Aug 212011

Professor Layton and the Last SpectreThe fourth Professor Layton adventure has been traditionally renamed (it’s now called Professor Layton And The Spectre’s Call, originally “Last Specter”) and given a November release date.

Thus far, there’s no cover provided, and the original japanese one might not be immediately usable.

Aug 152011
  • Returned to work, and survived the first day. N9 is still looking really really good (as well as N950 also).
  • Google bought Motorola’s mobile phone unit to significantly increase the stakes in the game.
  • After semi-interesting viral marketing, TabCo’s new product turns out to be a follow-up to Joojoo (with a bonus phone thrown in for good measure).
  • The weather turned nastily chilly and wet, the first glimpses of autumn to come.
  • Bought In Waves, the new album by Trivium to offset the angst from returning to work.
  • Barcelona re-acquired Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal.
  • Swansea beat Manchester United City in their premier league debut (well, hopefully).
Aug 152011

Dazed And Confused posterRichard Linklater’s Dazed And Confused is one of my very favorite films.

The tale of one busy afternoon and evening in a small town in Texas, on the last day of school in 1976 struck me on a chance encounter in Utah, and I’ve been a shameless fanboy of the director ever since.

The cast is filled with new kids in Hollywood. Some of them made it big (Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich and Rory Cochrane to name a few), while others never made it to the top again. For example, Jason London was stuck in B-movie land forever after being featured on Aerosmith’s Amazing video.

The plot is indeed just half of a day, a hazing-filled afternoon followed by random wanderings through the dusky town and finally capped in a keg-party at the Moontower. But the day is seen through the eyes of many characters. The viewpoints of jocks, stoners, bitches, cheerleaders, nerds and many others are seamlessly sewn together to a believable canvas of a vastly simpler era. The plot is matched with an effortless rendition of the language of the era – the dialogue never grates, and contains occasional gems worth using thirty-five years later.

The soundtrack is nothing short of awesome (and long enough to be featured on two separately released cds). It includes the expected (Alice Cooper, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Sweet) to the era-appropriate-but-forgotten (Peter Frampton, Foghat). However, one key band is sadly omitted – Led Zeppelin who gave the film its name (ultimately Robert Plant refused to allow the song from their first album to be included). Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion plays during the introduction, but is not featured on the

Aug 152011

Been reading the early Jo Nesbø mystery novels.

At least the first four Harry Hole novels vastly exceed the norm when it comes to nordic noir. The damaged protagonist’s progress through complex cases turns out to be far from simple. The opposition regularly outwits him, his colleagues prove deceptive, and in the end his alcoholism tears down what’s been built up.

There’s still half a dozen books in the growing series, which ought to give plenty of good moments.

But the Harry Hole-continuum is hardly the full extent of Jo Nesbøs output. He seems to be a modern version of a renaissance man. In addition to writing award-winning and impressively plotted novels, he’s also writing children’s books and playing in a band that’s gone well beyond just therapy-level.

Aug 152011

1984Saw Thespians Anonymous’ 1984, a rather minimalistic version of George Orwell’s classic dystopia.

The amateur play was indeed laid out with a small set of props, though not exactly a minimalistic one. After all, there were even clothing changes on stage.

It’s been ages since I read the book, so any omissions and changes to the plot went unnoticed. Almost, as the last line was not the original.

Aug 142011

Ticket to Ride logo

Days of Wonder’s Ticket to Ride is amongst the greatest of gateway games into the world of new german boardgames. Short, easily understandable and combining randomness and skill in decent measures.

Following the excellent Carcassonne version for iPad, it was just a matter of time before the other top-tier boardgames started popping up.

Days of Wonder’s take is not perfect by any means. The title screen is confusingly laid out, the AIs personalities cannot be selected, and there’s no gamecenter integration yet.

However, my biggest complaint with version 1.0 kept me from buying the game – Ticket to Ride originally shipped without support for pass-to-play – definitely a killer demerit when playing in a train. That omission was fixed quickly, the second release of the game supports sharing a gameboard beautifully. The game is a tad more stateful than Carcassonne, so losing sight over the gameboard can confuse (especially if fellow players take a long time to complete their turns).

Ticket to Ride ships without undo (which is OK, as long as everybody playing understands that actions are final once done is hit), and the indications on what just happened on the board could be a tad more bolder. Haven’t yet taken the plunge into the online games, the AI and local play have been sufficient thus far.

The game ships with the original gameboard (of 19th century United States), and additionals (Europe, Switzerland and US A.D. 1910) are available as in application purchases. Too bad the selection doesn’t yet include the two remaining games: Nordic Countries and the one concentrating on Märklin model railways.

Aug 142011

Lord of the Rings: Two Towers posterI was a bit afraid that Two Towers would have turned out to be the proverbial middle volume in a trilogy – a boring romp between the introduction and the climax.

Happily enough that’s not the case. Peter Jackson and his team have managed to create an improved experience for the viewers. The warg-attack (and potential loss of Aragorn) feels tacked on, but most of the alterations fit in better. Some of them have implications beyond this installment, for example Frodo and Sam do not enter Mordor until the third film.

The Two Towers interleaves three main plotlines – Frodo and Sam dragging Gollum towards the east, Merry and Pippin accompanying the slowest moving allies in the realms and the rest of the fellowship in Rohan, first exorcising Saruman’s influence and then putting up a defensive battle against the massing Uruk-Hai from Isengard. The film indeed cuts to a close in the long battle – the forces of the white wizard use technology in many forms, and almost prevail against the traditional weapons employed by the riders of Rohan.

The original cast continues to shine, and the new actors added in this part work alongside seamlessly. Highlights include Brad Dourif as Wormtongue who is Saruman’s voice in the court of Rohan, Bernard Hill as king Theoden who rises to meet the threat, and finally Miranda Otto as Eowyn, his niece forced into duty. Andy Serkis as Gollum has a lot of screentime, and his mo-cap character exceeds the acting chops of most Hollywood talent.

The scenery, full of open vistas of the grasslands and the forest of Fangorn somehow feels a bit disappointing after the variety of grounds visited in Fellowship of the Ring. But that’s hardly a complaint, just a note that not all of New Zealand masquerading as Middle-Earth has been built equal.

Effects retain their greatness. Weta has indeed animated a magnificent Gollum, and their ents or Nazgul on flying beasts are not shabby either. However, the huge hordes of Uruk-Hai are an even greater technical accomplishment. The milling humanoids do not seem like an army of animated clones – the crowd behaves believably and copy&pasting of movements is not at all apparent.

The first movie of the franchise had several deeply emotional highlights – the deaths of Boromir and Gandalf being the top elements. Sadly, there are none such in Two Towers, the battle of Helm’s Deep comes close, but ultimately the mass combat occurs between two mostly faceless armies, the casualties do not include members of the fellowship.

There’s some more included modernisms, the sorest spot being Legolas’ snowboarding down a railing on a shield while dispatching multiple orcs with his bow.

The Two Towers had been significantly improved between its theatrical release and the extended version on dvd. There were plenty of additional and expanded scenes, and even new characters introduced in the disc-version. And as with the release of Fellowship, the easter egg (as scene number n+1 on the first disc) is from MTV movie awards, and done with best possible taste.

The scene has been set for the grand finale, and the trilogy draws to a close in a film of three hours and change in Return of the King.

Aug 142011

Fried Green Tomatoes posterToday’s task is almost a duplicate of #28, with just the note that this should not be “incredibly bad”, only inappropriate.

Fried Green Tomatoesis undeniably chick-lit, but a well-written and humorous period piece with a couple of surprisingly un-Hollywood plot turns. Saw it at the tail end of the season-starting tutorial week during the exchange in Utah, after a long week the chance to see a decent movie and drink a couple of beers on the side was nothing short of biblical.