Monthly Archives: June 2011

LA Noire: Mystery Solved

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LA Noire: Mystery Solved

Having been a fan of the ‘X-Box’ for some time now, I’ve been introduced to an array of games and applications – especially since the release of the ‘Kinect’.  Due to my love of the 40’s and 50’s, as well as my bizarre fascination with criminal behaviour – primarily serial killers, I was intrigued when I caught wind of ‘LA Noire’. Since ‘Rockstar’ usually produces well made games with beautifully rendered graphics, splendidly scripted stories (with believable plot lines) and a close link to the line between reality and fantasy, my expectations and level of excitement was very high to say the least.

As with many of the newer games released by Rockstar, the initial build up was somewhat elusive, with a very ‘hush hush’ marketing campaign and an absolutely ‘non-existent’ leak of information onto the world wide web (but it may also have been because I spend most of my time working and running around after a 5 year old to have noticed) – I only discovered its existence about 2 or 3 months before its release.  I did however pre-order it. Obviously.

Initially I was apprehensive.  Rockstar is renowned for having you ‘play’ as the bad guy, renegade or vigilante, where you feel compelled to play ‘bowling for people’, as you wrecklessly cruise down sidewalks and over curbs, experiencing a thrill with the ever-rising number of knocked over pedestrians. Where the concept of being chased by a ‘cop’ is what you aspire towards as you try to be as ‘badass’ as possible. 

Rockstar decided to take a different approach on this one, one where – “this time, you’re the good guy…”.

There is of course the fascinating new technology used by Rockstar, courtesy of Team Bondi, the Australian developers who utilised their ‘MotionScan technology to capture the actual performances of the actors/actresses who were cast to portray the various roles. This remarkable technology, literally bridging the gap between ‘cinema’ and gaming, adding that perhaps ‘all too real’ feeling, where games of the bygone era, such as ‘Phantasmagoria’ so epically failed back in the 90’s. They truly did a sterling job on the overall appearance, especially from a ‘character’ perspective.  As the story goes, they also successfully managed to replicate the area of Los Angeles used in the game, to a said 90% accuracy of the ‘then’ landmarks, buildings and positioning of the city in accordance to what it must have been like in the mid to late 40’s.

What I feel to be the most intrinsic difference in comparison to previous games released by Rockstar, is that this one is a ‘brainer’ (opposed to a ‘No-brainer, in case you were wondering). It’s a story you have to pay attention to, with detective work being something you have to be interested in or it will lose you and your wits and leave you flapping in frustration. The MotionScan technology captures almost every facial twitch and muscle movement, being the basis through which most of the detective work gets done – only due to the fact that observing suspects during an interrogation can lead to the conviction or freedom of the right or wrong person, with the weight of that decision being entirely in your hands. With an approximate 20 hours of in game cut scenes having been recorded by the live actors, this in itself far outweighs the Lord of The Rings Trilogy by many hours as far as ‘viewing time’ goes. It also makes a change to have the onscreen presence belong to the voiceover, but moreso have the actor/actress accurately represented. 

Aaron Staton IS LA Noire

From Left to Right: (1) Aaron Staton during a MotionScan capture session (2) The initial result of the scan (3) In-game screenshot and final product of Aaron Staton as 'Cole Phelps (4) Statons real-life appearance in his portrayal of 'Ken Cosgrove' on Madmen

The lead character is Cole Phelps, portrayed by Aaron Staton. Who is that you ask? I didn’t know either. But as it turns out he’s one of the actors from that show ‘Madmen’ (which I tried desperately to get into, but just couldn’t). And was so taken aback by his incredible acting ability, it’s given me reason to try watching it again. Throughout the game you’re introduced to many characters, some of which you too would recognise – like Brian Krause (Who played Leo in ‘Charmed’), John Noble (Who plays Dr Walter Bishop in ‘Fringe’) and Greg Grunberg (Matt Parkman on ‘Heroes’).  These cameo performances and those of so many other ‘recognised’ actors/actresses added to the overall depth and quality of the game, giving it that extra little hit to its credibility.

The first few murders seem unrelated and then veer towards the mysterious unsolved “Black Dahlia” murder which took place in 1947, but fortunately for those not so keen on being a ‘gumshoe’, the game is nicely paced with ‘mini quests’ where you can opt to respond to the police radio and get to to rather ‘every-day-cop-stuff’ such as car chases, bank robberies and preventing suicidal maniacs from jumping off buildings. Hoewever the primary focus of the game is on the main storyline – so if you’re craving a little ‘free-roam’ action, then this won’t be for you unless your obsessive compulsive disorder kicks in and you feel the need to find every hidden vehicle as well as landmark in the city.

Initially I was excited, then as I began to play – felt it might get somewhat tedious if there was an ‘overkill’ of dialogue and cut scenes…however the combination of Staton’s incredible portrayal of such a believable character readjuting to everyday life succeeding the aftermath of the 2nd World War and reinforced by his keen sense of morality and sticking to his beliefs (even through times with some partners who would do well with a mouthful of soap for their ignorant approaches and narrow minded view) Coupled with the intrigue and suspense, where an eye for detail and a compulsive need to not leave any stone unturned will fair you well in your search for justice, the cut scenes and dialogue make it the unique off-centre *SUPER HIT* of this year, simply for being the first of its kind. Although Heavy Rain peaked the turnaround and appreciation for the ‘Cine/Game’ genre, I feel that Rockstar and Aaron, sure gave it a run for it’s money.

So as much as I could rave on about the game, I think we should keep a look out for Aaron Staton…seems like he could be the real star here! Mystery solved.

Marriage…A lot like having children

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When you’re a young girl, your world is abuzz with fantasies of being a princess, living in a castle and marrying the knight or prince and living happily ever after. You also spend a great deal playing with dolls. The only difference being, that when you have real children – you can’t simply put them away when you’re done ‘playing’ (since that’s deemed as abuse in most countries), besides you can still hear them scream from behind closed cupboard doors. The reality of changing diapers, colic, cleaning up vomit, infinite loads of laundry and sleepless nights are not something you get told about until you’re actually pregnant and start feeling excited about the notion of bringing a part of yourself into the world and the stories are confirmed once the little ‘spawn of self’ arrives and you turn from an excited mother-to-be, into some grey-in-colour, bewildered, crazy person, with a strand of patience the length of a matchstick.

I have since realised that marriage is somewhat shrouded in much the same way. You have these preconceived notions about how wonderous it will be to get married and that it should be ‘perfect’ – even though logic and common sense dictates that you already know, there’s ‘NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT’. But you strive for it nonetheless.  You think of it as a day of a beautiful bride who is simply glowing, a groom who sheds a tear at the sight, the happy guests, the stunning venue with the most quaint and unique table arrangements – that really capture the essence and eccentricity of the bride and groom and then after the most wonderous day, they float off on a dreamy honeymoon…

Bulldust.

The bride is simply glowing because she took an all too strong combination of the ‘calming medication’ her mother gave her, accompanied by the champagne the bride has had as an extension of her arm since 10am that morning when she realised the cake that was delivered wasn’t what she’d asked for and the flowers were the wrong darn colour.  The groom sheds a tear out of sheer jubilation at the fact that the crazy ‘bridezilla’ is finally walking down the aisle, and the terror and extremist demands should hopefully end within the next 6 hours or so and maybe he can actually ‘get some’, because the crazy woman has been about as loving as Hitler and as attentive as a child with ADHD with a generous dose of ‘ZERO’ rationale. The guests are all happy because it’s not everyday they get treated to a FREE 3 course meal and wine. The table arrangements should look unique and capture some essence, albeit an insight into the dissection of a womans derranged brain. The honeymoon probably won’t be dreamy either – as I for instance with all the stress and worry of everything I have already tried to plan, some things successfully and other not so much… my darling dearest said,

“…since I probably won’t find the right place or you’ll find something to complain about, why don’t I just give you my credit card and you organise it…”. 

To which I replied,

 “…NO, because through all of this, I think it’s only fair that you actually do something…”.

Strangely only about 3 or 4 months before the wedding, just as in my pregnancy – did all the horror stories from past brides begin to surface and seep through the cracks of my perfect vision. It was also at that stage where I noticed things were not quite as they should be. For instance the flowers I had planned on apparently would not be in season, much to the denial of the florist whom I had consulted. The dressmaker forgot to actually cut the pattern or make the dress for my first actual fitting (which is on monday) and certain delegated tasks, I’ve established have not been executed as other individuals don’t seem to have the same sense of urgency – I was also reprimanded by said individual for being crazy and acting stupid and that they can’t wait for the wedding to be over and done with.

In my defense… I have an idea for the table arrangements that apparently only I can see, a dress that I designed in photoshop by ‘cutting and pasting’ roughly bits from 4 or 5 other dresses, a bridesmaid who is MIA and boss who won’t sign my leave form due to the fact that I don’t have a replacement for all of a week. I was stressed last week, but once my stomach ulcer started to flare up and my head was met by a neverending migraine… I decided dying over it may not be an option – and that firstly, the universe has a mysterious way of sorting itself out and secondly, sometimes the harder you try to get things to go the way you want them to, the more they’ll tend to bug out. So, take a deep breath – approach a wedding like you would children. Know that no matter how much you expect them to behave and act like you know they should… they won’t – but as long as you came prepared for everything from chocolate milk spills to dirty diapers, it may not be as you’d imagined – but at least it’ll be funny.

So please as friends and family alike. As wrong as it is to scare someone into not having children or getting married, I do think it only fair that they be forwarned – that it WILL BE stressful, tiring and test all human levels of endurance, patience and the boundaries of love, as I’ve learnt with my child – it was all worth it in the end. As I’m sure what I’m feeling now will dissipate and my wedding day will be just as I’ve always imagined 🙂

Dean Koontz – My Literary Let-down

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The moment I discovered Koontz, was an awe-filled one. I believe it was ‘The Taking’. Ironically. I had never read Koontz before that time and had quite frankly been let down far too many times by authors, who in their “signing of deals with large publishing houses are forced to spew out works more fecklessly than a crapulent teenager acting responsibly”. I had experienced it with authors ranging from Anne Rice and Stephen King to John Grisham. Yes, some of their novels are truly captivating and keep the reader enthralled from start to finish – and then woefully you’ll have a serious “miss”, where the work is so far from interesting you’re inclined to use it as loo paper. 

So to say I was somewhat cautious, would have been a massive understatement.  Yet I picked it up and began reading…and read some more…continued to read. I still remember nearing the end and not quite wanting to finish because of the sheer finality of it. Up to that point ‘The Taking’ had become my obsession. It was all I wanted to do, and when I was done with it, I needed another…and another. Like a junkie needing their ‘fix’. I began skulking through bookstores, raiding flea markets for the ‘out of print’ novels and browsing online every chance I got. Dean would be the only man I wanted to take to bed with me every night, because I knew that all I would get was awesome, breathtaking and thoroughly addictive – not to mention, for the first time in my life not a single let down.

The Mystery Train of Thought surrounding the disappearance of Christopher Snow

The first 'two' of a trilogy with NO 3?

Of every single one of his novels I have read, there is not a bad thing I could say. Perhaps I am biased – but primarily because he takes up so much of my time and probably more importantly, because he is consistent.  On my adventures through ensuring I did not miss a single release by Mr Koontz, I came across “Fear Nothing”. Intriguingly I recall having read somewhere on the book that it was ‘one’ in a series of ‘three’. Since I had avoided the ‘Odd Thomas’ collection until I was in the ownership of all related material, I was somewhat reluctant. But I read it… I don’t think it took me two days. I went in search of ‘Seize The Night’. Same deal. They just seemed to propel me into the very life and existence of Christopher Snow, Sasha, Bobby, Orson and Mungojerrie. I quite happily hustled my way through the pages, knowing that I would be met at the end by the third and final instalment…

Since the name of the third novella was not mentioned on the 2nd instalment, I turned to ‘Google’. Now, here’s the thing. They often say “When something is too good to be true, it’s because it usually is…”. Only to find out that it hadn’t even been written? Then why make such a false claim, i.e. “one in a series of three”. I’m afraid if a ‘third’ part doesn’t exist – surely it would be more fitting to say “one in a series of two”? My restored faith in literary genius had been destroyed. Not so much because any of his subsequent material was bad or anything, on the contrary – I have found Mr D. Koontz to have become better with age! Who would deny ‘Velocity’ it’s podium stand for truly riveting…However, this does NOT detract from the fact that I feel so sorely let down. You see, it’s not just me either, it’s the hundred’s of thousand’s of other adoring fans and critics alike that he has let down. To say that this realisation put me off of reading for a while would be an incompatible underestimation. Slowly however I have regained my confidence and have had to make amends with Dean, at the moment I have been following Harry and Connie in their quest for ‘Ticktock’. I will forever feel incomplete. This gnawing emptiness, spawned entirely from being let down so horridly and the disappointment mainly in the fact that he broke his promise to us. 2003 was the last time anyone heard anything conclusive regarding the release of the 3rd and final instalment – that was over 7 years ago!?! Is he trying to match the release time of ‘Duke Nuken Forever’?

So please. PLEASE. My adored Mr Koontz, whom I respect and admire for having the most profound imagination and thought process – which I so terribly envy.  Please don’t let me or the many others who have met this similar fate, down. Thanking you in anticipation. There will always be you, but the question is – will there be another Christopher Snow 😥

…Bliss This $%@*#

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After being reminded for the ‘umpteenth’ time that the date for my wedding is rapidly approaching – and after much deliberation… I understand now why so many individuals make it as far as ‘just before the altar’ or to ‘just past the altar’ only to have the whole relationship fall apart.

I realise that putting two ‘individuals’ together is never an easy thing, since no two are alike. But that’s what brings you together in the first place, right?! I also don’t believe you ever know everything about your partner until you decide to get married, well, it’s either that or you simply notice it then for the first time. So many couples find themselves in a position where the pressure in the planning and then eventual expectation of what ‘married life’ should be about – simply kills the relationship. Because it’s all too hard or it’s all too complicated or it’s simply not as much fun! It’s a contract people. With a very expensive party, but granted, there are certain expectations surrounding it. And although I didn’t have these silly, fluttery sensations to begin with – I am still a girl at heart who very much wants it to be the most perfect day ever! *stargazed look and dramatic orchestral music cue*

My darling ‘husband-to-be’ has never been overly-ambitious, in that, he’s not the DIY or gardening type – however does have an extensive ‘chilli plant’ collection. Neither does he wish to travel or adventure and the thought of evening, beach side/sunset walks, weekends away and anything remotely romantic is so far over his head he has neck trouble because of it… So this is the situation – With the quite apparent ‘less than two months to fallout’ and the imminent ‘BOOM BOOM POW’ of the 23rd of July quite precociously lurking, I had a near emotional break-down on Friday. So I decided that we needed to get the ball rolling by getting some of the smaller, niggly-er thingys out of the way. I’m not in a position to complete the programmes, as my bridesmaid has been in another city for more than a month with her very sickly sister, neither can I decide on the song lyrics I wish to use to fill the back page and I am not certain how to term the Magistrate who will be marrying us, so the service slips are also incomplete. The items such as the wine for the tables, rings and anti-nuptial agreement (which still has to be drafted) – all of which being responsibilities designated to my fiancé. A fluctuating guest list with far too many declines and simultaneously acceptances, what with certain individuals happily inviting other individuals NOT listed as their respective partner or ‘plus one’… Then the minor matter of me wanting to change everything I do already have… So this brings me to Sunday afternoon.

I decided that I would spray paint certain of the decor items so as to more fittingly comply with MY colour scheme – which for my own sanity, I had to tackle and simply get out of the way. My fiancé, who by his friends, had been removed to a pre-bachelor party the night before, had been sleeping, an actual impossibility with two and at times three, noisy children causing chaos. He awoke and was pleasant, considering the headache and threat of retribution at my knowledge of the aforementioned ‘night out. The entire time I had been inwardly venting. Thinking how this…this… man, had gone out, and was sleeping, and once again was getting out of doing anything ‘wedding related’…and… to my surprise, firstly actually helped me and secondly without having to be asked! So there we stood, in the dining room – unwrapping the precious glass and metal holders, while he handled the removal of the actual ‘handle’ mechanisms, I clawed at the gooey price stickers. After which we braved the icy winter wind, stray leaves and mounds of mobile dust particles to get this finished. I felt better. Once completed and packed away to prevent further dust collection until their wondrous display in July, I thought how upset I would have been had he not helped. Thinking about why I would have been upset, actually makes no sense. How many Saturday and Sunday mornings does he not run off with the little munchkin, but only after bringing me breakfast in bed – and then departing to allow me to have my sleep in. How many thoughtful, yet practical gifts have I not received. How many other special ways does he surprise me and treat me like gold, or something precious.

After having experienced a few women on their final legs of unwed life and the months leading up to their ‘big day’ – and after having promised myself that I would not turn into or become one of those melodramatic, near-psychotic, moody and unreasonable females. It has already happened. The change has occurred. I can only think this is how werewolves must feel about their metamorphosing around the time of the full moon. On Friday, feeling this nearly suffocating pressure – I had shed more than a few tears, jostled with the notion of cancelling the wedding and wondered if I was marrying the right man, and all because I didn’t know whether my bridesmaid would be back here in time, if non-repliers would simply ‘pitch up’ on the day, if the flowers would arrive as planned, if my dress would be as I’d imagined and if I’d successfully manage to lose another 20 Kilograms in the next 6 weeks!! All of which had nothing to do with him actually.

So where am I going with all this? The fact is, “…You throw stones at those you love…” So now I know I love him. And I have established that although his powers of telepathy are a little lacklustre, his affinity for being able to tell when he should simply get up and do, without me having to ask – and having the compassion to know that my psychosis is not directly aimed at him, makes me sure of my decision. Yes, I am sure that between now and the wedding, I will undoubtedly question my decision to wed (this man specifically) and the want to abandon the false freedom associated with not being married. I have no false ideas that marriage is nothing but ‘sunshine and roses’ and that we will gallop off into the sunset. Am I scared and apprehensive, yes. But as much as I have mood swings, erratic behaviour, unreasonable outbursts and overtly irrational notions… he won’t win cabinet maker of the year. But based on what I’ve heard about most men during the planning stages of their weddings, things between the man and I are actually better than ever 🙂

 

It's All In The Details...

It's All In The Details...