Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Wii, T)
Look, I don't know what possessed me to replay this either. Was having everything unlocked on my Wii really that important to me, because even if you could transfer this game's data between Wiis, my nephew fucked with the file on the family system? Was it knowing I never finished all the Events before my nephew fucked with the file on the family system? Or was I just in the mood for something nice and terrible to get angry at?
And the Subspace Emissary is just as godawful as I remembered it. Even moreso, because this time I went through on Hard, which was rather irritating at times. The SSE's two main problems are that it's trying to apply fighting game mechanics to a platformer, and because you're constantly switching characters, you're going to be spending the entire eight to ten hour playthrough mashing buttons and spamming heavy attacks unless you've somehow mastered EVERYBODY, because that's the only thing that works for all characters equally and you don't have to worry about drastically changing your play style when you're controlling Mario and Pit one moment, Link and Yoshi the next, and then Metaknight and Marth. Not to mention all the "dark", "epic" cutscenes with the Dr. Manhattan wannabe and chunks of the world get sucked into voids and the main theme with Latin lyrics about some world destroyer smack of the game trying (and failing miserably) to hide the fact that it's a fucking fanboy service.
Classic, All-Star, and normal Brawl are more tolerable, but the controls are just too loose and slippery. But more than anything, the game is a clusterfuck. I cannot count the times I actually fell or even ran off the stage because I completely lost track of which indistinguishable figure was my guy. Game time: See how long it takes you to find all four characters in this picture, and figure out who's who and what they're doing.
Brawl is also a tedious grindfest. The first Smash Brothers had eight starting characters, four hidden ones, one secret stage, and a sound test; it was a very tightly packed game. Melee had over twice as many characters, several secret stages, and a ton of trophies to collect, including two kinds of character trophies which meant beating two game modes with each and every fucking character, not to mention the only two ways to unlock Mewtwo were to either play 700 Vs. fights or leave your Gamecube on overnight. Brawl makes unlocking the new guys pretty manageable with the SSE, but has several secret stages and a fuckton of trophies, as well as stickers of just about every Nintendo (and Sonic and Metal Gear) character ever, CDs, and a wall of often grind heavy challenges to obtain. After unlocking all the characters and stages, clearing all 41 events, playing enough Brawls to unlock the Custom Robo and Issac Assist Trophies (because fuck you, I'm not playing 100 more fights for the Advance Wars one), and getting the normal and Final Smash trophies for the ten characters I gave the biggest craps about I figured, I don't need to play this anymore.
And what the hell is with some of the character roster? It's nice they got rid of Dr. Mario and Pichu, but Toon Link? I accepted Young Link in Melee, but no, not Toon Link, because fuck Wind Waker. And why is Nintendo shoehorning ROB into so many of their games lately? Who the hell felt Fox needed a second clone? And they dropped Roy who I'm pretty sure was everyone's favorite character in Melee, but kept the fucking Ice Climbers? I'm sure many people, myself included, would have rather been playing as some of the guys who wound up as Assist Trophies over these assholes. And this might be petty of me, but I still don't get Solid Snake in this game. Sonic is actually reasonable, especially after all the Melee rumors, but Snake? It's like Simon Belmont showing up in a Marvel vs. Capcom game, or Mega Man in Mortal Kombat. He's just the most random, inappropriate, but popular character I can think of, with the possible exception of Cloud Strife, or Batman. Hell, considering Sonic I'd even understand Kratos or Master Chief in this game better than Snake.
And finally, what does Nintendo have against Luigi? He was my favorite character in the first Smash Brothers, not just because I love Luigi but also because of how hilariously broken his Up+B attack was. In Melee they nerfed that attack and made him look stupid doing it, and added insult to injury by making him act like a pansy. In Brawl, that attack is next to impossible to perform right, and he acts even gayer.
Rating: for the SSE, Overall
The Secret World of Arrietty (G)
If Miyazaki's films aren't my thing, why do I keep watching them? Because at least they tend to be pretty and have a surrealism that makes them an inoffensive way to spend ninety minutes. But his inability to grasp this "plot" thing hits a new low here with a story that's carred along by everyone being complete and utter morons. The whole thing gets started when Arrietty and her dad go borrowing, only they don't bother to make sure there's no humans around before they fetch something from the bedroom, but then oops! There was one watching them the whole time! Then the two agree not to tell their mother, but Arrietty tells her anyway, and then goes intentionally seeking Shawn to tell him to piss off, and things just get stupider from there. Characters seem to do and understand things for no other reason than they read the script, namely how Shawn finds out where Arrietty's mother is located from some random gesture from his aunt. And what exactly did the aunt have against the borrowers? And why was her grudge so bad she goes as far as to lock Shawn in his room? And how did his door later get unlocked? Seriously, when your film's only intelligent character is the cat, you might want to have a word with your screenwriter.
The voice acting also left something to be desired. Okay, I can let Shawn slide since he was supposed to be sick and weak, even if he just sounded half-assed, but I am very disappointed in you Will Arnett. Had your role as the father borrower been any more phoned in it would have been spliced together from answering machine samples.
Family Guy: Volume Four (TV DVD)
I honestly could not remember if I'd already seen this set. I distinctly remembered some scenes, like Peter and his family in the shelter about to drown and Peter confesses that he did not care for The Godfather, and the episode where Stewie's brother is born to two lesbians through Peter's sperm donation. But most of the set I absolutely did not remember. It's entirely possible that I did watch it, but my brain tossed almost everything in the dumpster to make room for more important things.
So this is just before the staff finally stopped giving a shit, so it's not totally awful yet. Just not any more awful than normal. The show actually generates some ideas that probably would have worked in more competent hands, like Peter starting a church dedicated to the worship of Fonzie. But this being Family Guy they totally bungle them, like in this case, having Peter spend most of the episode trying to find a religion that suits him so the actual church only lasts four minutes. And of course the usual Family Guy anti-humor bullshit.
Young Frankenstein (PG-13)
Well, this is gearing up to be my most overrated movie of 2012. Maybe the style of humor just wasn't my thing. I sat through most of this movie completely stone faced, save the scene where the monster goes wandering around town and meets the little girl and blind man, and to a lesser extent the dance number. And did I space out at some point, or was there a scene cut out between Gene Wilder's refusal to acknowledge any connection to Baron von Frankenstein, and him suddenly deciding to pick up where his grandfather left off? And the first girlfriend was so irritating, if she'd been in the movie for more than the first and last few minutes, I might have bailed out on it.
Also, dick jokes are really hit or miss with me, and this movie was miss, miss, and big-time miss.
Strange Brew (PG)
In her capsule review for Brother Bear, Flying Omelette made a comment about the moose characters being Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in hosers mode, and I found this movie while trying to find out what she was talking about. It's strange, I can't help but feel the way Moranis and Thomas act really should have annoyed me, and maybe they would have if they didn't do so many other things right. It also helps having a straight character in Angus MacInnes so that the movie isn't just a bunch of random stupidity, and a character even dumber than they are in the guy trying to take over the beer factory. And man, I thought Bill and Ted was a strain on my suspension of disbelief. Here we've got people breathing out of beer bottles (I'll forgive that since the scene was just too hilarious), Moranis drinking an entire vat of beer (with disturbing results), and the brothers frightening a tent of people by painting their dog to look like a giant skunk (although how it gets there is even more preposterous, but I won't spoil that surprise).
Karas: The Prophecy (Not Rated)
The movie opens with two armored characters having midair swordfights and turning into planes and shooting at each other, first in the clouds and then over a city. While all that was going on I had no idea which one to root for, why they were fighting, and whether or not one finally getting his arms chopped off and killed meant anything. It was just random chaos. That set the tone for the rest of the film - at no point in this movie did I have any idea what the fuck was going on or why I should care. The plot keeps jumping around among the titular Karas, some demon-hunting demon disguised as a human and his snail buddy, and some detective trying to solve a bunch of demon-related murders. Okay, so there's something about demons being turned into machines, and to survive they have to drink human blood, and the Karas has to fight them off, but the Karas is also a doctor for demoh, who gives a shit. Then it ends abruptly with no semblance of even a cliffhanger ending, because it's a two-parter and now I have to watch the sequel. No. Fuck you Tatsunoko Studios. Fuck you and your shitty storytelling.
I imagine the plot was thinned out so much to make space for the visuals, except that the movie looks like ass. The action scenes are incoherent and the regular visuals are dull, sterile, blurry, hazy, and riddled with glare, and the lips. Everyone looks like victims of botched botox injections.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (PG)
When I heard this movie was slow paced I went in expecting it to really drag. I guess I overprepared, because this movie seemed to fly by for me. Now, it's still not a thrill a minute like, say, the Jean-Luc Picard collection was, but it's not needlessly dragged out like, say, the movie just above this. And at least the visual pans are easy to follow and add something, showing you the massive scale of V-Ger. It uses its time wisely, building suspense up to a real "Oh shit!" of a big reveal.
Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis (PG-13)
This movie was like Katsuhiro Otomo (you know, the Akira guy) had a bunch of random ideas from other movies he'd never really gotten past the planning phase laying around, then slapped them together, vaguely connecting them with some story about a giant city and the doomsday weapon built inside its largest structure. Nothing here comes together. There's a military revolution that fails spectacularly, but who cares? It comes out of nowhere and said failure has no impact on the film and is swiftly forgotten. A robot helps Kenichi and his uncle around the town and is eventually shot, but again, who gives a crap? He only existed to fill the two leads in on the city, and once he'd done that, it was time for him to leave the film. Speaking of, there's a lot of telling instead of showing, and lots of it being repeated just in case the viewer, excuse me, hero and his uncle didn't understand the stuff about robots being assigned to certains zones and needed to be told three times.
And is Otomo's mind so shot that he's forgotten how humans act? I'll save my bitching on how bad he is on that in the Akira manga for that quickie. So most of the denizens of Metropolis hate robots for stealing their jobs, but this one guy Rock, seems to hate them because he's afraid a robot, Tima, will steal the love of his (adopted) father... except he harbored this hatred long before he even knew of Tima, and it seems more like he's afraid she'll steal his father's love because he hates robots. I mean, as stupendously lame as it was and how abruptly he got over it, at least Armitage III had Sylibus hating robots because one killed his old partner and took his leg. But Rock just hates robots because he's the de facto asshole in Tezuka's manga (see Phoenix). There's no rhyme or reason to what anyone says or does, people just happen to be in the right place at the right time, technology is pulled out of people's asses as it's needed to advance the story, and Kenichi trying to reason with Tima when she goes nuts and tries to kill him goes well beyond trying to set her right and more into him knowing Otomo would break his legs if he abandoned his post.
Now, reviews often praise the hell out of the visuals. I wouldn't call them spectacular so much as "different", as they're done in the style of Osamu Tezuka instead of a lot of the indistinguishable generic anime around today. But other than that they're not that impressive, and things get really bad in motion, where everyone walks like a Frankenstein monster. I'm starting to wonder if it's not just Miyazaki films that aren't my thing, but the whole of anime movies, but this movie is bad even by those standards.
The Blues Brothers (R)
Dan Akroyd and John Belushi race against time to rally up five grand to save their orphanage, and along the way they reassemble their band, sing a few numbers, and piss off everyone they cross paths with - police officers, country singers, Neo Nazis, and so on. It's actually kinda funny to see how this leads to the SWAT Team and National Guard eventually showing up to deal with two clowns in suits, but the only people actually tailing the Blues Brothers are other cars in high-speed chases. That got pretty old, fast. And I dunno, I found it a little hard to side with the Blues Brothers when they're pretty much dicks themselves. I don't care if it's "for a good cause," it's kinda hard to blame Carrie Fisher for wanting to hit Belushi with a rocket launcher, what with all this crap they pull here.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (DS, T)
I tried playing the SNES version of this ages ago, but ultimately gave up when it got too cruel for me... though I'm sure actually being able to read it, and understand the weapons that are effective against certain units would have helped. So when you can actually figure out the game mechanics it's quite a rewarding strategy RPG. It's massively satisfying to watch your plans work so beautifully, enemies running up to attack your Knights only to have their attacks ping off, only to get OHKO'd in a counter attack or else left in the middle of your own guys, and I don't remember the last time I said "Ha ha, fuck you!" at game enemies so many times. And yes, I'm the kind of player who's anal about keeping everybody alive, so I had to play especially careful. Though for the last couple of levels, my characters had gotten so strong that it became less about planning and strategy and more about just not doing anything aggressively stupid while mowing down everything that looked at me funny. Or else I figured out the system enough that it just felt that way. Though the final map was a bit mean, mainly for the dick move with the doors, but it might have been a real bitch if I wasn't able to take out both bastillicians in the first turn.
One potential flaw is there's a few ways you can completely destroy your game. The first is to not balance your units, a big mistake on my part that ended my attempt at the GBA Fire Emblem game years ago. The second is a multi-level sidequest that can be ruined at several steps, though I admit the player in question would have to be pretty dense to let it happen. In order to beat Gharnef you have to obtain the Starlight spell, the only thing that can penetrate his Imhullu magic. To obtain it, you have to collect two orbs from one level, take them to a sage in another level, and have a mage with at least a C-ranking in tomes to cast it. But if a thief runs off with one of the orbs, somebody carrying an orb dies (because one of them stops weapons and spells from deteriorating), a thief destroys the town with the sage, or you don't have said mage who can cast the spell or stand up to Imhullu, you can't beat this guy. Granted, you don't have to beat him, but I don't know how you can evade him without somebody getting killed (maybe the warp staff?) and you lose the most effective weapon against the final boss. Hell, the only other means I had of even really hurting Medeus were an optional character and, well, Starlight.
Now, there was one infuriating aspect of the interface I would have loved to have seen fixed; the game doesn't show you how far enemies can move overall. Several times I was trying to get a weakened unit out of range of an enemy, only to have that enemy's range increase when I moved that character out of their way, putting them back in danger. And even knowing that would happen before moving somebody, I had no idea where I could move a unit to to get them out of harm's way. Or I'd move somebody and the field of enemy attack would extend to a character who couldn't take direct damage. And it would have been an easy fix, just show the new enemy range when the game asks you to confirm or attack. But I won't dock the game too much, because it never does more than annoy. I also would have rather seen 2D sprites instead of the ugly pre-rendered, cel-shaded or whatever models and portraits they've got here, but the game earns so many points for giving Marth some pants the rest of the game would have to have been a lot uglier before I started really docking it.
The Office: Season One (DVD)
Some online discussion about this show and how terrible the first season was make it easier for me to say that I really did not like this. The characters who contribute the most to the show are Michael and Dwight, who are just really irritating, although as obnoxious as he is, that scene with Michael sitting at his desk, surrounded in ice cream sandwich wrappers while slowly chewing on one, staring blankly at a wall still managed to be one of the most depressing things I'd seen in a while. I'll give the season the scene in the Alliance episode where Dwight gets taped into a box, but otherwise I really hope the other seasons improve on this as much as I hear they do.
And call me petty, but the season is only six episodes long. Why wasn't this bundled with Season Two, like Seinfeld and Just Shoot Me, instead of sold as a seperate disc?
I've heard this described as "Rocky with cars" which I don't really see. Rocky started out as a nobody, then randomly got a big break into the big league boxing world. McQueen started out as an arrogant super-star, then had to take a lesson in humility from the residents of some podunk. Granted, the story still isn't what you'd call "original" but it has its moments, namely the cow tipping, and it has some truly jaw-dropping visuals.
Although, I'm sorry, but there was something I found offputting about Lightning McQueen. The tractor cows are cute, and most of the other characters don't bother me as much as McQueen, but man, there was something about him that just creeped me out. Is it just that all the characters in the town aren't as shiny and polished as he is, so they don't look like so much like PSX-era models?