Buffalo Jackson Style

Some useful instructional videos the DaMorgue crew made during spring break ’10. I’ll leave Sean up to properly formatting this on our new blog layout and remember to never keep up your dreams!

Here’s Basketball!

And I hope you’re ready for some football!

C.A.T: Licensed to Ill

Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill (1986)
Aside from a lone Tone Loc album and maybe some Sugarland Gang, Hip-Hop was a little lonely in my music library, that was until I finally became a fan of Brooklyn’s finest. Maybe it’s because they proved that even white boys can be funky? Whatever the reason were going back to 1986 for this week’s classic album tuesday and it’s time to get ill.

Breakin’ out in the mid 80s, this NYC trio were signed to Def Jam Records by now legendary producer Rick Rubin who would also go to produce the hit debut in question. The single “Fight for Your Right” would help propel the album to the top of the charts but really it’s the majority of the other tracks that truly define this party posse. Slick samples, big beats, all delivered with over-the-top energy and style. Chunky guitar riffs is a staple on Licensed to Ill even going as far as to feature Slayer guitarist Kerry King on “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”.

Though the boys from Brooklyn have often felt embarrassed for some of their less than mature lyrical content on Licensed to Ill it’s still an amazingly fresh debut that in my eyes was well ahead of it’s time. So many shortsighted individuals had written them off as a novelty act back in the day but I think enough albums and years of critical acclaim have proven that’s B.S. Licensed to Ill would only go to become the best selling hip-hop album of the 80s and still remains popular after all this time, ch-ch-check it out.

Favorite Tracks: “Brass Monkey”, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, “Rhymin & Stealin”

Gay Warden

Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening

Dragon Age: Origins went from being a PC title I feared playing to one of my favorite games of 2009. The old-school, yet modernized combat made the game a lot of fun, and the deep story and compelling cast all came together to make an incredible package. And with hundreds of hours to play through, I never thought I’d run out of stuff to do in that world. But time passed and eventually I set Dragon Age down. Then Bioware came out with a bunch of DLC and the Awakening expansion pack. I tried to resist, but earlier this summer I succumbed and stepped into the boots of my Grey Warden once again.

Awakening takes place directly after Origins. You can import your Warden from the main game, or start a new character. Either way, you’ve been sent to Amaranthine to help rebuild the Wardens when a new Darkspawn threat arises and you must raise up a new army to put it down. Some of the party from the first game will appear in supporting roles, but only Oghren returns as a playable character. The rest of your team fit many of the archetypes of your previous posse, and I grew to like them almost as much as the group from the main game. Of course they are at a disadvantage, since Awakening is a significantly shorter story.

Besides a new story and setting, Awakening also lifts the level cap and introduces a bunch of new skills, spells and specializations. I played as an Arcane Warrior, already a pretty tough guy, and taking the new Battle Mage specialization and some new spells and skills, I felt like an unstoppable killing machine. My party got pretty tough too. There are also a bunch of new and exciting pieces of loot to collect, which is good since if you had any DLC items they won’t carry over.

Honestly, this is the definition of an expansion pack, giving players more of everything they like. Awakening manages to give another interesting story, with exciting reprocussion for Dragon Age 2, while delivering plenty of the gameplay that made the main game such a hit. You just have to ask yourself: do I want more Dragon Age? If yes, you’ll like what you’re getting.

The Line Between Victory and Defeat is Thin


It seems like there are three main kinds of racing games. There are the simulation racers, which are all about realistic driving and jaw-dropping graphics. I’m not that big on those. There are kart racers, fun party games that are all about wacky hijinks. And then there are the arcade racers. Games, like Burnout, that skip realism and getting the licensing rights of cars in favor of making the racing more exciting. If a simulation racing game is NASCAR, then an arcade racer is The Fast and the Furious. Blackrock’s Split/Second is probably the purest attempt so far to deliver that ideal.

The game is set in the reality of a show called “Split/Second,” in which drivers compete in a series of events in locations filled with explosives and other hazards. In the single player season, you’ll play through 12 episodes, each with a number of events. There’s the simple race, elimination and time trials events, as well as several more inspired offerings. In one mode you’ll have to dodge a barrage of missiles from an enemy helicopter, in another you have to pass trucks that are dropping an alarming number of exploding barrels.

Split/Second makes a wonderful first impression. The events all fun at first, the game looks great, and the creativity behind all the destruction is breathtaking. However, once you’re a few episodes in, the shallowness of the game shows itself. There aren’t many tracks to race on. The rubberbanding of the AI gets really bad, to the point where I would use on of the first cars in the game instead of all my sexy new unlocks. Some events seem to demand perfection from the driver to get first place, which I guess would be fair if I hadn’t easily gotten first in everything for the first few episodes.

The game controls well; steering felt tight, although it did feel like a lot of the late-game cars were made just to drift out of your hands. I love the UI. Everything you need is shown right under your car, which looks really good and means you never get distracted looking in the corner of the screen. As you’re racing you’ll bid up power by jumping, getting in close calls, drifting and drafting. When you’ve built up enough, you can trigger Power Plays which move obstacles, blow stuff up, and, on the most powerful level, can even alter the route. They’re triggered easily and are a great mechanic.

If I hadn’t finished Split/Second, this review probably would have been more positive. The game is a real thrill to play with friends or as a weekend rental. But the season is long enough that the game lost a lot of its charm. The ending (or at least the ending that I got) teases a sequel, and with a greater variety of tracks, cars and less rubberbandy AI, this could be a real winner.

Meet The Avengers

In the biggest bombshell out of Comi-Con that I’ve read about yet, the cast of 2012’s Avengers was announced and showed up tonight. Brought on stage by Robert Downey, Jr. himself, Joss Whedon’s dream team is as follows:

  • Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye
  • Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man
  • Mark Ruffalo as Hulk
  • Chris Evans as Captain America
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
  • Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

Bummer for Ant-Man and Wasp, I guess. While the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises are off splintering into oblivion, it’s nice to see that the core Marvel continuity are developing in such as exciting way. Avengers already seems like it will be the Ocean’s Eleven of super hero movies in a worst-case scenario.

    C.A.T.: Psychocandy

    The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

    I’m not sure if we’re gonna be able to keep this chronological CAT thing going for that much longer. But I’ve pretty much been listening to nothing but ’80s music all summer, so I figured I should keep it going. This week I’ll take a look at The Jesus And Mary Chain’s debut Psychocandy, an album whose influence on indie/alternative rock is just about as huge as any other album to come out of the ’80s.

    The approach taken on this album is pretty simple: pop melodies drenched in a wall of distorted guitars. The instrumentation is pretty basic throughout, as the guitars seem to drone on and on through each song, while the simple drum patterns remain pretty repetitive throughout. And yet somehow these Scottish rockers were able to tap into something completely original that bands are still copying today.

    I guess what makes the songs work is the songwriting of brothers Jim and William Reid. They obviously were influenced by the pop melodies of Phil Spector and The Beach Boys, and the album’s chocked full of simple pop ditties that are just as lovely and heartfelt as they are noisy and abrasive. It’s a wonder how songs as tender as “Just Like Honey” and “Cut Dead” manage to feel so natural alongside noise-fests like “In A Hole”, but I guess it’s all just part of that “Jesus and Mary Chain sound”.

    Despite the album’s unorthodox nature, I’d say it’s got to be one of my favorite pop albums, as there’s just no shortage of catchy melodies that can’t help but creep under your skin. Plus Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity seemed to be all about it, that’s gotta count for something.

    Favorite Tracks: “Just Like Honey”, “Taste Of Cindy”, “Sowing Seeds”

    It’s All in Your Head


    Christopher Nolan started work on Inception a decade ago. Allegedly, after his initial pitch, Nolan decided he had to do some other big pictures first. So he took a few warm up rounds. That resulted in Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight. Not too shabby. Content with being the money-making king of the post-Titanic, pre-Avatar world, the director finished his script and started putting Inception together. Should he have abandoned his original concept and just started work on Batman 3? Or is Inception actually a worthy release from one of this generation’s most prolific directors?

    I don’t remember The Matrix‘s advertising campaign that well. Lots of “what is the Matrix” ads without much real insight into what that movie actually was about. Then I saw the damn thing and they told me exactly what the Matrix was in the first 20 minutes. Actually, that was pretty ingenious of those guys. My approach to Inception was pretty similar. I saw the teaser. I knew it had something to do with entering people’s minds. I knew Leo and Juno were in it. That’s about it. So it was quite an experience getting brought into the interesting world of Inception, a world that is well thought-out and continuously a pleasure to watch.

    The first half of the movie is dedicated to some (literal) world building, while the second half is basically a thrilling ride with as many twists and turns as the world’s greatest roller coasters. What starts as a heist movie also delves deep into other kinds of action and drama. The film definitely feels like Christopher Nolan made it, with his distinct vibe and sense of style, as well as another great driving Hans Zimmer score. He still has the problem of relying a little to heavily on exposition, but he does a wonderful job keeping every character interesting and every moment tense. Knowing what Wikipedia told me, I have to wonder how much of Nolan’s past three films actually were just practice for this movie.

    Leonardo DiCaprio is in top form as Cobb, the “one last job” hero of the film. Everyone’s favorite up-and-comer Joseph Gordon-Levitt is really good, as are the rest of the supporting cast including Nolan regulars Ken Watanabe, Cillian Murphy and, of course, Michael Caine. Tom Hardy almost stole this show as the lovable rogue, but it’s hard to deny Marion Cotillard when she in her crying, sinister-yet-heart-breaking mode. Of course I couldn’t talk about the cast without mentioning John’s favorite Dileep Rao, who does indeed seem to have a knack for picking good projects.

    I’ve been deliberately trying not to write about much of the plot of Inception because this is one of those movies that is better the less you know going in. And it seems the advertisers have made a genuine effort to keep most of the story secret, so who am I to ruin their plans? This is a movie full of style, but there’s even more substance. Inception asks you to keep thinking throughout, and ends on a note that will haunt you and perhaps spark glorious arguments around the world’s nerdiest water cooler. If you find yourself absolutely opposed to the kind of films Christopher Nolan makes, this isn’t for you. But if you’ve liked what he’s done in the past, Inception is certainly worth the price of admission.