So this week I’m reading The Girl with Ghost Eyes, by M.H. Boroson, which is not to be confused with The Girl with All the Gifts. Although if Ghost Eyes are a gift, then I suppose the girl with all the gifts would have them.
So this week I’m reading Schooled, by Christa Charter, a humorous mystery involving a murder that takes place on what is, apparently, a thinly-veiled version of the Microsoft Xbox campus, where the author used to work in the same capacity that the novel’s heroine, Lexy Cooper, works at the fictitious Xenon corporation. The only reason I know any of this is that people on Goodreads said so Such background information is not required for reading the book, but does give the author a certain amount of inside baseball credibility for writing about the video game industry.
So a few weeks ago we were between Netflix discs (“The Heat” had gone back, “Pacific Rim” had not yet arrived), and while looking through the list of streaming movies one evening, I noticed that “Flight” was there. I’d been interested in seeing that for a while, and my wife is a fan of Denzel Washington, so I decided to start watching it, which led to a conversation that went something like the one described below:
So last night my wife wanted to veg and watch a movie, because she’s had a long, hard week at work. Let’s see, what do we have from Netflix … hmm … looks like we have 16 Blocks and Ghost in the Shell. She already knows that 16 Blocks is a cop movie with Bruce Willis where “lots of people get shot”. She has never heard of Ghost in the Shell.
WIFE: What’s Ghost in the Shell?
ME: It’s a classic anime movie.
WIFE: Anime. <PITCHES VOICE REALLY HIGH> That’s where the girls all talk like this and giggle hee hee hee!!!! all the time.
ME: I don’t think Ghost in the Shell is like that … it’s a classic, like Akira and Cowboy Bebop.
WIFE: Mmm. We’ll watch 16 Blocks.
So now we know that although my wife hates cop movies where lots of people get shot (except for Running Scared, which she loved, but that’s a comedy so it doesn’t really count), she hates anime more. In goes 16 Blocks.
16 Blocks is of course the film in which Bruce Willis’s broken-down alcoholic guilt-ridden limping cop has to escort Mos Def’s oft-unintelligible (I had to turn on subtitles to understand all his dialog) witness 16 blocks to the courthouse so he can testify before a grand jury. He has to do this by 10am, or the jury’s term ends and the testimony becomes moot. Unfortunately, Bruce Willis is unaware that Mos Def is going to testify against some dirty cops, including Willis’s ex-partner, played by David Morse. If this reminds you a little bit of the Clint Eastwood film The Gauntlet (at one point, our heroes even end up on a bus, surrounded by heavily armed cops) then congratulations — you’re old!
All of this may sound like I’m dissing 16 Blocks, but I’m not. I actually quite enjoyed it. The performances from the three principals are excellent (anything with David Morse in it is worth watching), and in several cases where the film could have gone the Hollywood blockbuster route, it didn’t. 16 Blocks put my wife to sleep in about 45 minutes, which is rather astonishing for a film of this nature; not only that, but when she woke up, she was actually interested in how it ended.
A note about the alternate ending: It’s good to see that the filmmakers considered doing something a little unusual with the denouement, but unfortunately, the alternate ending just didn’t work for me. A big theme of the film is that people can change, but in the alternate ending, they changed a little too quickly for my taste. It’s still worth checking out, though.
So I just started playing “Siren” again. This is a survival horror game for the PS2, but with a twist: Instead of mowing down armies of zombies or whatever, you mostly have to sneak around and avoid getting noticed, because if you do, you get killed really fast. (This probably makes it much more like what would really happen if in fact one found oneself in a landscape dominated by ghouls and monsters. See also “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead“.) Don’t get me wrong — I love the “Silent Hill” series, for instance. But after the first play-through of Silent Hill 3, once I got my hands on what amounted to a light saber, I was hacking even the most fearsome creatures into Jack Link’s beef jerky. That doesn’t happen in “Siren”. EVER.
What does happen is something called “sightjacking”, where you have the ability to tune into the vision of the monsters that are stalking you, allowing you to see what they see. I can assure you, it’s quite unnerving to sightjack some axe-wielding zombie thing (called “Shibito” in Siren) and realize that it’s looking at the back of your head. The game is quite difficult, even on the early levels, as there are very few clues to help you out, the map doesn’t show you where the hell you are on it (which is sadly typical of real-world maps, but almost unheard of in video game maps), and there always seems to be at least one Shibito sitting in a tower with a rifle just waiting to go all Charles Whitman on you as soon as you pop your head up from behind that fern you’re cowering under. Still, I’m having fun with it so far.
One interesting thing about this game is that all the characters look like they wandered in from a Godzilla movie (no, the real ones, not the one with Matthew Broderick), but they talk like they just got off the boat from Liverpool. I’m not sure who decided to dub Japanese characters with British accents, but the effect is, um, interesting, and more than a little jarring. I’d rather have seen subtitles, but maybe that’s just me.
“Siren” is not a new game. I got it for Christmas in 2005 and am just getting around to playing it now. So it’s not state-of-the-art, but if you like a game to freak you out, you could do worse than to dig this one out of the cutout bin. My preliminary rating is that this game would not put my wife to sleep at all, because she would be afraid that some Shibito might come up behind her and whack her with a shovel.