Monday, November 26, 2007

Have You Answered the Call?

For the past three installments, the Call of Duty series has languished in the oft-trodden World War II era of gaming, allowing gamers to relive the “last great war” time and again. This month, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare hit store shelves rededining not only the series, but the first-person shooter genre as well.

At first glance, you’ll notice that the graphics in this game are phenomenal. This is easily the most photo-realistic gaming experience you’re likely to find anytime soon. Locations ranging from the Middle East to Russia are rendered with amazing detail, making the game’s most explosive, bullet-riddled moments downright visceral.

The single-player campaign, while short, offers a wide variety of mission types that should keep most players revisiting them long after the credits have rolled. Playing as both a British SAS officer and a US Marine, you’ll take to the ground as well as the skies to protect the world from a terrorist threat. It’s a brief, pulse-pounding and sometimes shocking roller-coaster of a game.

But a lot of you came just for the multiplayer, didn’t you? Well, CoD 4 doesn’t disappoint in that department either. Mixing traditional CoD mechanics with an RPG-like upgrading system, you’ll constantly feel rewarded, unlocking new gear and abilities as you "level up." Those looking for your standard “run-and-gun” gameplay may find themselves at the wrong end of a sniper scope more often than not. Halo 3 players steer clear. This ain’t a twitch shooter.

While I was skeptical at first—seeing as how we seem to be in the midst of a shooter glut on Xbox 360—Call of Duty 4 is one of the best FPS games on the system, Heed the call, buy the game.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mass Effect: First Impressions

The highly anticipated Xbox 360 shooter/RPG hybrid Mass Effect hit store shelves yesterday and having snagged a copy, I must say that I’m blown away. For the uninitiated (and, by default, better looking and more attractive), Mass Effect was developed by BioWare, the team known best for its work on Jade Empire and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I should add that Star Wars: KotOR is one of the best console RPGs of all time. Suck it, Square-Enix.

At the onset, I felt at home. The game controls a great deal like Star Wars: KotOR, but places far more emphasis on real-time shooting than on turn-based action. This keeps the pace frenetic and, combined with the RPG elements of squad command and leveling up, makes for a unique immersive experience.

The story’s also top-notch so far, although it really boils down to “chase the bad guy across the galaxy.” But what a galaxy! Unlike the aforementioned Star Wars title, which dropped you into familiar surroundings, Mass Effect is totally new. While it does borrow significantly from George Lucas’ universe and other sci-fi properties, it’s fresh enough to encourage exploration into the game’s mythology.

The branching conversations are also a lot of fun, and keep things interesting in-between melees. Wanna be a jerk? Be a jerk. Wanna be an interplanetary pushover? You can do that too. The multitude of options should keep you replaying this one until the inevitable sequel.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gone Baby Gone: A Wort Report Review

Having just seen Gone Baby Gone this evening, I’m at a loss for words. And as a writer, this means a few things. First, it means that you, the reader, will not be subject to my typical hyperbolic prose. Second, it means that I won’t be clicking away at the keyboard all night, which is a plus since I’m supposed to be at work tomorrow. Third, it means that I’m going to have to write something that I never thought possible: Ben Affleck is a good director. There, I said it. He takes what seems, at the onset, to be a simple story of child abduction and creates one of the most gripping films to hit theaters this year.

Casey Affleck proves his mettle as leading man material in the role of Patrick Kenzie, a Boston detective who is constantly trying to decipher the difference between right and wrong. Faced with one moral dilemma after another, the film begs the question again and again: what would you do in this situation?

I’m being vague here, obviously, because explaining any of the other characters and situation robs the film of one of its greatest assets: the element of surprise. I will say that Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are phenomenal, with each of their characters emphasizing the moral ambiguity of the film’s plot as two characters who are trying to do the right thing but…well, you’ll see. The ending hits you like a shotgun blast and leaves you reeling for hours afterward.

One of the major things I took away from this film, and I’m not sure if other viewers would agree with me on this, was how Affleck characterized the city of Boston. Affleck’s Boston is gritty, often unattractive and populated by flawed, unappealing people. But there’s a warmth there, evocative of an artist coming to terms with his hometown and bringing to light his own roots in the most raw fashion possible. It's similar to Martin Scorsese’s relationship with New York in his own films. There’s love intermingled with disgust and a tinge of sympathetic admiration.

Gone Baby Gone might be one of 2007’s best films and one of its most pleasant, albeit bittersweet, surprises.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Busting Makes Me Feel Good

Apparently, the new Ghostbusters game is further along than we all thought. An official website is already up, complete with screenshots and other assorted game information. Children of the 1980s, prepare to have your minds blown.

Published by Vivendi Games' Sierra Entertainment label, Ghostbusters: The Game will take place in the early 1990s and continue the storyline of the first two films. Variety confirms that the film's original cast will return to voice the characters, with supporting actors Rick Moranis, William Atherton, Brian Doyle Murray and Annie Potts also returning.

The core version of the game will be released in the fourth quarter of 2008 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC while a more family-oriented version will be made available for PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii and the Nintendo DS.

G4TV.com posted earlier this week some amazing gameplay footage that seems to recreate many key scenes from the first film, such as the New York Public Library ghost encounter, Slimer running amok in a swank Manhattan hotel and, of course, the climactic battle with The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It seems like the game will bring players up-to-speed on the Ghostbusters mythos before jumping into new material.

Excited? You should be. This could be one of the all-time best movie-to-game translations we've seen, and Ghostbusters is a property with game franchise written all over it.

So next fall, who you gonna call?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together…MASS HYSTERIA!

The Ghostbusters are gearing up for another outing, only this time they’ll be wrangling poltergeists on the Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PC and the Nintendo Wii. Billed as a direct sequel to 1989’s Ghostbusters II, the game will continue the adventures of everyone’s favorite blue-collar paranormal investigators, with cast members Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson reprising their roles as Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddemore. Ramis and Aykroyd will pen the script.

While it may be a tad disappointing for longtime fans that a third Ghostbusters film will not be making its way to the multiplex, let’s be realistic: the cast isn’t getting any younger, and the last thing anyone wants to see is a lame, cash-in sequel. At least with a video game, the actors won’t be restricted by their age. The films adapt themselves perfectly to a video game format anyway. Could you imagine cruising around a free-roaming New York City in the Ecto-1? Or battling the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man? Or carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on your back? Or asking librarians at the New York Public Library whether or not they’re menstruating? (What’s that got to do with it?) Back off, man, I’m a scientist.

Whether you’re a gamer or not, the idea that a semi-sequel to the first two films is getting made at all is fantastic news. While Ghostbusters II doesn’t match up to its classic 1984 predecessor, they’re both fun movies. Hopefully we’ll all be aiming “for the flat top” when this game hits store shelves in the near future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's Like They Want Our Money...

I never thought I'd say this, but there are far too many noteworthy video games that warrant purchase this Christmas season. FAR too many. Call of Duty 4, Guitar Hero III, Rock Band, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed....All of these have strong buzz coming out of the gate, just as I was trying to wean myself off of Halo 3 (unsuccessfully). With the holidays around the corner, I just can't go around spending 60+ bucks on new ways to entertain myself. But the XBox 360, she is a harsh mistress.

I'm plagued by another question as well: Rock Band or Guitar Hero III? Who will win out in this virtual battle of the bands? Which game will make me look more ridiculous jamming to "Cherub Rock" holding a plastic guitar-shaped controller in my bedroom at 2 in the morning?

By the way, this entry doubles as a Christmas list. Hint. Hint.

Friday, November 9, 2007

100 and Counting

The Wort Report has officially gotten 100 hits since October 21st, so a hearty "thank you" to everyone that makes this site a part of your daily web routine.

But this is just the beginning of the journey, Wortmaniacs. Tell your friends, co-workers, family, pets and imaginary friends (both ninja and robot) to get clickin'. In return, I'll keep giving you the best possible information from the realms of film, television, books, movies, games and much more. And how can I make this possible? By reading about what the major sites are reporting on, adding some commentary and slapping on a picture or three. It's not lazy: It's the blogosphere!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

South Park Riffs on Guitar Hero

It's safe to say it: South Park is on a roll this season. Following up the phenomenal "Imagination Land" trilogy, the South Park gang set its sights on the Guitar Hero series in tonight's episode.

While one can argue that South Park is leaning a little heavy on commercials that advertise/satirize video games (the Emmy Award-winning "Make Love, Not Warcraft," for example), it's hard to argue with them when they nail their subjects so skillfully.

Tonight's episode saw Stan and Kyle attract the attention of a record producer due to their high score playing "Carry on Wayward Son" by Kansas. But their journey soon leads to hardships, as success strains their friendship and Stan throws his career away when he becomes addicted to Heroin Hero.

Kudos to Trey Parker and co. for several great moments. Randy's introduction to the game and his inability to understand why the kids don't just play real guitar, the kid so good at Guitar Hero he could play acoustic (tap tap tap tap tap), Stan and Kyle's reward for scoring 1,000,000 points. All classic send-ups of a game that has fast become a console sensation.

Catch the encore tomorrow, November 8th, at 10 p.m on Comedy Central.

Killing Bruce Wayne?

The Internet's a funny thing. In just over decade, it's gotten easier to spread false news on the Internet than it is to spread cream cheese on a bagel. Or butter on toast. Or Paris Hilton's legs. Whichever metaphor you choose, the point is that it's easy.

In my daily scouring of the World Wide Wasteland, I came across this little gem at comicbookresources.com. Turns out, DC Comics is planning on offing Bruce Wayne (Batman, for the uninitiated and the better looking and more popular, by default) in the summer of '08. Makes sense, seeing as how there's this big movie coming out in a few months ::cough cough The Dark Knight cough cough:: and a huge publicity stunt like this might generate some interest in the books again.

While an event like this would certainly boost sales, I dare say that Batman is more than just a costume, and DC may be shooting itself in the foot over this one. And come on, does anyone else believe they'd kill off Bruce Wayne for good? If that's the case, I've got a bunch of copies of Superman #75 that I'm sure are going to put your kids through college...

So who's going to don the cape and cowl in Bruce's, er, absence? Robin? Knightwing? Alfred? Eck.

Of course, they could always go with the obvious choice:



Hey, I'm just sayin'.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Who's Directing Clash of the Titans Redux?

Word on the street is that Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Planet Terror), is no longer attached to the remake of Clash of the Titans: the cult 1981 Greek mythology flick that gave us a claymation Kraken and a robot owl that was in no way an R2-D2 ripoff.

Hold up, they're seriously planning on remaking Clash of the Titans? Why does this make total sense? I'm not being snarky here. If any flick needs a remake, it's Clash of the Titans (or CotT if I want to be cool. Which I don't, because no one talking about Clash of the Titans is ever cool).

I love the stop-motion work of Ray Harryhausen, but man. How great would it be to see the monsters of Greek mythology tear it up onscreen?And with a script by Raiders of the Lost Ark/The Empire Strikes Back scribe Lawrence Kasdan? Hot damn!

While Rodriguez has moved on, it will be interesting who else grabs the reins of this project. Guillermo del Toro? Peter Jackson? Uwe Boll?

Until the blogger's strike, I'll be keeping an eye on this flick as it materializes.

Thus Begins the WGA Strike

It's official, the Writer's Guild of America is on strike. With countless television and film projects on hold for the time being, this may be a great opportunity for Americans to open a book, have conversations with one another or, hopefully, visit my site more often. After all, I have dozens of DVDs that I've yet to blog about and stories about my Halo 3 service record that need to be told!

In all seriousness though, does anyone else find it a tad ironic that the writers are on strike when creativity in Hollywood is at an all-time low? Sequels and remakes are running rampant on the big and the small screens, yet the WGA is lobbying for more money. Who else is going to mine...oh, excuse me...reimagine...the 70s, 80s and 90s to create "new" content?

Now, if nostalgia went on strike...then we'd be in trouble.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Heroes Falls Victim to WGA Strike

According to an editor's blog at TVGuide.com, this season of Heroes will be ending December 3rd due to the writer's strike that is sending shockwaves throughout Hollywood.

The episode in question was originally meant to cap the current 11-episode storyline. Instead, it is being rewritten to end the season for good unless the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) reaches an agreement soon.

I'll be the first to admit that this season of Heroes hasn't been stellar. The show is plodding at times, with overt levels of angst. It's also juggling far too many characters and storylines, and seems to be introducing even more of them each week. In the end, it's too much build-up and, from the look of things, it won't be building to much.

But I love this show. It's engaging even when it's frustrating, and it's brought some great characters to network television. And I look forward to watching them grow year after year. But a shortened season may put this show's future in jeopardy.

Coming to Terms with Spider-Man 3

I finally got around to re-watching Spider-Man 3 this weekend, partly because I’m a huge fan of the character and the first two films in the series, but mostly because I refused to believe that this film was a franchise-destroying, unmitigated mess. The DVD answers some questions as to why the filmmakers made the decisions they did, but I cannot in any way recommend it for purchase.

I had seen the film in theaters and walked away with a major sense of what-the-hell. The first two acts are pretty decent, albeit a bit contrived and sopping with coincidence. The guy made out of sand was really your uncle’s killer? Your friend falls 20 stories and suffers short-term memory loss that just so happens to eliminate his desires to kill you? Then there’s the whole space goop meteorite landing right next to the only superhero in the world at this point? With no explanation as to why that happened?

I’m not an expert at writing fiction, which is why my latest attempts at storytelling are locked away in my hard drive or scribbled onto some notes in a drawer in my bedroom. But come on. A multi-million dollar franchise and THIS is the best they could come up with? I’m just baffled.

I won’t even get into how wrong this film gets the whole “evil Spidey” thing. Note to filmmakers: if you have to make your protagonist wear his hair differently and put on FREAKIN’ EYELINER to convey a change of character, you’re not doing your job. I did, however, really like the montage of “evil Peter” strutting down the street, snapping his fingers and doing his best Tony Manero impression. He’s a geek giving us his version of what’s cool and I get that.

Unfortunately, the movie dissolves like Sandman in a hot tub immediately after this sequence. A third act with freakin’ color commentary from reporters, with distracting cameos from Sam Raimi’s kids (Sam, kids don’t say “wicked cool” at all) and the most unsatisfying ending to a major motion picture I’ve experienced in some time. Why shoehorn a character like Venom into the film if you’re only going to short-change him? And kill him, preventing his appearance in any of the inevitable sequels?

The answer to a lot of the fan griping about this movie is revealed in the director’s commentary. Turns out, studio pressure killed this movie, forcing Sam to include the black costume storyline long after a script had been written. Why? Because the fans wanted Venom. That’s great, Sony. You sold some extra action figures. But your “fan service” was a slap in the face. I don’t blame the Raimi or the cast for wanting to disassociate themselves from this series for the next installment.

On a lighter note, the Port Chester High School Marching Band totally rocks during their short scene about midway through the film. But then again, as a former PC band geek, I may be a bit biased.