Watching: Pompeii (2014)

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I’m not really into the whole disaster type films, save for a few that have sparked my interest throughout the years. Most of the time, it’s usually how the destruction is caused – rather than an actual film, it’s a messy array of explosion, deaths and fire. And although Pompeii falls into the category of “failed” disaster films, it’s not the fault of the disaster itself; but rather the fault of its lacklustre script and the almost non-existent plot.

Funnily enough, I saw this film as part of a school excursion for my Ancient history topic. We were all expecting big things – expecting a story that centred on the actual disaster of Mt Vesuvius. Instead, we were served a bland poor-boy-meets-rich-girl story  that had was filled with gladiatorial film troupes. Admittedly, the film did begin with promise yet it all quickly fell apart, revealing the dry and uninteresting love story beneath.

The film centres on Milo (Kit Harrington), the last of a Celtic Horse Tribe and an enslaved gladiator who has recently arrived in the great city of Pompeii due to his excellent fighting skills. He catches the interest of Cassia (Emily Browning) who is in turn desired by Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), the man also responsible for his tribe’s death when Milo was a child. Now with the city crumbling around him, he and others must find a way to survive and escape the oncoming disaster caused by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius.

I was really surprised by how flat and mono-dimensional the characters and story seemed. It got to the point that rather than taking interest in the main characters, I soon found myself rooting for minor characters (My favourite character being Cassia’s handmaiden). I think it’s been proven time and time again that story telling isn’t Anderson’s forte – films like Resident EvilAliens Vs Predator, and Death Race are all heavily action based and, if anything, their action sequences give the films enough credibility to be called films. In saying that, Anderson’s portrayal of the actual eruption, and all the repercussions of the initial blast, is an archaeologist’s and historian’s dream. Referring back to my textbooks (and the all important internet), not only is the eruption entertaining and engaging – it’s also surprisingly realistic and accurate. Also deserving of praise are the few gladiatorial fights that are littered in section of the film, which is a godsend considering the true destruction of Pompeii – and I’m not talking about the explosion mind you.

True to it’s historical awareness, Pompeii is a giant disaster. While I do love Game of Thrones, I have to say, It’s not exactly Harington’s best work (Keep it up though Jon Snow!), and so I expect a lot more from him in the future. Although it would otherwise get a zero for its rating, the film’s visual effects are solid and extraordinary, and I’m sure many studying effects for film production would benefit from Mt Vesuvius’s destruction. If you are not however, such a student, I suggest you keep your distance from this disaster flick.

Bry Rating: 1/5
Recommended? Like in Roman times, I give this a thumbs down
Country of Origin: Germany/Canada
Language: English

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Listening To: The Tetris Theme Song

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Everyone – and I mean everyone – instantly remembers this iconic theme song upon the mere mention of the word Tetris. It was, and still is to this day, one of the world’s most addicting games. Being ported to a huge variety of consoles, any person (and anyone who claims to be a gamer) has at the very least played a round of this never-ending game.

I still remember the onslaught towards the higher levels. How my perfect builds of those blocks were suddenly ruined by a single fumble of the directional pad, and how it just as quickly built into a monstrosity that rose to a Game Over. Today, I heard the absolutely breathtaking rendition of the classic “A” theme. Here it is down below:

(Thanks to 1001-Up for showing me this earlier today)

And with that cover, I took it upon myself to find out any other ways the song we all know and love has been updated, changed or had some flavour  added to it. It first began with the original theme – the theme based on “Korobeiniki” (A Russian folk song) that was introduced in Nintendo’s Gameboy Colour Version.

This next one is something at first I was sure wasn’t real – the tetris theme song being played on a laser harp. You read that right, laser. There’s a good build up to the real thing in this video, and by following it through the right links, you can find yourself seeing it in double the speed (which is scarily similar near game over!).

Now I love a good acapella – and this one is pretty darn good. Just try to focus on a single sound and try to see which face is making it. You’d be surprised how similar it sounds to the real thing!

Finally, this last one is the tetris theme song played on an accordion. I don’t know much about the instrument, or how difficult it may be to play it, but boy do his finger work some magic. Check it out!

And there you have it! Five different version of the “A” theme of Tetris – a song full of memories of a much more simpler time. Got any other nostalgic gaming hits that are always on the back of your mind? Be sure to leave a comment, or better yet, find a newer (and more awesome) version of it and just enjoy. Sometimes its better to turn back the clock.

On the Art of Cosplaying

Over my years, I’ve certainly visited the sparse anime conventions of Australia, and every year, one of the most exciting aspect of going to these events are the cosplays people manage to pull together. No longer a thing of Halloween, wearing costumes has evolved into Cosplay – a means of expression and a way to show adoration for a person’s interests. It has become increasingly inventive – although some costumes are easy to make and just as easily to pull off, some costumes cross the boundaries, incorporating mechanics and electronics to give an individual’s costume that extra edge. And fancy or not, I want to join that bandwagon.

I’ve never in my life have been able to cosplay and yet I spend a lot of my time searching up methods, techniques and tutorials on how to make capes, armour and the like. I’ve also dreamed of attending the famed conventions of Japan and America, where literally hundreds of people show off the creations they’ve been working on for weeks – and sometimes even months.

To be perfectly honest, one of the reasons I haven’t been able to cosplay are because of the physical aspects of characters. I find that characters on shows are frequently of light skin colours (I consider myself to be a medium brown), making me doubt my abilities to portray that character. Even though I’ve seen others with my skin colour pull of a particular character, I remain hesitant. On top of that, there’s the build aspect of characters, and so its difficult to find characters that I would like to cosplay as with my own build.

Skill is something else to consider, and while I’ve been told to start of with simpler costumes, I’m put off by the idea of creating something that isn’t high quality. This is simply my own fault as a perfectionist, and when I see the amazing things others are able to pull off, I’m disheartened.

But this ends now.

I’m giving myself a time limit – a year – to cosplay anything. Be it at a party, a convention or a get together, I will aim to cosplay something that I love, regardless of the pre-existing “requirements” for the character.  And so I’ll see how this turns out.

Stay Tuned!

Playing: Nier (PS3) (XBOX 360)

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With the upcoming international release of Drakengard 3, I wanted to review the equally emotionally-confusing spin-off game of the Drakengard series, Nier. While Cavia (rest in peace) has been known for their strange and often complex games, Nier stands to be yet another quirky entry to their list. Sporting two different versions, wherein the titular protagonist is a teenage brother and a middle aged father in Replicant and Gestalt respectively, the game provides players with an intricate, if not captivating story.

Set on Earth in a distant future, Nier’s almost unrecognisable world is the product of the fifth hidden ending of Drankengard. Nier, whose sister/daughter Yonah is stricken with the “Black Scrawl”, dreams of finding a cure for her illness. Upon teaming up with the magical tome Grimoire Weiss, the foulmouthed Kainè and the ever mellow Emil during his search, Yonah is inexplicably kidnapped by the Shadowlord – the master of the enemies known only as Shades. With an army of these enemies in his path, Nier and his team must travel ruined landscapes and the remnants of lost civilisations to find the missing Yonah.

Nier is definitely one of the most interesting games I’ve ever played. Completely finishing the game is no easy task, and players will often find that the game is considerably more frustrating than it needs to be. This is most evident in the arduous task of finding materials for weapon upgrades, which sounds easy. But if you’ve ever played a Cavia game, you’d understand that the most simple task can take hours. Another interesting point is that completely finishing the game… also completely erases it. Upon taking the fourth ending route, the player’s save file is completely erased, along with other copies on the HDD (You have been warned). The game itself has also has a heap of extra missions to complete, so expect Nier to take quite awhile.

It’s primarily an action, hack and slash game that possesses role playing elements. It also, interestingly, has a variety of other game types interjected in sections of the story, such as platform, shooter and even text adventure. There are three weapon types (spears, one-handed swords and two-handed swords) that can be used and magic is also available, creating a solid, but average, combat experience. Both can have “words” attached to them, which augment and strengthen the power or abilities of equips. Defeating enemies results in gathering loot, words and experience, all of which are extremely useful towards the second half of the game. Nier also gains companions on his journey (typical of the JRPG genre) and attack on their own with competent attacks. Finally, finishing the game one opens of the New Game+ option, which allows players to experience the story again, but with twists and bigger revelations to the events of the story.

While Nier’s story is entertaining and sometimes actually touching, the graphics of the game weigh it down. While I praised the graphics of Bayonetta, I must say – Nier’s visuals are remarkably disappointing. It seems as though they would be rather suited to the graphic capabilities of the PS2. It does, though, have a few pleasant instances; such as the Resident Evil style graphics in Emil’s manor and the distant towers on the horizon of the port town in the game. Although the visuals of the game are about as mediocre as they can be, I cannot express just how much the soundtrack adds to the overall value of the game. I wrote about it before here, but briefly, it is beyond belief just how amazing the game’s music compels the audience to actually feel and pay attention. If Nier was ever to be completely forgotten, I guarantee  its OST would remain.

Even though Nier doesn’t shape up to be one of the better entries to the JRPG genre (or any genre for that matter), it’s overall cohesiveness,  story and soundtrack make it a worthwhile experience to enjoy. It is no way Nier (heh) the quality of other games released around the same time, but its effort in creating an emotional and captivating story redeems it (at least for me) from the more… displeasing aspects of the game. If you’d rather play a game more fixed on its story and appreciate a good soundtrack, give Nier a go – and just experience the mind-blowing story it has to offer.

Bry Rating: 3/5
Recommended? Definitely, for a compelling, and addictive story.
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Cavia

 

Watching: Exam (2009)

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Works that have an “elimination” premise have always intrigued me since reading Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. One by one, a character is eliminated until, at last, only one remains. Stuart Hazeldine’s independent film, Exam, depicts this type of story in a new light – within the gripping jaws of a job examination, something I’m sure many of us already find terrifying. Although the film starts as an entertaining story with an exciting premise, it does – eventually – lose its potential.

Slightly reminiscent of the works of Vincenzo Natali (Cube) and Luis Piedrahita (Fermat’s Room), Exam is a unique and interesting film that comments on human nature and the different ways people pursue their desires. Having said that though, it eventually boils down into a mix of different character archetypes, creating an average narrative at best.

The story begins with 8 people preparing themselves for what is soon revealed to be a job exam. Entering the exam room, the applicants are met by the Invigilator, who explains to them the three rules to avoid disqualification. The candidates quickly find that this is no normal exam, as the paper given is blank, and they are forced to find the all important question before finding the answer.

I really had high hopes for the film with its premise. The eight characters – a mix of different backgrounds and personalities – initially seemed to work well with each other in the sense that it gave the film purpose. But they, along with the point of the story, became highly ludicrous and downright cringe worthy. After the variety of antics characters pull to better their chances, the audience soon realises the futility of their actions and the incongruity of the whole selection process. I mean, as I watched the story unfold, I couldn’t help but wonder why the company even considered such an outlandish way to hire a person. And to make matters worse, the applicants quickly become desensitised to morality in the face of a job examination. Although it is suggested that an ongoing pandemic is the source of their strong desire for the job, the whole narrative seems pushed in an effort to intrigue viewers.

To sum up, Hazeldine’s brilliant concept is fumbled into a mediocre creation that manages to entice the audience with the original point of the film – the question. While not a lot of the film can be praised for, it’s without a doubt that the “why” and “what” aspect of the film garners enough interest to warrant a view. If you’re looking for a way to pass the time, or even just a film to play in the background, try the Exam – an easy to digest thriller all within the cozy confines of a single room.

Bry Rating: 2.5/5
Recommended? Give it a go… In your spare time.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Language: English 

Listening To: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun Original Soundtrack

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Although I had planned a review of another album today, I had listened to the soundtrack of the romantic comedy anime Tonari no Kaibutsu-Kun (Eng; My Little Monster) and I just had to talk about it. Now I watched the anime as it came out, and while it’s not one of my all time favourites, it certainly had a very strong and solid comedy element which I more than appreciated. It also, to my surprise, had an amazing musical score.

Certain tracks feature synthetic melodies while others are comprised of mainly orchestral symphonies. To call it diverse would not give it much justice. It seems that the soundtrack itself covers the emotional spectrum –  the album seems to tick off emotions; from melancholy to unbridled optimism. If anything, theres a track for any occasion, making it perfect for the anime – as although its primarily a comedy-romance, it does touch on the darker and somber aspects of life and love.

I find that the tracks consisting of guitar and/or piano leads were more defined and better suited to the overall theme of the show. Although it may be preference talking, I believe that they were considerably much more emotive and at a higher level than other tracks that focused their sounds on other instruments. Another worthy mention goes to the highly enjoyable tracks with a peppy, almost cocky tone, as well as those that were comprised of positive notes and rhythms. In saying that though, the more pensive tracks don’t, by any means, fail to please.

At the end of the day, the Tonari no Kaibutsu-Kun Original Soundtrack is an absolute delight to listen to. With a range of sounds and emotions to accommodate the daily lives of anyone, it came as a wonder to me that it’s not better known within the anime community. If you’re willing to take the chance and take a listen, I have very little doubt in my mind that you would be disappointed with this underrated gem of an OST.

Songs to look out for:

  • Tetsukazu no Kanjou 
  • Monster March
  • Yamaguchi-Sanchi no Kenji-Kun
  • Appare Sanningumi!
  • TEBASAKI
  • Memento 

The Other Side

I can barely remember a time where the strange intrigued me.

Covering everything from creepy stories to far fetched urban legends, the weird and strange have always fascinated me, intrigued me into learning more. Whole afternoons were spent researching the supernatural, and at night, I would scourge through countless links about “true” horror stories. Stories of hauntings and escaped patients of mental asylums were, and still are, a strong passion.

Horror and I have always been close companions. It’s a strange passion – the very things I love to learn about at the same time scare me half to death. Lights would be (and still are)  my first destination, and I very rarely venture outside groups when I’m outside. Stories of ghosts, hauntings, serial killers… No matter how implausible I convince myself they are, there’s always that uncertainty, the slightest possibility in my mind, that there’s something lurking in the dark.

I recall visiting the video store while my parents where off to do groceries with my brother. And every single time, we would spend the entire time just reading the backs of horror movie cases until they got back. I remember every period in computing class were spent with friend on horror sites, reading user submitted stories. And while those around me have lost their interests in the supernatural, I remain, expanding my knowledge of the unexplainable. Shadow people, the mothman, wendigoes, poltergeists… these are the things I have loved to learn about since I was a child.

I really do love discussing with others superstition, myths and strange creatures. I really wanted to make a post about this only because I was talking about this topic with a bunch of people from my youth group, and it was great hearing others’ own opinions and experiences. And on that note, I’m off to do some more research and see what else I can dig up to satisfy this little obsession of mine.

Goodnight.