Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Running Man

How can you not like Arnold Schwarzenegger's movies? Especially during his prime in the 80's to early 90's? They're great. I don't care how stupid and over the top they are, few things are more basely entertaining than watching Arnold kill bad guys and pop off one-liners. The lines here are as cheesy as it gets, especially one that I'd put in his top five of all time.

"I'll live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I'm going to ram it into your stomach and break your god damn spine!"

I love it. He starts out simple with his answer to the bad guy's offer of a nice TV deal, but then keeps it going as best he can, and manages to squeeze three separate physical threats into a single sentence. Good stuff.

From a pure action standpoint, The Running Man is pretty weak. The fights are pretty short, and they're a little too focused on Arnold finding clever ways to quickly dispatch them instead of interesting combat. It still manages to stay afloat as a movie thanks to the extra humor throughout. In addition to Arnold's lines, there's plenty of other solid jokes coming in from the bad guy, his minions, and all the people in the audience. The science fiction story taken from a book isn't amazing but it creates an interesting setting and set of circumstances for the characters, and adds to the enjoyment. I'm a little disappointed with some of the choices made around the end, but it's still quite a fun movie, and should be seen just to witness Arnold with a beard.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Princess Mononoke

I am more convinced than I was before than Miyazaki is easily among the best animation directors of all time. By today's standards, the art is a bit simple, but it's still well done, creative, and beautifully animated. The story is an interesting fantasy tale with fully developed characters and no hard and fast lines of good and evil. People oppose each other, but none of them are outright bad, they just have conflicting goals. The art and story combine in an extremely inventive film that is, from what I've seen, his masterpiece.

What makes me say this is that is I've never seen such a good combination of whimsy and badassery. I always knew Miyazaki was capable of the former, but not the latter. He still has the humor, scenery, and feel of a pleasant fantasy, but the main characters are capable of some truly awesome and brutal action scenes. The male protagonist is amazing in battle and he knows it, but he's not arrogant, he's just sure of himself. It's a really fun movie to watch.

I watched it on DVD, and it apparently didn't have the original Japanese audio track, which is unfortunate. On the bright side, the dub wasn't bad at all. I don't really care about fame of the actors in animation, but the popular actors used for all the roles generally fit their parts and don't get in the way. I've heard the dub is generally faithful to the original script, and the dialogue avoids clumsy-sounding lines to match the mouth movements as much as possible, so it didn't really detract from the experience. Whatever language you want to watch it in, Princess Mononoke is a great movie.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Liveblog 3: The Yankees Are Terrible

For a while there, it looked like the Yankees were finally coming around and starting to win consistently. It turns out, they were just playing the Texas Rangers. Besides taking 5 of 6 from them, nothing has gone right for the team. They lost 4 out of 7 to the Mariners when they should have lost only two. They lost a series against the White Sox and are on the verge of being swept by the Mets. Meanwhile, Boston continues to pound out wins and has built a double digit lead in the standings. It really doesn't look good for the Yankees.

The team just doesn't look good, as exemplified by the two losses to the Mets. In the first game, they got a strong start from Andy Pettitte but could barely put together any offense and lost 2 to 3. Andy could easily have 4 or 5 more wins if the bullpen and offense didn't constantly let him down. In the second game, the offense showed some life, especially late, pounding the Mets for 7 runs. But they lost another starter to injury (Rasner with a broken finger) and the bullpen sucked it up, giving up 10 runs. They weren't helped by Robinson Cano's terrible defense, which he really can't afford considering his lack of hitting this year, although he hit a home run in the loss. Damon isn't hitting, and a home run was hit off his glove. After an amazing April, Rodriguez has done almost nothing in May. Abreu is doing nothing. First base is doing nothing. Giambi is doing nothing. Posada, incredibly leading the league in batting, can't take a day off because his backup is an out machine. Matsui has been decent and Jeter has been great. Brian Bruney should be the eighth inning guy instead of Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth, in 18 appearances, has only had two innings without a baserunner. Meanwhile, Bruney hasn't given up a run in over 9 innings. Roger Clemens might be ready for the majors after only two starts in the minors. He looked pretty good pitching against A hitters. I wonder if he'll really have an impact on the race or if the yankees are just throwing money at a problem that can't be fixed.

Tyler Clippard is going to try to stop the losing tonight. He's the Yankees' seventh (!!!) rookie to start a game in the team's first 42 games, which is the most for any team in about fifty years, and the fifth to make his major league debut. There's a lot of debate about how good he is. His fastball isn't great, but he has decent off-speed pitches, and has had good numbers in the minors. A lot of scouts don't think very highly of him, though. Hopefully, he can do well enough to not embarrass the team and the Yankees smack Maine around a bit, who seems to be coming down from a stellar beginning to the season.

The first time I blogged a game, it was Chase Wright's second start, and Boston chased him back to the minors with four consecutive home runs. The second time, it was Phil Hughes' second start, and he carried a no-hitter to the seventh before injuring his hamstring, and he still isn't throwing from the mound yet. Maybe blogging Clippard's first start instead of his second will break the unlucky streak. If it doesn't, I might have to just stop doing it. I'll be back tonight.

Top 1 - What's the percent chance that Joe Morgan says something stupid tonight? 60? 70? I'm just kidding. We all know it's impossible for him to talk for three hours without saying something idiotic. Wow, that didn't take long. Apparently, A-Rod is the reason why the Yankees have fallen off. He was carrying them in April, and that's the only reason their offensive deficiencies were covered up before and have been exposed now. Really? Because they haven't fallen off. Their record in May, when A-Rod has stunk, is better than it was in April, when he was amazing. Joe also said he's not bad now, just back to normal. In May, Alex has a .258/.372/.379 line with only 2 homers and 6 RBI. His average line for his career is .306/.386/.575 with about 7.33 home runs and about 21 RBI a month. Joe Morgan is a moron who does absolutely no research and has no idea what he's talking about. Damon takes a few pitches before popping out to Wright. Jeter flies out to right field. Matsui is batting third now, which makes sense, since he's a lefty between Jeter and Rodriguez and one of three Yankees that seem to know how to hit right now. He slaps a double to left field. A-Rod works the count before striking out looking. Considering how vehemently he's arguing the call, you'd think ESPN would show the pitch on the K-Zone or whatever they call it, but they go to commercial.

Bottom 1 - So here's Clippard. Let's hope this goes well. He has quite a violent delivery. Two called strikes and a nice curve ball later, and Reyes is struck out swinging. I thought the third pitch to Chavez was a strike, but it was called a ball. A few pitches later, he pops out to left. He gets Beltran to fly out, and that was a promising inning.

Top 2 - Posada leads off with a walk. Seriously, it's late May and he leads the league in batting average. I don't know what's going on. He and Jeter are sharing a pretty long hit streak coming into tonight. Abreu bloops a single, first and second. Cano hits a foul ball a few feet from a home run. He's not a .340 hitter but he's not a .240 hitter either. He grounds into a fielder's choice, runners on the corners and one out. Doug strikes out trying to do too much, and there will be no runs this inning, as Clippard is doing something he will almost never have to do, bat. He strikes out, of course.

Bottom 2 - Clip-dog takes the mound again after failing to help himself out. He strikes out Delgado looking. The umpire seems to be giving both pitchers the left corner pretty liberally. David Wright smacks a home run to right field. How does he have no power all year and then hit three home runs in two games against the Yankees? Shawn Green gets a ground-rule double off the fans. Apparently it's still cool to play that one Blur song that goes "Woo-hoo!" at ballgames. Lo Duca strikes out. I don't understand how Clippard doesn't have more velocity. He's tall, throws pretty hard, and has added some muscle. Maybe it will come in time. Easley is being intentionally walked to face the pitcher. Jon Miller says Clip-dog is "only" 24, but he's actually 22. He's nibbling too much against Maine, he should just throw strikes. The umpire doesn't call a strike I'm pretty sure he's called before. I'd rather have a way too big or way too small strike zone than an inconsistent one. He walks Maine, which he definitely shouldn't have done. Joe Morgan continues to prove he's an idiot. First he quotes Mike Tyson to make a point about how after the home run, we've seen holes in Clippard's pitching. He claims Clippard pitches worse in the stretch than in the windup. I'd disagree based on just what we've seen here. Two hits from the windup, just a walk from the stretch, not counting the intentional one. Reyes pops out to end the inning, so the damage is minimized, but Clippard threw about 30 pitches that inning. The bullpen had to pitch the whole game yesterday because of Rasner's injury, so the Yankees need a bit of distance from Clip-dog, and he's not giving them that with innings like this.

Top 3 - Damon grounds out. Morgan says the lineup seems easier to go through without Sheffield in it. I'm sure that's the reason they're near the top of the league in runs per game since he's been gone. Jeter works the count full and then rips a double to left field. Maine has thrown a lot of pitches too. This could end up being a bullpen slugfest, which doesn't favor the Yankees. Beltran comes very close to making a great play to rob Matsui, but he does manage to save a run since Jeter held up in case he caught it. Runners on 2nd and 3rd. Only in baseball can something happen like Jeter being on second when a double is hit and not score. Rodriguez strikes out. How can a player be this far above and below his career averages in back to back months? Breathtaking regression to the mean. If you just look at the totals, he's having a pretty good year. This doesn't look like the Yankees' night. With one out, they hit two doubles and don't score in the inning.

Bottom 3 - At first Clippard was only throwing strikes, but now he's diggin' him some balls. Chavez works another walk. Beltran squibs a grounder for a fielder's choice. Delgado grounds into an unorthodox double play and the inning is over relatively quickly despite the walk.

Top 4 - Morgan made the wild claim last inning, I believe, that Beltran has like, the highest stolen base success rate ever, or something. I went and checked it, and it's actually true, except he doesn't have enough at bats yet to qualify in a lot of lists. Interesting. Abreu works a walk somehow. The Yankees use a hit and run to stay out of a double play as Cano grounds out. You see how Maine's pitching to Mientkiewicz even though the pitcher is up next and first base is open? It's because Mientkiewicz is not a good hitter. I don't care how bad the pitcher is, Damion Easley has no business being intentionally walked. Mientkiewicz ends up walking anyway, hilariously, and Clippard is up. He successfully bunts the runners over, even if that might not really be success since it decreases the average number of runs scored in that situation to the end of the inning. It worked out in the end, as Damon fists a double in front of the outfielders and two runs score. Two more score on a home run by Derek Jeter. What's this feeling? Is it... joy? Hope? I won't embrace it yet. Matsui a drives a long fly out to left and the inning is over, Yankees leading 4-1.

Bottom 4 - If Clip-dog can give two more innings without much incident I'll be psyched. He gets revenge on Wright, striking him out on three pitches with some help from the umps. He comes back from 2-0 on Green to get him to ground it to Cano. Lo Duca hits a single up the middle. Is it a good sign that the three hits off Clippard have gone for fewer bases each time? Miller calls a bad curve a hanging slider despite Clippard not having a slider in his repertoire. Is it really that hard to check before the game to make sure you know what a pitcher does and doesn't throw? At least the starters. A quick inning has gotten longer with a full count on Easley. He strikes out swinging on a nice curve, and that's the inning. Long game, only 4 innings in about 100 minutes.

Top 5 - As pointed out by Peter Abraham from LoHud, A-Rod's high leg kick is back, and it seems to be there whenever he's not hitting well. He pops out. Posada absolutely CRUSHES a home run, and both he and Jeter have used the long ball to help extend their hit streaks to 15 games. Abreu flies out to center. Reyes dives to stop a grounder from Cano and just misses throwing him out at first. Why did Cano just try to steal? He doesn't run fast. Inning over.

Bottom 5 - So, there's this drug for older guys with prostate problems who have trouble urinating. It's called Flomax. I think that's awesome. Maine is out, and grounded out for by David Newhan. Reyes copycat-grounds out to the same place. Morgan is going on about how Clip-dog falls off to different sides of the mound based on the pitch he throws, but I don't think it's really a problem. Even if hitters are capable of seeing where he's going and then getting a read on where the pitch is, they can't guess what it is because he has a fastball and an offspeed pitch in both directions. Chavez makes the third ground out to Cano of the inning.

Top 6 - Schoeneweis is in, which could mean more runs. Mientkiewicz is up, and if I see a pinch hitter up after him I'll be mad, because Clip should be allowed to try the 6th. Eye chart strikes out. Fortunately, he's batting, so he'll get a shot. They're saying he helped his own cause by bunting in the third, which is only true if you assume he would have hit into a double play otherwise, because four runs would have scored on a double and homer whether or not those runners advanced. He's somehow working the count, and miraculously hits a freaking double in the gap. Amazing. Imagine if he did that instead of bunting. Of course, Maine is much better than Schoeneweis. Damon strikes out as well. Jeter is being walked to face Matsui, who flies out to left. He's not hitting lefties like he used to this year.

Bottom 6 - Here's Clippard against the heart of the Mets' batting order for the third time. He'll probably be taken out if he allows a base runner. Beltran hits a deep fly out to Damon in left center. Delgado strikes out looking on five pitches. What I find funny about Gameday is that they don't acknowledge mistakes by umpires. It doesn't matter how outside the zone a pitch actually was, they'll pretend he was right and draw the location like it was a strike. There wasn't a real mistake here, they just drew a swinging strike near the middle of the zone when it was clearly half a foot above it from the video. Wright pops out. Hell, let Clip start the seventh against the bottom of the order. Who cares, they won't do much.

Top 7 - Morgan tried to make excuses near the beginning of the game that Clippard was getting outs because the Mets haven't seen him before, but he's gotten better as the game's gone on. Rodriguez hits a laser to left for a homer, and maybe he's getting hot again. Posada clubs an out to Beltran. Abreu doubles to right, and maybe Clippard's spot will come up and he'll be pinch hit for. Who am I kidding? He's not starting the seventh either way. Torre allow a rookie to throw over 100 pitches? Never. There's a pitching change for Cano. A lot of people seem to think Clemens' ability to leave the team between starts is actually written in his contract, but it isn't. It's just an agreement with the team. Cano grounds out. Mientkiewicz is hit with the ball, but the umpire is saying he didn't attempt to get out of the way. It looked to me like he just turned the wrong way to avoid it. The at-bat continues. How come they never call that for Bonds and Biggio who wear all that padding and just stand there waiting to get hit? Doug pops out to end the inning.

Bottom 7 - Amazingly, Clippard gets to start the seventh. Wait, that's Scott Proctor on the mound. Never mind. Morgan thinks it's great he was taken out after pitching well because it builds his confidence. Wouldn't being given a chance to pitch the seventh build more confidence? Either he finishes it and gets even more confidence, or he gets hit and taken out, but still is in line for the win and knows Torre let him give it a shot, building maybe less confidence but still more than just pitching six. Torre and Morgan are the twin Joes of baseball idiocy. A Lo Duca single is sandwiched by two pop outs to Rodriguez. Pinch hitter Gotay hits a double, runners on second and third. Reyes strikes out looking, inning over. Rivera should pitch the ninth because he hasn't gone in a while but I wonder who gets the eighth.

Top 8 - Aaron Heilman has the goofiest picture I've ever seen on Gameday. Here, look at it:

What the hell, right? He doesn't normally look like that (His picture has been changed to a less goofy one since I posted this). Scott Proctor strikes out, leading me to believe he'll pitch the eighth. Awesome. Which is worse, a blister or tearing the skin on your finger? Apparently blisters are a bigger long term problem, at least for Josh Beckett's pitching hand. Damon pops out to the catcher. Jeter skies it to Beltran to end the inning.

Bottom 8 - Another inning for Scott. I hope he relaxed his arm good during that suspension, because he's gonna be using it a lot soon. I'll be surprised if he doesn't log more than three innings against the Red Sox in the next series. Chavez grounds out. Beltran hits a single in front of Abreu. I'd just like to take a moment to remark on how amazing the faces are in Half-Life 2. They look supremely realistic and manage to completely avoid the Uncanny Vally. Good stuff. Delgado advances the runner while grounding out. Wright strikes out to end the inning.

Top 9 - Until the Yankees stop winning blowouts and stop losing close games, they'll never live up to their Pythagorean Record. Matsui squeaks a single past Wright. They just showed a hilarious video of a grounds crewman unrolling some turf or something and there was a kitten inside that popped out. It was pretty hilarious. A-Rod pops out. Posada does so as well. Abreu works a walk. Many players are showing signs they may be awakening from their slumber. Cano grounds out, inning over.

Bottom 9 - Mariano in the ninth. He only has three saves this year, which is insane. Few opportunities + ineffectiveness = not many saves. As long as he does his job I don't care how many saves he gets, I just feel bad for unfortunate fantasy owners. Shawn Green grounds out to Cano. Lo Duca flies out to defensive replacement Melky Cabrera in center. The last inning of a game that isn't close is always boring, and the last hitter always seems to not want to give up. Just let it go, dude. Or hit a home run, whatever. Julio Franco pinch hitting for the pitcher. Did you know he's like, really old? Crazy, huh? What's interesting about him is that he's only in his nineteenth year of service despite being 48. He joined the bigs late but he still managed a pretty long stay through crazy conditioning. He strikes out to put this one to rest.

Wrap-up - Woo, game over. In the three games I blogged, the Yankees are 2-1 with a Grade 1 hamstring pull. Because of the bad outcomes of the first two games, I thought I might be cursing the team, even though that's ridiculous. From tonight's win, we know it isn't blogging games, we know it isn't blogging Yankee games, and we know it isn't blogging Yankee games started by rookies. It could still be a curse of blogging Yankee games started by rookies in their second career start, so I'll lay off doing that. Also, I wonder if calling the Yankees terrible in the post title helped. I'll try to continue the trend by doing that next time.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Stranger than Fiction

Stranger than Fiction was a bit of a surprise for me. I thought I'd have some laughs, but I didn't think I'd like it as much as I did. It's definitely not the standard Will Ferrell comedy. He does some of his familiar stuff, but it's not what you usually see, and in addition to being funny, he shows some signs that he really does have some talent as an actor. The movie succeeds by being completely likable. The whole cast is pretty good, I like everyone that I recognized. The comedy is a good mix of smart dialogue and bizarre situations, and of course Ferrell's reactions to the voices he's hearing in his head.

The plot is interesting if not explained too well. The way it works and comes together is clever and unique. You never really are told exactly how this is all working, but it's okay to just let it happen. It's not about how Ferrell is a character in someone else's book, it's about what happens to his life because of it. It's just a cute movie that almost anyone could probably enjoy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Sam and Max

Telltale Games recently finished up the first season of Sam and Max with the sixth chapter.

Bright Side of the Moon

Telltale wraps up the first season of Sam and Max in fine order. It keeps the trend going with funny writing and simple, clever puzzles. The new locations are the most interesting we've seen, and while it lacks in new characters, it does a good job of bringing back a lot of the better ones. The story is more interesting than previous chapters, which all seemed self-contained and unrelated. Bright Side of the Moon ties everything together and gives it a suitable climax. The humor is still there, and has the best self-referential stuff in the series. It's over quickly, as always, but it's fun to play through, figuring out how to use your new powers to keep moving forward.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Rear Window

The last movie I'll watch for my film class that I haven't seen before. Rear Window is really interesting because of how it's different from most movies. It could easily be made into a play. The entire movie takes place in Jimmy Stewart's apartment and the square behind it where he can look into the lives of his neighbors through their windows. Except for a few shots, the entire thing is filmed from inside one room. The focus is on acting and building tension. Because of the perspective, it's made more believable. Only a few people get significant actual screen time inside the apartment, a lot of the characters are only seen and heard from a distance. The cast works very well together and has good chemistry. Stewart is as excellent as he always is, he can handle any dialog and is a really likable guy.

The real crux of the story is the murder mystery. Stewart and his friends become increasingly suspicious of an insurance salesman, who they think murdered his wife. There is a balance going on as they keep discovering new things that sometimes support or refute the theory. They begin taking greater and greater risks to uncover the truth, and Alfred Hitchcock excels at creating tension while keeping the story within the realm of possibility. When you finally learn the truth, it's an odd moment, because a lot of the details are left unexplained. It's a good movie though, and it's gotten me interested in checking out some more work by Hitchcock.

What's interesting is we saw this not long after Disturbia came out. It's not exactly a remake, but it's basically the exact same idea. I haven't seen it, but it might be interesting to see how they handle it. I'm not sure how I feel about Shia LaBeouf. I like him, I guess, but I've yet to see him prove he can do something besides be goofy and actually act. He was decent in Holes, but it wasn't really that challenging a part, and he was just the sidekick in Constantine. Looking at his filmography on IMDb, I've actually seen him in a lot of movies. We'll see where his career goes from here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

2001: A Space Odyssey

I watched this for the purpose of writing a paper on Stanley Kubrick as an auteur, so I feel like I've already written a lot about it. 2001 is a strange and unique film that had a huge influcence on the science-fiction genre. Its most famous scenes and uses of music have been parodied countless times, and it was interesting to finally see the movie that had this much of a cultural impact. It's broken up into multiple segments that all revolve around these strange black objects that keep showing up. The plot and dialog are very minimalistic and a great deal is left unexplained.

The camera-work is restrained and very believable, and along with the script which tends towards idle chatter instead of exposition, it often seems like a documentary. The only real antagonist in the movie, a computer that has gone haywire, is an interesting villain and provides many creepy moments. There is a sense of dread that builds, and it is assisted by haunting and sometimes overbearing music. There isn't a whole lot of acting going on, the movie is all about the visuals and atmosphere, not actor performances. It's a film that probably everyone should see at least once.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Spider-Man 3

Hmm. Spider-Man is my favorite super hero. I used to read some of his comics as a kid. I didn't know what was really going on, since the big story lines were spread over four books every month and I only read one. I still really liked the character though. Spider-Man is easily related to by a lot of people, because he isn't perfect. He starts out as a nerdy kid in high school. He has to deal with normal problems while fighting super villains who want to kill him. His entire career as a crime-fighter started when he made a mistake that led to his uncle's death. He's interesting because of his flaws as much as his ability to do good.

I loved both of the first two movies. I thought they were an excellent combination of story, character, humor, creative action scenes, and awesome special effects. My expectations were high for the third movie, but some things about the previews tempered them a bit. Three villains? The first two movies both did very well with just one. They were interesting because they weren't just pure evil, they had connections with Peter Parker and sympathetic in some ways. I'm fine with Harry succumbing and turning into the second coming of the Green Goblin, even if it seemed a bit soon with so many villains unexplored of yet. Sandman is pretty cool I guess, though I never saw him in a comic. But making him Uncle Ben's killer? What the hell? Part of what made Ben's death interesting and so important to Peter was that it was just a normal criminal that killed him who Peter could have stopped. That shame is what causes Peter to be who he is. The movie handles this situation somewhat satisfactorily, but it's still irritating. Seeing the black suit in the trailer, my thoughts immediately went to Venom. Obviously, you can't bring the symbiote to earth without Venom appearing eventually. My question was whether he would figure prominently in the story, or, as I hoped, merely be all set up for a sequel. It became clear though, eventually, that he would be fully featured as a third enemy. Why bring him into it, when Venom is so popular among fans that he could easily hold an entire movie, and you've already made preparations for Lizard to appear eventually?

It seemed overloaded, and maybe it was. Sam Raimi still does a pretty admirable job of handling all the threads, even if the plot ends up being a bit convoluted because of it. What irked me more than the excess of bad guys was the continued romantic problems Peter faces with Mary Jane. I thought the situation was pretty much set. They were together, she knew who he was, and it seemed all right. Whenever I read the comics, she was always there as a strong character supporting Peter when he struggled. She had her own things to do, but they had a strong relationship and lived happily. After I stopped reading they split up for a while, but since had made up and are happy again. Why over-complicate things when you already have this much stuff to juggle? It's fine for her to have something to do, but more friction is not what the movie needed.

Peter with the black suit was interesting. He gradually becomes more and more of a dick during the movie, but it was played more for laughs than actual story tension. It corrected itself when it needed too, but I thought that pretty much the entire thing could have been better if it was treated more seriously. It's funny to see Tobey Maguire dance like an idiot who thinks he's cool, but is it actually good for the film? No. That aspect of the movie just didn't work for me. Fortunately, the ship is righted in time for the final act. I won't say what happens, but in addition to being pretty damn fun to watch, the final conflict brings together all of the separate elements and concludes almost all of them in a way that eased most of my misgivings and made me appreciate the movie a lot more than I might have otherwise. I guess all's well that ends well. I liked Spider-Man 3, not as much as the first two films, but enough to recommend it to anyone who has any interest. We know there will be more Spider-Man movies, but we don't know who will be directing and starring in them. If Sam, Tobey, and Kirstin come back for the fourth, I'd be happy, as long as they reign it back in a bit. If they don't, then I'll come away from the first trilogy satisfied with what took place and how they handled it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne

Maybe it's because it was already four years old somehow when I played it, but Max Payne 2 didn't impress me as much as the first game. The core gameplay is basically the same, and there's nothing wrong with it, it's just not as fresh. Bullet Time works a little differently, as Max moves at almost the same speed as he does normally while everyone else is stuck in slow motion, and it's an interesting dynamic. It almost changes Bullet Time to more of a Win Button than a helpful assist, but I didn't overuse it because I find shoot-dodging to be more entertaining. The nightmare levels are back, and they're less annoying while still being interesting breaks in the action. It's also a short game. The first wasn't long either, but I beat this is just a few sessions, none of which were particularly lengthy. It doesn't feel like anything was missing or too rushed, it just seemed like maybe it was a little lacking in value.

The graphics are significantly improved for the sequel. Max's face looked silly in the first game, with a digitized face lazily slapped onto a character model. Max Payne 2 actually has facial models, and everything looks much more natural. The comic book style cut-scenes are back, and they're still pretty cool. The dialog is the same stilted, over-dramatic noir stuff, but it's entertaining anyway. The story is all right, but it has a problem with tone. The actual plot is fairly dark in depressing, but there's an awful lot of jokey lines between guards and a stupidly over-the-top whacky mob boss that doesn't really fit. It's a pretty good game, but it holds itself back from greatness.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Double Indemnity

Another movie from class. Double Indemity is a straight-up noir about an insurance salesman who gets involved with a murderous woman, and it's a perfect encapsulation of the genre. Darkly lit and stylistically filmed, it's entertaining to look at and listen to. The solid cast properly delivers the dialog, which is filled with a good blend of cleverness, humor, and noir's often silly over-seriousness and attempts at poetry. The plot seems slightly unbelievable as it gets going, but it recovers when later events shed new light on what happened. It's really interesting to watch them build up the plan and then pick it apart with a scalpel later on, really smart writing.

Double Indemnity excels at building up tension. The murder is only the first part of the story, the criminals have to deal with the aftermath and try to make it without getting caught. It's actually more interesting than the crime itself, watching the protagonist slowly get more and more desperate as he tries to escape his mistakes. It's a very interesting character, he's done something very wrong, but he's still sympathetic in a way. The female lead is also interesting, as you learn more about her past and get more and more suspicious. The actual good guy isn't the lead, and it's cool to see the story from a different perspective. Wilder really knew what he was doing with the cast and script. A great movie and example of the genre.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Liveblog 2: It's Been Ugly

Since the loss to Boston I blogged, the Yankees lost five more of their next six games. That's eight out of nine, and they're looking pretty horrible. The starters are still not going deep. That's overworking the bullpen, and along with Joe Torre's awful management, that's kept them ineffective. Even the offense has slacked off of late. Alex Rodriguez cooled off before he could set the April home run record (he only tied it), and Bobby Abreu isn't swinging well, and now he's compounding the problem by trying to bunt too much. Don't bunt Bobby, it's bad. Statistically, it almost always hurts your team, and the only time it's ever acceptable is to get a runner over to third with one out and you only need one run. Otherwise, just try for a hit, you'll get out of your funk sooner.

Phil Hughes, the Yankees' young blue chip prospect, is making his second big league start tonight. He wasn't great his first time out, giving up two runs in the first and another two before getting out of the fifth. But in between, he showed off his stuff and was dominating for three innings, and he totaled five strikeouts, so he gave me a lot of hope for the future. The Hardball Times had an article today that has me a little worried about his mechanics, but it could have just been an off night. Hopefully tonight he can keep Texas' lineup at bay and get things going in the right direction for his team.

Top 1 - Bobby Murcer is back in the booth announcing, which is good to see. Michael Kay isn't there either, so very enjoyable commentary situation. Kameron Loe is starting for the Rangers, and his name looks like it belongs to a Jedi or something. Abreu is batting first. And he actually squared to bunt with no one on base. Who replaced Bobby with an evil doppelganger? Questionable called second strike. He takes a couple balls before chopping out. Jeter is up, and he's had a hit in 56 of his last 58 games. What does this mean? Nothing. After DiMaggio's streak was broken, he had another right after that lasted into the teens. He grounds out. Giambi draws a walk, as he is wont to do. Rodriguez grounds out, and the inning is over.

Bottom 1 - And here's Phil. He leads off Kenny Lofton, playing for his 38th team, with two called strikes, but then walks him on the next four pitches. Michael Young takes a couple strikes before grounding into a double play. He strikes out Teixeira on three straight nice change ups, and Mark had no idea what was going on.

Top 2 - Matsui leads off the inning. Apparently the only reason a hitter slumps is from "pulling off" the ball, because that's how they're explaining why no one is hitting. Matsui flies out while the cameras are watching the dugout. Posada gets the game's first hit with a single the other way. Cano lines another single and Brad Wilkerson misses the ball, letting the runners advance to second and third. Melky grounds to the right side to drive in Posada, 1-0 Yanks. Loe is nibbling against Doug Mientkiewicz, who he's apparently mistaken for a good hitter, and the count is full. Minty Fresh grounds to Young, who bobbles it, and Cano scores the second run. A lot of people think Young is underrated, because he's a very good hitter that doesn't get a ton of attention, but he's actually a bit overrated because his putrid defense brings him way down. Abreu flies to left to end the inning.

Bottom 2 - Hughes faces his first major league batter with a lead, and strikes him out with his sick curve. Ken Singleton doesn't know what he's taking about. He called a change up a fastball and a curve a change up. Hughes walks Blalock, and he's looking a little wild, bouncing some curves and missing some spots. Ian Kinsler, who is apparently the Rangers' best hitter so far, grounds into another double play on the first pitch, inning over. 6 batters, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts, 2 GIDP, 24 pitches.

Top 3 - Jeter lines the first pitch up the middle for a single, 57 in 59. After getting Giambi 0-2, Loe hits him. That's gotta annoy a pitcher. A-Rod grounds a single through the left, and the bases are loaded with no outs. Matsui grounds into a fielder's choice, but avoids the double play and gets the run in. Acceptable. Posada smacks his second hit, somehow for a double, and the Yankees lead 4-0. In the next few years, Posada could build a serious argument for Hall of Fame consideration. He's always been one of the best hitting catchers in the league, and last year he made strides forward defensively. If he can maintain this level for some time without the usual dramatic drop-off a lot of catchers face in their mid-thirties, he deserves at least a good look. Cano lines a double just inside the line and drives in two more runs. Cabrera strikes out, bringing up Mientkiewicz. This is the second time Loe went 3-1 against him, and I don't know why. A couple pitches later Doug grounds out to first, and the inning's over.

Bottom 3 - With a good lead, hopefully Hughes can just work on his pitches and get outs without worrying too much about the score, and hopefully Joe lets him stay out there for a bit. He makes Wilkerson look like a fool staring at a third pitch strike fastball right down the plate. I like that confidence. Cruz (Cruz?) hits it back at him for the second out. Laird (Laird?) grounds out to Jeter on the first pitch, and I am ecstatic about this start.

Top 4 - Notice how Loe is still pitching? It's because his manager is aware that he might as well just get innings out of his ineffective starter while the other guy is dealing, so he doesn't waste his bullpen. Joe Torre is terrible. Abreu singles to right. What is Abreu doing stealing (actually, getting caught stealing) with a six run lead? He's a good hitter playing small ball, and it makes no sense. Jeter strikes out. Giambi flies out to deep left center, and that's it.

Bottom 4 - Second time through the lineup. Two quick strikes to Lofton, but Hughes waits until the fifth pitch to get him to ground out. One pitch later, there's another ground out. Teixeira makes the third ground out of the inning. No ball has left the infield.

Top 5 - Rodriguez doubles down the left field line. He's 1st in slugging and 5th in average, but only 9th in OBP. No one is walking him, which I find odd. Matsui hits one that eats up Teixeira and it's 7-0. Posada hits the third double in the inning, and Loe's gotta be coming out soon. And here it is, Ron Mahay's coming in. Cano just misses a home run on the second pitch. He settles for a dunked single into center, and the Yanks have scored nine runs. Cabrera walks, and I wonder to myself what it must be like to be a fan of a team at their stadium while they're getting destroyed. I was at a Yankee game once in Toronto while they were ripping the Blue Jays' bullpen apart, but I was in a section with all Yankee fans so it was kind of like a home game without triumphant music. Mientkiewicz just misses a homer himself, but has to settle for a pop out. Abreu grounds into a double play to end the inning.

Bottom 5 - There's the sixth straight ground out by the Rangers. I can't tell if Hughes is magnificent or they're terrible. Blalock makes the first fly out of the game to left field. He runs Kinsler to 3-0 on what I'm calling at least the third time tonight Hughes has been squeezed. He throws a few more pitches before walking him, and I wish he had just walked him on the fourth, since he's on a strict pitch count. He's thrown ten balls this inning, and I wonder if he's been babied too much on pitch counts in the minors. Wilkerson strikes out, and I am in love with Phil Hughes. K:BB isn't great but he's still been economical and the Rangers can't figure him out.

Top 6 - Jeter leads off with a walk. Giambi flies out again. This is the first time I've seen the Gameday for a Yankee game include the pitch speeds and breaks and stuff. I don't get it. A-Rod draws the second walk of the inning. I don't know if I've ever seen a hitter ground into a double play situation but beat it out more frequently than Matsui. He just did it again. Posada draws the third walk of the inning. If I understand the pattern here, Cano will get out in some fashion. And he does, with a strikeout, making it a fancier pattern. Mahay walked three right handers and retired three left handers.

Bottom 6 - Cruz flies out to Cabrera in center. Laird strikes out. I've never seen a pitcher do this well with such a small strike zone. Simply dominating. Lofton strikes out, the sixth by Hughes in the game. The Phil Hughes era is here and it's magnificent.

Top 7 - Melky harmlessly grounds out. Mientkiewicz smacks the team's 12th hit of the game. Abreu strikes out, and he doesn't look great lately. Cruz is wall shy and misses catching a foul ball from Jeter, who strikes out to end the inning.

Bottom 7 - I don't understand how those two pitches are balls, but okay. Young skies it to center for the first out. And this is awful. Hughes tweaked his hamstring on an 0-2 pitch to Teixieira and he gets taken out of the game. He had a no-hitter going. I was concerned he was going to be pulled for pitch-count reasons, but this is 100 times worse. Not only is the dream over, but he could end up with a real injury too. Now that it's over, I can vent about annoying media people. There's a superstition that talking about a pitcher throwing a no-hitter or a perfect game can jinx them, and be the cause if it gets broken up. This is silly of course, what we say has no effect on what happens on the field. But still, it's more fun and adds excitement to avoid mentioning it while we all know it's happening, but news sources can't help themselves but shout about it from the rooftops. The Yankees announcers tonight mentioned it every five minutes from about the fourth inning on, it was a headline on mlb.com, and Baseball Tonight talked about it freely. Do these people not know about this rule? Just play along. Mike Myers comes to pitch in relief and finishes the inning with two outs.

Top 8 - The tension is pretty much gone, this has gone from a flirt with destiny to a normal blowout. The Yankees as a team could still no-hit the Rangers, which would be the second time it happened to them this season (Mark Buehrle did it while facing the minimum with only one walk). This might partially explain why only two Rangers have batting averages over .250. If they did it, it would be impressive, but not completely amazing. Giambi flies out for the third time. It seems like he's just missing. A-Rod gets a hit, and I am unimpressed, as this Rangers pitching staff seems very keen on giving up hits. Interesting, tonight the Yankees have 13 hits, 9 runs, no homers. Matsui flies out. Posada gets out for the first time, inning over. I want my Phil Hughes back.

Bottom 8 - Blalock breaks up the no-hitter. Apparently, the trainer was saying Hughes' hamstring "popped". What if this injury is enough to change his delivery, or make him less effective as a pitcher? We could be getting robbed of something amazing here. Devastating. Myers loses the shutout on the next hitter, 9-1. Hairston grounds into a nicely done double play. This was supposed to be a momentum changing, season-saving win, and now Phil Hughes is never going to pitch again. I'm going to die. Another ground out, inning over.

Top 9 - What's the point of finishing this game? Cancel the season. The Yankees are doomed forever. Cano doubles. Good job, Robinson. Cabrera moves him to third. Good job, Melky. Can any of you guys magically make Phil's hamstring problem go away? I would just love it. Blalock makes his team's third error and another run scores. Abreu lines out to short. Jeter walks. That seemed like it took a while. I'm not paying too much attention, I'm trying to find any tangible info on Phil's condition. Mientkiewicz and Jeter move up on a wild pitch to Josh Phelps, pinch hitting our DH for some reason. He strikes out.

Bottom 9 - A bit of a silver lining on the injury, if we can assume he's out for a bit (or maybe longer than a bit) and can come back the same pitcher, it will mean he'll have more innings left in him for the rest of the season, so we don't have to worry too much about overusing him. Of course, as long as he's injured, he can't actually pitch in that time to stay on the right track, so I don't really know what's going to happen. I still feel awful. Vizcaino is pitching, because Torre doesn't know what he's doing. He gets someone out. I just want this to be over so we can find out the details. There's a second out. Ken Singleton calls it a break out night for the Yankees. Yeah, the offense was great. But we potentially just had a very bad injury. Shut up, man. There's your third out, game over. Hughes gets his first win and first hamstring problem. But it's like the Yankees' 49th this year.

Wrap-up - Kim Jones asks Posada how badly they needed a game like this. I know what she meant, but they needed this specific game like they needed a second asshole. Still waiting for real information. He's going on the DL, no question, so what I'm wondering is who's pitching in his stead. Matt DeSalvo has been great in AAA this year, so he seems likely. I hope they don't go back to Rasner, he's fine if you have four good pitchers, but at this point the Yankees have maybe two.

Hughes is the Chevy Player of the Game. I'm surprised they even asked the fans to vote on it. Boston lost late after Papelbon blew his first save of the year, so that's pretty good news. Thank God today's the first of May, or else his amazing April streak would be over. The Postgame show is wasting my time with a recap instead of getting to the injury. I just watched the game, you dicks, tell me what I want to know. I will kill time by writing some more. Andy Pettitte starts tomorrow, that should be a win. Mike Mussina comes back the day after, I hope he can be effective. Who knows when Pavano is coming back. I felt reasonably okay with a rotation of Wang, Petttitte, Mussina, Hughes, Igawa, but now that Hughes is a big question mark. I wonder who will make it back first, Hughes or Pavano. I'm going to go with Pavano, which depresses me.

Oh my God, YES. Stop stalling. Stop talking about the game. Find someone who knows something, and ask them how serious the problem looks. I'd like to know so I can move on and do something else tonight.

I can't believe how great he looked tonight before he left. It was his second start against big league hitters. He's not even 21 yet. He cut through the Rangers like a knife through butter. Did they not scout him at all? The Blue Jays hit him, and he faced their AAA team in his last game, so they probably had some good info. They had to know something about him, right? They were swinging a lot at the first pitch and when they were ahead in the count, and they kind of resembled a minor league lineup.

Twenty minutes into the Postgame and still nothing. Okay. Apparently, it's not horrible. Joe says Hughes said something similar happened in high school. He's going to be out, but I feel pretty sure he'll be back and dealing in time. I'm gonna do something else now before I develop an ulcer.