Trailer: Skyfall


The Dark Agent Rises.

That’s what some people are already calling the upcoming James Bond film, Skyfall.  Based on the just-released official trailer, you can see why.

Despite the fact that the trailer seems to highlight everything that annoys me about Daniel Craig’s interpretation of James Bond as being a humorless thug (and yes, I know that’s the way he was presented in the original novels but dammit, I don’t care!), I still have to admit that Skyfall looks like it’ll be a more memorable film than Quantum of Solace.  Javier Bardem seems like a perfect choice to play a Bond villain, though I want to slap whoever did that to his hair.

Skyfall will open in the U.S. on my birthday, November 9th.

Advertisements

VGM Entry 02: Early arcade music


VGM Entry 02: Early arcade music
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

Few early games had music mainly because they were better off without it. The music of Rally-X was certainly an enhancement to the gameplay, but if it really showcases the best technology of the day then it’s easy to understand why most programmers didn’t bother. New technology came fast though, and Rally-X was hopelessly outdated in a matter of months. Carnival (Sega, 1980) is often credited as the first game to employ any of the new and improved sound chips for continuous music, but this claim amounts to little. All of the arcade developers took advantage of the advancements as quickly as they were able.

That’s why you get games like New Rally-X (Namco, February 1981), released less than a year after the original. Video game music immediately emerged in fully developed form the moment it became an option; it didn’t really take any market research to recognize that this would enhance the product.

From 1981 on, arcade music sounded pretty decent. Certainly a lot of games suffered from bad compositions, but many did try, and the work here becomes a simple matter of listening to everything and picking out the best. Arcade games had a unique advantage in this regard. Being self-contained systems, every new game had the opportunity to employ the newest technology on the market. This was seldom the case with computer games, and never the case on home consoles. A pretty massive disparity in sound quality would continue to distinguish arcade music from all of the competition up through the end of the 1980s, when the arcade began to die out as a viable source of revenue for game producers.

The indisputable king of arcade music was Taito. They backed up their claim to being the first, with Space Invaders in 1978, by maintaining a higher standard of quality than most of the competition. Jungle King (1982) is one of my favorite early examples. Here the music isn’t just a nice added feature; it’s the game’s entire selling point. The player feels compelled to keep moving, driven by a sense of urgency and adventure that would be completely absent otherwise. The sound effects make an effort to acknowledge the music’s dominance, seldom clashing and, with the hero’s footsteps on the rock-dodging stage, even roughly synching up to add another layer of depth to the music.

Jungle King has kind of a funny history. The form you are seeing here never made it far out the door before the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs won a lawsuit for copyright infringement on Tarzan. Having already tossed out a beta version called Jungle Boy, Taito recouped their losses by replacing the Tarzan character with a creepy explorer in a pith helmet and safari outfit and retitled the game Jungle Hunt. Never really satisfied with this conversion, they went back to the drawing board again after the release, replacing the explorer with a pirate. Pirate Pete became the forth and final installment of the game, featuring new graphics and a new soundtrack but the same old mechanics.

Konami may have been Taito’s driving force, persistently one-upping them. Gyruss (Konami, 1983) is a real audio masterpiece. Rally-X and Space Invaders both had tonal sound effects, and in the latter ‘sound effects’ and ‘music’ were one and the same entity. Gyruss might be seen as a sort of climax to this trend of music-sound effects-gameplay synthesis.

J. S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, might seem like an odd choice at first glance, but it had recently been converted into a rock and roll hit by the U.K. band Sky, so it certainly had some pop culture appeal. The significance here though is how well the game is paced to the music, or vice versa. Enemies appear almost on cue, and every sound effect is perfectly attuned to the background music. Really, to call it ‘background music’ at all does it a disservice. Gyruss has a very distinct song, but though the music and sound effects can be easily separated, in practice they are essentially indistinguishable.

What’s most impressive to me is that I really doubt the synthesis is programmed. It would become common enough in the future to sync up music to game events fluidly (consider the added music layer in Super Mario World when you mount Yoshi) and vice versa (the Guitar Hero series and many other games like it are based around the concept), but that’s all written into the code. In Gyruss the cues are apparent, not encoded reality. It tricks our senses, like a fine painting, and indeed it should be regarded as an interactive audiovisual work of art.

6 Trailers That Will Not Be Broadcast On NBC This Week


Hi there!  Welcome to the latest installment of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film trailers.  Since I know everyone’s probably busy watching the Olympics (seriously, I try not think about all the pervs who are calling in to work so they can stay home and watch women’s indoor volleyball in private), I won’t waste much time with a long introduction.  Instead, let’s get straight to the trailers…

1) Swimfan (2002)

I’m including this trailer for everyone who has ever wondered what Michael Phelps was doing between Beijing and London.  I can still remember seeing this movie when I was 16 and, even then, getting annoyed with how stupid this film actually was.

2) Fatal Games (1984)

Speaking of the Olympics…

3) Death Spa (1988)

Let’s continue our theme of athletic mayhem with this trailer for Death Spa.

4) Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965)

I doubt this ever showed up at the grindhouses but no matter.  With the Olympics taking place in London, everyone’s currently pretending to like all things British and that seems like as good an excuse as any to feature this trailer for Dr. Who And The Daleks.  (I have to admit that I can count, on one hand, the number of times that I’ve actually been able to watch an entire episode of Dr. Who without either falling asleep or changing the channel.)

5) The New Gladiators (1985)

This look at the future of competitive sports comes to us courtesy of none other than Lucio Fulci!  This trailer has a definite Hunger Games feel to it, no?

6) Perversion Story (1968)

Finally, what could be better than one Fulci trailer?  How about two Fulci trailers?  This trailer is for Lucio Fulci’s giallo Perversion Story, which was retitled One On Top of Another when it was released in the United States.

What do you think, trailer kitties?

Rom-Com Trailer Kitties

AMV of the Day: Azumanga Daioh 1985


I believe this is the third Azumanga AMV to be posted here, but what can I say?  The series lends itself nicely to being made into AMVs.  This is an older AMV, and I really don’t know if it was ever entered into an AMV contest at a convention or if it was just done for fun.  Either way, this was created by Suberunker Studeosh and it mixes scenes from Azumanga Daioh with the Bowling for Soup song 1985.

This video in particular has a bit of a checkered past if you will.  Perhaps this is a recent development, but for the longest time these videos were either taken down or had their music blocked because Bowling for Soup, or most likely their producers, objected to the use of their song in the video.  Mainly this was an issue with it being posted on YouTube, but as you can now see, they don’t seem to have a problem with the music being played these days.  Either cooler heads prevailed and they realized that no harm was being done, or they figured the song was old enough to where its monetary value was sufficiently decreased so it didn’t matter anymore.  At any rate, it’s good that people can now see and hear this video as the creator intended.

At any rate, this video features the somewhat jaded and a little immature teacher of the series, Yukari Tanizaki, and the majority of the scenes were taken from Azumanga Daioh, but there were a few quick snippets from other anime shows too.  It’s a really well put together video, and fans of the series are sure to enjoy it, as well as people who just appreciate a good AMV.

Anime: Azumanga Daioh, Naruto, Fruits Basket, Pokemon, Full Metal Alchemist, Neon Genesis Evangelion

Song: “1985” by Bowling For Soup

Creator: Suberunker Studeoh

 

Past AMVs of the Day

VGM Entry 01: Proto-game music


VGM Entry 01: Proto-game music
(Thanks to Tish at FFShrine for the banner)

I woke up one morning in June with a fairly innocent idea in mind. I thought I’d write up a short series on my favorite video game soundtracks. It would be a simple enough venture. I’d give a background post on the pre-Nintendo era, then do a little recap of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, all that jazz, and then before I know it be firmly rooted in my SNES/Playstation-era comfort zone, free to recap the two dozen or so games I like best without much interference.

It was a really terrible plan. The shear quantity of material I found myself obligated to cover to even reach my timeframe of interest was daunting, and even then, what could I really say about it? Video game music isn’t some even playing field with linear stylistic evolutions, where everything possesses an equal opportunity for aesthetic value and accessible histories lend themselves to easy commentary. First of all, video game music is a business in which artists can’t simply extend their deadlines until they’re fully satisfied with the end product, and second of all, technology is so intrinsic and varied that comparison becomes hopelessly arbitrary.

But good music is good unconditionally. Technological limitations can do nothing to compromise that; uncertainty obscures only the factors which lead to its creation. With that in mind, I will proceed with my little project here. I intend to listen to quite a lot of video game music attentively and share with you that which appeals to me most. I will provide what little history I can along the way, riddled with inaccuracies and technical fumblings, but in the ends it’s just an excuse to indulge my senses.

So, the first place to start is with that predictably loaded question “what was the first video game with music?” Since there exists no agreement on the definition of music, this question cannot be answered, but we can look at the potential candidates.

Gun Fight (Taito, 1975) had music in a very indisputable sense. I only hesitate to call it the first of its kind because the common consensus fails to confirm it as such; I find it frequently referenced as “one of” the earliest examples, but the sources are never sufficiently decisive. This vague conditional might indicate that no one has really thoroughly investigated the matter, or it might be a consequence of contextual displacement ported to Wikipedia and thence diffused. The latter holds quite a bit of weight; Gun Fight is the earliest game I have personally stumbled upon containing indisputable music, granted some questionable claims to the throne precede it.

But let’s carry on with the indisputables first.

Rally-X (Namco, 1980) was the first game with continuous music which we can indisputably regard as such. You’ll note that the music, whatever you may think of it, is clearly distinguished from the sound effects. The hum of the motor in the background is a distinct entity. Rally-X certainly did not inspire background music in video games–it is not historically significant in that sense–but it was the first game to employ it in such a way that no acceptable definition of music could deny its existence as such.

What’s more significant for my interests is the sound effects. The engine audio is interactive, such that the pitch changes depending on the direction in which the player steers the vehicle. This often clashes with the music, but it possesses the capacity to become a part of the music; one could imagine the player making rhythmic turns in pre-determined directions to harmonize the sound effects with the established musical track, or even producing such an outcome by chance for short periods of time. If we factor into our definition of music a performer’s intent then we are treading very thin ice, and if we do not then we may argue that the familiar blips of Pong (Atari, 1972) possess a musical capacity.

Tomohiro Nishikado’s Space Invaders (Taito, 1978) is often distinguished from Rally-X. Wikipedia for instance employs the cop-out of describing the former as the first game with a continuous soundtrack and the latter as the first with continuous background music. This makes sense in so far as the music of Rally-X is distinct from its sound effects and the ‘music’ of Space Invaders is not, but it ignores the complication which the latter brings to light. I mean, it’s really the choice of notes that jeopardizes the classification of Space Invader‘s sound effects as music; it just doesn’t illicit much of an emotional response in the listener–or at least in me. If Tomohiro Nishikado had shamelessly replicated John Williams’ Jaws in this manner I might never have questioned its musical legitimacy even with half as many notes (and even had I never heard the original). When we begin to define music based strictly on aesthetic value, we again tread on thin ice, but perhaps we venture closer to the truth of the matter.

I’m not trying to beat around the bush here; I’m just humoring myself. I can state in plain terms that Gun Fight is the earliest game I know of that included music, Space Invaders took the first step towards incorporating music continuously into gameplay by giving its sound effects distinctly musical properties, and Rally-X made the final step into video game music as we commonly think of it. These ‘firsts’ aren’t that important anyway, as they were dictated by technological developments rather than artistic innovations.

I just find the whole early development of game sound fascinating in its implications for how music ought to be understood. Computer Space (Nutting Associates, 1971), created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney and released a year before Pong, was the first coin-op video game designed for mass distribution, and its sounds possess substantially greater aesthetic value than the earliest attempts at video game music. No no, I’m not going to make some silly argument that it constitutes music, but just how important is ‘music’ anyway? Sound is the stimulus. It would take some time for ‘composer’ and ‘sound programmer’ to become two distinct jobs within the video game industry, and the difference between them is not so obvious as one might initially think.

Review: True Blood S5E8 “Somebody That I Used To Know”


Tonight’s episode of True Blood was memorable for many reasons but especially for being the directorial debut of Stephen Moyer.  Moyer, who plays Bill and is married to Anna Paquin in real life, directs the Hell out of this episode and I mean that in absolutely the best way.  Whether it’s the way that Moyer allows the camera to prowl restlessly through each scene or the hallucinatory feel that he brought to the staging of some tonight’s best moments, Moyer brought both a sense of mystery and an atmosphere of genuine menace to tonight’s episode.  Those are two qualities that True Blood has occasionally struggled with this season and it was nice to see them so present tonight.  As a result, tonight’s episode was one of the most memorable of the 5th season and I hope that future seasons of True Blood will find Moyer returning to the director’s chair.

Tonight’s episode also gave us what we’ve been waiting for all season: Naked Alcide. 

Yes, apparently Alcide had moved on from his night with Sookie because tonight, we got an extended sequence of him having sex with his new werewolf girlfriend, Rikki.  Rikki and Alcide talked quite a bit while they were doing it and I’m sure that they may have said something important but, to be honest, that scene was all about Naked Alcide.

Some people (though certainly not me — no never!) would argue that all this episode needed to be memorable was for Alicde to show up naked.  However, some other pretty interesting things happened as well…

For instance, Luna turned into Sam!  That’s right.  While Sam and Andy were off interrogating the fat redneck that Sam captured during the previous episode, Luna stumbled over to the mirror in her hospital room and discovered that she had shifted into Sam.  This was one of those great “WTF” moments and Sam Trammell did an excellent job playing both Sam and Luna tonight. 

(And, to be honest, it never feels like a true season of True Blood unless something batshit crazy happens with Sam.)

That said, I do wish that tonight’s episode had done a bit more with Luna transforming into Sam.  For all the possible ways that tonight’s scenario could have played out, the show was content to have Luna sneak out of the hospital and join up with Sam and Andy as they continued to track down the murderous rednecks.  Eventually, Luna nearly collapsed (because, after all, she was in the hospital for a pretty good reason) and transformed back into herself while Sam held her.  It was a sweet moment for the two characters but, at the same time, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more of Luna as Sam.

Speaking of the rednecks, they managed to kidnap Jessica and presented her to Hoyt as a “gift” of sorts.  They handed Hoyt a gun and then, rather conveniently, all but one of them left the house so that Hoyt could murder his ex-girlfriend.  Now, last week, I declared that Hoyt had managed to claim Andy’s former title of being the biggest dumbass in Bon Temps.  However, tonight, Hoyt somewhat redeemed himself by not only refusing to kill Jessica but by helping Jessica kill the one redneck left behind to guard them. 

Since the sun was out, Hoyt left Jessica behind in the house while he went to get help.  However, even though Hoyt may no longer be the biggest dumbass in Bon Temps, he’s still a contender and he promptly managed to get himself lost.  Finally, Hoyt managed to flag down a passing truck just to have the unseen driver pull a gun on him.  I’m going to guess that the driver is also the dragon who was mentioned in last week’s episode.

The rednecks’ attempts to offer up Jessica as a sacrifice were paralleled by not one but two separate vampires on tonight’s episode.  Pam invited Tara to feast on an old high school rival down in her club’s dungeon.  Even more importantly, Bill drank the blood of a human girl who was offered to him by Salome.

This was an especially important scene because, up until this point, Bill has been a very outspoken supporter of mainstreaming.  By his actions on tonight’s show, it would appear that Bill has now come over to the side of Salome, Nora, and Russell.  Indeed, all of the members of the Authority were so impressed by the appearance of Lillith during last week’s episode that they’ve all pretty much abandoned Roman’s precious mainstreaming. 

All of them, that is, except for Eric.  Alexander Skarsgard had some of his best scenes of the season tonight as he brooded over the actions of his fellow vampires and argued with his “sister” Nora.  Judging by tonight’s episode and the preview for next week, we appear to be heading for a major confrontation between the “born again” Bill and the always skeptical Eric and I, for one, can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

Speaking of vampires, Sookie and Jason went to the faeries to try to discover which vampire killed their parents.  With the help of the faeries, Sookie was able to enter her mother’s mind and see the attack that led to the death of her parents.  However, she couldn’t get a clear view of the vampire’s face and, strangely, she also found herself entering into the mind of the vampire.  This sequence, with its frequent jump cuts and distorted camera angles, was perhaps the best evidence offered up tonight that Stephen Moyer should direct more episode of True Blood once season 6 starts production.  

Meanwhile, Lafayette has finally gotten smart enough to start demanding some sort of money for continually allowing himself to be possessed by dead people.  He charges Arlene $300 to perform a séance where they attempt to convince the fire demon to stop chasing after Terry and Patrick.  The ghost of dead Iraqi woman replies that the curse will only be lifted if Terry kills Patrick or Patrick kills Terry.  Patrick responds by running out of the séance.  Seeing as how Scott Foley is only a guest star, I’m going to guess that, one way or another, Patrick is going to be toast. 

And did I mention that tonight’s episode featured Alcide naked?

Because it totally did.

Random observations:

  • Largely because of the sequence where Sookie flashes back to her parents being attacked and killed, this episode ended up with an unoffical scene count of 57.
  • I really hope that Bill comes to his senses soon.
  • How neat was it when Sam turned into that snake?
  • Was it just me or was Jason really cute tonight?  This has really been a pretty good season for those of us who love Ryan Kwanten and his performance as the well-meaning but occasionally just a bit dense Jason.
  • I totally related to what Sookie was saying about waiting in line at the bank.  Jason’s reaction was adorable and priceless.
  • Only 4 more episodes left!

Space Battleship Yamato: Resurrection Licensed by FUNimation (w/ bonus)


This weekend was Otakon 2012. It’s sort of like the East Coast’s answer to Anime Expo. It’s the largest anime and Japanese pop culture convention on the East Coast and pretty much those who are not able to attend Anime Expo end up in Baltimore for this event. While pantsukudasai and I weren’t able to attend news still able to be had from the event by way of other means. Anime News Network has news from the FUNimation Entertainment industry panel during this year’s Otakon. This news is pretty much which new anime FUNimation has acquired the licensing rights to for the North American market.

One bit of news from this panel is that the company has acquired the North American licensing rights to the newest anime film bearing the title Space Battleship Yamato (Uchū Senkan Yamato). This Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection (Uchū Senkan Yamato: Fukkatsu Hen)and will take place 21 years after the events of the original series and 17 years after the anime film Final Yamato. This is very good news indeed with a new anime series already under way in Japan with the reboot Space Battleship Yamato 2199. It’s a good day to be a fan of the franchise.

It was the original series, retitled Starblazers in the US, that first hooked me into anime. I was barely 8 when I caught the series on syndication and to say that it blew my mind with it’s space opera action, drama and romance would be an understatement. For most American kids cartoons never involved such topics and themes as death, self-sacrifice, genocide and a host of other very heavy stuff. This series opened things up for me that cartoons need not be all safe and fun and games (though Tom and Jerry proved that ultra-violence wasn’t just in anime).

It’s going to be great to finally see a new series and film with the advancement in the animation process tackle this well-known franchise. It’ll be great to just see the Space Battleship Yamato ply the cosmos once again.

Here’s a 9-minute preview of the series that shows just how awesome the series is in addition to the film announced.

Source: Anime New Network