Sunday, April 29, 2012

So I guess we know who they're Avenging now - Avengers Film Review

So yeah, The Avengers is good.

It's better than all the other Marvel Film Universe productions that've been put out thus far, and doesn't have the same kind of major structural problems towards the third act, so that's nice. All the characters are well-drawn - not well developed, because that happens in their own films - but they're consistent with their previous portrayals - and I actually think I like Mark Ruffalo better than Edward Norton as The Hulk, so that was a pleasant surprise. And slimy little creep Loki makes for great fun as a villain that's not quite as great as he thinks he is, but is still legitimately dangerous enough to be a real threat without turning into a parody.

It's most definitely a Whedon film - enough of his narrative ticks are present that it really couldn't be anything else. I also approve of the Chekhov's swag that finally pays off in this film - so many little things from the other films end up being relevant, it makes you wonder how much was actually planned, and how much is just an example of being able to draw plot elements together in an effective way.

The writing's what you'd expect from Whedon - funny, quippy, with the occasional shocking swerve into gravitas (which is probably the main thing I like The Hulk for). This sort of dialogue is perfectly suitable for the universe, so even though there's a couple of lame lines, there's nothing that throws you completely out of the moment.

I also think there needs to be a S.H.I.E.L.D film - characters like Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov are demonstrably strong enough in this film that it really seems obvious that they could carry a narrative all by themselves - they've had all their development in other character's films, but dammit, they're cool, and I want to see more of them! There's also a slight psychological element, chiefly exemplified by Banner's emotional issues and Natasha's mind-game espionage gambits) - not as heavy as in Whedon's other stuff, but it's glanced at, and acknowledged, and the effort is appreciated.

Lots of action, of the super-hero variety - lots of back-and-forth, giving each character a chance so shine in their own way. Which is really what the whole thing's about, of course - the ensemble. And in that sense, the film's as good as could be possible, I think. There's also a lot of comic-book logic - that's the main issue that'll lock audiences out, I believe. You can either roll with the silly elements and the random pseudo-science, or you can't. If you can't, you miss out of things like The Hulk destroying a giant bio-mechanical space-ship with one punch, and I just think that's sad.

It won't blow you away, but it's rock solid, well written, well performed, and full of cool little details that pretty much make this the zenith of popcorn entertainment. If you want to give your inner child a treat, check The Avengers out.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What the hell is that noise?

JUST FOR FUN: Time for a musical tour through Silent Hill. I shall be posting the intro tracks, and other others I think of note.

For once, I shall keep it all in the same thread. Haha, lies - this was originally going to be a Facebook post, then it kind of expanded. Possibly  bloated.

So, without Further ado - here's a big reason why I love these games. And it's mostly the fault of one Akira Yamoaka:

Silent Hill

Intro track:

I also dig the intros themselves. Very vague and ambient, but strangely surreal and slightly uncomfortable.

This one was nice, too. Plays when you get the best ending:

Here's another good one for a pretty sad scene:

Isn't all that low-fi acoustic melancholy nice? By the way, here's a digitally warped dentist drill:

which makes for pretty interesting feeling (ie UTTER PANIC) when fighting Mr Final Boss. Joy.

Silent Hill 2


Probably my favourite intro and track:

HD version because the voice acting is better.

This one is possibly my favourite track in the series:

The theme for Maria, incidentally. Who's Maria? That's... a difficult question to answer.

And I don't always have a final and inevitable and inescapable confrontation with my inner demons; but when I do, I do it to this track:

Silent Hill 3


Things get a bit more upbeat for the next game:

Well, musically, at least. As far as 'horribly grotesque things happening' goes, 3 probably takes the cake.

3 also saw the introduction of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn on vocals, which I think works quite well, as well as lyrics written by Joe Romersa. Hint - if you're a Japanese developer writing about the adventures of English-speaking characters in an American town, hire some American audio support.Because then you get tracks like this:

Which sound rather nice.

Oh, who likes Industrial Electronica? I do! I do!

Silent Hill 4: The Room

Here's the Silent Hill 4 intro. Watch and enjoy the feeling of not knowing what the hell's going on, but knowing that this stuff just ain't right.

Also, the menu music:

Don't worry, man. I'm sure you'll be able to fix your guitar one day.
And then we get grungy guitars, with smokey vocals. When you're singing about having your mind ripped
away by events you only scarcely comprehend, it's always nice to have the appropriate vocalist.

I hate you wall of creepy baby-things, I really do. :(

More niceness:

And, finally, what is probably the main theme of the game. It's not a terribly happy song, but that kind of fits, really.

Silent Hill: Origins

After crossing the pond to America, a few things about the series changed, but series composer Akira Yamaoka stayed on - which I think is a very good think.

Origins doesn't have the same kind of music video introduction as the rest of them, but it does have this:

...which I'm including for the sake of completeness. However, the must that you can hear playing there? It's pretty awesome, and continues to play as you make your way through the opening scenes of the game:

We also have this little number, just to make everything seem more like Twin Peaks than it already did:

The ending tracks are very good, too. This one might be my favourite:

Silent Hill: Homecoming

Just when I think the old days of vague video sequences without context were over, they make a smashing return for the second American developed title:

Oh vague and incomprehensible intros, I missed you and I'm glad you're back.

And then some friendly robots made us this song after listening to too much Regurgitator:

And this one is possible the only time I've ever heard the sound of drowning be incorporated into a song. Cheerful fun!

And I dig them heavy, angry guitars. Homecoming, I don't know why you're so grouchy at me, but I dig the way you've incorporated the old Silent Hill motif into the background, there.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

More inexplicable strangeness, set to rock music. Is there a theme here? Well, yeah. Yeah there is.

In a first for the series, we also get a cover - in this case, it's 'You are Always on my Mind.' They made it sound much darker and somehow sinister. Groovy.

And this last track, which has been known to work certain emotional effects on my person, simply because of the context of when it's played. This game has one of those stories that's actually definitely enjoying unspoiled. So I won't.

Alright, fine. It was the butterfly, I tells ya! The butterfly!

Silent Hill: Downpour


Sadly, with this game we see the departure of Akira, and his loss is definitely felt. Dexter composer Daniel Licht is brought in as he replacement, and whilst he does a decent job, there is a marked disconnect between the music of this game and the earlier ones. First of all, the intro track is by Korn. Yeah, I know.

Strangely, I don't find myself hating it, but I don't find it anywhere near as engaging as the old tracks.

The soundscapes presented in this chapter are a lot more minimal than the old games - truth be told, I'm not crazy about them. A good example of the sort of thing on offer can be demonstrated by the menu track:

So, is that it for wonderful Silent Hill music? Well, I'm actually strangely hopeful. Mixed in with a lot of forgettable music, we get a couple of cool tracks, like this:

Doesn't that sound bad-ass? I think so. I could totally walk out of prison with my head held high to that. I like to consider it the main character's theme.

I am also fond of the 'sprong' noise you hear in this one, and the angry electronic guitars. Hell, the mandolins played thought the whole game are quite lovely

WELP. That's it. What started out as a silly Facebook post has become a minor project of a few hours effort. The things I do for you. Well, okay, let's face it, me. But never-the-less, I hope the point is made. The music for these games is pretty damn awesome, and I hope you've enjoyed some of it.