Author: Jesse Kennedy

Twister Chasers
Mpi Home Video

Street: 06.26

Remember that movie Twister? Sucks to be you, doesn’t it? Anyways, Twister Chasers is a documentary about some real live tornado chasers doing their thing during the summer of 2004. Even though these people take great precautions there are still some fairly scary moments when incredible wind and gigantic hail storms take these experts by surprise. The footage collected here varies from awesome to mediocre, but for the most part there’s some pretty cool images here that may save you from having to go and try to find one of these storms for yourself. In fact one of the groups that this video follows is a van full of tourists who pay good money to be shuttled around by one of these experts so they can take pictures of tornados and pretend they’re Helen Hunt or something. I don’t know, personally I would pay good money to be assured that I will never be very close to one of these storms, but to each their own. One thing you realize watching this film is just how many people there are driving around chasing these storms, sometimes the roads are literally lined with cars and people milling around like a damned flea market. If you’re looking for a rare glimpse into the storm chasing culture or just like to watch things get blown over you may want to check out Twister Chasers. -Jesse Kennedy

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
GSC Game World/THQ

PC
Street 03.20

Before you read the rest of this review I have a confession to make; I love S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Indeed, the first person shooter (FPS) games are my favorites to play and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. manages to scratch my every itch. I admit that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. does have its share of problems that normally I would not tolerate in any game, but there’s something about this game that makes me forget about the bad things. Luckily I don’t ever recall saying that my reviews are fair or open-minded, and if I did ever say that let me apologize now for that horrible lie. I mentioned this game has some problems so we’ll touch on those first. To even play this game you’ll need a fairly serious computer and even then it’s a little dicey. Frame-rates slow, the game crashes and sometimes it seems like nothing about the game actually works at all. You may find yourself replaying hours worth of the game if your save (as mine did) gets corrupted. There are updates for the game but if you install after you’ve already begun the game them you have to start all over. If you manage to get to the end of the game chances are you’ll end up at one of the 6 ‘bad’ endings where you just die anyways and have to start the game over, or at least go back to a previous save point and try again for that one single correct ending. So what about STALKER makes it worth putting up with all of the above glaring problems? How about a huge, completely detailed and explore-able environment beautifully rendered with some of the nicest graphics to date? How about enemies who are smart, varied and plentiful? How about hours of missions, dozens of weapons, legions of wildlife and some completely amazing adventures? STALKER delivers big time in each of these departments and has managed to take the fps out of the linear storyline and deliver a vast, open-ended marvel that I can only hope will pave the way for others of its kind. The only thing that could make this game better would be a less buggy console version so more people could give this game a try. 4.5 out of 5 Invisible Bloodsuckers.

Dead Rising
Capcom

Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Street: 08.06

Dead Rising takes a very simple and enjoyable activity (killing the undead) and takes it to the outer limits of acceptability. There’s so much killing of the undead in Dead Rising that there is very little room for anything else, like a good plot or memorable characters. Smash, crush, punch, shoot, disembowel and stab your way to glory not just once or twice, but for hours upon hours you will slay hundreds and hundreds of the foul and staggering zombies. The cool thing Capcom has done with Dead Rising is enabling the player to choose from a myriad of weapons (an entire mall’s worth) to do the skull crushing. Cash registers, benches, plants, plates, purses and hockey sticks all serve you well in sending the demon spawn back to the light for the second time. The really impressive thing is how many zombies are on the screen at any given time, sometimes hundreds of the lurching moaners will be within sight. Yes you could run around them if you like but is that why we’re here, to just run around the walking dead? No, we are here to splatter their rotting brains like watermelons at a Gallagher show across shiny mall floors. The missions feel tacked on; they serve as nothing more than an excuse to continue the massacre of brain-eating mall-walkers. In fact, the missions in Dead Rising are exactly the kind of scenarios that I absolutely despise. Not only are they timed (a necessity I guess given the situation) but they are mostly baby-sitting bullshit. When I say ‘baby sitting bullshit’ what I mean is you have to go rescue people too stupid to deserve to live. Over and over and over again you go and find someone hiding in a store in the Mall and then talk them into following you out into the zombie zone and try to lead them to safety. Usually they get eaten by the zombies because they stand around expecting me to clear a path for them, but since I think that zombies deserve a good meal before I dispatch them back to hell I seem to fail most of the missions. 3 out of 5 zombies recommend brains to zombies who chew brains.

Cube
Metia Interactive

Reviewed On: PSP
Street: 04.30

It’s going to be hard for me to review Cube, the new portable puzzle plaything from Metia Interactive without mentioning Mercury Meltdown, a recent puzzler from Ignition Entertainment because so many of the ideas are the same. Each game is divided into dozens of mini-puzzles which are small, three-dimensional obstacles for the player to make their way through. What sets Cube apart is that you can utilize all six sides of the puzzle on your way to the finish line, making for some very interesting tactics to get around the traps and blockades each level presents. In Mercury Meltdown you had to fight gravity and momentum but now you must think about the outside of the box, so to speak. But that’s not to say that Cube is in any way itself outside of the box. The most challenging thing about Mercury Meltdown was controlling the momentum of the little infuriating blob as you made your way around the obstacles. Without that constant threat of ‘falling off’ the course Cube does fall a bit short in the anxiety department. Another problem I’ve experienced with Cube is that since you can roll you box character onto any side of the floating puzzle the point of view can and will get weird. Controls are in place to help you manipulate the camera angle but sometimes it’s just plain hard to tell what is going on since the puzzles are mostly built from identical cubes strung together. It’s easy to get confused and possibly pissed off. If you loved Mercury Meltdown or if you like games that are easy to pick up and play for anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes then Cube will be worth a shot. Cube stands along side few others on the PSP in this department, making it one of a fairly rare breed of much needed puzzle games for the portable console. However, Cube does stand a bit shorter in the fun department than many of the other games in this category so unless you’re getting a bit desperate for a puzzler you may want to wait for something a bit tastier. 3 out of 5 Magic Sugar Cubes.

Trent Call’s work looks like something we might see if we put an entire metropolis under a microscope and start taking pictures. Urban texts, unforgettable faces, social debris and a miscellany of textures collide in time with incredibly controlled execution. Call employs everything from oils, spray paints, computers, pencils, acrylic and collage to realize his ideas. Not one to be bound to a typical canvas Call has put his work on everything from floppy disks to furniture. When asked if he thought his work had changed much over the last few years Call said, “I’ve experimented more with my technique and through that my technique has evolved.” What stands out in much of Call’s work are his textures. Whether it is a line drawing laid over a pattern he’s created in the background or his superbly stylized shading to create depth—there always seems to be another layer of detail underneath the last.

Not satisfied with just participating with the local art community, Call has been publishing a local artzine called Swinj since his first show back in 1999. What started out as just a collection of friend’s works has evolved to become a more inclusive chance for local artists to publish their images. Swinj itself has become something of a work of art, as Call explains “I try to make each issue unique.” From the paper type to the page size, each issue of Swinj is varied enough to make it singular, but still maintain the random assortment of images and writing like the original. Unfortunately if you didn’t get a copy when they were available you may be out of luck as each issue of Swinj is produced in a limited quantity.

Call has left his mark all over Salt Lake, his current exhibitions runs through May. Drive by the Don Brady Drive-thru Gallery 24/7 and check out his latest work. He has also done extensive work for SLUG. Call not only nailed SLUG’s typewriter logo, but also did the cover art for Fat Mike and all the art for the Death by Salt II compilation. Until its demise Call was also involved with the Poor Yorick Studios. He not only participated in, but also helped publicize their open studio shows. Besides this Trent has done a myriad of group exhibitions, album artwork and various other projects, won some awards (including an award for his work with on a Kiosk Project on Main Street in 2005) and has even done some teaching to boot.

Trent Call has been making art in Salt Lake his entire life, which gives him the unique perspective of someone who has witnessed the maturation of the Salt Lake art scene. “It’s nothing to complain about, but it could be better. Anything can become better.” Call points to establishments like Nobrow Coffee and Tea, who have come forward and given many emerging talents the opportunity to get their work up on the walls and into the minds of patrons, as champions of the unfolding scene. As a graduate from the University of Utah in 2004 with a BFA Call has indeed run the gauntlet of the Salt Lake art scene and remains a unique and truly local talent.

Attack Force
Michael Keusch

Sony Home Entertainment
Street: 12.06.06

I’m not sure where to begin describing a movie this crappy. I suppose we should begin with the title; Attack Force. I’m struggling to recall a more generic collision of two words used in countless action film titles. They might as well have called it ‘Explosion Gun’ or ‘Punch Kill’. But the title is unfortunately only the beginning of this movie’s problems. After 94 painful minutes (all for your, SLUG readers) I’m still not sure what this movie is really about. First there’s an elite unit of commandos who, while getting a little R & R with their captain, Steven Segal, get slaughtered by a stripper who happens to be on some new super-drug that turns addicts into vampire-ish killing machines. But then ties to the drug’s manufacturer and some kind of ultra classified government agency are uncovered so Segal goes AWOL with his short skirted biochemist/soldier girlfriend and roots out and exterminates the evil member of the secret government agency and then rejoins forces with the agency to wipe out the dark army of vampire crack heads. I guess I do know what it was about; I’m just trying to forget it. I think Segal (producer/writer/star) got a deal on latex throat wounds because almost everyone who dies in the movie dies from an identical throat wound. I seem to recall that Segal used to take pride in being some kind of Kung-Fu guy but all he really does in this movie is play some patty-cakes with Goth chicks, shoot a few people in the head and kick a few sad looking extras around the set. Mostly he’s just looking really fat and greasy. The end of the movie morphs into more of a horror film than an action movie as Segal and company track down the last of the bad-guys in a dark castle basement made of mostly brick walls that seem to fall down every time someone gets drop kicked through them. I wish I could say the cleavage shots or the comical ridiculousness of this movie make it worth while, but that would be a lie. – Jesse Kennedy

This month’s Localized will feature The Reaper, The Mugshots and opening act Lavish on Friday, Jan. 12 at the Urban Lounge. It’s a show that shouldn’t be missed.

The Reaper

The Reaper is not a stranger to the stage. He’s been performing since his childhood. Whether singing in his grandfather’s church choir or trying to raise awareness about important issues, his efforts have always had the greater good in heart and mind. “I’m an activist storyteller musician,” he explained. Even back in high school, the Reaper was doing things such as his self-produced The Death of the Black Man, where he dressed in black for an entire year to raise awareness about minorities in Utah. He was also participating in the theatrical group Improv, who would act out unscripted scenarios for students to help give them ideas of how to deal with situations like rape or bigotry. He was also able to travel across the country with Improv teaching other schools how to implement the program for themselves.

So what else could he do to raise awareness and funds for his favorite nonprofit organizations? Since he was already getting into freestyle with his friend Ply by participating in rap battles, he decided to take his music to the next level and start writing and recording. What makes his album Deathsend; Shadow Psychology so interesting is not only the different talents that the Reaper brings, but more importantly the stories he tells. Friend and producer Jebu had a large influence, not only as the album’s editor and mixer, but as a musical contributor. Although many of the songs on the album tackle sensitive and often under publicized problems in our society, the Reaper is able to adjust his perspective as the storyteller to avoid sounding like a man with an agenda. He tells the stories from the position of different people in these situations (possibly a trait instilled from his time with Improv).

For the live shows, the Reaper likes to mix things up to keep it new for his performers and the audience. “My shows are totally different; sometimes I’ll bring in stage performers or different musicians,” he said. Musicians like Carol Dalrymple on violin and Jamie Rackman on percussion have been known to add spice to the Reaper’s stage shows in the past. In fact, the Reaper’s shows are more of a production than a concert. For the Localized show this month, he’s having Lavish kick things off for him.

All of this effort for the live shows is not just to entertain but to bring more ears to hear the Reaper’s message. Besides raising awareness of important issues through music, the Reaper is also using the shows as a chance to raise funds for The Flow Project, a collaboration of art by local artists which is compiled by the Reaper and then sold at his shows, with the proceeds getting split up between the Rape Recovery Center, the YWCA and the Road Home. Clearly, the Reaper is a man with a message and when you see the passion with which he delivers his message, you will listen.

This month’s Localized will feature The Reaper, The Mugshots and opening act Lavish on Friday, Jan. 12 at the Urban Lounge. It’s a show that shouldn’t be missed.

The Mugshots

“Tell them we like long walks and puppies,” the members of The Mugshots told me. Alright, but after listening to the Mugshots’ new album, On XTC & Valium 1, I’m not buying that for a second. The Mugshots are Bloswick and XV, hetero life partners who have been laying down some very tight grooves for the past eight months. While some bands might be just getting things going after that long, the Mugshots have already released one album and have kept busy playing gigs weekly with their man on the tables, DJ Dizzy, and their producer, Grizzy.

The Mugshots don’t just sound angry, they sound pissed off, but they also sound great. Their interaction is perfect, which is not surprising, since they wrote everything on the album together. The beats on On XTC are fantastic thanks to the contributions of the talents of Brisk, Blessed, Lam, Eddie Butta, Grizzy and Handsome Hands. The attention to detail is great; the little extras sprinkled throughout every track means that you’ll hear a little something new during each verse. The layers and use of instruments as colors on the canvas are very well done. The production of the songs is immaculate; there’s so much to listen to and everything supports the lyrics, making the entire album sound natural and effortless.

So what makes Bloswick and XV tick? Besides keeping up on the underground scene, they point back to the classics like Notorious, Cool G Rap and Red Man. These artists have inspired them to put their minds on tape. “I want to thank everyone who’s been making it to our shows,” Bloswick said, “and ABH for having patience.”

In fact, they were both quick to point to their families as sources of great support. “I want to thank Sabrina, my brother and Jason,” XV said.

Besides the Localized show, the Mugshots are opening up for R.A. the Rugged Man at Monk’s on Jan. 25. R.A. even makes an appearance on the album as well. After a show in 2006, Bloswick asked him to dart over to Self Expressions studio and put his magic down on “Mob Song,” the third track from On XTC. Several of the songs have featured guests, another thing that keeps the tracks sounding different as the album unfolds. Their Myspace page is still under development, but XV is quick to point out that there is going to be an update as soon as he or Bloswick learn how to use a computer. “We do a lot of flyers,” Bloswick said. “That’s so old school.”

WTF
SCEI

Reviewed On: PSP
Street: 10.17

Have you ever wanted to be a worker in a Third World labor market? Does the term ‘sweat shop’ make you tingle? Does pointless repetition really melt your butter? If you answered yes to any of these questions then not only do you have a problem, but I have the solution. WTF (Work Time Fun) will have you begging for mercy in no time as you conquer oodles of mini-games all based on the simple, mindless repetition you might find as the lid twister in a Jiffy peanut butter factory. What makes this game fun is the total strangeness of the games inside of WTF. From capping a thousand ball point pens, to sending baby chicks to heaven, you’ll not only wonder why someone bothered to make this game but more importantly why is it so cool? Earn money to buy more jobs or unlock helpful tools that can turn your PSP into an extra set of eyes or even a Ramen timer. Work Time Fun (or Baito Hell 2000, as it is known overseas) seems to have tapped into something very elemental in game play that makes what should be completely horrible really fun. Let’s face it, all video games have elements of repetition, but usually the object of the game is to distract us from the fact that we’re not really doing anything except pushing a few buttons over and over again. WTF goes the other way and extracts the repetition and features it as the focus of the game. One of the strangest things about WTF is how easy it is to mess up some of the simplest games ever put on the screen. Having to make the same decision a few hundred times in a few minutes is more difficult than you might think! The quickness and simplicity of these games also make them perfect for the portable environment, since you don’t have to worry about what you were doing when you last played. So if you’re up for some brain-pulping, eye-glazing, chuckle-inducing fun go pick up WTF ftw! 4 out of 5 bunnies on the chopping block! – Jesse Kennedy