C’est la Divertissement Vie. (That’s the Entertainment Life.)

Games:

I may seriously never purchase another game from Konami again.

mgsvYes, I’m late to the party. But their last great game, Metal Gear Solid V, was never given the chance to be completed. The game was delivered in an episodic fashion that spanned 50 missions. 51 was supposed to effectively be the game’s final boss battle. Cut material from the collector’s edition showed a half complete last episode, which would have been an excellent note to satisfy one last dangling plot thread and go out with a bang.

It was never released. And according to Konami’s spokesmen, never will be.

This information was never quite clear to me given the layouts of story-focused wikis, or the strategy guides and commentary boards that avoided discussing the plot for fear of spoilers: I only just learned of the mission conclusion after completing 89% of the game. But imagine, if you will, the Harry Potter series sans the final battle with Voldemort and the epilogue. Or Star Wars: Return of the Jedi without the Battle of Endor.

Others have covered the likely cause of this sad state of affairs better than I have, but the likely culprit was the Konami/Kojima split. I’ve played several Kojima games in my life and I know that he would never willingly leave a story incomplete. Of those titles were Zone of the Enders and its sequel, as well as Metal Gear Solid, Sons of Liberty and Snake Eater. While he always had more stories to tell, leaving the current arc incomplete was simply never his style.

Of the game itself, I could see how it was almost a masterpiece. Almost. The game play constantly brings me back again and again for its completeness, it’s total immersive elements. The depth of strategies is profound in and of itself, where no item or weapon ever seems to have just one purpose. Every game play session, I learn something new about how to combat my foes; some trick, a tactic or vantage point I never considered before. Even without the cut ending the story was somewhat weak, but this was countered with dozens of great moments that constantly made me forget vulnerabilities in the overall tale. Mission 51 would probably make me condone this, but I will never know for certain.

That being said, I refuse to give up after coming this far. I’ll see this through to the end but that is all, despite my disappointments and reservations.

Movies:

The Professional: Golgo 13golgo13 feels like something that could and should have been better.

Golgo 13, sometimes known as Duke Togo, is Japan’s answer to James Bond: an ageless, ongoing assassin whose stories often have to entertain without ever developing the man himself. Instead, the creators rely heavily on crafting sensational plot twists, over-the-top sex scenes, backstories for his victims, visually insane villains or researching mind-boggling but physically possible acts of sniping such as ricocheting a bullet off an ocean wave. Anything to avoid piercing the titular character’s stoic demeanor and mysterious allure.

In this film, Mr. Togo is contracted to end the life of Robert Dawson. However, it happens at a sensitive time during a company coronation, when Robert is dubbed the new CEO of a massive, massive enterprise. Although Togo succeeds, the contract’s legacy turns sour as the would-be CEO’s father (the current CEO Dawson) seeks revenge for the death of his son.

The beginning feels almost distracted by another contract that Golgo accepts, which concludes with him being chased by the FBI, CIA and Pentagon. All these agencies under the employ of Dawson himself, who wields his company’s power in a way that the Sherman Antitrust Act was exactly designed to prevent. Despite the threat, Togo seems oblivious to the danger and completes another contract. Only then does he realize how unrelenting the government’s hitmen are, as Golgo’s informants are either killed or turn on him.

The visual style of The Professional was somewhat distracting. While the action scenes were straight forward, coherent and well handled, Director Osamu Dezaki seemed determined to punch up even basic dialogue with flair unnecessarily. The movie also used some CGI animations to handle some helicopter assault scenes, but the technology was simply too immature at the time to effectively tell a story. Likewise, the story concocted several Bond-level villains for Golgo to fight as well, the story actually suffers from the introduction of too many antagonists to effectively develop in its 90 minute running time. However, the final plot twist at the end was somewhat satisfying (highlight to see spoiler): It turns out that Robert Dawson ordered the hit on himself, an act of suicide because of his fear of being unable to live up to his father’s expectations.

Television:

I gave up on Orphan BlackAmazon’s sci-fi series about clones.

“Where’s this madness going?” I asked myself after the ninth episode of season two. The plot consisted of most of the characters milling about in circles. Once again, the protagonist’s daughter had been kidnapped, after a long season of hiding about the countryside to no real effect. Meanwhile, antagonist Helena was stolen by some strange religion-meets-genetics commune who took her eggs. After she escaped and then willfully came back, she threatened a harsh nanny for mistreating the children under her care, not long before Helena sets the compound on flame regardless of the lives of the kids inside.

Characters portrayed by anyone besides Tatiana Maslany became less interesting, and except for concerns regarding a genetic disease amongst the show’s many clones, the entire season felt like little more than “filler.” ggrThe show felt like it willfully resisted growth despite a strong first season. Only Maslany’s skillful acting kept me going this far, as she slips in and out of versions of herself in a believable manner.

On the plus side however was Good Girls Revolt, an amusing and unexpected show actually made me realize how bloody boring Mad Men sometimes was.

I can see how Good Girls Revolt was probably stiff-armed by Amazon for years until the latter show came to an end. Mad Men was/is the Oscar of television, but sometimes didn’t feel like it wore enough of the sixties (at least the pieces we wanted to remember) on its sleeve. GGR certainly does, but the other huge difference is that the series focuses around one major climax that the main characters built towards through behind-the-scenes politicking and subterfuge.

The girls seemed to truly wrestle with their guilt; a sharp contrast to the occasional acts of Mad Men’s cruel, tragic and unapologetic attitude.

The bad news however is that the show isn’t going to get a second season, at least not on Amazon. One aspect downplayed is that GGR is built on real events, namely Newsweek’s EEOC lawsuit in 1969. Although the name was changed to the fictional “News of the Week,” the historic aspects are still very highlighted. It’s safe to doubt that Newsweek enjoyed someone dredging up a nearly 50 year-old legal filing that put them in a bad light. And I could see why Amazon might not want to start a mudslinging contest with the news outlet in all in the name of entertainment.

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Culture Absorption

Books: My bread and butter. As of late, I’m half way through A Feast of Crows. I understand people’s dissatisfaction with the heavy novel, given that almost all the main characters from the previous three installments get no chapters of their own until the next book. Barely Jon Snow, no Tyrion Lannister and no Daenerys Targaryen.

Instead, we get an assortment of supporting characters with their own chapters. Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, and a handful of characters in Dorne to speak of events down there. Cersei gets her own chapters, finally gives some insight into her attitude. One has to be willing to accept some slow down of the story in order to enjoy a more robust tale I suppose. I keep trying to slow down since the sixth book is going to be a while, but I’ll probably crumble and just read A Dance with Dragons after this.

I’ve also been picking up and putting down Thus Spake Zarathustra. The reading itself is slow, but the resulting discussions with the book’s owner about Nietzche’s philosophy are stimulating and interesting.

Television: I’ve been slacking on my television. Between the ending of Breaking Bad and the wait for the new seasons of Mad Men and The Americans, I have a period of time to try and catch up on The Walking Dead or polish off Battlestar Galactica or The Wire. I should probably get on with that.

If there was ever a reason to be disappointed with reality television, it has to be the direction that Top Chef has gone. The winner of the New Orleans season was made to appear as a some what conniving, foul tempered fellow whom the show seemed ready to dump several times. And the fact that he was instead the winner was nothing less than aggravating. I feel the show has let something wrong guide it. Even if ‘reality’ television can’t convince you it isn’t fake, it should be entertaining. As of late, Top Chef has failed to do both.

I have however, gotten back into watching Golgo 13. The strange thing about this show is that it’s effectively nothing but episodic flash fiction starring a sniper protagonist. The plus side is that the show is easy to pick up and put down. You miss nothing, there is no ongoing story or events that change anything. Every episode is open and close, making it great for working out too. The downside is that the writers struggle to make the main character interesting. Thus, every two episodes are crap but the third one often has some great ideas in it.

Movies: I saw American Hustle a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it, but I get how people might not have liked it. Some felt the story was too predictable (it was based on true events). Others were probably ill at ease with the story’s themes of infidelity. But I was very entertained by it.

Aside from that, I saw Danny Boyle’s Trance and Prisoners with Jake Gyllenhaal. I was disappointed with the former. Boyle tried too hard to create Inception and while it wasn’t bad, it was filled with needless sexuality and a little over the top with the violence. Prisoners was an all around good movie but just didn’t ring my bells. I can’t complain about it- it was very well done, just not to my taste for some reason.

Looking forward to the new Robocop. Critics be damned.

Games: Still chugging through Red Dead Redemption. Getting lost in the side quests and challenges has slowed me up, so I end up doing one or two tasks, then doing regular story missions. So far, I’m sixty percent through the game. 

Big thing of note is that I finished The Banner Saga: Part 1 for the second time. I kept failing on the last battle, so I decided to go ahead and reduce the difficulty to Easy from Hard and just wrap up the game, collecting a couple of achievements but not everything I wanted. A play through takes about 12 hours, so I can try it a couple of times, then replay it when part 2 nearly comes out.

The thing about the game is that losing a battle isn’t game over. It just grinds on, though you do get thoroughly punished for it. You get less renown (a character building currency), some side characters may die, and then there are injuries. Injury is interesting, as it decreases your characters strength drastically. It doesn’t just happen when you lose, but whenever a character is harmed badly or knocked out. Thus there are Pyrrhic victories, and when you start losing, it becomes increasingly harder to stop. I’ll replay the game on hard later, but I do need to totally rethink my strategies to be more forward thinking.