Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer

Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer (Xbox)Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer

Our little Kaylie is all grown up! Ten years ago (it seemed like only last year, honestly), we saved the little waif from a gruesome death at the decaying hands of the legions of undead spewing forth from Ashcroft Prison. At the time, Kaylie was a frightened young thing toting around a teddy bear and we, the hunters, escorted her through a horrific graveyard to the safety of the church where her parents waited.

How could we have known that we unwittingly brought a tool of evil into the church with us? The teddy bear Kaylie had clung to so desperately—that last shred of sanity in a world gone mad—suddenly roared to life, growing to immense stature before tearing the young girl’s parents limb from limb. Though we sprang to action and destroyed the foul Ruxpin, it was far too late for Kaylie’s parents, whose tattered bodies were almost unrecognizable.

That sort of thing is bound to make a lasting impression on a child.

Rather than sinking into the poisoned well of despair, Kaylie found a new purpose after that horrible night. In the ten years since, she has become a hunter herself, devoted to tracking down and destroying the undead nightmares that roam the land.

When I said Kaylie was “all grown up,” I wasn’t kidding. She’s become a stunning (not to mention busty) young woman. The awful experiences of that night a decade ago left her not only with an unquenchable thirst for vengeance, but with an exhibitionist streak and a leather fetish, too. Who would have guessed?

Now, the undead plague the streets of Ashcroft once more, and Kaylie must team up with the hunters who saved her life ten years ago.

I am Father Esteban Cortez, also known as the Judge. Miscellaneous G™ is Kaylie Winter, the Redeemer. Together, we are a walking abattoir, cutting a swath through the evil hordes in Ashcroft. This time, the undead are joined by the elite security forces of Genefex, a corrupt corporation suckling the bitter nectar of human suffering. Or something.

With Hunter the Reckoning: Redeemer, the development team had a golden opportunity to make significant improvements over its predecessor, Hunter the Reckoning, a game that Miscellaneous G™ and I thoroughly enjoyed (despite its flaws). Instead, they made things worse. Camera angles that were once merely annoying and inconvenient are now downright frustrating. The aiming system for ranged weapons seems to have been injected with 250ccs of “oh, were you shooting at something?” Then there’s the distinct lack of coherent direction in some missions. We had to play more than one mission twice last night because the game fell short on telling us what (or where) our objective was. In one case, the “mission complete” glyph was hidden behind a staircase and was only visible when we were running away from the exit.

On the other hand, we get to pummel endless legions of zombies, werewolves and SpecOps-types, and that’s pretty cool. The game is immensely satisfying when we’re elbow-deep in bad guys, swinging away with ridiculously huge swords, letting loose a wave of crossbow bolts, bullets and buckshot, or wiping out entire groups of zombies with our hunters’ “edges,” the various supernatural powers they utilize.

So we keep playing. Partly because there’s an enjoyable game hidden beneath the maddening design flaws, partly because we had such a blast with the first one, and partly because we love the cooperative multiplayer games, and there just aren’t enough of them so we’ve got to play those we can find.

Dracula 3000 (2004)

Dracula 3000
Dracula 3000: Infinite Darkness (2004)

Starring Casper van Dien, Erika Eleniak, Coolio and Langley Kirkwood.

Directed by Darrell Roodt.

First off, this movie makes Wes Craven presents Dracula 2000 seem like a masterpiece of vampire cinema. That’s saying a lot.

Dracula (Langley Kirkwood) is just pathetic. Modern day vampires (see Underworld and the aforementioned D2K) have recently been presented as long-haired bad boys with a flair for fashion. In the far-flung future, however, the Big D apparently looks like a throwback to the old classic Bela Lugosi bloodsucker, but without the budget for wardrobe.

Worst. Dracula. Ever. And that includes Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing and George Hamilton in Love at First Bite. Hell, Count Chocula looks more intimidating!

Then there’s the fact that this is essentially Dracula in Space. Moving your horror franchise to outer space is the best way to jump that shark. Look how well it worked for Hellraiser and Friday the 13th. ((What about Leprechaun, you ask? After all, it was one of the first (if not the first) horror franchises to launch its antagonist into orbit. Well, Leprechaun is a special case. There are two installments following Leprechaun in Space: Leprechaun In Tha Hood and Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood. This may be a case where the franchise jumps the shark multiple times. Verification will require a Leprechaun movie marathon, followed by intense psychotherapy.))

In the year 3000, the salvage ship Mother III, captained by Abraham Van Helsing (Casper Van Dien), happens upon the Demeter, a ship that has been floating in space for fifty—wait a minute, Van Helsing? That’s right, the captain of the salvage crew is descended from none other than the famed vampire hunter. He even has the same first name. Astounding!

But wait, there’s more. The navigator aboard the Mother III is one Mina Murry. There’s also a Holmwood on the crew. Only the Jonathan Harker and Renfield got the short shrift in the year three thousand. Well, unless you count the Count. He got the shortest shrift of all, but that’s already been covered.

Anyway, the Demeter. It’s an apparently abandoned, derelict ship that’s been drifting in the Carpathian system for the past fifty years. The crew of the Mother III boards the derelict in the hopes of resuscitating the wreck and salvaging it for a cool fifteen million credits. Of course, the Demeter isn’t quite as empty as she first appears. Derelict ships drifting in space for fifty years never are.

187 (Coolio) is the first of the crew to bite (or rather, be bitten by) the big one. Then Mina disappears and Aurora (Erika Eleniak) meets el lechón de la sangre del número uno himself, Count … Orlock? Well, that’s what he calls himself, anyway. Like Diddy, the Big Drac Attack apparently plays fast and loose with the monikers.

I’d say more about the whole debacle, but the truth is I fell asleep with about twenty minutes remaining in the movie. It is extremely rare for me to fall asleep while watching television, but D3K: ID just wasn’t enough to keep me away from the Land of Nod.

Maybe I’ll watch the thrilling conclusion tonight.

Movie Review: The Crying Game (1992)

The Crying Game (DVD)
The Crying Game (1992)

Starring Forest Whitaker, Miranda Richardson, Stephen Rea, Adrian Dunbar, Breffni McKenna, Jim Broadbent and Jaye Davidson.

Directed by Neil Jordan.

This one definitely falls into the “Better Late Than Never” category, though perhaps “better” is up for debate.

Laura and I watched The Crying Game Saturday night, and it wasn’t the movie I was expecting. More accurately, I didn’t know what to expect from it, because the only thing anyone ever talks about is the “twist.” I had a vague notion that the movie involved the Irish Republican Army, but that’s about it.

On the off chance that you are the sole person remaining on planet Earth who hasn’t heard about the aforementioned twist, let me warn you that spoilers follow.

The first half hour or so of The Crying Game involves the kidnapping of Jody (Forest Whitaker), a British soldier, by Fergus and Jude (Stephen Rea and Miranda Richardson), members of the IRA. The IRA wants to trade Jody for one of their own, who has presumably been imprisoned by the British government.

Jody and Fergus form a tragic friendship during the soldier’s captivity, during which Jody asks the Irishman to look in on his girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson), after they kill him. Though Fergus argues that it won’t be necessary to kill Jody, he is ultimately ordered to perform the unpleasant task himself.

On the morning Jody is to be executed, Fergus marches the soldier away from the isolated camp. Jody manages to escape, and Fergus cannot bring himself to shoot his friend in the back. As Jody reaches a nearby road, however, he is struck down by a military vehicle and killed. The location of the camp has been compromised, and as machine gun fire rains down from a hovering helicopter, Fergus is able to escape through the woods and flees to London.

The remainder of the movie takes place in London, where Fergus (calling himself “Jimmy”) finds and becomes romantically involved with Dil, keeping the fact that he was responsible for Jody’s death a secret. Fergus isn’t the only one keeping secrets, though, and as he and Dil are about to consummate their burgeoning romance Dil reveals that she is actually a transvestite. Fergus is initially repulsed by this, but cannot deny that he is attracted to Dil-as-woman.

To further complicate things, as Fergus is struggling to come to terms with his feelings for Dil, two of his former IRA associates—Jude and Maguire (Adrian Dunbar)—materialize and demand that he assassinate a prominent judge. Fergus begs off, insisting that he is “done with that,” but Jude threatens to harm Dil if he doesn’t comply.

Fergus attempts to hide Dil from the IRA by “disguising” her as a man, but his plan backfires when a petulant and drunk Dil wanders back to her apartment. Fergus finally reveals his own secret to Dil: he was responsible for Jody’s death. Drunk as she is, Dil doesn’t seem to comprehend what Fergus is telling her, but he awakens the next morning to find himself tied to the bed and Dil brandishing a pistol. Realizing that he is supposed to meet Jude and Maguire, Fergus begs Dil to free him, but she ignores him.

When Fergus doesn’t show up at the appointed time to assassinate the judge, Maguire does the deed himself and is gunned down in the street. Jude escapes and races to Dil’s apartment, intent on fulfilling her threat. Instead, she is shot and killed by Dil. Fergus, finally freed from his bonds, prevents Dil from turning the gun on herself. After convincing Dil to leave the apartment, Fergus wipes her prints off the gun and sits down to wait for the police.

The movie closes with Dil visiting Fergus in prison. She is worrying about his well-being and counting the days until his release. He is clearly still uncomfortable with their relationship, balking when she calls him “dear” or “honey,” but is still unwilling to let her go. Dil asks Fergus to tell her a story, and he recounts the tale of the scorpion and the frog ((This is the same story Jody told Fergus earlier in the movie. A scorpion, wishing to cross a river and recognizing the he cannot swim, attempts to enlist the aid of a frog. The frog refuses at first, fearing that the scorpion will sting him. The scorpion assures the frog that he will do no such thing, and the frog agrees to ferry him across the river. Halfway across, the frog feels a sharp pain in his back: the scorpion has stung him. “Why did you do it?” the frog asks as his body goes numb. “Now we’ll both die.” “I couldn’t help myself,” replies the scorpion, “it’s in my nature.”)) as the camera pulls back, the credits roll, and Lyle Lovett sings “Stand By Your Man.” ((The soundtrack to The Crying Game has long been one of my favorite CDs. I’m not terribly fond of the orchestral pieces, but Lovett’s rendition of “Stand By Your Man” is eerily enjoyable. The true gem, though, is the Boy George cover of Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game.”))

The Crying Game will forever be remembered as “that movie where the chick is really a guy,” and that’s unfortunate. If you know the twist, you can’t help but wait for it from the moment Fergus sees Dil’s photo in Jody’s wallet. Any time Dil is on screen, her appearance, ((Laura said that if anything would have clued her in to Dil’s secret, it would have been her hands. I didn’t notice this myself, but it’s interesting to note that no effort was made to conceal Dil’s apparently masculine hands. In fact, as she sings “The Crying Game” in the Metro (the bar she frequents), she waves them about in a manner reminiscent of Indian dancing.)) mannerisms and voice are scrutinized and every minute detail that might hint at her secret is noted. You might tell yourself that you’d have picked up on it, but if your first viewing is tainted by that secret, you’ll never really know.

At its heart, The Crying Game isn’t about Dil’s secret, it’s about human nature. What makes Fergus different from his IRA cohorts, as Jody points out, is that he cares about people. It’s not in his nature to be cruel, nor is it in his nature to dismiss Dil when he learns that she’s a transvestite. As difficult as it is for him to come to terms with them, Fergus has real feelings for Dil that cannot be put aside due to gender. For her part, Dil clings to Fergus as best she can. As she points out, all one needs do is show her some kindness and she will be devoted to him forever. That is her nature.

I wish I’d seen The Crying Game when it was originally released, before anyone had the chance to let me in on the big twist. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it in 1992. The dialogue to stuff-blowing-up ratio probably would have been a bit too high for my tastes. I also doubt that I would have been at all accepting of Fergus’ decision to keep seeing Dil after finding out she had one more Y-chromosome than he expected.

Ultrasound 2: Sonic Boogaloo

Finding out we were pregnant (four and a half months pregnant, no less) was a pretty big surprise for Laura and I, and we decided that we’d had about all the surprises we could handle for a while. So we decided that when we went for the second ultrasound today, we wanted to find out the baby’s sex, if possible.

The doctor doing the ultrasound took his sweet old time getting around to that area as he took various skull measurements, showed us the face, arms and hands, legs and feet and examined the heart, spine and umbilical cord. He was like Johnny Shutterbug, too, snapping off a picture every few seconds. Here’s a fine example:

Baby Johnson
image-147

That’s definitely a head smack in the center, and if you look closely you might be able to make out the shape of an arm just to the right. The little tyke was squirming around a bit, and at one point appeared to wave at us. Though we didn’t get a picture of the wave, it’s on the video, which I’ll be digitizing in the near future.

Finally, it was time to determine just what sort of equipment this kid was packing downstairs. I didn’t see anything but a whole lot of leg at first, and I was afraid that the kid wasn’t going to allow the big reveal.

Then the doctor asked, “Do you want to know the baby’s sex?”

He barely had time to finish his question before Laura and I both blurted, “Yes.” Then he showed us this picture.

That's a what, now?
image-148

Riiiight. I had no idea what we were looking at, so I had to trust that the doctor knew what he was talking about. After it was all over, the doctor handed me the picture and I asked him to explain it to me. He did a very nice job, but the untrained eye may not be able to determine exactly what it is seeing. For further clarification, I’ve enhanced the image a bit…

The Package!

The orange shaded area is the thigh bone, or “femur.” It’s the longest bone in the human body. Three weeks ago, that bone was roughly 29 millimeters in length, which — combined with the 40mm skull measurement — put Baby Johnson’s age at about 18-19 weeks. Based on that, we were given a due date of 27 January 2006. The doctor didn’t change the due date today, but did say that he suspected it was probably off by about a week, suggesting that we’re in week 22, not week 21.

Anyway, the femur isn’t the important part of this image. The white arrow directly above the femur, however, is pointing at the junk, or “package.” The doctor typed three little letters on the screen and I grinned like a clown. Just like that, it’s a boy.

Boot to the hand!

I’m pretty sure the kid kicked my hand last night. What did I do to deserve that kind of treatment?

Ultrasound scheduled for Friday morning. With any luck, we’ll find out what kind of equipment s/he’s packing. In the past few days I’ve been feeling what I call “The Father’s Imperative.” A little part of me really hopes it’s a boy, which is not to say that I will be disappointed or resentful if it’s a girl. If it’s an alien… well, then I’m going to be all kinds of pissed. No extraterrestrial comes to Earth, poses as me and secretly impregnates my wife without so much as a “by your leave!” Not on my watch, buster. If it’s an alien, nothing less than intergalactic war will soothe my wrath.

A boy would be nice, though. Or a girl. Yeah. A boy or a girl.

No aliens.

Gee, I’m real sorry your mom blew up, Ricky.

I finally got my damn hair cut on Friday. I no longer feel like blurting, “Zoicks! C’mon, Scoob!” every hour or so.

Laura and I went to see Bodyworlds 2 with the Schoonovers on SaturdayI also did a little over nine miles on the bike at the North Chagrin Reservation, then completely negated any health benefit by gorging on lobster bisque and lasagna at Bravo! in Mentor. No one should eat that much lasagna in a single sitting, so naturally, I did.. There’s a big difference between going on a Friday afternoon versus going on a Saturday afternoon: hundreds of other people. When I went to the exhibit with my co-workers a couple of weeks ago, things were pretty quiet and laid back at the Great Lakes Science Center. On Saturday, however, there was a rather long line at the ticket counter and a two-hour wait to get into the Bodyworlds exhibit. On the bright side, this left us with plenty of time to mess with science!I would like to extend a personal apology to the staff and patrons of the Great Lakes Science Center for the unfortunate “incident” that occurred at approximately 4:14pm on Saturday, 10 September. Letting some people play with certain exhibits is like giving a toddler a fork and pointing him toward a power outlet. Honestly, you’d think that we’d know better by now.

On Sunday, Laura and I got together with some members of the now-defunct Ravenhill Book Club, which has been temporarily renamed the Ravenhill Pregnancy Club. When the book club was formed, all member couples were childless. In the intervening years, three of the five couples have successfully procreated. Now the remaining holdouts find themselves rather unexpectedly in the family way. Baby Murdoch is due in March, hot on the heels of Baby Johnson, so we got together to… well, gush, really.

Tonight, Miscellaneous G™ and I are going to watch Man With the Screaming Brain, written, directed by and starring the one and only Bruce Campbell.

TiVo is also patiently waiting for me to watch Collateral and The Crying Game. I’m sure there’s a joke about Tom Cruise’s girlfriend’s penis in there if you think about it long enough.

Keep those fingers on the home row or you’re a dead man.

Miscellaneous G™’s obsession with the SEGA DreamcastTomorrow (9 September 2005) marks the sixth anniversary of the DreamCast’s release. is…well, a little unsettling. The number of Dreamcast consoles he has owned (and given away) over the years is certainly unusual, but fails to provide a true picture of the depth of his unhealthy fascination. Such insight can only be gained by examining the various games and peripherals he has acquired for the consoleThis isn’t limited to the Dreamcast, by any means. He also owns the PlayStation 2 EyeToy and Taiko drum controllers. One might go so far as to suggest he has a game console peripheral fetish..

Exhibit A: The Typing of The Dead
Required peripheral: Dreamcast keyboard. Nothing terribly special here, just your average computer keyboard, except this one plugs into the Dreamcast… and is used to kill zombies. That’s right, between snippets of the worst voiceacting ever, the players are assaulted by legions of the undead, who can only be defeated by quickly typing words, phrases and sentences that hover near their rancid, decaying, shambling bodiesFor the first time in recorded history, Laura actually joined in the videogaming last night. She kicked some serious zombie ass with her mad touch-typing skillz.. The game is a port of The House of the Dead 2, an arcade shooter that’s been converted for use with the keyboard. On the screen, the heroes each have a Dreamcast (powered by a giant battery) strapped to their back and a keyboard hanging from a harness around their necks. They type and zombies die. Again.

Exhibit B: Samba de Amigo
Recommended peripheral: Dreamcast maracas. I’m not kidding. It’s a pair of maracas that plugs into the console. A sensor on the floor detects the height and lateral position of each maraca. As a song plays, visual cues show the player when and where to shake their maracas while a cube-headed monkey and his butterfly girlfriend shake their tailfeathers in the background. The animated characters cheer if your timing and positioning are accurate and jeer if they are not. Unfortunately, the sensor was a bit flaky last night, which led to a good deal of frustration.

Exhibit C: Samba de Amigo 2 (Electric Boogaloo)
Recommended peripheral: Dreamcast maracas, of course. The sequel wasn’t even released in the United States. Miscellaneous G™ has the Japanese version. See what I mean? Unhealthy.