Archive for: February, 2010

Dragon Age: Origins

This review contains spoilers.

Much like my Mass Effect 2 character, I gave my Dragon Age character a sullen, swarthy appearance and named him after my girlfriend’s cat Alcott. Alcott Aeducan of the clan Aeducan from the dwarven kingdom of Orzammar, if you must know.

A lot of hay was made about the fact that Dragon Age allows you to choose same gender romantic relationships, most shockingly male on male kissing and bared male chests embracing tenderly. I live in Atlanta, which was recently rated as America’s gayest city. I see bared male chests embracing tenderly on my drive to work every morning. So yeah maybe your podunk town’s citizens’ hair might turn white at the idea of some fictional dudes “slaying dragons” in between slaying actual dragons, but I think allowing the player to pursue any type of relationship they want in a video game is a long time coming. You know what else was a long time coming?

My dwarven warrior having burly gay campfire sex with that elven rogue. Honestly though, my dwarven warrior was pretty promiscuous. He did sort of have a girlfriend- but she was a witch and showed a lot of side boob.

I have a really fantastic idea for a strip club that ties into this, by the way. All the strippers dress up like nerd fantasy ladies, like the blue Twi’leks from Star Wars or Caprica Six or Tolkien characters. My friend Kenny even came up with a good name for it: The Hobbit Hole. Do you have any idea how much money that would make? Imagine getting a lap dance from Princess Leia or Skeletor’s naughty pal Evil-Lyn. The only bone in the house wouldn’t just be in Skeletor’s staff, I’ll tell you that much.

Now stop imagining that.

So some orcs—I mean some “Darkspawn” threaten the kingdom of Ferelden and your character gets drafted into fighting them by joining the Grey Wardens, an elven junior varsity basketball team known for its outside shooting and aggressive defensive play.

Actually, the Grey Wardens drink darkspawn blood in a ritual called “The Joining”. This gives them the power to slaughter the arch-demon that leads the darkspawn army.

Dragon Age is billed as a “dark fantasy” and has all kinds of gory death and blood spatter.  You know that sound a sword makes when it penetrates a suit of armor and mortally wounds your opponent in battle? KER CHUNK. Sounds like someone stabbing a mailbox. Take that, letters!

There is a lot of corpse robbing in this game. Hope your magic sword wasn’t a family heirloom, castle guard I just slaughtered. Your children will just have to hunt me down to get it back; but be warned I have a magic sword now.

One thing I love about this game is your companions can get fed up with you and leave, or you can murder somebody and not know that with a little talking to they would have joined your party. I ended up replaying a twenty minute cut-scene because I pissed off Alistair. Alistair was a witty, compassionate Grey Warden. I’d been hanging out with him the whole game. I even gave him the special Blood Dragon armor, which is practically like giving him an engagement ring.

He got mad because I was going to let our most hated enemy join our team. “No don’t go!” I thought to myself, loading up the previous save game. I even let him cut off that other dude’s head the second time around.

Wait— that doesn’t sound very compassionate, does it?

Trust me, in the context of the game, it’s no big deal. Beheading is like opening a newspaper in Ferelden, it’s so common. If you aren’t running somebody through with a sword, you’re probably sleeping.

The Pleasure of Being Robbed

Mild spoilers below.

Eleonore Hendricks plays Eléonore, a cute skinny brown haired thief girl who wanders around New York City stealing stuff from people. If you have a purse or a bunch of grapes or a bag full of kittens, she is going to take them from you in a most winsome fashion!

Speaking of a bag full of kittens, who travels around with a bag full of kittens? I say if you don’t keep an eye on your bag of kittens you deserve to have them stolen by New York City’s cutest thief, along with your satchel of French Bulldog puppies and your cart of baby hippos.

She wanders around New York stealing things until she runs into this bearded hipster guy who wants a ride home so they steal a car (naturally) in the most charming fashion imaginable. They only way automotive theft could get any cuter is if a couple of orphans with holes in the fingers of their gloves did it.  Turns out his home is in Boston so they cool it on the stealing for a while and take a road trip. She spends the night at his house and doesn’t even rob him! She could have at least taken some of his art or his undershirt or his bike. Yeah steal his bike, lady!

When she gets back there is no mention of the kittens from earlier. What happened to those kittens, movie??!

The only scene I didn’t enjoy is when Eléonore convinces some cops to take her to to the zoo after they arrest her (for stealing, yo) and she daydreams about playing with the zoo’s polar bear.

None of that bothered me, who wouldn’t want to rassle around with a polar bear, it’s just that the polar bear suit they used was so far away from what an actual polar bear looks like. If there was a polar bear serial killer and he was going around murdering other polar bears and making a suit out of those polar bears, it would be pretty close to what this polar bear looked like. All he was missing was his mother’s pearls and a manifesto about the polar bear government.

Well, time to wrap this review up—I hate to do this to you, but I have to say it. Eleonore Hendricks steals many things in The Pleasure of Being Robbed, but the greatest thing she will steal….

is your heart.

Also, your kittens.

Moon

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a contract worker for Lunar Industries living on the moon. He regulates and maintains the Sarang lunar base, which collects and harvests the energy source helium-3 from moon rocks. His only companion is GERTY— an artificial intelligence housed in what looks like a dentist’s x-ray machine with a claw hand.

The rest of this review is full of spoilers.

Moon is about how he sorts and tags the helium-3, maintains the excavation equipment and keeps the base clean and operational on a day to day basis. At the end of the film, he climbs aboard the return vessel to Earth, after filing his final helium-3 excavation report. Job well done!

Just kidding. Moon is about how Sam Bell loses his shit inside the white, sterile Sarang lunar base while GERTY tries to provide gentle assistance via Kevin Spacey’s voice; like if Kevin Spacey managed the Apple store where you tried to get an out-of-warranty iPhone repaired.

As it so happens Sam is the fifth clone in a long line of clones that Lunar Industries murders at the end of a three year “contract”. The clones think they have a beautiful wife and daughter to go home to at the end of their loyal service to the company, but all they get is a face full of poison gas in a fake-out “hibernation pod”.

Sam 5 crashes his moon rover car into a big moon rock thresher and as a result GERTY wakes up Sam 6. Sams 5 & 6 argue for a while about who’s a clone but then they both find out there’s a freezer full of Sam clones under the base.

Imagine what you could do with a small army of Sam Rockwells!

I’m actually having trouble thinking of a useful application for an army of Sam Rockwells. Maybe a band called The Rock-wells? Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to rock well with The Rock-wells! I guess the audience would be all Sam Rockwells up there on the moon, though. Rockwells and Rockwells, get ready to rock well with The Rock-wells!

Only a matter of time before you’d open up the air compression chamber and find some kind of weird Sam Rockwell orgy happening. Hey you Sam Rockwells keep it in your pants!

Lunar Industries sends a “rescue team” full of mercenaries who are clearly full of murderous clone killing intentions. You know what tipped me off that these guys are not a rescue team? When their profiles showed up on the screen they looked like filthy biker criminals, not helpful astronauts.

I liked the logo for Lunar Industries so much I tried to find it on the internet so I could have a Lunar Industries T-shirt but all I could find was two would-be graphic designers arguing on a forum about who did a better job recreating it in crappy jpegs.

The soundtrack for Moon sounds like a cat walking around on a piano, in a good way.

Mass Effect 2

In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard’s ship gets cut in half by a laser beam and his body gets fried up in space and he dies a horrible death. THE END.

Actually, a shady corporation (Cerberus) puts a considerable amount of resources and money into resurrecting him with needles and fluids and buzzing machines via a process they have dubbed “The Lazarus Project”. Way to strain your imagination naming your incredible new technology that gives life back to the dead. “Hey what was the name of that guy in the bible who came back to life?” “Uh..Lazarus” “Let’s call this thing The Lazarus Project” “It’s not the Zombie Machine no more?” “Nuh-uh.”

Commander Shepard works for Cerberus now! In the first game he was a take-no-shit-from-anyone Alliance military captain who hated Cerberus and now he’s their undead corporate enforcer. Shepard answers to The Illusive Man, ably played by Martin Sheen, a hard drinking cigarette smoking CEO type in an immaculate suit. The Illusive Man is trying to collect intelligence and amass dossiers on the British company that purchased controlling stock in the Sterling Cooper advertising agency and hide his marital infidelities from his wife Elizabeth “Betty” Draper.

Yep. A joke about the Illusive Man being Mad Men’s Don Draper. Because of the suit and the tumbler of liquor. And the smoking.  Ahh forget it.

The Illusive Man is collecting intelligence and amassing dossiers on the space aliens who will help Shepard defeat The Collectors and their angry bee swarms. Intergalactic bees. Very dangerous. Paralyze humans with their stings so The Collectors can kidnap entire colonies of humans. Even worse, The Collectors are under the control of The Reapers- massive intelligent ships who start whole galactic civilizations just so they can come in and destroy them every few millenia for fun.

Mass Effect 2 lets you import your save files from the first Mass Effect game, which if you’re like me (an incredibly fussy nerd about this kind of thing) validates the thirty minutes you spent in the Mass Effect character creation system adjusting Shepard’s cheekbones and overbite and eyeliner and matching purse. I made my Shepard look like a derelict country singer, with slicked back Conway Twitty hair and dark rangy hollows under his eyes. Every time a female in the game made a pass at my version of Commander Shepard I tittered a little.

Speaking of females in the game,  I was courting the violent heavily tattooed Biotic experiment gone wrong Jack for a good portion of the game until I dropped her in favor of Miranda the Cerberus liaison who, to be fair, was genetically enhanced to be beautiful and had a quality I like to refer to as “that ass”.

Since Shepard can be male or female at your discretion, (well not back and forth during the game, can’t have a gender bending tranny space marine seducing every organic life form aboard the SSV Normandy SR-2 like some kind of god damn Rocky Horror Picture Show in a distant universe) the possibilities for getting freaky on a star faring vessel are wide open.

Grimy spaceships, sleazy alien strip clubs,  spiritually conflicted swamp creature assassins, Seth Green as a crippled ship pilot, a film-grained “used future” feel to every environment you interact with— in terms of gritty densely plotted science fiction narratives, Mass Effect 2 makes the Star Wars prequels look like Mac and Me.

A spoiler about the end of the game:

So this ‘Human Reaper’ the Collectors have been working on? Enormous metal skeleton cyborg. Looks just like The Terminator. That’s alright by me. Honestly Mass Effect 3 could be all about  Commander Shepard enrolling in the Shmogwarts School For Young Wizards so he could battle Evil Lord Schmoldemort and I WILL BUY IT.

I lost four of my team during the final battle, (who dies and at one point changes with every play-through) including the punk rock chick Jack, which is probably for the best because she was pretty pissed I broke up with her to knock reinforced space boots with Miranda in the Normandy’s engine room.

As George Clinton (no stranger himself to interstellar funk) was once heard to remark in his song ‘Atomic Dog’: “Why must I feel like that/Why must I chase the cat/Nothin’ but the dog in me.”

Doctor Who Season 2

This review contains spoilers.

In season two Doctor Who fights the devil inside a big asteroid next to a black hole. The big red monster with horns kind of devil, with the scales and the magma and the rocks for skin and the yowling and grunting and the big iron manacles in a pit of fire. Seems to me if you wanted to imprison the Prince of Lies you’d go a little further than slapping a couple of big space handcuffs and chains on him. Maybe some prison bars made of lasers and a straitjacket, too. Also a gag so he doesn’t do any of that lying and seducing he’s been perfecting since the dawn of time. Spare no expense to keep that devil locked up, I say.

You know who else shows up? Daleks. Can’t keep a Dalek away from Doctor Who. When I say “Doctor” you say “Dalek”! The Doctor is always so surprised to see Daleks. “Daleks? I thought I killed the last Dalek! I even killed the Dalek emperor! I can’t believe these f**kers are still alive.” Maybe Doctor Who is just being polite when he acts shocked to see a Dalek.

I ‘fancied’ Billie Piper as The Doctor’s companion- she seemed like she was having the time of her life. Too bad The Doctor leaves her behind on a second Earth at the end of the season. If you travel in the Doctor’s blue police box I hope you like desert islands or weird moons or parallel dimensions because that’s where you’re ending up one way or another. The only way the Doctor could strand more of his friends in dangerous places is if he was a pirate on a ship made entirely of planks.

David Tennant replaces Christopher Eccleston this season as Doctor Who. The Doctor actually removes Eccleston’s face to reveal Tennant’s face beneath it in the final episode of the first season. Can’t replace anybody more thoroughly than that, unless you want to jump out of their stomach à la Alien. With his small stature and smart pinstriped suit David Tennant seems like he’s just dropped by the pocket-watch repair shop and now he’s off to sing lead vocals for The Monkees with his pals Micky, Michael and Peter.

I wonder how may women sci-fi fans have obsessive fantasies about the David Tennant Doctor Who. “Oh British immortal time traveler- take me in your time ship to some ancient space library and let’s do it on the books!” Well ladies, I hope you’re ready to spend the rest of your life in an ancient space library because he will leave you there faster than you can retrieve your bra from the ‘Geegleplax Guide To The Seven Outer Plorshushes’.

Not to mention Doctor Who saves Queen Victoria from a werewolf and to thank him for his trouble she founds the Torchwood Institute to hunt him down and bans him from ever coming back to England. Well look how that worked out lady- now you’re long underground in your fancy royal linens and Doctor Who is still sweeping British ladies off their feet and into alternate realities.

Geegleplax that, Your Highness!

The Fortress of Solitude

Jonathan Lethem’s ‘The Fortress of Solitude’ is about two kids in Brooklyn who are given a magic ring by a wino. I know in this day and age you can’t go two steps without some drunk on the street throwing a magic ring at you, but back then it was very rare.

Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude are best friends who spray paint a hobo’s filthy cape while he’s lying in the gutter, then discover he’s the flying kind of hobo after he bequeaths his fantastical ring to Dylan in a hospital room. (As opposed to the regular kind of hobo, who never bequeath anyone anything you’d want to put on your hand.)

Dylan uses the ring to try and get to third base with a hot girl he meets on Summer vacation, Mingus fights a little crime then shelves the ring in favor of getting high. The last time a magic ring got used this little for heroics Bilbo Baggins was using one to skip out on a party.

If I had a magic ring that granted me the ability of flight, I’d wear it on my toe like a hippie lady- or in a thick pair of work gloves. Anything to hide this amazing miracle ring so nobody could steal it. Then again, if I ever take to the skies in carpenter’s gloves or a lovely flowing dress i sewed myself, I guess you’ll know my secret.

Break-dancing Muggings Funk Music Brownstones Punk Rock Cocaine Turntables Gangs!

Dylan’s father is a reclusive artist who gets famous with nerds for painting pulp science fiction book covers, but he doesn’t go in for that hogwash- he’s fixated on his life’s work: painting individual cells in a full length movie. Mingus’ father is a reclusive soul singer who hangs out all day in a bathrobe doing coke with the occasional visit from Bootsy Collins.

‘The Fortress of Solitude’ is kind of like the story of Superboy if Superboy grew up as the only white boy in a not quite gentrified borough of Brooklyn in the 70’s, and he had a cool black best friend that he traded his powers with. I bet if that had been the case Superboy would have had brown and orange tights and a yellow cape. Maybe a disco ball or a turntable instead of the big ‘S’.

More like Superfly! What UP!