The Wonders of Japanese Movie Programs

20160518_201633

There are a lot of differences between going to the movies in Japan and going in the United States. For starters, tickets cost a heck of a lot more, usually upwards of $20, and the seats are assigned. Many theaters also have deluxe seats that offer anything from increased leg room to full-on private suites. The theater near me even has a private waiting area for premium members where champagne and chocolate are served. It all combines to create a feeling that turns going to the movies into more of an event, much like going to a live stage show or a concert.

And just like a live event, in Japan, movies often get their own specially made programs.

And they’re dope. Continue reading

An S.O.S. from a Portishead fan

hr2

Hey, did you hear there’s a new Portishead track out? It’s for that new flick High Rise and is a cover of Abba’s classic “S.O.S.” I bet you want to hear that, right? I bet you’re curious as to what a Portishead cover of an Abba song is like, considering it’s one of the strangest, most unlikely cover choices since Sonic Youth gave the world their take on The Carpenters. I bet you can’t wait to give it a listen on YouTube or even shell out the 99 cents to $1.29 on your favorite digital music storefront to buy it. Maybe you might even go to a physical location and hand a real person actual money in exchange for a physical good with the song on it either digitally or analog.

Well, too bad. You can’t. Continue reading

Gaming is a Garbage Fire

I’m a regular visitor of the gaming website Giant Bomb, and usually dedicate four plus hours a week of my time listening to their various gaming podcasts. Not only are they frequently some of the funniest podcasts on the internet, but they’re usually a great place to get information on new games. These days they’re more or less my exclusive source for gaming news.

A few weeks ago on the Giant Beastcast (the East Coast crew’s podcast) host Vinny Caravella went on a bit of an uptempo tangent, professing that this was the greatest time to be a gamer. Not only did we have new technology like VR coming down the pike, but the sheer girth of games, from big-budget AAA action spectacles to indie point-and-click adventure games, assured that everyone, no matter what their tastes, could find something they liked.

And to a certain extent, I definitely think he’s right. Games are better than ever! There’s more variety than ever before, and at more price points. Speaking strictly in terms of consumer value and customer choice, it’s the greatest time ever to be into video games.

Speaking from just about every other avenue imaginable though, it’s a complete disaster. From top to down, gaming is screwed. It’s so screwed that, to paraphrase Roseanne, the light from screwed would take a million years to reach it. And no matter where you look, from the fans to the developers to the games themselves, things are bleak. Continue reading

The Robot Restaurant Experience

20160404_220519

I’ve lived in Tokyo for over two years now. While I’m far from a native of this wonderful city, I’m long removed from wanting to visit the popular tourist sites. The zoo, Tokyo Tower, Sensoji Temple, they’re all beautiful places that are well worth checking out when you first come to the city, but they’ve lost their luster for me. Now I’d much rather go exploring off the beaten path and discover some hidden weird and wonderful cafe, art gallery or record store.

But whenever family or friends come to visit me, I feel obliged to jump back into tourist mode and show them all the big name sites and tourist traps.

At some point, this usually means going to Robot Restaurant. Continue reading

A Visit to Game On – A Gaming Museum Exhibit

20160303_155657

Game On is a touring exhibition designed to chronicle the history of video games, and ask why they have continued to endure as a medium for so long. It started in 2002 in the Barbican Center in the UK in 2002 and has since found its way to several cities across the globe.

Now, the exhibition has finally made its way to Tokyo, debuting at the Miraikan (a science museum) earlier this month. It’s actually kind of amazing that it’s taken this long for the exhibition to come to Japan when you consider just how much the history of video games is tied to Japan and Japanese companies.

While Japan didn’t invent the video game, companies like Nintendo and Sega certainly helped perfect it, and without them the gaming landscape would look drastically different than it does today. Gaming, especially home gaming, had nearly died in the the early 80s thanks to Atari glutting the market with countless pieces of shovelware, and it wasn’t until Nintendo released the Americanized version of the Famicom hardware, dubbed the Nintendo Entertainment System, that the gaming market would be revitalized, sowing the seeds for the juggernaut is it now today.

That is just one of many facts you won’t find at Game On. Continue reading

Vinyl Review: Fright Night Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Night Fever Music Edition)

20160303_213233

Someone out there decided that there weren’t enough labels going after the (apparently surprisingly lucrative) vinyl horror soundtrack collector market, because adding to the already crowded field that features labels like Death Waltz, Mondo (who bought Death Waltz), Waxworks, Silva Screen, One Way Static, Invada and probably a few more labels that I’m forgetting at the moment comes Night Fever Music with their debut release, the soundtrack to the cult-classic 80s horror comedy Fright Night. Continue reading

Game Music Revue: 8-Bit Music Power

8bitcover

So this is a weird thing. Continue reading

Vinyl/CD Review: Game Theory – Lolita Nation

20160216_200516

One of my favorite movies is As Good As It Gets, the 1997 romantic comedy/drama with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. It’s a great movie for a lot of reasons, and every time I watch it I notice something else fantastic about it. But one part that always stuck with me is the scene where Jack’s character, having thoroughly pissed off Helen Hunt on yet another occasion, is ordered by Hunt to pay her a compliment to keep her from walking out on him. Flustered and desperate, Jack launches into a somewhat rambling story about how, after she told him off a few nights prior, he finally listened his doctor’s orders and began taking some anti-depressants to help curtail his more unpleasant behaviors. His rationale, he explained, is that she made him want to be a better man. Hunt’s character is visibly taken aback, and declares it to be the best compliment she ever received.

I bring this up because the first time I listened to Game Theory’s Lolita Nation, it blew my mind in such a way that I began to seek out more music, expand my tastes and read as much as criticism as possible.  It’s so good that it made me want to be a better writer so I would do a better job of describing what at the time I felt to be its impossible-to-define brilliance.

I don’t know if I’m there yet, but now’s the time to try, as the album is finally back in print thanks to the remarkable efforts of Omnivore Recordings, who have brought the album back to store shelves in both a deluxe 2CD package and a beautiful colored 2LP release as well. Continue reading

Japanese Record Store Tributes To David Bowie

20160209_144908

David Bowie passed away a month ago, but I still haven’t fully processed the news. It’s still hard to believe that he’s no longer with us. He was such a presence in the pop world. And his music meant more to me than anyone else’s.

And his death wasn’t just a shock and tragedy in the Western world. David Bowie was huge internationally, especially in Japan. Even before his death, it was hard to miss Bowie’s section in most record stores here, and even less well-regarded albums like Never Let Me Down or his output with Tin Machine seemed to be held in at least some esteem here. Not a week goes by where I don’t see a rare Bowie LP go for an insane amount of money at any of the multitude of record stores here in Tokyo.

In Japan, record stores have a bit more personality than their Western counterparts. Even in major chains, it’s not uncommon to see handwritten recommendation notes by the staff, and custom tailor-made displays dedicated to more obscure artists and genres. With Bowie’s passing, many of these same stores have taken to commemorating his legacy with similarly DIY, custom-made displays. In the days and weeks in the wake of Bowie’s death, I visited several Tower Records and other stores to see how they were handling the Starman’s passing. I was pretty impressed.

And now I know how to spell David Bowie in katakana – デヴィッド・ボウイ。

Continue reading

The Witness Review: A Witness to Disaster

CaSJsb6UkAAri5q

I feel that over the years I’ve gradually slid out of step with the mainstream when it comes to games. Whenever I glance over at “Best Of” lists at various gaming sites, I inevitably find a list of games that I either have no interest in playing or have played and didn’t like.

For example, I absolutely abhorred The Last Of Us. Bad controls, horrible story that’s been told a billion times over. Fallout? Hate it. Buggy mess. Ditto for The Elder Scrolls games (a Bethesda logo is a kiss of death to me). The original Dragon Age? Ugly, shitty characters, couldn’t make it for more than a few hours. The Batman Arkham games? Pretty vacant, with repetitive (and unresponsive) combat coupled with the pathetically heavy-handed writing. Dark Souls, Metal Gear (any of them), Undertale, The Witcher, The Walking Dead, I either hated them or couldn’t even be bothered to start them because they looked so boring, derivative or just not something I’d be into.

My point is that I am more than used to not being in jive with the critical consensus, and with rare exception I caulk it up to being an outlier. I hate a lot of popular games, but I realize that in many cases the issue is with me, not the game.

That being said, even I was surprised by the gulf between the critical consensus of and my personal views on The Witness, a game that many critics are lauding as one of the greatest of all time, and a game that I feel is a worthless exploration into just how little a game developer can care about his audience. Continue reading

Subscribe