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by L.B. Jeffries

28 Apr 2009

Coming out just before Halo 3 was released onto the Xbox 360, Gears of War managed to be the game that was in the right place at just the right time. People were hungry for a definitive action game for the 360 and this title stepped up. Third person shooters had steadily been evolving on the PS2 for some time, but Gears deserves credit for honing this design to its essential elements. It borrows from the “over-the-shoulder” camera of Resident Evil 4 while using the left-trigger aiming that was popularized in the Call of Duty series. The cover system was inspired by Space Defender and Kill Switch.

Coupled with this critically acclaimed melding of ideas is a plot that has received a much more mixed response. The macho setting of Gears of War has been criticized for being shallow and for its homoerotic undertones. At its core, the game is mostly a classic retelling of the standard ‘Dude War Story’. The characters may be cliché and their relationship by the numbers, but it’s the same classic formula that people have relied on for centuries. For the purposes of this essay, I played and beat the game on co-op with a friend split-screen at Hardcore difficulty.

by Jason Gross

28 Apr 2009

“Here’s the deal. I am in a hard time with money, and I am trying to get it in as many ways possible. Please understand.”

So said Tom Waits on Twitter last week but there was one problem.  It wasn’t the famous West Coast singer-songwriter who actually said that but a fake who was using his name and pretending to be him on Twitter.  At first, this innocuous phony would post music thoughts once in a while, which seemed plausible since TW’s probably a busy guy all around otherwise. “TW” even provided a link to a ‘new song’, (a live version of Falling Down). 

But then about a week ago, “Tom Waits” on Twitter started providing links that would supposedly let fans buy ringtones of his songs with posts like this: “Once again, here is the link to the ringtone offer - (WEB ADDRESS WITHHELD) - It should work now, things have been sorted out.” 

Waits fans on Twitter were confused.  Some said the account was hacked or that poor Tom was in desperate straights and needed dough or said that the guy on Twitter was just a fake.  The exasperated “TW” even stepped in to plead his case, asking (paraphrased) ‘what do I have to do to convince you?’

by Andrew Martin

28 Apr 2009

El Michels Affair hooked up with the Wu-Tang Clan a few years back for a live show that spawned a limited run of 7-inch singles. But now with Enter the 37th Chamber, the soul-funk band is tackling the gritty hip-hop collective’s best tracks on its own. Here we have an MP3 download of El Michels Affair’s “C.R.E.A.M.”, perhaps the Clan’s most memorable joint. From the famous twinkling piano to the dusty drums, it’s all there and then some. Enter the 37th Chamber is available now on Fat Beats.

El Michels Affair
“C.R.E.A.M.” [MP3]
     

by J.M. Suarez

27 Apr 2009

Bea Arthur’s death this past Saturday marks the passing of one of television’s distinctive voices. Her portrayal of Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin on All In the Family led to a spin-off of her own with Maude and her Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls stands out even among the three other wonderful characters on the series.

Beginning her career on the stage, she starred in Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof and most famously in Mame, a role she reprised for the 1974 film version with Lucille Ball. Her place in television history was assured during her guest starring episodes on All in the Family. Maude was a liberal and a feminist and the perfect counterpart to blustery Archie Bunker. Her apearance on the series was so striking that upon first seeing her on All in the Family, the network realized that Arthur had created a character with a life of her own and one who warranted her own series.

by Bill Gibron

27 Apr 2009

In connection with PopMattersfirst installment in a week long look at the hits and misses of Summer 2009, we here at Short Ends & Leader have decided to pimp the 10 titles we are most looking forward to viewing come popcorn movie sign. Some of them are obvious. A few you might not have heard of. And a couple are definitely the equivalent of going out on a limb (or in the case of at least one already reviewed entry, bucking the bad vibe trend). But unlike the rest of mainstream America who is palpating wildly at the thought of another Ice Age film and a second Night at an already lame Museum, we hope our choices are a little more refined. After all, we have to see everything. Why not get excited about those entries that actually stir our imagination - not our gag reflex, beginning with:

Star Trek


We have to be careful here, less the losers in Lucas Nation accuse us of once again ripping on the man who raped our childhood. SE&L consider themselves members of the Trek take on speculative fiction. We prefer to use our brains vs. various other organs when it comes to whiz bang future shock. So when J.J. Abrams announced he was rebooting the Original Series to show how Kirk, Spock, and the rest became the saviors of the universe, we held our breath and hoped for the best. Early reviews state we can start to exhale. In less than a week, we’ll have our own pre-screening response to how successful he was.

Drag Me to Hell


Sam Raimi can be forgiven for a lot of things - keeping Evil Dead 4 away from us for nearly 20 years (rumors say he’s definitely planning another installment…for 2011!!!), turning Spider-man into an Emo dancing douche, even using his Ghost House production company to shove a dozen Westernized J-horror remakes down our already overburdened Asian fear aesthetic. But can he really pull of a return to terror and keep it within a PG-13 dynamic - and the better question is should he? He’s R-rated at the very least. We’ll have to wait until the end of May to find out.

Dead Snow


Okay, okay - we know that hth eorror film nation has already dismissed this effort outright as too much promise undone by too little accomplishment. Apparently, it’s all bark and no ‘bite’. And we get it - it’s not Ils, or Inside, or Let the Right One In, or any number of current post-millennial macabre faves. Still - NAZI ZOMBIES!!! How can you not appreciate the grindhouse glory in such a concept? It’s like every night terror you’ve ever had mixed with a sexless version of Love Camp 7. Come on! We’ll be there - and probably be disappointed as well.

Moon


As stated before, we are definitely suckers for old school serious sci-fi here at SE&L, and this one has the potential for being something really special. David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones (adopting his Dad’s original surname) has crafted a vehicle for as much spectacle as thought, and Sam Rockwell gives what many consider to be one of his best performances. And here’s a suggestion - try and avoid the trailer that’s currently making the rounds. For our money, it gives far too much away, though we also imagine that Jones has more up his sleeve than any preview can completely spoil.

The Hurt Locker


Kathryn Bigelow made some great movies in the ‘80s (Near Dark, Blue Steel) before her partnership both on and off the set with husband James Cameron imploded around the time of Point Break. Since then, her output has been shoddy at best, especially in the last 10 years or so. But the buzz on this Iraq War thriller is huge, and we’d love to see Bigelow make the comeback she so richly deserves. In a man’s world, she remains one of the few female filmmakers with the potential to tap into the pure testosterone tenets of the action/thriller genre.

Funny People


Judd Apatow going serious? What’s the world coming to? Well, here’s betting the more somber material is balanced with the standard bro-frat formula that’s turned the Freaks and Geeks’ guide into a hit making household name. Of course, it’s a big gamble to leave the scatological behind completely. With Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen in tow, there’s a good chance that Apatow scores big here. And remember, James L. Brooks did comedy before an Oscar winning dramatist of sorts. Why shouldn’t the man behind the insightful Knocked Up have the same opportunity to shine?

District 9


Have you seen Alive in Joburg, Neil Blomkamp’s political allegory that puts issues of South Africa and race within a slick, sci-fi exposé? If you haven’t then head over to YouTube and check it out. Now imagine this amazing short expanded to feature film length, with the power of Peter Jackson and WETA working behind the scenes. If you’re geek radar isn’t off the charts by now, there’s something wrong with it - and you! And here’s hoping it’s NOT the proposed Halo adaptation that Universal rejected as “too expensive” a while back. No one needs another lame videogame-based film.

Taking Woodstock


Granted, ‘60s nostalgia has gone the way of the poodle skirt and the disco ball, replaced by a glam slam love of all things ‘80s and new wave, but that doesn’t mean that Ang Lee can’t pull of this tale of the Peace Generation’s communal calling card. In fact, we’re counting on the man behind The Ice Storm and Brokeback Mountain to deliver big time. And with a story like this, centering on a small town motel owner who manages somehow to get the biggest rock concert in the history of the US situated in his own backyard, Lee’s poised to produce something magical.

Inglorious Basterds


Unlike most online sites, we LOVE Quentin Tarantino. We just do, so sue us. We worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, and have nothing but admiration for his homage heavy work in Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill and Death Proof. So there’s no doubt we’ll be front and center when this blood soaked war flick about Jewish soldiers scalping Nazis in Occupied France hits theaters this August. It sounds like everything that man is known for and needs to make quality exploitation excellence. Even when he underperformers, no one excites cinema the way this post-modern prophet can. Let the flaming begin!

H2: Halloween 2


Gotta love the hospital setting, though one has to admit that it instantly reminds fans of the failures inherent in the Carpenter produced sequel of his original. Rob Zombie may be a macabre purist whipping boy, but we’ll take his remarkable look at the Michael Myers legend over some of the tepid attempts to bring back those old school shivers of late (take that, Last House on the Left). At least Zombie remembers to keep things nice and brutal - much to the chagrin of those who apparently like their fear factors lame and lukewarm.

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