Watching and Playing

Usually I crack around Christmas and actually write a whole series of posts, perhaps due to the complete lack of work. And in fact I have several hundred words of notes lying around in various text files on my desktop, glowering at me whenever I press F11 on my keyboard and watch all of my windows fly out of the way. But I don’t think I’ll use those notes – that’d just be too easy. Instead I’m going to ramble on about the various things I have watched and played over the last couple of weeks.

Watched: Deja Vu, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Air Force One (and also The Ruby in the Smoke, which I’ll talk about in another post).

Played: Wii Sports, Zelda, Rayman.

Watched

When I asked David, one of the writers at work, whether he’d seen the trailer for Deja Vu, he said without hesitation that it was one of the most terrible trailers, and by implication, movies he’d ever seen. I was taken aback – it seemed like Deja Vu had a rather fun and schlocky trailer, with a suitably explosive SF/action component – certainly something I’d want to see to pass the time. Then again, I reflected that David always seemed to like good movies, so maybe his reaction wasn’t surprising.

On the sliding scale of SF/action movies, Deja Vu ranks higher than Paycheck but lower than Minority Report. In other words, it’s only passably good. However, it has a very interesting premise wherein a way to see 4.5 days back in time has been developed (basically, Slow Glass). This results in some rather decent detective and driving sequences which I suspect formed the core of the plot, and the rest of the stuff was merely cooked up as a way to extend the length of the movie from 30 minutes to two hours.

Watch it on DVD, and try not to think of the inconsistencies.

For some reason, right up until one minute ago when I looked him up on IMDB, I thought that Ivan Reitman directed Groundhog Day. It turns out that I was wrong and Harold Ramis was the director. This is probably down to the fact that I thought they were the same person – they work on enough projects together! (well, Ghostbusters, at least).

On my flight from London to Toronto a couple of weeks ago, even though I ‘knew’ that My Super Ex-Girlfriend had the same director as Groundhog Day, I also knew that it was pretty rubbish. Rubbish enough to avoid watching on a plane? Not quite, I hoped.

Two hours later, my hopes were dashed: it really was rubbish enough to avoid watching. What Mr. Reitman has clearly failed to realise is that absurdity is not the same as humour, and let’s face it, the premise was absurd enough to begin with. The only entertaining person in the movie was Eddie Izzard, who gamely squeezed a few decent jokes out of his sadly too-short role.

Avoid. Even if it’s free.

I also caught the end of Air Force One on Sky Movies tonight. I’ve seen this movie at least three times now, and it was only this time that I realised a glaring fault at the end. Why did they even attempt to transfer the impossibly high value passengers of Air Force One over a mid-air zipline, when they could’ve just slid some parachutes across? What, parachutes weren’t good enough for them? They were good enough for the other passengers who escaped early in the film.

I suppose they were over water at the time, but surely the chances of them drowning were lower than that of an accident occuring on a zipline between two planes flying several hundred miles an hour, several thousand feet above the ground, where one of the planes has only one out of four engines operating? I’m not convinced by the argument that parachutes would’ve been less exciting – President Harrison Ford could’ve engaged in some skydiving fisticuffs with the evil Secret Service Agent. Although perhaps that would’ve been even sillier…

Playing

I took my Wii home, along with four controllers (two of them bought in Canada for 30% less than in the UK – take that, rip-off Britain!). I also had Wii Sports, Rayman, Zelda and Wii Play. Unsurprisingly, Wii Sports was the most played, with tennis far in the lead, trailed some way by bowling. In my mind, Nintendo have truly fulfilled the hype of reaching non-gamers, by the way that my friends and family were playing.

Playing Zelda reminded me why I don’t like games that involve a lot of running around and jumping. I can see why a lot of people enjoy Zelda – it’s beautiful, and the story is definitely interesting – but as a new player, I found it frustrating at times.

For example, there’s one point in the game where you’re a wolf swimming around in water and getting attacked by black shapes. Earlier on, I’d killed these black shapes before, but nothing seemed to be working now. After being killed about five times and shaking both the controller and nunchuck in different ways, I finally realised that you just couldn’t kill or even attack the shapes while swimming. You simply had to avoid them, or kill them on dry land. This might be perfectly obvious to any Zelda player, or indeed any RPG player, but I had no idea. Even walkthroughs or the in-game help offered no hints.
Another problem occurred also while I was a wolf. I would occasionally come across enticing-looking boxes in corridors or rooms. Now, I know plenty enough about games to understand that these boxes, when destroyed, contain all sorts of goodies. I promptly attempted to ‘dash’ against them, since this tactic had previously worked on similar things. It didn’t work. In fact, it seemed like I kept missing. Again, I kept on trying and cursing my poor controlling proficiency. Finally, I started flailing the controls about and discovered that the wolf’s ‘spin attack’ was the way to go. Again, possibly this was very obvious to old hands, but not to me.

These two problems, and a host of other minor ones, have made me reluctant to invest a lot of time in what is known to be a very long game. I do enjoy most of the game, and I’m getting the hang of the controls now, but I find myself constantly wishing I could skip to the next bit of story, or at least enter the next ‘zone’ so that the game will autosave – now there’s another complaint – only saving at the end of zones… certainly not newbie-friendly.

Rayman also has a truly awful save system. Granted, I have never actually started playing Rayman, instead only joining in halfway through a game someone else started, so maybe I missed a vital instruction somewhere, but it strikes me that it wouldn’t have hurt to tell the player how to save on the warning threatening ‘You will lose all current progress if you quit!’. The whole business, combined with a freakishly difficult minigame which is the equivalent of moving a metal loop through one of those wire structures that will buzz if you touch the wire, really soured me on the game. However, I gather that the other games are pretty fun, so I intend to give it another try tomorrow.

It’s odd that the game I enjoy most on the Wii is the one that cost no money. The sooner developers and publishers realise that people want more of games like Wii Sports, the sooner they’ll all get rich and we’ll all have a lot of fun.

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