Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Second Annual Wherein I Rant Awards - 2011

Welcome, to the Second Annual Wherein I Rant Awards, where I document the best and worst of everything I saw and played this year! Sorry it's been a while since the last post (and even longer since the last chapter of Murder On Deck 36, don't worry, I haven't given up on that yet, it's just on hiatus) but between school and the holidays, I've been very busy.



Best Family Film - The Muppets

The Muppets
was a charming return to form for the Muppets, who haven't had much of a presence (with the exception of the odd straight to TV film, or youtube video) in recent years. Luckily the film is very self aware of this fact, and is in fact ABOUT the Muppets returning to the vogue after falling apart for years. The film is a laugh a minute film that all ages can enjoy, which doesn't have any content inappropriate for kids, but instead has jokes anyone can laugh at. The few jokes that do go over the kids heads are tastefully done, such as a certain Cee-Lo Green song performed by chickens. In fact, the high quality of humor in this film is what leads to me also giving it...

Funniest Film- The Muppets

As I said, this film contains a million jokes, nearly all of which hit perfectly. I really don't want to ruin any of them, but needless to say, you absolutely need to see this film. It's hilarious! Nothing more to say.

Best Stupidly Amazing Trailer - Battleship

C'mon! Have you seen this trailer?

They shoot giant pegs into the side of the battleship. This is obviously a film that knew it had a stupid premise, and just ran with it. This movie looks terrible, and I for one can't wait to see it.

Most Pleasantly Surprising Film - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

As I mentioned in my review, I had no expectations for Rise to be anything special. I thought it was completely unnecessary. Instead, it turned out to be one of the best reboots of recent years. Don't get me wrong, it had problems. It had many, many problems, and they showed, but not once did they keep me from enjoying the film. I saw this film twice and loved it as much the second time as I did the first.

Worst Film - The Zookeeper

The worst film I saw this year is Zookeeper. Let me preface this: It was a double feature at the Drive-In with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (I know, weird choice) and my family decided to stick around. Good grief, this movie is atrocious. There is nothing-- nothing --redeeming about that film. The protagonist spends the entirety of the film trying to win back a completely unlikable character, it's every cliche from every family film ever, and its jokes are offensively stupid.

*spoilers if you actually care, which you shouldn't*

But that's not what really makes this movie so bad. Let's set aside the complete idiocy of the main character taking love life advice from animals. Let's set aside that the movie is cliche. Let's set aside the scene where Kevin James takes a Gorilla to a TGI Friday's by saying he's come from a costume party. Let's set aside the fact that LITERALLY the only explanation of why the animals can talk is, "When did you guys learn to talk?!" "Well today's Tuesday so... Forever." Let's set aside the fact that if all animals are intelligent that means that, for the most part, they're serial killers. Let's set aside the fact that this actually has a pretty decent cast, for what it is, and yet still has terrible performance after terrible performance. Let's ignore the fact that apparently Kevin James is the only zookeeper to ever have problems with his love life. Let's set aside some bad CGI, the obvious false love interest, and the climax that I liked better when I saw it in Liar, Liar. Let's EVEN set aside the fact that Kevin James actually seems pretty happy with his job as a car salesmen in the third act, and seems very good at it. Let's ignore the fact that Kevin James apparently wasn't hurting with the ladies in the first place, since he was dating a pretty attractive woman for a long time, and had another obviously interested in him. Even if all of those things were fixed, there would be one scene that would take the cake, and ruin the film. Would you like to know what that scene involves?

Kevin James, asking a wolf for love advice because DERP DERP SHENANIGANS DERP, is advised to mark his territory. So, Kevin James starts peeing in the wolf habitat. Along comes Ms. I'm Obviously Who Kevin James Will End Up With At the End (that's a swedish name, I believe), who sees him. Peeing. In the exhibit. So he tells Bird-Lady-Chick that some scorpion or something stupid stung the wolf, and he was neutralizing the venom (I thought that only worked for jellyfish, but I'm not sure on that, so I will actually let that go.) so, she turns around, and he pees on the wolf. Fun times.

It gets worse.

After giving the wolf a bath (oh the HIIIIlarity) Kevin James goes to meet False Love Interest in an upscale bar because HIJINKS, and pees in a plant. IN AN UPSCALE RESTAURANT.

It. Gets. WORSE.

A WAITER WALKS UP TO KEVIN JAMES AND SAYS, VERY CALMLY, "Sir, we have a fully functioning bathroom," to which Kevin James replies, "Oh, yes you do." AND THEY GO ON THEIR MERRY LITTLE WAY.


Best Adaptation - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Like it would go to anything else. Look, I love the Harry Potter books, this film did a brilliant job of both staying true to the material, and making it more suitable for the screen, and I loved it for it. Enough said.

Best Superhero Film - Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: The First Avenger was a really good superhero film, and, discounting The Dark Knight from this discussion, as I always do, it was probably the best Superhero film I've seen since Iron Man. It gave us the origins of the character, had an interesting plot, set up next year's The Avenger's very nicely, and was well executed in general.

Best Film

Honorable Mention - Super 8

J.J. Abram's tribute to classic Spielberg films hit all the right notes, paying homage to classics like E.T., but still remaining it's own film. I quite liked it.

Runner Up - The Muppets

Again, The Muppets was funny and had a lot of heart. I loved it.

Best Film - Cowboys and Aliens

Ah, here we are. An awesome action film that was everything it needed to be. Do you like Cowboys? Do you like Aliens? Do you like Harrison Ford and/or Daniel Craig? If your answer was yes to any or all of those questions, you will like this film. It blends genres together brilliantly, has great performances by great actors, and was just a really entertaining film on every level. I really enjoyed it.


Video Games

Note: I can only play so much, so these awards only go to game I've made note of over the year during my time with them. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, for example won't be eligible for much, because I simply haven't had that much time with it. I'll also be going into more detail with each of these awards, simply because this is more of my forte.

Best Soundtrack

Honorable Mention - The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Zelda has long been blessed with fantastic music, and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker even holds a spot as my favorite game soundtrack of all time, and is one of the things that propels that to being my favorite Zelda game ever. While Skyward Sword isn't quite that good, it's still a great Zelda game, filled with great tracks, which hold a lot of personality.

Runner Up - Batman: Arkham City

Arkham City's soundtrack is everything it needs to be. Dark, brooding, sinister, and filled with tracks that set the tone perfectly, and can't help but get your heart pumping. This is a great example of using the soundtrack to highlight the other aspects of the game.

Best Soundtrack - Portal 2

The original Portal is perhaps best known for 2 things; The questionable status of the existence of cake, and the Jonathon Coulton written surprise ending song, "Still Alive." While the cake jokes were sparse in Portal 2, and the ending song was less of a surprise, the song was of course, hilarious and grand. But that's not what nets Portal 2 soundtrack of the year. The tonally pitch perfect soundtrack, varying from techno, to melodious, to classical, to opera, without any track feeling out of place, but giving each area of the Aperture labs you visit their own unique sound, is what lets me say without a moment's hesitation that Portal 2 was soundtrack of the year.

Best Indie Game

Honorable Mention - Magicka

Magicka speaks to gamers on a level most of them will appreciate immediately: It gives me the tools to screw with my friends. One of only a few games I can throw the term "griefing simulator" around with, Magicka may be riddled with uneven difficulty, far too many bugs that slow the experience down, and other minor issues, but there's still something intrinsically fun about hopping into vent with a friend, and reducing him into a pile of red goo.

Runner Up - Sanctum

Sanctum is fun, combining tower defense and a first person shooter in a way that really gels together very well. Graphically, it's also one of the best indie games released recently, looking like a high res version of the Metroid Prime games, It's not a perfect game, but for the price, there's a lot of fun to be had with it.

Best Indie Game - Minecraft

Minecraft is a fantastic game. It ate up most of my march as I built an enormous cobblestone castle, and by the time I was done with that project, I only felt the urge to keep on going. Minecraft gives you the tools you need to make your own fun, and while it doesn't have much in the way of set objectives, it doesn't really need them either.

Best 2010 Game I Played in 2011 - Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood

Brotherhood finally managed to deliver on the promise that the original Assassin's Creed showed so much of. While Assassin's Creed 2 felt like it was collapsing in on it's own weight, and had a plot that was messy and nearly incoherent, Brotherhood finally understood what these games needed to be, embraced the good, lost or trimmed the bad, and made an experience that was simply fun. As if that wasn't enough, the game also delivered a fantastic and interesting multiplayer component different from pretty much everything else on the market. The first two games are good, this one was great.
Game of the Year

Honorable Mention - Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham City is a game that one-ups it's predecessor in almost every way. Most of the issues the first one had, such as a disappointing third act, have been completely fixed in Arkham City. While it's arguable whether the Metroidvania style of Arkham Asylum was a better fit for Batman than the Assassin's Creed style open world, and some of the downright scary atmosphere is lost in translation, it's traded up for a dark gothic atmosphere that fits Batman just as well. Add in a phenomenal final performance from Mark Hamill as the Joker, and an absolutely astounding ending with a plot twist that genuinely surprises, and it's inarguable that Batman: Arkham City is one of the best title's released this year.

Runner Up - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda has been working on refining the Elder Scrolls formula for years, with each game learning valuable lessons from the predecessor. In my opinion, each Bethesda release has been a step up from the last, with Morrowind being a great game, Oblivion being better, and Fallout 3 being better still. Skyrim has, in my opinion, continued that trend, showing that Bethesda has taken valuable lessons from their previous projects, and shown their work with the latest installment. Skyrim is like a distillation of all the good bits of previous Elder Scrolls endeavors, with lots of the fat having been cut out, and many of the issues fixed, and almost all having been improved in some way. A larger voice cast adds realism, and, while I was at first skeptical of a lot of the streamlining Bethesda did to the series for this installment, they've managed to make an RPG that offers an insane amount of character customization, but still knows to put fun first. Though Skyrim does tend to collapse under it's own weight in a lot of cases, and the PS3 version is supposedly nearly unplayable, many of the bugs the other versions of Skyrim face are the fun variation, like backwards dragons! Add in some of the best graphics currently out there (though muddy ground textures in some spots do depress) and you have an incredible experience, and Bethesda's best RPG yet. Now can we get that engine in a Fallout game please?

Game of the Year - Portal 2

Like I'd pick something else. Portal 2 is simply the game I found to be most well made this year. It's fun, it's funny, the puzzles are mind bending at times, it provides interesting new mechanics, while remaining true to the series core, and is simply a near-perfect game. There isn't a lot of content in Portal 2, but what is there is some of the best content produced this year, with great new characters, great old characters, great performances, great puzzles, great music, and of course, pitch perfect humor. All of those things and more make Portal 2 my Game of the Year.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Video Game Review - Deus Ex

So my video card is broken. Overheats when I play anything even slightly visually intensive after about 15 minutes, scales that all the way up to like an hour when I play something not visually intensive. Interestingly, I can get two hours or so if I'm playing a game released 11 years ago. Which brings me to Deus Ex! Called by some the greatest game of all time, Deus Ex is a distopian future action game centering around conspiracy theories. This is also a game where the developers forgot to paint the WTC into the skybox of New York, (in the year 2000, mind) and then handwaved it away by saying terrorists blew it up. That's not a joke, that actually happened. So basically what I'm getting at is that the developers of this game are psychic, and we should pay attention to this since it's actually our future.

I picked Deus Ex up during the steam sale this summer for $2.50 figuring I'd get to it eventually, since I had heard very good things about it. I've been busy, what with school starting, so over the past month I've put in an hour here and there into Deus Ex, since my video card can't play anything made within the last five years without crashing. So around a month ago I downloaded it, I installed it, I loaded it up, I hit new game, and then I closed the game and downloaded a texture pack.

Deus Ex puts you in the shoes of [Insert name here], but that doesn't matter, because the game will call you J.C. Denton no matter what you put in as your name. It's kind of amusing if you, like I did, put in "J.C. Denton" as your real name, assuming it would come up at some point, only to have such golden messages pop up as "Wow, it's going to take a lot of getting used to calling you by your code name J.C..." J.C. Denton, as the game will inform you is your name now, is a spy working for the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition, or UNATCO, in the far flung future of 2052. A plague is sweeping the U.S., Paris is under martial law, Hong Kong seems to be run by various gangs and shut down completely, and your first day on the job, you've got to go save innocent people from terrorists inside the (now decapitated) statue of liberty.

The story is probably where this game shines the best today. The world it creates is filled with detail. The story is gripping, feels as high quality as a good spy film, and is filled with twists and turns that are unexpected. Even in today's day and age where game stories have come quite far, it still holds up to the story of a lot of modern games, with only a few personal favorites surpassing it, in my opinion.

Another plus for the game, is that it's the oldest game I know of that is fully voice acted, which is a plus. Pretty high quality audio too. As for the voice acting itself, it ranges from passable, to... Well it was 2000. It's forgivable. The only voice actor I found to be exceptional was the voice actor of the character Bob Page, who I honestly thought was voiced by John De Lancie until going to look it up just now. Seriously. He sounds like Q.

Another place the story shines is in the conversation system, which feels like a precursor to games like KOTOR, or Mass Effect. Plus, the big choice at the end of the game, which leads to which ending you get, is actually one of the best choices I've seen in a game. Without getting too spoilery, you're given three options, each of with has serious downsides.

In fact, Deus Ex feels like the precursor to a lot of modern games. Deus Ex stealth system feels like it probably helped inspire games like Assassin's Creed and Batman: Arkham Asylum, in that the stealth actually involves watching guard patterns and walking quietly behind people, instead of leveling up a skill, ala Fallout 3.

If stealth isn't your thing though, there's always another option. You can either go head on and take people down, or go via stealth, or take a long way around where you might not run into many people. There's usually three or four given answers to every scenario, making most builds viable within the game for every situation.

Speaking of builds, I like the game's skill system. As you complete goals, you gain points, which can be spent to upgrade various skills. These range from things like weapon classes, to lockpicking, to computer skill, to swimming. How you build your character will greatly effect how you play this game.

Since Denton is a prototype for a new type of machine augmentation in Deus Ex, there are various upgrades which you can gather throughout the game, granting you special abilities, all tied to a power meter. While some of these are very useful, at times I wished there were alternative passive augmentations, since the active augmentations weren't all that appealing. Again though, this was made in 2000, so a lot of forgiveness can be granted.

It's also a pretty good length game. I clocked in on my playthrough at 23 hours, which is still considered a fairly decent length for an RPG today.

Unfortunately, at times, the gameplay in Deus Ex does show it's age to a point where it becomes difficult to forgive it. For one thing, balance is pretty awful. The tranquilizer dart, for example is supposed to let you do a stealth, non-lethal takedowns. While it does this, it also only does it after several moments of the guard running in circles like a madman alerting all nearby guards that something is wrong with him, and that you are nearby. But the most ridiculous thing is the dragon sword. About halfway through the game you get a weapon called the Dragon Sword (read: lightsaber) which is so ridiculously overpowered that you may as well simply throw all your other weapons away, because this thing kills people in one to two hits. Except robots. You need grenades to take those down.

By far though, the worst THING in this game, is INVENTORY TETRIS. For those not in the know, inventory tetris is a terrible, TERRIBLE inventory managment system, where you have a certain number of slots, and different items take up a larger number of slots, in a specific arrangement, which makes you spend time that SHOULD BE SPENT shooting terrorists/shadowy government agents, arranging your inventory. It's not fun. It's not a good system. It was a bad system then, it's a bad system now. If you think that there is any reason inventory tetris should exist, you are wrong. If you want to make me only carry so many weapons, fine make me equip or drop weapons. If you want me to only carry so much, fine, give me slots ala WoW, or weight ala the Elder Scrolls. ...I'm getting ahead of myself though, I still plan on playing the new Deus Ex game, and from what I hear THAT has inventory tetris, which is, as far as I'm concerned, a SIN in 2011. But I'll get to that, at some point.

So, bottom line, is Deus Ex still a fun game 11 years later? Absolutely. I had fun with it, and I'm glad I played through it, even though it's not required playing for Human Revolution, since that's a prequel. Deus Ex might show it's age here and there, but it's still a very good game, and considering that you can get it for $10 on Steam, and it won't take any fiddling with to get working, I would give it a recommendation in a heartbeat.

Buy this game if:
You want to check out where a lot of the systems used in modern RPGs got their start, or you just want to play through a darn good distopian espionage story.

Don't buy this game if:
A game that does show it's age somewhat too often is enough to turn you off. Also: INVENTORY TETRIS UGH.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

No Chapter This Week (I'm Sorry)

Yeah, there's not going to be a chapter this week, unfortunately. I had a few big homework assignments both this week, and this weekend. I really do feel bad about skipping so many weeks, but life has been really busy. I'll try really hard to get a chapter out next week, and hopefully keep getting chapters out on a weekly basis instead of the bi-weekly basis they seem to be coming out at so far.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Murder On Deck 36 - Chapter Six: Deck 210

The elevators themselves were behind a massive gate, with one security guard in a booth surrounded by bulletproof glass the only one with the power to open it. The speaker on the side of the booth crackled to life as the man in the guard uniform spoke into a microphone. “Please place your elevator pass in the slot below,” he said. I looked down and saw a large, metal slot just large enough for the pass to fit through. Although it hurt to pass with what was undoubtedly the most valuable object I’d ever seen, I slipped the piece of plastic through the slot. The guard grabbed it from within the booth. As he flipped the plastic over, his eyes widened. I supposed it wasn’t often that he saw elevator passes like this— All access ones. Most cards have a maximum deck they allow you to reach, only ones issued on official business allowed all deck access, and it wasn’t often Deck 36 got visits from officials, only to inspect the engines. To see someone like me, grimy and obviously not from the upper decks, handing him one, must have been quite a shock.
I decided not to let the guard question the pass for too long. “Is there a problem, or can you please stop holding me up?” The guard shook his head. “Uh, no, sorry sir. Go ahead, please be seated in the courtyard, I’ll call the elevator. ” The metal gate slid open. I quickly walked through into the courtyard. There were four glass tubes lining the wall of the ship, heading straight up into the ceiling, and down into the floor. There was a small bench on one of the walls of the courtyard. The courtyard was nice by Deck 36 standards, no graffiti at all inside, even some potted plants placed in the corner, although they were withered as though no one had bothered to water them.
I sat down on the bench and waited. It was a long time before one of the tubes lit up with bright green lights. I suppose those four elevators were all they had for the entire ship. It took forever to get one where you needed it, but travel between decks was rare. Finally a platform slid down the lighted tube, and into place in the floor. The doors of that tube lit up, letting me in. I rose from the bench and walked over.
I entered the glass tube. It was very small, only wide enough for me to stand in, certainly not large enough to fit another person. The floor panel was as stable as any piece of floor in the ship, but there was a small ring of darkness around it, from which I felt a gust of cold air, which I assumed was at least one factor holding it into place. Another speaker, this one in the floor panel, I suppose, said “Destination sir?” “Deck 210.” I responded. I could tell the guard was shaken by my request, but he responded “Yes sir… It’s a round trip pass. You’ll be issued another card to return at the booth at your destination.” and after a moment, the floor began to rise.
It rose slowly at first, into the ceiling, which became the floor. At first I could distinctly make out the floors as I passed them, Deck 37, Deck 38, Deck 39, but then the elevator began to rise faster and faster, until it became too fast for me to keep count any more. Before long, each floor was a blur as I passed it. It was a disorienting feeling, seeing the ship go by so quickly, one I didn’t much like.
Before too long had passed, the elevator began to slow, more rapidly than it had accelerated. The floor locked firmly in place, and the doors slid open. I stepped out of the elevator and the floor slid down immediately as I stepped off of it. I was slightly lightheaded from looking out the tube on the ride up. This feeling magnified though, as I saw, for the first time, what an upper deck actually looked like— Not just AN upper deck, THE upper deck. It didn’t get higher than this.
My first thought was how clean it was. It wasn’t made of gold either, for that matter. It was, however, a lot bigger than Deck 36. Not wider, mind you, but it was much taller vertically, easily three or four times the height of Deck 36, which was already pretty tall. This however, was incredible. I’d heard of skyscrapers before, massive structures of concrete and steel built back on Earth, but I never imagined there were skyscrapers inside of Hope, which already touched the stars. What was really incredible though, was that the roads seemed to curve around the massive structures, linking together again, creating a massive spider web of sidewalks high above, reaching up and up to the sky.
Then I finally managed to pull my eyes away from the skies when someone said, impatiently, “Are you done?” There was a guard staring at me angrily from her booth. “Yeah.” I said. “Yeah, I am.” I walked to her. There was no wall around the elevators here, no bulletproof glass protecting the guard of the elevators. Why would there be? It’s not as though people were hurrying to leave this deck, after all. Instead the courtyard was exposed to the sidewalk. Where the gate would have been, there was an enormous fountain. It was a sculpture resembling Hope, hovering above a pool of water. The sculpture alone was easily the size of my entire quarters, back on Deck 36. Water rose from the basin, a quickly moving stream, which swirled around the sculpture. It seemed totally natural, looked amazing as though the water were flowing completely on its own. It, and the statue, must have been held up with some sort of anti-gravity. Surrounding this incredible sculpture though, was grass. Real grass. I’d never seen grass before, we didn’t have it on the lower decks.
I took the return card from the woman, who seemed disgusted at the sight of me. I suppose my grimy clothes repulsed her, or perhaps it was just me that repulsed her. Either way, after taking the card, I took off, looking for a security station. I probably should have asked her, but I didn’t like her attitude. I passed the fountain, walking on the sidewalk running outside the small circle of grass circling the fountain.
The lowest level of this deck, at the base of the enormous buildings was bustling with people. As I passed them, making my way down the streets, I realized that as I passed them people began staring at me. Mind you, I wasn’t much better, there were several of them I stared at too.
On Deck 36 we pretty much wear whatever we want, although everyone onboard is issued a navy blue uniform. As a security officer, I’m required to wear the shirt on it, not that people usually care, so I usually wear that shirt, and a coat over it. Here though, everyone wears uniforms, but not like the ones we have on Deck 36. While the base design is the same as our uniforms on Deck 36, the colors here are not uniformly navy blue, instead they have all sorts of spectacular colors, hot pink, bright orange, dark green, the color was unlike anything I’d ever seen on the grimy worn down clothes of Deck 36. However even beyond the uniforms, the people of Deck 210 had some baffling fashion trends. I saw people who had so many piercings their head must have been more metal than flesh, but not normal piercings. Rivets, pieces of metal injected into, or fused with, their faces. I saw hair that looked like it must have used similar artificial gravity as the fountain to stay up. I passed
After wandering the deck for what must have been at least an hour, I finally saw a sign that said security, and made my way over to it. I stepped inside. Again, all eyes in the room fell upon me. This was considerably different from the security station downstairs. It was at least four times as large, and the desks were sturdy. The walls were clean, and had the same metallic sheen as a lot of the rest of the deck. The officers themselves here wore silver uniforms that seemed to almost sparkle in the light.
“Can I help you sir?” One of the men near the entrance said. I responded, “Yeah, can you tell me where I can find Gregory Taylor?” As the words left my mouth I saw the officers began to glance at each other, and heard whispers pass through the room. “May I ask who’s asking?”, said the officer. “Ryan North. I’m a security officer down on Deck 36, I have some questions for him.” Again, muttering passes through the room. “Sir, Gregory Taylor is currently taking some time off, coping with the loss of his son. As I’m sure you understand, he doesn’t especially want visitors right now. Please, could you come back in, say, a week?” Obviously I could not, so I did what I had to do. I lied. “Listen, I’m here on official business. I’m the officer on his son’s case, and I need to ask him some questions, now please, where can I find him?”
This time the whispers got even louder than before. I wondered if they’d ever even seen someone from a deck as low as 36. Either way, saying I was on official business was enough, and they gave me Gregory Taylor’s address, and I made my way toward his home.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Murder On Deck 36 - Chapter Five: Conspiracy

“It’s just a junkie. A criminal.” The chief’s voice was condescending, a fact I didn’t appreciate at that moment. “It’s murder, and it’s connected to Evan Taylor’s!” I shouted. I shouldn’t be speaking to the chief this way, but I was beginning to get fed up with the chief’s ignorance of what was right in front of him. “It’s a random act of violence! Finding who killed this girl… There’s no trail.” The chief sighed. “You need to stop with this conspiracy stuff. There’s no connection—” “It’s the exact same wound!” I interrupted the chief. “It’s just a wound! There’s no connection, no arms dealer, nothing like that. They’re just two very unfortunate, isolated incidents.”
“I want to talk to the family.” I said. “Dr. Taylor’s. The wife made it sound like the family was pretty unhappy with Dr. Taylor’s choice to come to the lower decks, maybe that grudge was what led to his death.” The chief looked around slowly. He rose from his desk and walked to the door, closing it. Very quietly he said, “That’s not going to happen.” I still wasn’t pleased, but I spoke quietly too, though not sure why. “Why not? You can get me an elevator pass, if it’s for an official investigation.” The chief walked back to his desk, and rested his hand on it. While still looking away from me, he said, “I did a little research of my own on this Evan Taylor guy. Do you know who his father is?” “No.” I responded, shortly. I was a little embarrassed that I hadn’t done that research myself. The chief turned back to me, and said, lower still, in the lowest whisper. “Gregory Taylor. The chief of security for the entire ship. You won’t be bothering him with your accusations. The cases— Both of them— are closed. You’re dismissed, North.”
I left the Chief’s office in a huff. Everyone in the security office was staring at me. “What are you looking at?” I snapped at them. I was fed up. There was a connection between Cindy and Evan Taylor’s deaths. I knew it. And yet the chief was completely shut off from the possibility. I should be used to it I suppose. Down on Deck 36 most cases are never closed for this exact reason. Everyone is so afraid that rocking the boat will get them killed, that they just keep their heads down and hope to get transferred higher up. Rocking the boat too much can mean negative reviews from higher ups, which means you stay down in this stinking slum longer. But this was on a whole new level. I had a link between the cases, a solid link, and the chief wouldn’t even hear of it. Still it made sense. If I accused Gregory Taylor of this, it would be suicide for my career. A toxin for everyone involved, guaranteeing that they’d be stuck down here for the rest of their lives. Still if it were right…
As I stormed out into the streets, extra smoky today due to some sort of malfunction down in the engine section, Sarah called to me from inside. I kept walking. Sarah was just as frustrated as I was, I’m sure, we had vented our frustrations to each other, at that moment though, I didn’t feel like talking. I ducked down a back alley, hoping to avoid Sarah if she followed me out of the security station.
I kept trying to think of a connection, something more solid, so I could convince the chief to give me more resources, but I had nothing. If the wounds being almost exact matches wasn’t enough, and my story about Cindy showing up at midnight (Which was met with a response of “I don’t want to hear about any more midnight visitors of that kind from you again North.”) then I didn’t know what would. If I could only get the chief to reopen the case, maybe get me some extra manpower on the case to talk with people, ask about a new weapons dealer… What I really needed was to talk to Dr. Taylor’s family. The chief of security for the entire ship. That was major. Deck 210, very top floor. One of the most important men on the deck. But that just made him fit the profile all the more. As I thought about it, it made more sense. Gregory Taylor could easily afford a heat weapon. He probably had twenty different kinds in his quarters alone. Maybe he begrudged his son’s choice to come to the lower decks. Hated it even. Enough to kill. Then Cindy found a link, some evidence, something, and he had to deal with her. That would certainly explain what Cindy had meant by this being “bigger than you know.” The chief of security for the entire ship committing murder?
That’s when it crossed my mind. Johnny. How could I have forgotten? I should have gone straight from the crime scene to talk with him, but I rushed to tell the chief what I had found, falsely hoping he’d reopen the case. I pushed the thoughts of Gregory Taylor and the upper decks from my mind, and began to hurry down the dark streets, toward Hole in the Wall.
When I arrived, I knew something was wrong. The place was usually pulsating with loud music all hours, but as I approached the hole, it was dead silent. I ducked in, and didn’t like what I found. The place was virtually empty, except for Johnny and the brunette from earlier, sitting at a table by the opposite wall. The strobe lights had been replaced by harsh flood lights lighting the area between walls up. I could see around a hundred feet in either direction, beyond that, only darkness. I suppose the expanse between walls could lead me around the entire deck, but no one ever strayed too far from the dance floor in hole in the wall, unless they wanted a dark spot for… Privacy. There were probably all sorts of diseased vermin who had made nest in the darkness, and besides, there was no point in wandering in the darkness, since the expanse was just an empty void.
I could tell the two were upset. As I approached them, Johnny looked up at me and, obviously grief stricken, said “What do you want?” angrily. Obviously, word had gotten to him. The brunette whose name I didn’t know said something I couldn’t hear, obviously meant to be comforting, to Johnny, but he shook his head. “What do you want Ryan? Now’s not a good time. I just got word about—” “Cindy?” I asked, bluntly. Johnny’s brow furrowed with confusion. “How do you know about…?”
I explained the story to Johnny, beginning with her midnight visit, and then ending by saying that the chief still wouldn’t reopen the case. There was a long silence after I finished. I could tell the brunette was very upset by what I’d said. I imagine she must have known Cindy well. Finally, Johnny rose from the table. Walked closer to me, and said, looking me in the eye, “What do you need?”
I was a bit taken aback. “What do I…?” “What do you need?” He repeated. “For the case.” I thought for a moment. “Well it’s hard, I’d need the manpower to… figure out what Cindy knew… I mean, I’d need people out on the street asking about the new arms dealer… And…” I trailed off. “And?” He asked. I sighed, before continuing. “If it were any other case, I’d want to question the family. Figure out if any of them have a grudge against Taylor, or know who might. Unfortunately he’s from the upper decks, and without a pass…” I left out the part about Gregory Taylor, no need to mention that to Johnny.
The most serious I’d ever seen him look, Johnny turned to the brunette. He said, “Rachel.” And that was it. She’d clearly been listening to me, because she knew what Johnny meant. She reached down into her chest, and pulling out of her shirt was a small plastic card. She handed it to Johnny, and he turned back to me. “Something this valuable, had to keep it close to me. People expect that I’d keep something valuable on me, but the girls…” His voice faltered, I suspect he remembered that he was one girl shorter now. “…The girls are invisible during deals to most people. No one expects them to have anything valuable.” It’s times like these that remind me that Johnny, for how reckless and carefree he asks, is the best in the business because he’s smarter than the rest.
“I’ll send every man I have to start asking about this guy. Cindy was the best at finding people, that’s why she was one of my best people, but I’ve got a lot of manpower. I’ll tell everyone to drop what they’re doing. Put a bounty on information about this guy. As for talking to this Taylor guy’s family…” Johnny handed me the small plastic card, and my eyes widened. I’d never actually seen one of these with my own eyes before, and instantly I knew why Johnny wanted to keep this so close. The small plastic card had a picture of Hope on it, on a starry background. Underneath it were the words “ELEVATOR PASS - OFFICIAL BUSINESS - ALL DECK ACCESS”
“Rachel swiped this on some guy, an official visiting 36 years ago for some evaluation, making sure the engines were being kept running. It’s only good for one trip, so I’ve been saving it. Only good for one person, so I was hoping some day I might get more and be able to get the girls and I out of here… But this will work for getting you wherever you need to go.” I kept staring at the piece of plastic. “Ryan.” Johnny said, keeping the serious tone that matched his face. I tore my eyes from the plastic, and met Johnny’s eyes. “I want the man who killed Cindy. Find him.”
I probably should have told Johnny that I’d have to arrest him, and I couldn’t bring him to Johnny, but this was different. Last time it was business, but this time the killer had hurt someone Johnny cared about. And as I thought about all Johnny did for her, I realized that Johnny really did care about his girls, maybe even love them. For all his faults, Johnny was still a good guy. All I did was nod and say, “We’ll get him.”
I left Hole in the Wall. I took the piece of plastic, put it in my pocket, but never let go of it. I headed toward the elevators. I was getting to do something I’d wanted to for my entire life. I was leaving Deck 36.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Movie Review - The Beaver

The Beaver is a psychological thriller/horror film directed by Jodie Foster. I don't care if the trailer looks like a quirky drama, this crap is messed up. I don't CARE if Jodie Foster calls it a comedy-drama, this crap is MESSED UP. But is it any good? And just what makes me feel that this film can be seen along the lines of something out of a Stephen King novel?

Let me back up a bit, back to when I was seeing Source Code with a friend. One of the trailers in front of it was for the above film, a I laughed hysterically for all the wrong reasons. I couldn't believe they were seriously making a drama about THAT premise. And the dialogue was so silly! "I'M THE BEAVER AND I'M HERE TO SAVE YOUR LIFE." Really movie? Really? It looked like Oscar Bait, plain and simple, along the lines of such terrible, terrible films as Seven Pounds. Still, I was informed by people who actually knew what they were talking about that the movie was supposed to be quite good according to test audiences, so although I was skeptical, I kept an interest in the film, and kept tabs on it.

After release, the film grossed under a million dollars, produced on a budget of $21 million, and had a very brief run in theaters, although it was critically acclaimed. Even though the film had star power, since it stars Mel Gibson as the main character, Walter Black (we'll get there in a moment) and Jodie Foster as his wife (who also directed the film) not even the star power was enough to draw in an audience. Jodie Foster stated that she thought it was because the film was a "comedy-drama" and that audiences didn't know what to feel. Well let me solve that problem for you: You should feel utter horror.

You see, as I said above, the trailers, and likely the filmmakers, would have you believe that The Beaver is intended to be the story of a depressed man. While that's true, the trailer is misleading, because this film is NOT merely a drama. I'm fairly certain that this film was directed, written, and acted as a dark, disturbing horror film about a man's slow descent into utter madness, and then got a quirky indie/alternative soundtrack and was recut at the last second. It's the only explanation I can manage.

I say that, but even that doesn't sit right. The film doesn't even feel like it's been recut. This film is terrifying! It starts off oddly, as Walter, suffering from chronic depression, begins to use, as I'm sure you know by now, a puppet of a Beaver to cope. At first this is funny, but that fades quickly, and before too long I started worrying that the film would end with Walter wearing a suit of human skin.

You probably think I'm exaggerating, but I swear, this movie is dark. And not only in the way I thought it would be, with Walter struggling with depression, but some of the scenes with the Beaver in it are downright eerie.

But the film isn't all bad. Even the things I've said above aren't "bad" per say, just bizarre. And I actually did like the movie. The acting is good all around, and the dialogue largely feels realistic and sincere.

Actually what were probably my favorite parts of the movie, oddly enough, were the scenes having to do with the sub plot about Walter's son Porter. The sub plot, a romance between Porter and a girl at his school, was pretty typical teenage romantic plot fair, but something about it felt very sincere, and I thought the two characters had good chemistry. It feels so vastly different from the rest of the movie though, it almost seems like two films got squished together.

So should you see this movie? ...Yeah! Go for it! This film is good! It's... Bizarrely dark, more than a little disturbing, and kind of make you confused to watch because you don't know whether to laugh or cry (as I said, I settled in the middle in UTTER HORROR), but it's still a film worth seeing, that I would definitely give a recommendation.

And on that note I'm going to go NEVER SLEEP AGAIN.

No Chapter This Week

Yeah, so I've been preparing for school and stuff, starting back up on Monday, and I haven't had a chance to write a chapter for this week yet. Hopefully next week won't be TOO crazy with classes starting up, but I hope everyone is understanding of there being no chapter this week (and possibly next).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Murder On Deck 36 - Chapter Four: The Second Murder

The next day my head was still buzzing with questions. This Cindy girl, she was obviously in trouble. But who was after her? I’d seen her around before when talking to Johnny, she was one of his favorite girls. She always seemed harmless. In over her head. Another victim of the cannibalistic society of Deck 36 to be sure, but never dangerous. We’re all victims in our own way of this place. Even folks like Johnny who have things under control.
As I walked into the station I saw Sarah. I tossed around in my head whether or not to tell her about Cindy’s visit… Her warning. What troubled me was that I didn’t have anything solid to go on, and down here if someone tells you they’re in trouble you don’t tell anyone without a good reason. I’m not saying I thought Sarah was in on anything, she’s one of the few folks I trusted on the whole deck, but getting people involved gets them killed. I decided to keep Cindy’s midnight visit to myself for the time being.
It started as a pretty normal day at the station. Cases buzzing around, but nothing for me. Nothing for Sarah and I either. I sat around and dozed, still tired after a mostly sleepless night. I had been sitting at my desk without much to do for quite some time, halfway between the world and sleep, when I was shaken awake by Sarah. “Ryan, wake up. There’s been another hit, we’ve got to go check it out.” I stood and wiped the sleep from my eyes. “Where?” I asked. “The body was found in an alley somewhere, some girl. I think it’s by where you live, actually.”
Not unusual. I’d say I lived in a bad area, but all of Deck 36 was a bad area. Sarah had the exact location of the hit downloaded on a map. It was an old decrepit thing that barely worked any more, like most of the maps that were handed out to Security Officers as standard issue. As we neared the location where the body had been found, I realized how close to my quarters this hit actually was. It couldn’t have been more than a block or two away. “Where did you say this was, again?” I asked. “Oh I don’t know,” Sarah responded, only half listening to me, “The 63rd block?”
My stomach lurched. Each Deck was split into 120 “blocks” to make navigation easier. I lived on the 65th block. The murder had been just two blocks adjacent to me the night before. “Did anyone mention a time of death, when they told you about the case, I mean?” That got Sarah to look up at me, questioningly. “No… Why?” I shook my head. “No reason.”
It couldn’t be, I was sure of it. It was all a coincidence. A murder in my area isn’t an uncommon thing. Drugs, money, even looking at someone wrong, these were all things that could get you killed. Not to mention Johnny wouldn’t stand for it… No one would cross Johnny like that, not even the guy who was selling these heat weapons. Johnny wasn’t a complete sociopath, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have someone killed for crossing him like that.
But then we got there. Then we turned the corner into the dark alley. And I looked at the body lying on the ground, with a million thoughts jumping into my head. The wound. The place. The person. All my thoughts condense into one: Cindy. Lying on the dirty ship floor before me was Cindy’s dead broken body. Most of it, at least. To the right side of her chest was a large dark wound. A blackened hole burned straight through her torso, crisping her very heart. I recognized the wound instantly. It was the same wound that killed Dr. Taylor. Whoever was using the heat rifle had struck again, and judging from where the body was, it couldn’t have been more than minutes after Cindy had spoken with me the night before.
Cindy had come to warn me to stop digging into Evan Taylor’s murder, and mere moments later the same man killed her.
Whatever it was I was feeling at that moment, anger, confusion, and perhaps a tinge of fear, it must have shown on my face, because Sarah startled me as she said, “Ryan? What’s wrong?” I don’t look up from the cold body as I respond. “I knew her.” Sarah glances at the body, and says, “You did? Who was she?” I shook my head waking myself slightly from the shock. “She was… Her name was Cindy. One of Johnny’s girls.”
“One of… No… Who would cross Johnny like that? He’ll have them killed!” Sarah said. “Sarah, I think this goes a lot deeper than a new arms dealer. Look at the wound. It’s just like the one that killed Dr. Taylor.” Sarah looked at the wound, and I didn’t wait for her to respond before continuing. “First Dr. Taylor, then Cindy… Sarah, Cindy was the girl who Johnny sent to look into whoever had a heat rifle. I saw Johnny send her to look into this guy, and now she’s dead… And…” I sigh. Sarah picks up on my hesitancy, and says “And what?” more as a demand than a question.
“And she found me last night.” I responded. “What?” Sarah asks. “She found me last night. That’s why she was here. She must’ve been killed just after I spoke to her. She was scared, and she came to my quarters.” “Asking for help?” I shake my head. “No. Warning me.” “Warning you… Wait. You don’t mean…?”
I nod. I don’t need to say any more. We both realize why Cindy came to warn me. Whoever killed her has struck twice now, and all signs point to me being the next target.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Thoughts On Reviews

Hello. So, readers of my blog (yes, both of you) will probably know that I do a lot of reviews on here. You can find them all here. I thought, since it's one of the main things I do on here, I might as well spend a little time talking about my review philosophy, and a certain fallacy I think a lot of reviews, professional or otherwise, fall into.

The fallacy is, in short, the thought that the only point behind a review is to inform the reader of your own opinion of the film/book/whatever, something which I feel is only partly true.

I can hear the disagreements already.

Let me explain my point a little bit; While it's inarguable that reviews are subjective and opinion based, and in fact all personal taste is subjective, and there's no "right or wrong" taste (unless you like Twilight, obviously) informing the audience of your personal opinion should only be half of the point of the review. You see, there are two main reasons why anyone would read a review. People who have seen the film you're reviewing (or played the game, or read the book, and so on) want to see if they agree with your opinion of it, or hear alternative viewpoints and criticisms or compliments toward the work being reviewed. The second, and more obvious point, is simply to decide whether it is worth the money to buy the film/book/game/etc. And the review should, as such, attempt to inform both of these audiences equally.

Let's pretend for a moment that you want to write a review of a movie you just saw. Now, this hypothetical movie is the latest summer action blockbuster, and it's been being hyped for months. The trailers look interesting, and you decide to go buy a ticket to see it opening day. You sit down for two hours, and think it's the greatest film you've ever seen. You decide that you're going to go home and write a review of it on your blog, and post it for all your friends. (This is beginning to become uncomfortably familiar to me.) You sit down and write your post. In the review, you write about how it's the greatest film you've ever seen, and how it's changed your perceptions of how good a movie can be. You insist that everyone reading the review go see it immediately. However, you neglect to mention in your review that, while the action and effects were, in fact, the best ever seen in a movie, the acting and writing were awful. After all, though you know this is true and wouldn't argue otherwise, you didn't care about the plot and felt the action held up the film on it's own, thus making the plot, characters, and lame sex jokes in every scene (it's a Michael Bay film) irrelevant to your review.

Now suppose one of your friends, who for the sake of the argument doesn't like action films and instead only likes movies with intelligently written characters, reads your review and decides to see the movie you loved so much. He walks out of the theater instead feeling outraged at how terrible he thought the film was.

Now obviously, he wasn't the right audience for the film. Unfortunately, because of your review simply using broad language and not explaining what was good and bad about the film, he's going to feel cheated and not trust your reviews again. Maybe he'll even feel lied to. Obviously this isn't the best way to go around writing a review.

Now of course, if you loved the film for the action, that's your prerogative, and you have every right to tell people that on your blog. But a better way to about it would probably be to tell the audience, instead of simply that the movie was the greatest you've ever seen in your life, that the acting and writing weren't that great, but that you felt the unparalleled special effects and action scenes more than held up the film on it's own. Not only will you sound more intelligent in the end, but you'll end up pleasing your readers more, and will let people know whether they'll like the film, not just whether you did.

And this can go for any kind of review, of course. For example, Angry Joe, a reviewer of both video games and movies whom I have a lot of respect for, gave Mortal Kombat* a 9/10, but after watching his review, I know it's not a game I'd never be any interested in. It's a fighting game, a genre I'm not too interested in because I simply don't like it that much outside of Smash Bros.

That's what I try to do in my reviews, and that's my review philosophy. I try not only to tell my opinion of a game or movie, but inform my reader of why they may or may not like something. A game I really liked, and I still play quite a lot a whole year later, Beat Hazard, is currently sitting at a score of merely 70 on Metacritic, so obviously most reviewers weren't as in love with the game as I was. (Sidenote: The problem with the menus being laggy I mention in that review was patched almost a year ago, and Beat Hazard is still a phenomenal game in my opinion, though like I said, the flashing lights can be headache inducing.)

Now I may not always succeed in trying to bring through why you may like or dislike a game, and going back to some of my older reviews it's downright embarrassing, but I'm always trying, and back when I did some of those older reviews like Beat Hazard, I was still trying to find my identity as a blogger. Heck, I still am trying to find my identity as a blogger.

In fact, something most people will probably notice is that in my reviews I don't use a "rating score" at all, and even more importantly, in my video game reviews I end each one with a "Buy this game if:" and "Don't buy this game if:" quote. That's because, simply put, I don't believe in arbitrary review scores. Here, let me elaborate a bit. I just pulled three random issues of Game Informer out of my stack of 10 years worth of them. Let me pick three reviews real quick.

Mirror's Edge - 8 (Issue 188)
Wii Fit - 8 (Issue 182)
- 8 (Issue 213)

There you go. Those 3 games, according to the review score, are exactly equal. Wii Fit, Mirror's Edge, and Nail'd are all games worth exactly an 8/10 score according to Game Informer. (I know a lot of people have problems with Game Informer. Shut up. I'm making a point.)

My problem with review scores, in case I haven't made it apparent yet, is that it's impossible to tell anything about a game from a number alone. I mean really, what do we know about these games from a review score alone. We know, apparently, that they're all games worth an 8/10. That's it.

Now, looking more carefully at each game, what we actually know about them is that one is a first person platformer, one is a glorified yoga mat, and one is a racer of some kind, I don't know, I'd never heard of Nail'd before, and it's not really relevant. The point is that these are very different games, and putting the number "8" on each of them is virtually useless. What does "8" mean? The magazine describes it as

"Very good. Innovative, but perhaps not the right choice for everyone. This score indicates that there are many good things to be had, but arguably so."

In other words, an 8 means "READ THE REVIEW!"

I just don't see the point in applying arbitrary numbers to a review. The scores are just a more professional way to give people a TL;DR ("Too Long; Didn't Read") without actually saying anything. They're essentially the exact opposite of what I was just saying about explaining the merits and problems with the film/book/game.

Now I get most review scores are meant to accompany the review itself. Most reviewers would claim that a review score isn't meant to replace the review itself, and instead should be read in context with the rest of the review. You know my answer? Well if you're supposed to have read the review, shouldn't you know how good or bad you thought the movie/game was anyways, without the review score? Either 1, you're being lazy and don't want to write too much or too passionately about what you really thought, or 2, your review score is completely and utterly redundant. Neither are a good answer to why the review score should be around. That's why I don't use them, and that's why I don't like them. I know I've given Ebert a hard time on this blog before, but I did like the "Thumbs up, thumbs down" review mechanic, and I still have respect for him as a critic when he's in his element.

The only thing I will say is that it is nice to be able to tell at a glance whether a review on Metacritic is positive or negative, so that when I'm judging whether or not to buy a game I can go to Metacritic and pick both positive and negative reviews to get a fair assessment of what the good parts or bad parts of a game are. The problem with that, however, is that most people don't USE Metacritic for that, and instead only take one look at the metascore, and either buy or dismiss the game based on that alone, which ties back in to what I said before. Reviews should be about helping people decide whether or not to buy the game. I'm sure many people have been angry that they got a game they really didn't like because it had a high metascore, simply because it was a critical darling, and I'm sure many people have missed real gems that they would have loved (like Beat Hazard) because they have a lowly score of 70.

Another point that frustrates me with game reviews specifically is the inflation in game review scores. I'm not going to go too in depth with that point because the Extra Credits guys already tackled that topic, and they put it more eloquently than I ever could, not to mention the fact that I'd just parrot what they say, but the short version is this:

As it is now, there's a huge inflation with game review scores, to the point where an 8/10 score among game reviewers is typically an average to mediocre game, instead of a 5/10 which would make sense. As such games at 80/100 on Metacritic are to be taken with a grain of salt (Oh, and keep this in mind and read that Game Informer review quote again. They're one of the biggest offenders of this.) and anything below that is generally a pretty poor game, equivalent to only a 2/5 movie score or below. There's even a Trope about how stupid it is that 8.8 is considered a lukewarm review. The end result, obviously, is that instead of having the range from 5-10 to review games that are above average, you only get from 8-10. The result is a lot of scores of, well, 8.8 or such. It's stupid. (Note: If you want a review absolutely not guilty of this, who actually uses review scores better than anyone else I've ever seen, Angry Joe is awesome with this.)

The end result is that, when I go to look for reviews I know of a few critics whom I generally find informative, like Giant Bomb, Angry Joe, or, if he's done a review of it, Totalbiscuit, and listen to their comments, ignoring the metascore entirely. (Unless, like I said before, I was looking for various opinions on a game.)

So yeah. That's basically a really long blog post about my review philosophy. I hope it's been informative and has helped people understand my reviews better.

*Note: Obviously I'm not responsible for any content such as language or blood seen in the review I linked to. It's for an M rated game, the review will have blood in it, and the reviewer doesn't have as tame a mouth as I do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Movie Review - Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a reboot of the classic Planet of the Apes film series. Unlike the last film, this one is not a direct remake of Planet of the Apes and, more importantly, didn't cast an untalented idiot as the main character... Seriously, who though Marky Mark was a suitable replacement for Charlton Heston? Really?

...But I digress. What's important is that Humans are Idiots-- Sorry, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is meant, if successful, to launch a new film series, hopefully reviving the franchise, and again, most importantly, keeping Mark Hackberg as far away as possible from it.

Since it's virtually impossible to say anything about this film without spoiling the classic 1968 film (which if you haven't seen yet YOU SHOULD) please refer to the following videos to get caught up on the original film.

So as you can see... Sorry what? Oh, ok. Folks, I've been told one of those isn't actually a clip from Planet of the Apes, I apologize for confusion. Anyways, in a nutshell, the titular planet of the apes, is in fact Earth.

Basically, Humans blew up the Earth, Apes became intelligent and took over. It's a great film. Go see it.

But have you ever found yourself wondering, "Hmm, I wonder what happened? I wonder exactly how the apes overthrew humanity?" No? Me either. That's why I went into this film highly skeptical. I liked the ambiguity of the original Apes movies. It let you use a bit of imagination to figure out what happened. But Hollywood decided we needed answers, and that they would be given to us in the form of James Franco trying to cure Alzheimer's.

So was I right? Is Rise a failure, or a victory? Does the franchise deserve to be relaunched, or should we hold on tightly to our 1968 Heston films, or can we finally say the Apes franchise is ready? It's been ten whole years since the Marky Mark disaster, after all. (Actually, I didn't mind that movie except for Marky Mark. Oh and also the ending. And the... Rest... Of the movie-- Ok yeah it was terrible.)

Well, I was actually pleasantly surprised by Rise. The film begins with James Franco (Harry from the Spider-Man films) playing a scientist attempting to cure Alzheimer's with a modified virus called ALZ-112. He gives several different variants to Chimps before finding one that works (ALZ-112) that repairs brain cells using the power of SCIENCE. Basically, it's a smart virus. (I can only assume it was also being developed to counter the STUPID VIRUS that spread to all of humanity prior to the film, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

In short, the day Franco is showing it to the people who will get the drug to the public, the chimp with the ALZ-112, Bright Eyes, goes ballistic and rampages through the building before being shot. All the chimps have to be put down, and Franco's life long work is, in short, over and done with.

...OR IS IT?!

Well obviously not, or it'd be a pretty short film. No! It turns out that Bright Eyes went ballistic because it was protecting it's newborn baby Chimp, Gollum. I mean Caesar.

And thus begins the ~2 hour film. Yeah, that was all the opening.

Actually, while we're on that subject, let me just say the pacing of this movie is really good. It has that perfect balance of both keeping the story active, and yet never going too fast as to make it seem rushed. It gives each of the characters enough time to be developed as characters. Even Caesar seems really developed by the end of the film, and you understand his motivations.

I was also very pleasantly surprised by James Franco's acting. I mean, not to diss the Spider-Man films, or him in those films, but uh... His acting was a bit...

Hammy? And let's not forget his unbelievable Oscar performance this year, where he basically stood next to Anne Hathaway being Anne Hathaway and was, erm... Boring.

Luckily, none of that came through in this. He seemed likeable, and realistic. Stupid, but realistic.

Oh and also on that note, let me just say real quick RODNEY MCKAY IS IN THIS MOVIE AND IT IS AWESOME. Oh, and so is Draco Malfoy. And that guy who's in a ton of stuff.

So yeah, good cast, and good acting all around. I really enjoyed the acting, and all of the characters are really likeable, except the villain, but that's intentional.

Speaking of transitions, CGI! The CGI in this film is great! Absolutely great! Perhaps not uncanny valley escaping, but really good! The amount of emotion the apes all get across is unbelievable. In fact, by far the best scenes of the movie involve all ape characters, partly because of just how incredibly good the CGI is, and partly because the writing for those scenes is really good.

In fact, the writing for this is the best kind of prequel writing (except for the stupidity of the humans), because this is the same kind of prequel that KOTOR is, for example. In fact, the film works the fact that it's set so long before the first film into the plot really well. Since it's so undefined what happened during this film, it actually keep you guessing how it'll end. (Hint: There are some apes involved.) In fact it even works some absolutely brilliant references to the Charlton Heston films (which Wikipedia says this is not, actually, in the same canon as, and that at some point if this film does well enough, we'll see a remake of the '68 film) both obvious that almost everyone will get, and a few that are hidden in the background. In fact I almost want to see the film again just to catch all the shout-outs, and when you can say you want to see a movie again so soon after watching it, I'd say the film is a success.

In fact, I can even see, very easily, there being another Rise film between this film and the remake of the '68 film. In fact, the way this film ends almost requires it, since let's just say it leaves a few... BIG... Things... Unexplained. I'd almost be angry if I didn't think they were planning to do Rise 2 before the full remake.

So was the film unnecessary? Well, surprisingly, I'm going to say no. What I didn't realize, actually until writing this review, was that this is not in the same canon as the Heston films, and they ARE planning on getting to remaking the Heston film. So you know what? I actually like that they went a different route. It's a lot more creative than the typical route of rebooting a franchise with a remake. In fact, this movie has the most in common with Batman Begins, in that it's telling the origin story before getting to the real story. And you know what? It works. It really works. This was a good movie, maybe even a great movie. It was the origin story we didn't know we wanted. And I'd give it a recommendation in a heartbeat.

In fact, I really only have one issue with the film. You may notice that I've been subtly alluding to a certain lack of intelligence on the part of the human characters.

Basically, every. Single. Human. Character. In the film. Is. A. Moron. All of them. James Franco? Yep. McKay? Yeah, him too. Malfoy? Oh heck yeah. James Franco's girlfriend? Yep. The entire U.S. Military? Well, they didn't show up for the titular rising, so yeah, I'll count them too. It would seem every human being forgot either A. That they had guns, or B. How to use guns. And it shows. And it's painful.

The human aspects of this film is just watching one moronic mistake after another, that in the end forcefully pushes the movie toward a climax. Now I know that sounds harsh, but understand, I really did like the film. A lot. And you should definitely see it if you're looking to see a movie any time soon. It's a good one to see in theaters. But the human characters are IDIOTS. All of them. I saw this with a group of friends, and right as the credits roll I turn to them and say "You know what I don't get?" And one of them responds "Why Humans suddenly turned into idiots?"

It hurts me to say this without giving examples, but unfortunately most the examples are very spoilery, other than the gun thing. And honestly, that's not even the half of it.

Still, as I said, I liked the movie a lot, and the stupidity of the human race isn't enough to ruin it, not by a long shot. They won over me, one of the biggest skeptics of the film, and I can now safely say that I'm looking forward to any future sequels to Rise.

Oh, and one more thing. I don't know if this movie was meant to be in 3D and those plans fell through, or if it's only getting a limited 3D run, but there are a few shots that seemed like they were going for a 3D effect that... Wasn't there, in my theater at least. Bizzare.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Murder On Deck 36 - Chapter Three: Bigger Than You Know

I stepped into the security station, taking a deep breath of the air, clean by comparison. Sarah was sitting at her desk, but as soon as she saw me she bolted up and came to talk to me. “So what’d you find out?” She asked me, “Did Johnny remember who bought it?” I gave a short sigh before responding. “Johnny doesn’t know who sold it. He didn’t know there was a deal going down about a heat weapon.” I can see the shock in Sarah’s face. “Are you sure he wasn’t just trying to-” “Fool me?” I interrupt. “Yeah. I’m sure. He was pretty convincing.”
Sarah turns away for a moment and sighs, before looking up again and saying, “I asked around, but didn’t get any word on heat weapons. Most of them don’t know anything, and those who might know something are too scared to talk.” Fear isn’t a new concept on Deck 36. Fear is power, and anyone who hopes to have power uses fear as a weapon. Johnny, for example, has a lot of men out there, and crossing him isn’t a good idea. Even us, the cops, the so called “good guys” use fear defensively. It’s all that keeps the scum from storming our station. What was different this time is that we didn’t know who it was that’s holding the power, that has people scared. Something new, and on Deck 36, new is frightening.
“The Chief wanted to see you when you got back.” Sarah told me. I nodded, and walked toward the chief’s office. I opened the door, and saw him sitting there at his desk, a proper desk, unlike our half broken tables. His office probably isn’t huge by mid or upper deck standards, but it’s enormous by Deck 36 standards, probably a quarter of the entire station is taken up by his office. “Ryan. Sit down.” The chief said.
As I sat down, the chief said, “So what do we know about this doctor.” I began relating what we’d learned so far to him, telling him how Dr. Evan Taylor came from the upper decks hoping to help the sick down here, how the mark looked like a heat weapon, how I spoke to Johnny, and he claimed no one had bought a heat weapon to his knowledge.
After I spoke the chief look up toward the ceiling, contemplatively. He stood up and walked around the office for a moment. Finally he spoke, “How sure are you, really, that it was a heat weapon? Hmm?” I remained seated, but responded, “Well it looked like a heat weapon’s mark.” “Right, but how do you know? Have you seen these marks before? I’ve never seen a heat mark before, other than a plasma cutter, of course.” I paused for a moment. I knew what the chief was implying. “It was too large to be the mark of a plasma cutter, and it left a hole, it didn’t just cook them through like a laser weapon.” I explained once again. The chief came back to the front of the desk. The expression on his face was a condescending one.
“North, I understand you’re anxious to break a big case like this, maybe get transferred up a few decks,” the chief was wrong, that wasn’t my motivation for solving this case. I wanted to find the killer before he struck again. Not that it wouldn’t be nice to get transferred to a nice mid deck, “but you’re making a bigger deal out of this case than you should be. Your case is really simple. A junkie broke in to steal drugs. Maybe had a plasma cutter, maybe just a laser pistol, I don’t know. Evan caught him, and the junkie killed him.” “But sir, there weren’t any drugs taken from the cabinet there!” I realized my voice was rising. I’d had this conversation with the chief before, and I knew how it ended. But I didn’t want this case closed before the killer was caught.
“Maybe the junkie was afraid he would get caught over the murder. Maybe Dr. Taylor had a ‘private stash’ of the really good stuff, and he took it from that. Who knows. Either way, a heat weapon? A new weapons dealer? You’re treating this like some sort of conspiracy, when it’s really very simple stuff.”
I sighed, probably a bit more loudly than I had intended, since the chief shot me a dirty look. “This isn’t going to go anywhere North. Searching for one junkie on all of Deck 36 is like searching for a needle in a haystack made out of needles. You’re needed elsewhere. Case closed.”
I wanted to protest. There was something going on here, I knew it. But it wouldn’t go anywhere but getting me suspended, so I nodded reluctantly and slowly walked out of the office.
The rest of the day was pretty mundane, once I told Sarah our case had been closed. I filed the closing paperwork on the case, which took a while, spoke to some of the other security officers about their cases, seeing if I could help with anything, but still, as I made my way home hours later, with the artificial lights dimmed to give us a false sense of evening I still had the Evan Taylor case on my mind. I thought about Ashley Taylor, and how she’d never see her husband’s killer brought to justice. I wondered if I should speak to her about it, or if she’d resent me for failing to catch the guy. It wasn’t my fault, of course, but she wouldn’t understand that, she couldn’t understand that, and I didn’t blame her.
Was I making this case out to be bigger than it was? I was so sure that wound was that of a heat rifle when I first saw it, but now? Maybe I had made a mistake. Maybe the chief was right, maybe I just wanted to break a big case and get transferred out of this slum. Still, something just didn’t sit right with me about his “junkie” explanation.
I walked into my quarters, nearly tripping over my bed as I was not paying attention when I entered. I think that I should probably eat something, but I was too tired. It had been a long day. I fall into my bed, not even bothering to undress, and let sleep overtake me.

I don’t know how much time had passed when I awoke to the sound of thumping on my door. The lights outside had fully dimmed into “nighttime” mode, so I suppose it had been a few hours at least. I scrambled to get up and get to the door. AS the door swings open, at first I don’t think that I know the person standing at the door. It was a young woman, who seemed to have been in a fight of some sort. Her lip was bleeding, and she had a bruise across her forehead. It took me a moment to realize I did, in fact, know this woman. It was the blond girl I’d seen Johnny in the club with earlier that day, the one he sent to investigate the new weapons dealer.
She looks at me and I realize her eyes are full of fear. Unsure of what, exactly to say, I fumble around with my words and say something in between “What is it?” and “Can I help you?” Perhaps, “What can I help it?” I don’t remember exactly. I’m not sure if she even noticed, since she ducked into my room quickly and closed the door behind her. The already cramped quarters felt even smaller with an extra body in the room.
“I found something.” She said. Her voice trembled as she did so. I struggled to remember her name, and gave a shot at what I thought it might be. “Samantha—” “Cindy.” She interrupted. “Right. Sorry. Cindy. What do you mean you found something?” She looked around the room nervously. “Listen, your case, your heat weapon… You need to stop looking into it. You have no idea who you’re dealing with.” I shot her a puzzled look, and said, “Wait, you know who killed Dr. Taylor? Who?”
She shook her head. “No. They’ll… No. Listen, this is bigger than you know. I’m in danger even being here. I need to get back to Johnny. I only told you because I’ve heard Johnny talk about you before. You’re not like most cops on the station, you aren’t corrupt, you’re a good man. Deck 36 needs that, much as we might hate to admit it sometimes. Johnny likes you and he’s told us to do what we can to protect you before… So I’m telling you now. Drop it.”
“Who is it?” I asked, more frustrated this time. She shook her head once more, and this time opened the door. She looked at me one last time and said, “Drop the case. Be careful.” And darted out the door. I step out and chase after her for a moment, but the elevator taking her back to the ground floor closes without me and I know I won’t catch her. I head back to my room, and try to go back to sleep, with little success. What did she mean, this was bigger than I knew? Why was she in danger? I knew it. There was something bigger going on here after all. And I was going to find out what.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Problem With Wall-E

*spoilers for Wall-E to follow*

Hoo boy. This one's not going to win me any fans. Sigh.

...Buuuuut, I already called Tangled the best film of 2010 over Inception and Toy Story 3, and I still stand by that, so I suppose I just like losing readers whenever I talk about animation. (I'm kidding of course! Hardly anyone reads this blog anyways.)

Ok. I'm just going to say it. I don't like Wall-E. Never have. I don't think that it's a very good movie. But I'm always rather surprised to see that I'm in a rather small minority. People love that movie, and some even go so far as to call it Pixar's bst film... And I just don't like it very much. And don't get me wrong, I like Pixar. I like animation. I like kids films! Pixar is one of my favorite studios. I love Toy Story. I love Up. I love Ratatouille. I... Saw Cars. But Wall-E... I just don't get it.

Well, that's a lie. I do get it! I understand why the film currently sits at a whopping 96% on RottenTomatoes. I understand perfectly why people like this film. People like this film because of the first 40 minutes.

Alright, let's back up a minute. In case you're one of the two people on Earth who don't know already, Wall-E is an animated film released in 2008 about a small robot living alone on Earth cleaning up trash after all the humans left Earth. The unique thing about the film is that most of the movie, around the first 40 minutes or so, are mostly silent. They tell a story through visuals, of Wall-E alone on Earth cleaning garbage, and another robot named EVA coming to Earth to look for plant life and the two fall in love whilst never saying anything but their own names. Which is kind of odd. You'd think a future that could build robots and spaceships would but a voice chip in the robots that could say things other than their models. I dunno, maybe it was an attempt to keep robot communication limited to keep them from overthrowing us. It's as good an explanation as any.

In any case, the first 40 minutes of Wall-E are in fact good. Really good in fact! I'd even go so far as to call them great! They tell a great story almost completely visually, but still manages to be interesting enough to keep kids attention. EVA and Wall-E are both adorable and lovable, and are just kind of fun to watch.

And when I first saw the trailers for this I said something to the effect of "A nearly silent kids film? Yeah. That'll go well." But actually, it was excellently executed. I really do like the first half of Wall-E a whole lot.

And yet, this post is not called "Why I Love Wall-E," it's called "The Problem With Wall-E," so obviously I do have a big issue with the film. My problem with the film is the second half. The second half is so catastrophically BAD, that in my opinion, Kung Fu Panda was the best animated film of '08.

You see, about halfway through the film Wall-E and EVA travel to the spaceship holding some of humankind and... Well... Just see for yourself.


So yeah. Humanity got so dependent on technology that they... Sigh... Got fat, and regressed into big babies. And I'm not the one who puts it that way, that's how the director put it. Seriously, the climax of the film involves the whole ship having to LEARN HOW TO WALK.

I see what you did there Pixar. I see what you did there. And so does everyone else because it's the LEAST SUBTLE THING I'VE EVER SEEN. This is a Captain Planet level of anvil dropping here people!

Basically the whole point of the second half of the film is simply to be a sort of "cautionary tale" against being lazy and overdependent on technology and computers. In a film that was, you know, made by computers. But that's not the point! I don't have an issue with a moral in kids films, or any films! The problem is that these things should be handled with at least a CERTAIN degree of subtlety, and the back half of Wall-E is about as subtle as a giant purple elephant sitting in your living room.

I mean, I didn't hate the first half of the film! I liked it! A lot! And that had an environmental message to it, something which is difficult to do correctly, and usually ends with such classic movies as Fern Gully.

But the first half of Wall-E was excellently executed. It started out with some brief exposition about Earth being filled with garbage and Wall-E units being deployed, and then let us draw our own conclusions. I particularly liked how we're never told what, exactly, happened to all the other Wall-E units, and why Wall-E is the only one left. And some people have even theorized that humans had already started coming back to Earth and the ships are what's starting those giant dust storms we see at the beginning of the film. There are quite a few subtleties to the beginning of that film I really liked. It showed you this world, filled with trash, and let us draw our own conclusions. It showed us a world bought out by corporations, and let us draw our own conclusions. And it was good.

Which is partly why I don't understand the acclaim for the film. It takes such a rapid swing from good to crap. I mean, the entire second half of the film is anything but subtle. It's filled with things that are so extremely environmentalist/anti-consumerist that it's just kind of painful to watch to me. Even that five minute clip started sending me into fits of rage.


And I just... Despise every single thing about the second half about this movie, perhaps with the exception of the scenes that involve, oh I don't know, THE MAIN CHARACTER OF THE MOVIE, WALL-E AND EVA.

So yeah. That's my issue with Wall-E. It's a film with a great first 40 minutes, and an absolutely awful second half. I love the first half, hate the second. I figure that means I break even and just feel kind of... Apathetic toward the film as a whole. And really, being apathetic is a pathetic way to be*.

*This joke shamelessly stolen from a Relient K song.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No Chapter This Week

There will be no new chapter of Murder on Deck 36 this week since I'll be going out of town in the morning and other commitments prevented me from writing the chapter ahead of time. Blame a speech class I had earlier this week. Yeah. That's it. It was the speech class. Not Civilization 5 going on sale. Speech. I was talking. A lot. And I can't write and talk at the same time. Whereas if I were just spending way too much time playing Civilization 5, that would be irresponsible and highly deplorable.

...I'm sorry ok? For what it's worth I DID have a speech class that was 16 hours long spread over two days, so cut me a little slack. Geez. THERE'S NO PLEASING YOU PEOPLE.

...I'll try to write a blog post while I'm out of town. Happy now? ARE YOU HAPPY?! ARE YOU?! SADISTIC SADISTS!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Murder On Deck 36 - Chapter Two: Hole in the Wall

There are a few names everyone on deck 36 knows by reputation. A few of them are crime lords, scumbags who think they run the ship, of course they’re not wrong. One of them is deck 36’s chief of security, my boss, Franklin Ericsson. And one of them is Johnny. I don’t know Johnny’s last name. I don’t even know if Johnny knows his own last name, he might’ve been an orphan for all I know. But he’s a well known name on deck 36 for one reason— He’s the best at getting everything illegal on the deck, maybe even the whole ship. If you want something, guns, drugs, whatever, he’s the man to get it for you. So he knows every deal that goes down on this deck, and he’d certainly know about something as high-profile as a heat rifle. He was the first person to go to in a situation like this. Unfortunately, that meant going to Hole in the Wall.
Hole in the Wall was an illegal club start back years ago, before I was even born. It’s literally run out of a hole in the wall. Each deck’s walls are double sealed, so if something should happen to one of the walls, there’ll be a backup before the whole deck is vented out into space in the blink of an eye. However, there’s about a 50-foot gap between the two walls. Hole in the Wall is inside that gap. The hole was made so long ago no one’s even sure how it was made any more, but it’s there. It’s a small hole, sure, just big enough for a person to fit through, but it was still impressive. Something powerful had to make it through the steel that was several feet thick. On the upper decks a hole like that would be fixed within hours, but down here no one cares. If the outer wall ever broke, it’d just be one more deck that had to be sealed permanently, and no one above us cares enough to send a team down here to fix it. So Hole in the Wall was started. I suppose it’s the danger that appeals to people. Though really it’s no more dangerous there than anywhere else. In reality if the outer wall ever broke the whole deck would be dead within minutes, and the folks in Hole in the Wall would just be the first to go. Hole in the Wall isn’t owned by anyone, but there’s a definite order to things there. The more well known you are, the more powerful you are in the club. Power changes hands on a daily basis, but for a long time Johnny’s been the top dog of Hole in the Wall.
As I walked through the back alley leading to Hole in the Wall I noticed several dark figures duck away down corners and into doors as I approached. It must not have been hard to tell I was a cop. Most cops would’ve been nervous heading into Hole in the Wall-- I wasn’t. I nearly choked on some smog as I saw the neon sign hanging over the hole for which the club was named. The neon sign had been up since before I became a cop, advertising the illegal club to everyone nearby. It was restricted to go in between the layers of the walls, but no one cared down here enough to shut the club down and risk angering the crime lords who ran it. We had enough problems with them already, shutting down Hole in the Wall would cause them to declare an all out war on us.
I could see strobe lights flashing through the hole, and hear muffled thumping. As I ducked through the hole, the muffled thumping turned into deafening, pulsating music (or something resembling music at least). The strobe lights flickered. I took a look around. Most of the club noticed me as soon as I stepped in the door, and were staring at me now. I made them nervous. Rightly so, since most of them were obviously high off some illegal substance or other. That was fine by me, I wasn’t here for them, I had more pressing matters. The music stopped. The strobe lights flickered as the crowd continued to stare at me. I had my had on my gun, should anything go wrong.
“Ryan?” I heard a voice from the back of the crowd say. The crowd parted to let the owner of the voice step through. The man wore a torn shirt, had dark bags under his eyes, and had a woman on each arm, one blond, one brunette. “Ryan! That is you!” He said. “Hello Johnny.” I replied. Ryan turned to the crowd and said “It’s ok, Ryan’s with me.” That was enough for the crowd, as the music returned to its high volumes and the various punks and junkies returned to whatever they were doing.
“So Ryan, what brings you to Hole in the Wall?” Johnny asked. “Business.” I said shortly. “Oh you. Why don’t you ever just come to have a good time?” He replied. Years ago, before he had the name power he had now, I had arrested someone who had it in for Johnny. Coincidence, mind you, but Johnny still felt as though he owed me one. “I need some information on a deal—” “Ah ah ah,” Johnny cut me off, “now Ryan, you know I can’t tell you about my customers. Confidentiality policy.” I glared at him. “Johnny, this is big. If you help me now, you might make it out of this clean, but if I find out you’ve been moving heat weapons—” “Wait, heat weapons?” Johnny interrupted me once again. “Like what, a plasma cutter?” “No,” I continued, “A heat rifle.”
Johnny backed up and stared at me disbelievingly. The two girls standing near him tossed uncomfortable looks at each other. “Are you telling me there was a hit done with a heat rifle?” I wasn’t sure if Johnny was genuinely surprised or not. “It looks that way.” I said. “Who?” he asked. I didn’t see any reason not to tell him. Giving him a little information now, might get me a lot of information down the road. “Some doctor, Evan Taylor or something like that.” Johnny got a furious look on his face. “Cindy.” He said, still looking at me, but obviously talking to one of the two girls, “Someone has been encroaching on my territory. We need to find out who.” The blond girl nodded at him and took off somewhere.
“Johnny, are you telling me you don’t know anything about this?” I asked. “Unfortunately.” He replied, “And when I find out who does know something about this—” “I don’t want to know.” I said. While I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a new arms dealer on deck 36, I didn’t really want the incriminating details of what Johnny would do to them. “I’ve never dealt so much as a heat pistol, let alone a heat rifle.” He said, “Either someone else has made the biggest mistake of their life and started dealing weapons without my knowledge, or whoever made the hit on your guy already had a heat rifle.” I shook my head. “There’s no way anyone could keep a secret like that, not here.” “Which is exactly why I’ve got Cindy out looking for this guy right now. No one crosses me. No one.” Johnny said.
“Johnny, I want this guy.” I told him sternly, “If you find him, do not kill him.” Johnny let out a groan. “Really? Ryan, I have a reputation to keep here.” He said, tossing his shoulders back, glancing at the crowd, and letting out a short laugh. “I’ve done a lot for you because you’ve done a lot for me, I’ve made sure none of my guys would ever lay a finger on you, but I can’t promise that.” “Fine then.” I said, “Just give me a heads up before you do anything. Give me a fair chance at him at least. Let me talk to him before you…” I stopped short. Johnny must’ve gotten the idea, because he said with a sigh, “I make no promises, but I’ll think about it. That’s all I can do.” I knew Johnny wouldn’t say no to me. He was a crook, but he had always been loyal to me, and I knew he’d remain so until he felt he’d paid me back.
The pulsating music was beginning to give me a throbbing headache. I was done here, if Johnny knew anything he was doing a very good job hiding it. As reluctant as I was to admit it, there was someone with access to a lot of firepower loose on deck 36. That made him dangerous. He’d already made one hit, and odds were he was going to strike again before long.