John Connor as phoned in by Christian Bale), the co-central character is a cyborg named Marcus Wright (played by the it guy Sam Worthington) and his poorly rendered robot face is a prime example of the film’s lazy and unimaginative visual style. But at least Sam puts in some effort to make up for the ghastly gobs of copy/paste CGI robot parts. The rest of the cast is wildly hit or miss in their roles and characterizations. First is John Connor who is a total let down. But for ever inspired Markus Wright we get useless figures like John Connor’s paper thin combat partner “played” by Common (why does Hollywood love this guy so much?) and mute young girls out of a Dickens story and the perpetually talentless Bryce Dallas Howard, doing what what she does best: empty gazing.

The film also indulges in blank gazes. Nothing about “Salvation” stuck with me. I wasn’t emotionally involved by John Connor’s fate, wasn’t dazzled by the effects (because after the tenth chase who cares who wins?), was seething over the cinematography (me and the DP are done professionally!) and was not even able to enjoy the film as a goofy camp experience a la the totally underrated “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” I’m almost tempted to ask for a second “Salvation” so that, I don’t know, maybe then the future will have more going on because in the film I just watched it’s as lifeless and ghostly as the past.

As John and Markus head towards their fate in a set piece that takes place in Skynet city (a robot world that conveniently seems to have been made for humans to run around in and hack terminals with handy USB outlets), my friend hit upon an good insight when he pointed out that the film breaks a cardinal rule by having two voice-over narrators. Now, this is a film geek moment but what immediately occurred me was that what we heard were not just two character voices propped up by sloppy editing and bad re-writing (thanks Paul Haggis!) but dueling characters in dueling films. On one hand we have the (slightly more interesting) film about a humanoid robot with a dark past that thinks he’s a real man connecting, through turns of fate, with Connor’s father to be (a fantastic Anton Yelchin doing a dead-fucking-on Michael Biehn impression). This story, even in its more limited function and despite the fact that it’s a pale reworking of “Battlestar Galactica’s” robo existentialist dilemma, has some poignancy in the sense that it’s a tragedy about a man looking for a second chance on his damned journey to salvation, hence the title. Okay, THAT’S THE FILM! But it’s not: On the other hand is the storyline that ultimately upstages the original notion conceived for “Salvation.” That is John Connor’s flavorless film that hijacked the story proper after star Christian Bale was hired and insisted the project be about me, me, me–this is what I call the Jamie Foxx Effect. Connor’s military ops (more like military whoops) narrative also involves a search for his father (can you say redundant?) and a non-relationship with Bryce Dallas Howard’s doctor. Why is she pregnant and what’s their relationship? No clue and no reason just like the rest of the film. 

Bottom line is that I would love to get my hands on the pre-Bale version of the script but even then how good could it possibly be? I mean, the credited screenwriters wrote “Catwoman” for fuck’s sake! But if “Salvation” teaches us anything it’s that you can’t change the past. This film, then, has its own fixed destiny: to suck. And since any destiny related to the “Terminator” series requires John Connor to be at the center, the film makes good on that and, hence, seals it’s unsatisfying fate.

Grade: C-

Review: X-Men Origins

 

  • What’s Good: Uh…. something good… oooh, I know. I’m glad to see William Stryker back and glad to see he’s played by Danny Huston. But when is someone going to grow some balls and make him the religious zealot he is in the comics?  Also good is that the “X-Men Origins” PS3 game rocks. It’s way better than the film.  
  • What’s Not: TOO MANY MUTANTS. THIS IS A WOLVERINEFILM NOT ANOTHER X-MEN FILM. The problem though is not so much that “X-Men:Origins” fails to make the cut (ha!) but that after “Dark Knight,” “Iron Man,” “Hellboy II,” “Watchmen” and, okay, even the underrated “Hancock,” I have been sooooo spoiled by unique and creative superhero films that to see one play it this safe and mindless reminds me that good and challenging superhero films are not the norm but, instead, films like “Origins” are.  
  • Faux Peter Traverse Quote: Don’t get too close to this Wolverine or you’ll get cut… with sizzling sparks of popcorn!  

“Origins” is not a comic book movie. It’s a summer sampler platter. You get a little of everything but not much of anything in particular to savor. We’ve entered an age where comic book films exist, not because they have to, but because they can. There is no impending directive behind ol’ Wolve’s solo narrative outing. No story or back story for that matter that simply must to be told (“Batman Begins” is one that did for example). “Origins,” in other words, is filler material. Not a well sketched tribute to the character or the comic so much as an opportunity to making money off him–that loud slurping sound you hear is every last bit of marrow being sucked from Logan’s adamantium bones. What’s more, the story is not told very well, does not engage beyond primal things blow up/things get cut enjoyment and does not flow organically. With jerky and obligatory feeling plot movements this “prequel” details Logan’s sad but auspicious start and follows his bony clawed trajectory from a scared boy with father issues to a seemingly ageless warrior caught up in one war after another to being in Canada for like five seconds to getting more mutant powers from a figure who wants to make him stronger as much as he wants to kill him. What?! Why? Simple: because things need to blow up and because Logan needs to then swear revenge by slicing stuff in half so that, after doing so, he can walk away from a fireball in slow motion. Oh, and because he likes flexing.

There’s nothing else to this film. Besides flexing there’s, let’s see, boasting, displaying, screaming to the heavens and veiny neck scowl-offs that leave Wolverine and Sabertooth looking like hissing cats. There’s also this power or that power made by this mutant or that mutant. Before during and after Logan and his loverImeanbrother Victor Creed (aka Sabertooth… aka Liev Schreiber showing wife Naomi Watts that he can make money too, damn it) join a crude superhero militia run by shifty Government spook William Stryker (the great Danny Huston, taking over where the greater Brian Cox left off in “X2″) the film indulges in a rogues gallery (not Rogue’s gallery mind you) of supermen and their superpowers that does not follow plot logic but basic stage direction introductions and departures; enter Cyclops, enter Blob, enter/exit/enter Deadpool, enter Gambit, etc. This need for constant –and empty–reference absorption is no more evident than with the character of Deadpool, a government”project” able to ultimately incorporate all mutant powers and played by an actor, Ryan Reynolds, who does the same with other actors (and gives the exact same performance as his character in “Blade 3″… so he’s ripping himself off now!). A mutant that combines all mutant powers may sound cool but it does not follow the rules of the X-Men universe. One reason may be that it’s as stupid as a kid (or Napoleon Dynamite) that comes up with a tiger/shark/dinosaur creature because nothing’s cooler. 

In other words there’s a lot of cluster-fuckery in this X-Men. The news of a film surrounding a SINGLE and SOLO “X-Men” character was indeed great news because while some X-Men are great and all, we always had to share them with the likes of Storm (sorry Halie Berry fans). And now that we finally get one to ourselves, what happens? The writers simply pile on more mutants! WRONG DIRECTION 

Another problem is that director Gavin Hood, known for his Oscar winning foreign drama “Totsi,” has as much identity as an action filmmaker as Catherine Hardwick did last when all her skills amounted to “Twilight” looking like absolute ass. I was expecting really cool effects after watching the blueprint that was the much talked about leaked workprint but I guess my imagination got the better of me because what I saw was not as good as what I wanted to see. Maybe Fox just gave up on finishing after everyone downloaded the film for free. So not only are the effects middle of the road but the way the (already lame) effects are captured and put into motion by the (newly lame) director and production team is even more underwhelming. 

Even though he has logged only two decent performances under his utility belt (“The Prestige” and “The Fountain”), Hugh Jackman is totally likable. And while the long legged Aussie is not 100% suited for the stocky/manly/insane Wolverine persona I can’t really think of anyone I’d rather see do the character at this point. Or perhaps I’m just too lazy to embrace a new one–either way, Jackman is fine, it’s the material that’s not. Look, I can shit on this film all day but what keeps me from whipping out my berserker rage on it is the fact that “Origins” adds more to the table than Bret Ratner’s mythos damning version which I wish didn’t exist. This film has a right to exist but just not to be necessarily liked.  It’s mearley something to keep us going until the next big superhero film which will no doubt be a Magneto or Deadpool “Origins” cash-in.

Do I like this film. No. Did I give it a shot despite being turned off (and turning off) the leaked workprint? Yes. I and so many others should not only get credit for doing so but for proving that even if the Internet nerds steal a movie here and there, and even if we hate the movie we outright stole, we’re still going to pay to see it. And then buy it on Bluray. And then watch it on cable. And then bitch how much it sucks. Such is the life.

Grade: C-

Review: Star Trek

  • What’s Good: J.J. Abrams and Spock. What a team! This film is good but, provided a second, has the potential to get a lot better.
  • What’s Not: Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk is the most annoying man in the universe next to Tyler Perry (who’s also in the film). Nearly ruins the film.
  • Faux Ken Turnan Quote: “A burst of pure filmmaking exhilaration.” Actually, I didn’t make that up! That’s actually him and he’s a bigger dick than Kirk.  

I called it. When he made “Mission Impossible: 3” I saw the work of a new kind of auteur. Not one raised in Hollywood or prepped by TV commercials or MTV but television. Not since Frankenheimer and Lumet has this been big but it’s a trend that’s long overdue. My entire review of this (really unpopular) film detailed J.J. Abrams status as  a visionary director who has come to film and brought with him the best impulses of television. Lets face it, TV has way more ability to entertain than Hollywood films these days and I give credit to Hollywood for noticing this and embracing the talent that comes from this once inferior medium. It’s also fitting that they hand it over to the “Trek” franchise which, of course, began on television. After the release of “Star Trek,” a flawed but fantastic(ical) film, it occurred to me that I would rather have a J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon take on a franchise than a thousand Brett Ratners or Michael Bays.

That being said, “Star Trek,” historically speaking (…and I’m sorry for speaking historically…), sucks. Always has. It’s never really been that big of a deal in my world. Always something second rate, always something good in theory but never on paper (books, comics etc.) or in practice (TV, film, video games). Sure I watched every “Trek” film and even liked a bunch. The tolerable ones to dare are threefold: “First Contact” (which retains its crown as the best “Star Trek” movie), followed by “Star Trek VI” (the film where Kirk fights Evil Kirk!), and of course Khan! Still, I never enjoyed myself or felt the same space mojo on the level of the truly great sci-fi stories such as “Star Wars” or “Alien.”

This film, I am glad to say, is not second rate. It legitimizes the franchise into something other than, well, something most of us secertly laugh at. This is clearly the first time I’ve ever felt excitement or wonder with a product bering the “Star Trek” name.

J.J. directs this pivotal franchise reboot with less formalized experimentalism as “MI:3,” which was shot like an action documentary with moments of startling close-ups that cut into the high gloss objectivity. This film is more safe but to call it that does not do the confident filmmaking justice. It’s tight and bright but not controlling or flashy. And while the plot sometimes feels rushed along as if a commercial break is just about to hit, J.J. and his “Alias” screenwriters never let their story venture into “Harry Potter” levels of hurried pacing. Which is to say it’s not impossible to savor bits of what goes down from one snappy scene to the next. Visually speaking, J.J. also gets a lot of information across in as little amount of time possible. Early pivotal moments such as Kirk’s upbringing and eventual recruitment to the star fleet are shot with great economy. The film, then, often feels condensed but in the most exciting ways possible. This “Trek” is all about quick (and often quirky) throwaway moments (Kirk bangs a green skinned hottie is one of many winks to the past) are juxtaposed with big broad action strokes. And of course the obligatory fan service can be a lot of fun even if it’s also a bit forced.  

Being a fan of “Alias” and “Lost” (though J.J. has virtually nothing to do with this show even though the media loves to note it as his biggest achievement) I always noticed that, as a writer/director, J.J. was a natural fit for sci-fi because he had the ability to take everyday things and empower them with realities so heightened that they felt like fantasy. Now that he has finally made an all-out sci-fi adventure he does the opposite by taking fantasy content and making it feel grounded and real. Most crucial is the fact that he takes the film and genre seriously. Here is a science-fiction film that actually uses science! When characters talk about black holes, relativistic physics (nobody says that word better than Simon Pegg’s Scotty!) and of course time travel I found myself really drawn into the angle that these are real theories being thrown out. Sure, liberties are taken to a point where the science at hand is anhiliated (NOTHING CAN OUTRUN A BLACK HOLE except light and Shatner’s ego!!!), but that’s hardly a negative since it’s called science-FICTION.

The plot is just what the series needs if viewed in the context of being a reboot. It engages fans and non fans in similar ways “Batman Begins” did. Unlike “Batman,” however, the villain (Eric Banna) is dull, obligitory and has a retarted agenda. Bana plays Nero, a space janitor from the future that happens to know how to navigate black holes with pinpoint percision and when bad stuff happened to his planet he goes to the past to, um, to stop Spock from destroying (but really saving) his planet and other stuff and… why does it have to be so convoluted? Villainous glitchs aside, the film’s opening draws the viewer in with tractor beam precision and really gave me the chills because of how it touches upon the grand and the deeply emotional (Kirk’s birth and parents). And early scenes involving Spock’s childhood years really set a nice tone for the film. The central theme is living up to one’s responsibilities, perhaps even destiny, but a cool twist to that is that both Kirk and Spock, before they become WHO THEY ARE, are literally instructed as to the greatness that will come from them. Wow, talk about a burden. 

The cast is for the most part handsome and winning but sometimes too polished and perfect for their own good. The film is about Kirk’s formative years of chasing ladies and letting everyone know he’s the shit. Oh, it’s also about his eventual rise from cadet to a Captain. This gets… well, see the next paragraph. Lucky for us the film is very Spock heavy. VERY. And Zachary Quinto is very good at inhabiting the alien skin of Spock. VERY. The story manages to open up new insights into this hard shell of a alien/man in ways I never thought possible. The film is so enamoured with this character that it almost functions as a study of him! His mother issues are compelling to me because, well, I never knew he was half human! (And, on top of that, never knew Winona Ryder was his mum.) I also appriciated how this character evolves into the Spok we know and love with a lot of help from the Spock we do know and love, Leonard Nimoy. The twist involving “future Spock” is fantastic and not worth spoiling other than to say it’s there and it’s cool. The downside is one horrible subplot that gives Spock a clandestine love interest that’s, ahem, not Kirk. Blah. I’m obviously not a Spock scholar but, seriously, the big balls on Spock rings false more than the wonky science.    

I hate to do it but this is where I have to get negative. The reason why “Star Trek” is “Star Trek” is because Shatner is Sharner–an enormously likable if corny character. This shat-less “Trek” does indeed nail just about everything… except for Kirk. Which is a biggie to not to get right in a film aboutKirk (but George Lucas didn’t nail Vader till ep. III so it’s not the end of the world, or empire… or federation as it were). As played by Chris Pine (think Matt Damon’s face with Christian Slater’s voice and Kanye West’s ass-holiness), James Tiberius Kirk……………… is a douche. A huge fucking tool. Too chiseled, too smart, too perfect and, making matters worse, zero awareness of this uber-ego; his cock(iness), his bluster and his I-can-do-anything-attitude really start to irritate by the one hour mark. By the second hour I was wishing they set the gun on a level other than “stun” if you catch my drift. 

It’s just impossible to relate to this guy on any level! Yes, Kirk must be a cocky brat but there also must be (or should be) an underlying flaw or venerability to this trait. Shatner got that but, to be honest, even if he didn’t his hamminess made up for it. Unlike Shatner’s escapades I never found myself rooting for Pine, even when being chased by pissed off Romulans or icy space monsters (which, by the way, totally don’t belong in a “Star Trek” movie). As Pine’s Kirk saunters into rooms and calls the shots I like how characters stare at him, astounded that someone in the Federation could be so annoying–and mind you, Tyler Perry is in the movie so that’s saying something. This Kirk is like a young sci-fi version of George W Bush in “W” except, y’know,  talented. The film loves to place Mr. Perfect in a position of hanging from ledges too. Seriously, three big action set pieces revolve around this act (is there a ledge hanging a fetish I’m unaware of?) and, of course, all three are overcome with ease and are followed by a twinkle toothed smile. But impressive feats such as this are rendered limp due to the fact that Kirk knows Kirk can do anything and Kirk knows how awesome Kirk looks doing it. The effect is, ironically, not amazing. And this hurts the film.

The lesson of the day is that if anyone should be cocky about their talents it’s not Kirk but JJ Abrams. The director’s one weakness however turned out to be the ability to make Kirk interesting or likable.

  • Kirk: D
  • Star Trek: A-
  • Star Trek w/ Kirk: B-

2008: Best Video Games

1. Fallout 3

Sets a new standard for shooters, for role playing games and, really, for the industry as a whole. The combat system is complete joy. Find a mutant or civi or animal or whatever the hell you want in the game’s giant open world setting, take aim at the poor thing, and select which body part you want eviscerated… in glorious SLOW-MO. It soon becomes clear that this design choice is most perfect realization of “combat time” ever conceived… that is, when you’re engaging the enemy in the RPG like V.A.T.S. mode. Combat in the third person mode is a bit of a mess (okay, a total mess) but the fact that there is a third or even first person mode for those who want it is a freedom that goes above and beyond what was expected before F3 was released and the should-be standard for anything after.

Where this game fails to go above or beyond is a weak Ken Burns-esq ending (after spending literally hundreds of hours on the game a thirty second narration is not going to cut it) and constant gli*tCCChE$ that prevent this third Fallout from attaining a perfect rating. But the flaws, while the must be addressed, do nothing to keep this game from its rightful status as a modern gaming classic–a game with more replay value than anything else out right now.

The post-apoc world your customized her treks through is not just lived in but sat on, squished, shoved in a meat grinder and soaked in radiation for a century. The refashioning of genuine and unmistakable (though sullied) American topography and mythology and primal/only-in-America qualities of aggression would easily place this story near the top of any best apocalyptic film list, not to mention video game. But the real wonder here is the effortless blending of role playing, first person and open world gaming. I played this behemoth how I wanted, when I wanted and WHERE I wanted. Hour upon dingy hour, Fallout kept adjusting to my style and whim. In short, there’s no surprising Fallout because the game plays with the gamer as much as the gamer plays with it! The game, in other words, evolves, though mutates is a better word given the subject matter at hand.

Um, yeah, you guys do.

2. Persona 3 FES and Persona 4

The most underrated game of the season does not ask that you kill mutants (Fallout), or kill demon ninjas (Ninja Giadan) or kill aliens (Gears of War 2), or kill aliens (Dead Space) or, gah!, kill aliens (Resistance 2). Hell, it’s not even on a new gen syste! Instead, this Japan-centric Playstation 2 title has you dress up your character before he’s off to solve a murder mystery in a small town. But first he must go shopping and buy the right shoes, then on to the metal-works shop where he can forge a killa katana sword. Hunger requires a date to the local noodle bar for a romantic ramen break before it’s off to the library to study and, from there, it’s time for some hack and slash dungeon time which can be found inside a big screen TV in a WallMart-like store. The Persona series is quickly becoming my favorite RPG franchise. It runs counter to everything we think video games need to be about these days. This also holds true with Persona 3 FES. This update, which includes all of Persona 3 plus a ton of new content, came out early in 08 and I played it for months on end. While P3 is a personal treasure, a perfect game with a perfect story, P4 really stands out for its unique and refreshing qualities as a full fledged RPG mystery (a sub genre of role playing games I didn’t know existed but am sure glad I do now). If each Persona game didn’t take me 100+ hours to complete I would be begging for a 6th to come along this year. As it stands, I need a break.

3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

For those still foolish enough to dismiss videogames or deny them their art (ahem, Roger Ebert) Metal Gear 4 puts an end to that. The game, of course, stars an aging spy who I’ve seen grow up with the NES years through the Playstation classic Metal Gear Solid to the tragic saga of his father in MGS3 to, finally, growing old in his “last” adventure to end all adventures. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a game that provided the most “wow” moments of the year, rivaling even movies like “Dark Knight.” The main criticism is that it’s there’s not enough game here but that’s only a criticism because the game proper is so good. But, really, it’s all cinemas. From endless (but fascinating) dialogues about the new world order (la-lay-lo-la-lo mein) and dangers of artificial intelligence as it controls our lives, to made up proxy wars to soldiers who fight for the sake of fighting (it’s the nanomachines!!!) to meta ruminations on videogames within this videogame (they should have called it Meta Gear Solid 4) to cinemas where Snake meets his mother Eva (featured in MG3) in Easter Europe (this game has more fan service than any I’veever played) to the unforgettable finale that lasts way longer (and is way better) than most feature length films; this film, er, game is tirelessly epic and resonates deeper than anything else out there. Oh, and the play-it-your-way stealth/action/cardboard box gameplay is some of the best I’ve ever encountered…too bad there isn’t enough of it in the later levels. Not that I’m complaining.

4. Valkyrie Chronicles

Turn base gaming makes a big comeback with these Chronicles. Take the endless fun you would have from a game like Advance Wars or Fire Emblem or, if you’d rather (and I would…), X-Com: UFO Defence, add an essential third person action view (hope this catches on in this genre), add a beautiful hand drawn watercolor graphic style, add RPG elements such as upgrading weapons, learning special powers and working with squad mates to create killer combos, add hours of addicting game play full of giant maps and small side quests, add just as many hours of anime inspired storytelling. Sega finally tapped into a winning formula that does not involve Sonic. And still nobody played this game! The game is set in an alternate Europe during what would have been World War 2 but could have been set on Mars and still been a classic.

5. Dead Space

I am among the few that hate survival horror games. I am among many that enjoyed Dead Space. I am among the few however that insist that Dead Space is the best the genre has to offer; or at least as good as Resident Evil 4! The hero Issaic is Master Chief for the Resident Evil crowd. He’s masked and clunky lurker prone to fetch quests that lazy crew members force upon him, loves to customize everyday tools into killing machines and has one of the best character traits that I’ve come across in years: a tin can wheeze that gets worse when he does. That’s all there is to him! And, likewise, all there is to this game is going from one part of a haunted ship to another, capping a hell of a lot of aliens (or are they?) along the way. Like RE4, Dead Space succeeds at being a survival horror game by not being onlya survival horror game. From zero gravity segments to telekinesis powers (a la the underrated Psi Ops) plenty of action elements create a rich range of experience and the nature of the action, shoot limbs to kill the creatures, add a unique twist to the one-head-shot-kill.

6.Ninja Gaiden 2

If you read message boards, it’s safe to assume that the only people who hated NG2 more than those lame-ass Devil May Cry biznatchezzz were actual fans of Ninja Gaiden. Aww, man, why the hate people?! Because the story makes no sense. Okay but I like how weird it is (what other game can go from big boobed gals to mystical/metaphysical hooey?). Because while NG1 is a masterpiece the second is the same game but with a Xbox360 coating. Okay, that’s more valid. Because the fucking camera keeps fucking up your fucking shit, preventing you from fucking up other ninja’s shit? Ah, yeah… even more valid. Because you find yourself fighting the camera more than cheep ninjas? Because those fucking, cock-ass motherfucking rocket launching ninjas that find a place clear across town and lob missiles at your sorry fucking ass every two seconds/every two steps you take? That there is the most valid argument against this game because this is, after all, NINJA Gaiden not Ninja Contra. But NG2 is still the best action in town. Big, broad (and, ahem, broads), beautiful and bloody beyond all measure, this NG probably doesn’t try to fix what’s broken because what’s broken (such as it is) is still minuscule compared to what works so well.

7. Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney

Well, I’m finally done with the Phoenix Wright series…

  • Favorite Games in the Series: Apollo Justice. The story is great (despite the demotion of Pheonixas the lead character–he’s used very well though) and there’s more hands-on stuff that takes full advantage of the DS functionality. Dusting for prints, using a metal detector, and of course screaming OBJECTION make this the best detective game I’ve ever played. And would you believe the lawyer stuff is just as good?
  • PW is closely followed by the first Wright game, then the third Justice for All (the last case is mind blowing), and finally Trials and Tribulations.
  • Favorite Case: the last case of the first game.
  • Favorite Filler Case: The Salty Ramen episode in Apollo made me hungry (and thirsty from all the salt).
  • Least favorite case: anything involving a circus.
  • Favorite non principle character: Mr. Hat! ::snapppppppp:: Ack, the von Karmas characters then. ::snapppppppp:: ::snapppppppp:: ::woooosssshhhh:: Okay, Jesus, just Francisca.
  • Most Pathetic Aspect: (tie) Gumshoe’s inability to shaveproperly as evidenced by the ubiquitous band aid on his chin. This is tied with Phoenix’s sex life. From what I can tell his entire catalogue involves a girl in college that used him, tried to kill him and was so sick of him she made her twin sister date him. Poor Phenie.
  • Most Annoying: Oldbag, Larry Butz and Lotta Heart got dumber and dumber and dumber and should all be arrested for just happening turning up in case after case as key (stupid) witnesses.
  • Favorite Line: #1 ACK! (has now entered my everyday vocabulary and works in so many applications). #2 von Karma : “My pin number is 0001, because I’m number 1!”

8.Boom Blox

This game taps into a long lost type of game. Throwing a ball to knock over blocks. It just… feels so good. For some reason leaving the 8bit era made game designers forget how fun it watch things fall. Blox is not only a cathartic inversion of Jenga but a rather deep strategy game that makes brilliant use of physics (ex: if I aim, here the blocks will fall on more blocks and start a chain reaction… which leads to a lot more strategy than one might assume). This is also the best use of the Wii’s motion controls I’ve ever come across. The controller truly feels like an extension of your arm; and the game, an extension of the childish urge to throw shit at other shit.

9. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

It does my heart good to return to the Final Fantasy 7 world of Midgar. This prequel would be even higher on the list if only it was fuller (half the game consists of optional side missions that are still fun). The sense of inevitable tragety is built into every scene and the corresponding story makes good use of not only providing FF7 fans what they expect (Tiffa’s boobs) but throwing in new characters and motivations. The emotional ending rivals Metal Gear 4 with pathos and gut wrenching combat. That this is the best original RPG to hit handheld is a surprise second only to the fact that a good game was actually made for Sony’s PSP.

10. Little Big Planet

I don’t think I’ve yet to wrap my head around the possibilities here. This is the first online game I’ve ever dived into with any conviction. The options are unlimited! But, errrmmm, how much customized bling can you throw on a side scrolling platformer before it just gets redundant? LBP is slightly overrated but I see the allure and will no doubt be playing this for years to come. Sackman had me in stitches. Get it!

Best Multiplayer Game: Resistance 2

Speaking of on-line play, R2 is the second game to date to get me to give up my shyness and hang with the online gaming community (…of mostly a-holes). And my favorite to date. The online stuff in R2 is based more on WoW team play/classes and really responded to that because it’s now about getting fukn-p0wned every two seconds but working together. Furthermore, the single player mode (about a world taken over by aliens… original) is a marked improvement over the first Resistance. It’s also way better than the overrated man v alien series Gears of War and Kill Zone sequels.

Best Downloadable Game (new): World of Goo

Really, really, really Goo(d).

Best Downloadable Game of the Old School: Super Street Fighter II HD Remix

…memories…flooding…….back…..so…..much…time….so….many….quarters…… Playing the game again is one thing (namely, fun) but to play it online against a world of players reminds me of how great this game is… and how much I apparently suck at it.

  • Overrated but fun: Grand Theft Auto IV–No, I’m not just saying that/yes, I beat the game. Not only is it a step back from the limitless GTA San Andres but the story sucks (I am Ruuuuuschhhhan, loooooking for ah plece en Aaaaameeeeekkkkkca!). The game does nothing to advance the series (jeez, we can watch TV now… wow, lame!). Still, driving around town, shooting the shit never gets old. And by shit I mean hookers. And by shooting…
  • Overrated but still fun #2: Star Wars: Force Unleashed. So much potential crammed into a game with lazy level design. Hey dummies, how about an open world Star Wars game; everyone else is doing it after all.
  • Overrated but overrated: Gears of War 2–How is this more popular than Resistance??? Ugh, I hate, hate, hate the squatty character design and dopey, dude-ified dialogue.
  • Best Cover Art: Crisis Core
  • Worst Cover Art: Fallout 3 (guy with armor……… okay, stupid) and Dead Space (oh, look, a hand… scary)
  • Best Trend:Multiplayer games are actually fun now.
  • Worst Trend:Xbox systems continues to break; Sony continues to do everything possible to prevent people from buying a PS3; PSP continues to suck; Nintendo DS pisses fans off by offering a pointless “new” DS with a camera; people continue to buy the same fucking Wii game over and over (the two year old game Wii Play is the best selling game of 2008?! Followed by Wii Play, Wii Play and Wii Fit)
  • Saddest Moment:EGM (Electronic Gaming Monthly) ends its 20 something year run. I can’t express how sad that made me. I grew up on this mag. I read it even when I didn’t play games in the late nineties through mid 00s. I STILL read old issues on the can. Print media is dead. Sad. So how come the shitty Gamepro and pathetic Nintendo Power mags are still around? Fuck, PC mags are still publishing despite the fact that PC games are as dead as print.
  • Estimated $ Amount Spent on Games and Systems in 2008: $1,500
  • Percentage of My Free Time Wasted: 90% (the other 10% was spent reading Y The Last Man comics and watching Lost… god, I need to get a life)

System Ranking

  • Playstation 3 (made my year. bluray + HDMI + new HDTV + really good game year for PS3 = most underrated system on the market)
  • Nintendo DS–the lil’ system that shaped modern gaming
  • Xbox 360–good as usual
  • iPhone–lots of promise
  • Nintendo Wii–the system was easy to slam but I have a soft spot for it.
  • Sony PSP–worst system since the Sega years.