15 April 2012

The Hunger Games... Maybe I'm Just Too Cynical

I guess I couldn't ignore this for long...
I saw The Hunger Games the other day... Where to begin.

I think may have mentioned at least once that when it comes to majority opinion, I tend to get very skeptical. When people were raging over the books, I backed off without hesitation. Twilight fooled me once and I was not going to fall for another trap. This series is more than likely far better written but I was not ready to examine the bandwagon. An overreaction? Perhaps. It didn't help that one of my friends obsessed about it, because I'm not always as impressed by the stuff she loves. I try her cup of tea, enjoy it mildly, and return to mine.

That aside, I heard and read everyone's outcry on the whole issue of a "lack of racial diversity" and "twenty black people in the background doesn't count as diversity." Because I have not read the books, I have no comment. While watching the film, I saw nothing of that nature to complain about.

Now, as a "typical movie fan", The Hunger Games was rather entertaining. The pacing and build-up was nearly flawless, the set was fantastic, the second half was more suspenseful than a horror film, and the costumes were great. The shaky camera was very annoying in the beginning and during some of the action scenes, but it did help to hide some of the gruesome murders.

The best part of the film was the commentary on the reality TV-crazed American media. Everyone is obsessed with sitting back at home and watching the drama, death, and violence the kids face during the game of survival. The well-off citizens in the Capital looked like overdressed candy wrappers in an elegant, futuristic store shelf. Despite how ludicrous appearances were, this aesthetic was surprisingly... beautiful. This was far more appropriate and tasteful than Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

The world of Panem is very easy to understand, even if you never touched the books. For all of these, I was very pleased. Honestly, I was looking forward to the later films just to see this where this political dystopian universe will go.

But I walked out of this film pissed off.

I'm sorry, who are all of you again?

Despite the easy-to-follow plot, most of the characters fell dangerously behind. Other than Katniss, Gale, Rue, and Peeta, I cannot remember anyone else's names. I'm not sure if it's the actors' faults for poorly enunciating (for a while, I heard Cinna being called "Sinner") or the writers' faults for not clearly defining who was who. We never get to know any of the other kids fighting in the games, except Rue and the generically aggressive blonde jerk. The former gets fleshed out too late, but still done well enough; the latter was essentially pointless.

Out of the entire crew, only Gale and Katniss made great first impressions through their believable dialogue. But only Peeta stood out as the most likable character despite his quiet introduction. Everyone else was forgettable, especially Haymitch, who only served as the stereotypically incompetent mentor. Even Naruto pulled off that trope better... twice.

Above all else, I absolutely despised every single moment Katniss and Peeta exchanged words. Katniss treated him like crap in the beginning for no clear reason. I get that she's not exactly into having a relationship with anyone, but here she looked more rude than self-confident or being a "survivor." Even when everyone tells the two to pretend to have a "star-crossed romance" for the sake of entertainment for the Hunger Games, I could not take them seriously. Their "romance" was almost at Twilight levels of aggravating and sugary mush. Though I was glad Katniss went out in the midst of danger despite Peeta's whiny protests like most guys are portrayed in romances, I struggled to contain my frustration.

*sigh* I'm just so cynical and nitpicky.

I'll pass.
Look, this movie is worth checking out. Seriously. After the lack of good movies after the last Harry Potter film and Chronicle, this is worth two and a half hours of your life. All my complaints aside, this was a well-made movie that's fun, easy to follow, suspenseful, and emotional. Don't take my mixed feelings to heart.

There's only one thing I know for certain. I am still not convinced to read the books.

3.3 out of 5

06 April 2012

BEWARE! The Hate of Sonic 06's Soundtrack Is Over 9,000!!

Sonic 06, wake the **** up. You are NOT Final Fantasy.
Very well. I may not have played Sonic 06 since I currently don't own a XBox or a PS3, but I can still take this thing on. I watched at least four walkthroughs of this game and I listened to this soundtrack for months. I think I have enough room to toss my few cents into the opinion cup.

So here it goes.

This soundtrack is considered to be one of the best of this franchise.

... ... ... ... ...


Believe me, it gets much worse from here.

I apologize if any Sonic fan is reading this and loves this soundtrack. I am shooting bullets at this cocky piece of junk, not you. Please don't take this as a personal insult.

As for the rest of you... I'm sorry if my rage overwhelms anyone.

1:43 - What is THIS?! Is someone getting MARRIED?! *flashback to game*

I'm serious... what the fudge was Sonic Team AND Sega on in 2006?! Why did they release a half-assed game with sloppy gameplay, inconsistent graphics, and a generally insultingly overrated and unexciting soundtrack?! Most of all, why has no one apologized for this train wreck?!

*storms away from computer, sits on bed, and meditates for seven years*

Okay, I'm cool... ish.

Pointless 28 second song is pointless!

I know making claims of what defines a "Sonic soundtrack" is shallow and stupid, but hear me out. Music in pretty much every Sonic game released was energetic, upbeat, or catchy. Even in the SEGA Genesis days, restricted by electronic bleeps, the music was still memorable! So what happened here? Electronic and rock still exist, except watered-down and lifeless. Other than an orchestra, keyboards, the occasional guitar, and woodwinds, no other instrument exists. They replaced actual drums with machines repeating the same damn noise over and over again. This is not fun, musical perfection, this is repetitive laziness. "Wave Ocean" is the prime example of such sloth!

*sigh* This ain't the Gerudo desert of the Zelda series... wake me up when it...

This soundtrack is just as long as Shadow the Hedgehog's with over 90 songs, and YET Shadow's music was far more dynamic and energizing. Sure, not everyone can tolerate the sound that appeals more to rock and metal fans, but barely anything sounds exactly the same! Sonic 06, however, decides to have five songs sound 95% identical. This is mostly cutscene music too.

Yep an official Shadow recolor. Didn't see that one coming...
No seriously. That's the villain.

I kid you not, the tunes that play whenever Mephiles appears sound no different from each other, except that one during the cutscene with the pseudo-Jesus imagery. (That's a rage for another day...) There's "Resurrection of Mephiles", "The Black Shadow", "Mephiles' Whisper", "Mephiles' Temptation", and "Showdown with Mephiles". There was a cool theme that was duplicated and raped for no reason.

Silver, why did you debut in one of the worst games ever?!

And for character themes? "Dreams of an Absolution" - as I repeated for months - is the only track that deserves your serious attention. The in-game version of "His World" - not to be confused with the superior "Theme of Sonic the Hedgehog ~ E3 Version" - is hilariously awful. I'm sorry, Mr. Ali Tabatabaee, but in this song you are a lazy rapper. Just listen to the Crush 40 version, which the gods have blessed in their infinite wisdom... ...only to curse them. Crush 40's remake of "All Hail Shadow" is absolutely unnecessary. Magna-Fi made it glorious before, so why elongate and weaken what was concise and full of life?

Look, I have no issue with orchestral music. Symphonic metal is plagued with it. Nightwish dives head-first into the orchestration so much that it can be nauseating. But for them, it works because that was their style, their technique from day one. The fact that they continue it may prove that they are satisfied or that people want them to continue it until they die. Here, in a Sonic game it seems to work in small doses, otherwise it will look like everyone is trying too hard.

"The Past", "Chaos Control", "Revival", "Theme of Sonic Colors", "Theme of Sonic Unleashed", "To the World of the Memory", and "Metal Madness" are some examples of orchestration done well. They fit the tone and mood of the games they appear in while retaining a reasonable bit of memorability. Part of this is because we will hear these songs several times throughout the course of the game's story at the most appropriate moments. AND the games and their soundtracks don't drown themselves in such music.

Oh no! The tears that will release the Nine Tailed Fox from its' host!
It's the apocalypse! Cue the organ!

Yet Sonic 06 flips the bird at conservatively using what could be beautiful music and decides to fling new "impressive" and "elegant" crap at you to the point you forget what the fudge you're listening to! There are 48 event songs out of 94 tracks. 48 EVENT SONGS!!! That compares to 10 in Sonic Adventure 2, 17 in Sonic Colors, 10 in Sonic Generations, 11 in Sonic Heroes, and 6 in Sonic Adventure! 48 songs make up MORE THAN HALF OF THIS SOUNDTRACK! And most of the songs ARE REPEATS!!!!!

Fine, Shadow the Hedgehog has 49 event tracks. HOWEVER! Most of them STAND APART VERY CLEARLY!!! And many were re-used throughout the game WITHOUT DUPLICATE EDITS on the soundtrack! For crying out loud, Sonic Team!!!! Did you make Sonic 06 suck on purpose?! This is overkill!!!!

*walks away from computer and screams off the foulest curses ever conceived by mankind*

I have a headache. Seriously, I don't know if this or A Thousand Suns is the worst excuse of "great" albums I have ever heard. It's hard... man, is it hard... I could not finish listening to both in their entirety.

Yes, I gave up once we got to the Town Mission tunes. ...And I skipped the "Accordion Song". I wish that was a joke.

The only good action stage song that stuck the first time I listened.

Before I get a load of grief for my immaturity, I will admit that not every song was a colossal failure. Other than "Dreams of an Absolution", I found comfort in "Kingdom Valley", "Aquatic Base ~ Level 1", "Boss Fight Vs. Character", and "Theme of Dr. Eggman." These are five gems that I have found in a sea of oil and sludge.

And I refuse to comment in detail on "Sweet Dreams" and "My Destiny". They made me sick. Thankfully the developers didn't want me to puke excessively as the former never appeared on the soundtrack.

This could easily fit with the ARK stages in Shadow the Hedgehog...

Here's the greatest problem. Sonic 06 tried to impress everyone with its "realism" in graphics, story, and soundtrack. It's like Sonic would be deemed childish with the presence of epic, in-your-face music borrowing elements of rock, rap, jazz, techno, electronic, and orchestral. And what was released was a horrible disaster. They tried too damn hard and this ends up looking like a wanna-be Final Fantasy epic tale with snobbishly pretentious and "I'm superior to you all" music that should NEVER be in a Sonic game!

So what if I got into the games via the GameCube? I still have a tiny idea of what makes the blue blur awesome in the eyes of his fans. If you could stomach this more than me, fine. Enjoy it because I can't change your mind. But as you continue to praise it, I will continue to condemn it for failing to be the best damn thing it thinks it is.

Oh, Crush 40... we miss you dearly, even if you fumbled "All Hail Shadow"...

The good news about this? Sonic Team never attempted to overkill us with this pretentious, pseudo-elegent bullshit ever again! ... at least after Sonic Unleashed. *weeps*

0.5 out of 5

Because even this is the Mona Lisa next to the Twilight "saga".

I need to go brainwash myself with far better thoughts... A part of me has died...

05 April 2012

Why Are You Guys Reading These?!

Despite my lack of posts so far this year, I still keep a decent eye on what you guys read and how often. Everyone who provides some sort of entertainment has to do it every once in a while in order to see what people like. What I have found makes me chuckle, not because some of my posts were destined to get attention, but because I have no clue how some obtained so many views.

On one hand I am happy to see that more and more people all around the world are finding and reading my blog. I have no impressive following by any stretch of the imagination, but I love that my blog is not as deserted as it was when I began. Even with my lack of activity people still read my posts! Even if only one to three people ever comment, I still like that some people care.

With that nauseating optimism out of the way, let me respond to the feedback I received via some of my most viewed posts on my blog! By doing this, these popular guys will get even MORE views... I guess I should pop their egos a bit... What really makes me laugh is the huge rift between the top three with everything else. It's so weird.

1. 'The Open Door' with 2,290 views

People love my bitching about Evanescence.

I'm not completely surprised that this would get a lot of hits, given how popular and mainstream the act is at least by name. But like with nearly everything I put up here, this was something I had to get off my chest. Evanescence used to be my favorite band of all time. I still respect them because they were my gateway into the general genre of rock music.

I have outgrown them and matured... but I still have some beef with how outrageously popular they are. I have always struggled with accepting that some things are popular than others because of accessibility or money. In this case, Evanescence is just easier on the ears for casual music listeners in comparison to more enthusiastic music fans - especially of alternative rock and gothic metal.

Hopefully time will ease my rage. Or Evanescence can make better music.

2. Eat Me, Drink Me with 1,190 views

Wow, my old reviews really sucked. Not that I'm so much better NOW, but still... rereading it was not fun.


To this day, I still don't care for Eat Me, Drink Me as a whole but I think it has to do more with Marilyn Manson himself. I have listened to Mechanical Animals, Holy Wood, and The Golden Age of Grotesque and even those albums don't impress me much. Don't get me wrong, they have far more interesting songs, but the albums don't satisfy me enough. It seems that the man himself is far more interesting and entertaining than the music he makes. That's really a shame.

I still plan to get his new album later this year, but I doubt I'll really, really like it. Maybe there will be two or four songs that I will really love.

3. Vampire Knight with 930 views

One of my less painful old reviews, I guess.

The last time I checked up on the series, Vampire Knight was even more convoluted and terrible. If I were to review the series as a whole again, I would more than likely give it a 1 out of 5. It's sad that it was the first anime and manga series I found about vampires. Now I have Hellsing Ultimate and it's freaking a masterpiece in comparison.

But on the bright side, Vampire Knight is superior to Twilight. Zero has a better reason to be an angsty jerk than Edward or Jacob at their most melodramatic.

4. And More Impatient Fans Leave... with 400 views

Another Evanescence rant.

This was stuck in my chest for years and I'm glad I got it out. I did check Wikipedia some time before their latest album was released and I blushed in embarrassment. They went on hiatus because Amy had to set back and redefine Evanescence after the huge successes of The Open Door and Fallen. Having to step back, rest, and examine your out-of-nowhere success because you feel like you're running into an identity crisis is somewhat reasonable.

But I think my biggest issue - and many fans may agree with me - is the fact that there was a serious lack of communication from everyone. Other than firing the drummer and guitarist, no one knew what the hell was going on for several years. Even Ville Valo of HIM - who are as of this post on a "break" to find a new record deal - came out in a Kerrang! article around Valentine's Day telling everyone that he and the boys are still alive!

It just... frustrates me.

5. Shadow the Hedgehog with 390 views

Hahahaha... I'm in the process of writing a follow-up to this very brief and generalized review. I still love this game a lot, but man it has it's issues. Whether it's a good or bad game is pretty much up to anyone who can tolerate some of the stuff in this controversial mixed bag. The response to this game was one of the biggest reasons why the Sonic fanbase, especially the more psychotic fanboys, fangirls, and furries (not all of them but the worst cases), scares the living crap out of me.

To put it briefly, I can tolerate the guns, the missions, the music, and the slightly less annoying voice acting from the 4Kids crew. But I can't defend the writing, dialogue, some plot points, and "Almost Dead." Damn, Powerman 5000 might not be a horrible band - I hope - but I hate that song.

I may do the very rare, small wishes to review a video game in the future... just if I actually plan my points a lot better. It's not as easy as taking on an album or movie...

6. Higurashi: When They Cry with 230 views

This has been getting more views recently and I can't complain. It's a series I wish was more known.

I finished the series months ago and I really need to review the second season. Now that I look back on it, Higurashi is probably one of the best horror stories I have ever experienced. After this, all horror is bland and boring. Thank you, Higurashi for making me feel jaded.

The story is far from perfect and it does not have much value in re-watching it, but I sure had a blast while the mystery was building up. Some scenes still bug me though...

7. Death Note with 220 views

I'm surprised I didn't get trolled for typing such blasphemy.

No, I never finished this series. Maybe when I'm extremely bored, I might consider it, but it's just... urgh...

But I won't go back on my point that this is a decent start for anyone who wants to get into anime. This is one of the most striking in terms of production and presentation. I may think that most of the stuff Studio Madhouse made are overrated, the company still makes great quality work. And of course the voice acting is fantastic in both English and Japanese.

I'm not surprised this got a lot of views due to it's popularity. Though my opinion on it is rather negative, I won't discourage anyone who wants to check it out. By all means, watch it! It's just not my cup of tea.

Keep enjoying what you read... even if I never completely understand why you like it...

Finally... 'Dark Adrenaline'

*choir of angels singing as Fangirl gets medicated* I swear it's not toxic!
A new album by a band I love that doesn't suck? About time! Congrats, Lacuna Coil.

Thankfully earlier fears after hearing "Trip the Darkness" and "Kill the Light" were eased very quickly. This album cuts the happy, uplifting alternative rock from Shallow Life and combines the intensity of Karmacode and the atmosphere of Comalies.

But if this was released in 2006 and not Karmacode, this would have been a less radical evolution of the band. Dark Adrenaline feels like a step backwards in this sense - no, more like a patch to fix a game that initially released with glitches. This is not a really bad thing (video games are far more pricey than music after all) but it feels like this album was released as a late apology note for pissing off the fans with Karmacode.

Yet on the other hand, this can also be seen as the band getting back on track. They may have stubbled with their last two albums, but now this is their comeback. However any Lacuna Coil fan sees this, I think both ideas may be true, but I agree with this point more.

 I never hated Karmacode, and I like that Dark Adrenaline takes its aggressive style and improves it (ex: "Against You" and "Upsidedown".) Even some songs remind me of those from Unleashed Memories, In a Reverie, and Comalies, such as "The End of Time" and "My Spirit", due to the dark, sad atmosphere present. The band itself is not known for giving impressive guitar solos or award-winning singing, but everyone has improved significantly. Some songs start off with far more interesting riffs and evolve into far less repetitive noise. Some melodies still feel a bit ripped from songs from Shallow Life such as "Intoxicated" and "Fire", but lyrically they sound far less cheery and cheap. Singer Andrea sounds his best in "The Army Inside", where he practically steals the show with the badass chorus.

Even "Losing my Religion" isn't that bad. I always liked the REM song when I was a child and I thank Lacuna Coil for reminding me of my love for the original. Though the lyrics are arranged differently for some strange reason, this is not a bad cover. I find the original to be quite melancholic and Lacuna Coil captured it very well.

I can probably list every song off the album and can say they all are fantastic. If you were never charmed by Lacuna Coil, give Dark Adrenaline a try. It's a fair compromise for the old and new sounds of Lacuna Coil to create a very fulfilling album. Three months later and it still sounds great.

Various editions of the release have "Soul Inmate" as a bonus track. The iTunes pre-order version had live acoustic tracks, "Soul Inmate", and the "Trip the Darkness" music video. Some editions also had mini short films in what's known as Dark Passengers. Just additional fun facts.

5 out of 5!
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