Wednesday, September 15, 2004

After dreaming of a zombie infested office building where only Indiana Jones could save us all if only I could bring him his whip and hat, I drove to Grossmont Centre to buy Bjork's new album and some liquorice flavoured Altoids. Because both items have black and white packaging, the sounds of Bjork's Medulla shall forever be tied for me with the flavour of liquorice.

It's a good album, although nowhere near as good as Post. It shares the same virtue as her previous album, Vespertine, which is atmosphere. A very different atmosphere, though, and more striking than Vespertine's weather-like busy ambience. Medulla is an experiment to see if she can rely almost exclusively on voice for all of the music. Results are interesting and, while I certainly like it, many of the results are more fascinating and enjoyable than truly good. Meaning, much like Vespertine, Selma Songs, and, to an extent, Homogenic, this is an album not to be listened to twice within a short period.

After Grossmont Centre, the plan was to drive to Mission Valley Centre, buy a sketchbook at Michael's, and settle down at Starbucks with Murder of Angels. Only Michael's was totally out of sketchbooks--or, at least the kind I wanted. So I drove off to UTC, ate lunch, and went to Tim's.

Tim installed Doom 3 and I watched. It is, really, a . . . decent game, I suppose. I found myself unable to get as excited about it as was Tim.

Like most games of its ilk, it is, essentially, what a bunch of guys came up with after wondering what they'd make if they were licensed to make an Aliens game. Aside from a variety of perfectly fine nods to the original Doom, the game clearly takes some pages from the books of Half Life and System Shock 2. Unlike Doom, or Quake, or so on, Doom 3 begins without action, instead establishing your characterless character, the story (heh), the environment, and, most usefully, the controls. It does this in a manner reminiscent of System Shock 2 by having you stroll through the marine base talking to people.

There are some very impressive things going on in this game, and many of its strengths are sadly neglected. I liked how you were able to naturally overhear a conversation between some workers. I only wish there was more to the dialogue than obvious exposition. The great realism hinted at by the impressive engine with its awesomely sophisticated dynamic lighting is harmed significantly by the fact that all of the people talk like animatronic characters on a Disneyland ride. And so, a lot of the potentially frightening action is dampened by the feeling that you're on Splash Mountain. There's a particularly laughable moment just before the exposition sequence ends where your character encounters a scientist who's hurriedly trying to get out word about the escaping monsters. He takes a moment to slow down and ham, "The devil is real! I know. I built his cage," gazing wistfully around the room while, supposedly, things'll go to hell if he doesn't do something fast.

I had a chance to play it myself and, once past the exposition sequence, the game's another shooter. Decently fun, and it was nice having the Doom/Quake shotgun dynamics back, where it's beneficial to get as close as possible to the enemy before firing.

Many of the people you talked to earlier are now zombies, which actually makes them seem more lively.

And then I went home and watched Murder by Death. Great performances, but a bit too hell-bent on being silly. The plot involves spoofs of famous detectives (Dick and Dora instead of Nick and Nora, Sam Diamond instead of Sam Spade, Perrier instead of Parrot, etc.) being summoned to a mansion by someone who wants them to solve the ultimate crime. Or something like that. A lot of it didn't make any sense but I suppose it wasn't meant to. I suppose Neil Simon (the writer) thought that would be a good idea.

Personally, I would have kept the humour that worked (I really liked the scene with the blind butler and the deaf mute woman he thought was the cook) and not tried so hard to make humorous the things that didn't work as such. I think it would have been cool to have the actual detectives try to actually work their way through a similar situation. But then, I suppose I'm missing the point, the boorish point about Simon pointing out all of the nagging, characteristic flaws of the various mystery fictions. This point is, after all, jabbed home at the end by their host who literally ceases to address them as people but instead as characters in stories he's been reading for a long time . . .

Oh, what could have been. The movie had David Niven, Maggie Smith, Alec Guinness (playing the butler brilliantly), Peter Sellers (surprisingly unfunny), Peter Falk, and Truman Capote.

And I spent much of the evening compulsively researching details of the various film adaptations of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, lamenting that nearly all of the remotely worthwhile versions are unavailable. I would very much like to see the 1948 French marionette version that Disney tried to suppress. Even the 1933 version with W.C. Fields as Humpty Dumpty and Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle doesn't seem to be available. Nor does the Jim Henson produced Dreamchild, starring Ian Holm as Lewis Carroll. Well, that one at least has old VHS copies available, but I know they're pan and scan (get this; Gates McFadden, Star Trek TNG's Dr. Crusher, is a puppeteer on that movie). There is currently available an intriguing 1966 BBC TV-movie available. It's got John Gielgud and Peter Sellers. In fact, as far as I can tell, Peter Sellers is the only person to be involved in two Alice productions.

Well. I think that's enough fun and games for me . . .

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