Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Some More Reviews

I only caught the last half of this movie, on Stars, the Channel Where Movies Go to Die. I can’t believe that I haven’t already seen it and fixed it in the firmament of cinematic classics, and I also can’t believe that anyone actually made it. The premise is somewhere between Mean Girls and one of the less-loathsome Austin Powers movies – the eponymous D.E.B.S. are superspies-in-training at some kind of Department of Homeland Security superspy academy, which requires them to wear Catholic schoolgirl uniforms and wield enormous guns. Also, they are all attractive young women. Lest you think this movie offers too little to the randy male voyeur, the main plot tension turns out to be a lesbian romance between Amy, one of the D.E.B.S., and not-terribly-villainous supervillain Lucy Diamonds (played by the luminously beautiful Jordana Brewster). Some inspired montages and confidently snappy dialogue lift this from ethereally insubstantial fluff to delightful, enduring fluff.

Battlestar Galactica
I am talking here about the new, Sci-Fi channel remake (on DVD, as well, since I don’t really want to sit through half an hour of commercials for This is delightful middlebrow sci-fi at its absolute best, and the writers display a remarkably light, original touch. It’s more Larry Niven than Star Wars (although there are some messianic, mystical touches). The crew of the Galactica has to confront problems like water shortages and political maneuverings as often as they must fight the dastardly Cylons, and standard Star Trek deus ex machina weirdness is largely absent (no aliens or strange nebulae at all so far, in fact). The cast is large, capable and attractive (especially Starbuck, who is the kind of woman I find appealing but who invariably turns out to be gay), with Edward James Olmos standing out as Commander Adama. Unfortunately, the writers have blended in some extremely annoying elements: Ellen Tigh, the XO’s boozy wife (who would have worked much better as a solely comic note) and Doctor Baltar’s odious relationship with Cylon/neurotic figment Number Six. Baltar shows a frustratingly stymied gift for comic acting and I only hope that as the series progresses we will see more of him and less of Number Six, who is very pretty but also basically one-note, and it’s not a very interesting note at that. The pacing drags a little at times and they may be maintaining a few more plots than necessary (it certainly doesn’t compare to the blissful pacing and assurance of the multiple plots on Buffy). The Blade Runner-esque ongoing guessing game about who is or isn’t a Cylon is getting a little tedious, but all in all, it’s enjoyable to an almost obscene degree. Bully!

Dragon Quest VIII
A slime draws near! This game is very good, appallingly slow-moving, bright, thinly-plotted, and has few load times. The voiceovers are atypically good, and the game boasts a full orchestral soundtrack performed by the Tokyo symphony orchestra or something; I found, to my delight, that I could turn it off. When I want to listen to monstrously vulgar and pointless orchestral music, I will get some Mahler out of the public library. By around level 30 the battle system has become extremely tiring, yet I find myself yearning to keep playing. The highlight, for me, has been the taxing boss-battles, which actually force the player to make some tough decisions instead of sleepwalking through (kind of like every single battle in Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, which is probably the best RPG ev-ar). There is also a current of peculiarly Japanese misogyny throughout (the one female playable character gets a bunny outfit as one of her best armors, and one of her unique powers is Sex Appeal). I found it embarrassing. The box proudly notes that it contains a playable demo of Final Fantasy XII. It was an unplayable mess, as far as I could tell, and although the opening movie was technically impressive, we REALLY don’t want another fucking story about Air Pirates and political tensions between two dumb kingdoms and giant robots and a female healer messiah figure, PLEASE.

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