Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mother (마더) -- Review

After an ostensibly goofy intro of the titular mother (Kim Hyeja) dancing atop a hill that only really makes sense toward the film's end, Mother, by director Bong Joonho (Memories of Murder, The Host), opens with juxtaposed shots of the mother -- she's only referred to in the film as "Mother" -- chopping dried herbs and her son, Dojoon (Won Bin), across the street, playing with a dog. Dojoon is dangerously close to traffic, and when a car knocks him down his mother frantically runs across the road to make sure he's all right. He's bleeding, she screams. It is only after Dojoon runs off in pursuit of the hit-and-run driver with his friend Jintae that the mother realizes it is in fact she who is bleeding.

This scene is, in essence, representative of the entire film -- a film that uses misdirection, both in plot and theme, so masterfully that it left me reeling. Until approximately 45 minutes in, Mother appears to be a fairly straightforward crime thriller about a mentally handicapped young man (Dojoon) wrongfully imprisoned for murder. The evening of his hit-and-run, after an incident that finds him and Jintae at the local police station over a confrontation with the driver and his golfing buddies, Dojoon goes to a nearby nightclub to meet his friend. Jintae never shows up, however, and Dojoon drunkenly stumbles home a few hours later. On his way, he sees a high school student walking alone and makes a pass at her (the only female Dojoon has ever slept with is his mother, it is explained). The girl ignores him and hurriedly rushes into an abandoned building. Dojoon stands outside the building for a while until a large chunk of concrete is thrown from the darkness and lands at his feet. Then he heads home and falls asleep next to his mother. In the morning, the girl is found dead, draped over the abandoned building's rooftop railing. Dojoon is the prime suspect; a golf ball with his name written on it in pen has apparently been found at the murder scene. The police take him in for questioning, and it isn't long before he's coerced into signing a confession.

Thus sets up Dojoon's mother's quest to have her son proven innocent. The police want the case closed and are of no help*. Neither is the Craig Sager-suited lawyer she has hired. So desperate to have her son set free, the mother tries to find evidence that Jintae, whom she dislikes and has always believed to be a bad influence on Dojoon, killed the girl and set up her son. Seemingly your average crime thriller, the plot moves along like this until a key point about Dojoon and his mother's relationship is revealed, and that's when the film makes the leap from a mildly entertaining, run-of-the-mill crime drama to something far more sinister and compelling. It should be noted that Mother, while containing some truly shocking plot reveals, has no real twists. I mentioned that the opening scene is a microcosm of the movie's overall misdirection, but the connotation associated with that word is unfair. There is no sleight of hand in Mother. While perhaps tough for some viewers to accept, every place the plot goes, every dark corner it explores, is earned.

This is mostly due to to the mother's character arc. Kim Hyeja, whom I first noticed last year on the outstanding Korean drama 엄마가 뿔났다 (Mom's Dead Upset), portrays the mother, at first, as you would expect: her son is imprisoned, and she will do everything within her means to prove his innocence. Touching, sure, but there's not much new there, nothing that hasn't been done a thousand times before. It is only when she rejects the truth of Dojoon's fate and takes extremely drastic measures that Mother achieves what it has been building toward for most of its running time. Whether intentional or not, the film's transliterated title is eerily close to another English word that, much like the opening credits scene of Kim Hyeja dancing nonchalantly, makes sense only after the climax.

Wonderfully scripted, directed, and acted (kudos to Won Bin for taking Kirk Lazarus's advice and not going full retard), Mother is a chilling masterpiece, an instant classic.

4/4 *_*

* no shit?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What Doesn't Kill You -- Review

In cinema, there is something to be said about the safe bet; one can never go too wrong by doing something that's been done before, especially if a film can somehow exceed its predecessors. Horror films are but one example of the viability of retreads (the recent remakes of My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th come to mind). Another safe bet is the crime drama, and Brian Goodman's What Doesn't Kill You is a textbook example of just such a rehash. You can bet your wife's (or wives') wedding ring(s)* that WDKY will be viewable, but does that make it good, let alone great?

Set in Boston, WDKY tells the tale of two childhood friends, Brian (Mark Ruffalo) and Paulie (Ethan Hawke), as they grow from being impish hoods to second-rate thugs working for a local crime lord. Brian, as evidenced early in the film, has a steady romance with the mildly-trashy Stacy (Amanda Peet**), while Paulie is a lifelong bachelor that chases bartenders incessantly. As they grow older, these tendencies become more pronounced; Brian is married with two kids (as well as suffering from a crippling addiction to various illegal substances), Paulie continues to 'date' women who appear to be the same age as others did earlier on in the film, and they still engage in two-bit heists and shakedowns. Eventually, the pair are arrested and sent to prison for five years apiece.

The film takes a dramatic, albeit expected, turn here, due to Brian's emerging determination to get clean and be with his family. Paulie, on the other hand, keeps a low profile, all the while craving one big score upon his release. From the end of Brian's incarceration (Paulie's release is delayed, resulting from a paper-thin plot device), the second half of the film deals with Brian's struggle to become a proper father to his children, find a stable job, remain sober, etc. Unfortunately for him, Paulie comes around a few months later, seeking a comrade to help enact his desperate scheme...

My apologies for the protracted synopsis, but does the plot sound familiar in any way, shape, or form? It should, and I dare say it's entirely superfluous to list WDKY's similarities to countless other crime dramas. In this case, it's between friends, but it could just as easily have been brothers, father and son, and whatnot; one of whom struggles to live the straight life, while the other pulls them back into the fold.

The fault lies not in Goodman's direction (which is tight) nor in the performances (which are solid), but in the script, and even then, the dialogue isn't too shabby. The pacing of the story (co-written by New Kids on the Block alum Donnie Wahlberg, who also appears in the film as a grumpy, pessimistic detective***) takes too many opportunities for granted, especially in its goal of making us sympathetic toward Brian. There were moments in which I got the feeling that the script expected me to care about the unfolding events based upon previous experiences with much better films in the genre; but I'd rather just watch a different movie, preferably one with Joe Pesci.

Altogether, there are worse ways than What Doesn't Kill You to waste a hundred minutes of your life, but that doesn't alter the fact that you'll walk away thinking about some other movie which was superior in every regard. If nothing else, it was refreshing to watch a movie taking place in Boston that didn't involve Matt Damon or Ben Affleck. (Every cloud has a silver lining, and all that.)

2 out of 4 *_*

* You know what I'm talking about, you sly bastard.

** Just yesterday, I caught Identity on TV and thought to myself 'What has Amanda Peet been doing lately?' and like magic, she appears in WDKY.

*** A pessimistic detective? That never happens in movies.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Acid Reflux

Whatever happened to Mark 'Jacko' Jackson? I'm genuinely interested in hearing about his activities since the cancellation of The Highwayman, as I hate to think that such talent has gone to waste.

Anyone with answers, feel free to drop me a line. (I'm looking in your general direction, Kangaroo Kiddies.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The PK 27 -- Game No. 14

The thought of Sega's Phantasy Star II, first sequel (of many) to a game that began the company's hallmark role-playing game franchise, elicits fond memories from yours truly, and while I'll concede that the majority of games listed on the PK 27 involve nostalgia of some kind, this game is a bit different for me. In contrast to the games mentioned previously, which could -conceivably- be played again with moderate enthusiasm, Phantasy Star II is not a game I'd like to engage once more. To cut to the chase, it hasn't aged well whatsoever. By modern standards, its battle system was clunky, the graphics mediocre, the music grating, and the system for character advancement was, at best, tedious (at worst, infuriating to the point that you'd spit venom at the television screen upon encountering the same enemy sprite for the ten-thousandth time of the evening). On the other hand, the game was produced twenty years ago, and perhaps more so than any other genre, RPGs are a progressive beast; and for all my lamentation, it's a fine addition to the ever-evolving canon of the breed.

These are the things I remember most about Phantasy Star II:

1. The once-novel approach of placing the game in a science-fiction setting. At a time in which 'high fantasy' dominated the digital landscape, the Phantasy Star series was a refreshing break from the mold.

2. Nei. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for genetically-engineered humanoids (also known as numans) with lavender hair and enormous ears. (Label me a sentimentalist.) At a time when it was unheard of to kill off major characters irrevocably in RPGs, Phantasy Star II took a leap and allowed its most endearing personality to meet her demise in a spectacular, yet ultimately futile, gesture of selfless heroism.*

3. The true villains, presented at the conclusion of the game, aren't what a kid would expect, but exactly what an older kid would.

4. The strategy guide included with the game was such a (cover your eyes, mom) fucking piece of spoiler-laden bullshit. Honestly, all of the major plot points were explained with minimal warning to unsuspecting readers. Given that Phantasy Star II was quite the difficult game, a player would, obviously, benefit from the maps provided on any given page, but upon turning the page, bamn!, crucial events were revealed before you were ready to avert your eyes. (What were you thinking, guys?)

5. The artwork on the cover of the North American release (as shown at the top of this post) wasn't exactly terrible, but...

Ask me about great RPGs, and Phantasy Star II will enter into the conversation. Just don't ask me to play through it again, and we're cool.

* A Dustland Fairytale, circa 1989.


Four years. Okay. Four hundred years, better. I might expire in four week's time; but living is what I do best. Living is what I do best.

(Living is what I do best)

This is Psychedelic Kimchi's 1000th post. Check back in 2029 for its 2000th. I'll still be here.

Forever and ever.

I will be here.

I'm right here. Unwrapping a sandwich and tasting the mustard.

Tasting the mustard.

Tasting the mustard.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Wire Appreciation No. 1294 (9816)

Word to Fuzzy Dunlop. As you may have heard,

(the Korean peninsula is going to become a sea of fire!*)

the other day I received The Wire: The Complete Series on DVD, and since then -- when I haven't been working or trying to find out new ways to blink adorably -- I've been balls deep in the greatest story ever told. (No hyperbole.)

This moment, from episode 4 of the first season, isn't as easy a "gag" to catch as you might think upon initial viewing. A metaphor of the show's larger theme, Episode 4's desk parable is No. 1294 on our list of why we love The Wire.

* Is it wrong to celebrate North Korea's second nuke test by recalling its first, which Mehmet occurred on the day I met Legs? 2006, it was. A Monday. I was kinda stressed out (though not really because of the North's nuclear experiment), and she poured me a double shot of Jack Daniels. Love at first sight. And here I sit at my laptop, two and a half years later, reminiscing about a nuclear bomb test like it was our moment, our song. Life is a funny animal.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The PK 27 -- Game No. 20

Ah, yes; I'm putting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time in/on the PK 27 (because I can, and because it was a stellar game for its time).

Now, this game, released for the Super N.E.S., should not be confused with the Teenage Mutant Turtles: Turtles in Time arcade game, which was basically the same thing, albeit with superior graphics and sound, not to mention the fact that you could have four players jumping into the action, as opposed to the two-player limit imposed upon the home version.

The arcade game should be mentioned, at least in passing, because it was developed first, and it was the version that got me interested in acquiring the console version. It should also be noted that I was introduced to the arcade game while on vacation to Niagara Falls and, by extension, the, hmm, greatness that is Clifton Hill. That it cost me two(!) Canadian quarters per credit befuddled my silly American sensibilities, but nonetheless it was worth every coin spent.

It should also be mentioned that the game appeared at approximately the same time as the second TMNT film, Teenage Mutant Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, was released in the United States, and regardless of one's opinion of the franchise itself, what can be agreed upon is that North America was in the kung-fu grip* of Turtle Mania.

Go ninja, go ninja, GO!

Needless to say, the arcade game was a success, and it was only natural for an adaptation to follow. Konami selected the Super N.E.S. to host the party, and the choice was a shrewd one indeed. Nintendo's (then) cutting-edge console allowed it to faithfully recreate the arcade version's vibrant imagery and music, and while there were sacrifices made, the developers made up for it by adding an extra level and several new bosses. Some stages were significantly altered to take advantage of the Super N.E.S.'s scaling technology as well, and the turtles themselves were more distinct in their respective abilities.

All in all, TMNT IV was one of the best ports of the 16-bit era, as well as a spectacular entry into the beat'em-up genre.

* Ninja grip?

Having It My Way

Life has been pretty good as of late. Despite my grumbling over having to work Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings, the work has been steady, interesting, and somewhat lucrative (if, that is, you consider getting paid in cartons of Dunhill Lights and bottles of Ballantine's scotch "lucrative." I do). Still, for a while now I've felt that something essential has been missing, yet until today I wasn't quite able to put my Bill Finger on it. The NBA conference finals are as nice as a pre-It was Written Nas, the other day I received my Amazon order of a few Dennis Lehane novels, The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack, and The Wire: The Complete Series box set (which has regrettably placed my planned Karamazov sequel* on the back burner. I'll try to manage), and I'm getting a daily dosage of Mario -- Galaxy -- with the promise of more Mario -- Kart -- to come. June 10. Mark it on your calendars.

So what is it that has been lurking beneath the surface, eating me? Rather, what haven't I been eating? (No, not a fat dick, Mr. Funnyman. Wait...) Better question: Where haven't I been eating?

Not in the bathroom, certainly; but let's be serious for a moment (and only for a moment). Every day I eat to satisfy both my palate and my instinctual desire to not starve and die, but rarely do I feel sated on either level. Eating an ungodly number of ill-conceived convenience store sandwiches over the course of one's life will do that to a man, especially a man who sees stuff between two slices bread and, throwing caution and reading comprehension to the wind, buys all manner of 'wichcraft. Sandwiches -- or reasonable, hand-drawn facsimiles thereof -- are my Achilles heel: my weakness, for you Constant Retards who didn't pay attention during high school history Greek mythology or play Trojan for the NES. But no longer!

No longer will I have to settle for a meager ham-cheese-and-sugar-laced-bread "sandwich" lighter than a single sheet of newsprint when I stumble home drunk at 3 in the morning; no longer will I have to call McDelivery and its unconscionable delivery time -- 40 minutes? The fuck out! -- when I wake up hungover the day after; and no longer will I have to worry about growing old, having grandchildren, and being able to stay hard for more than two minutes, for I am the biblical sense. I'm pretty sure I didn't die, but I'm positive I'm in Heaven. Because, you see, today I learned that a Burger King is opening in my neighborhood.

June 15. Mark it on your calendars.

* wherein Smerdyakov is resurrected by druids

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Evening Spectacular

Terminator: Salvation -- Review

I expect the ending of Terminator: Salvation is going to be a deal breaker for most moviegoers. Certainly, it's an idiotic, illogical, and unnecessary plot device that almost singlehandedly sinks the entire movie. If it didn't come at the end of one of the most enthralling action films in recent memory, that is.

Make no mistake, the ending isn't the film's only flaw, only its most egregious; but like I said, I'm willing to forgive the film its errors in script-writing judgment because,

(I'm magnanimous like that)

for most of its running time, Salvation is a balls-to-the-wall action picture, through and through. Unlike Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Salvation actually feels like a Terminator movie. It even has terminators! Kudos to MCG -- dude, seriously, get a real name if you want be respected as a director -- for rising to the occasion by delivering some truly excellent shots, action sequences, and terrific sound effects. (Love or hate the movie, there's no denying that it sounds amazing.)

Kudos to the cast as well, who, save for Common* -- who can't act (he can't rap anymore, either) -- and Sam Worthington's half-hearted attempt at putting on an American accent, do solid work, particularly Moon Bloodgood as Blair, and especially Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese. Interesting that Yelchin, who played Chekov in the recent Star Trek reboot, does here what Karl Urban managed to do with his portrayal of McCoy in that film: perfectly channel the spirit of the actor who previously played the role, in this case The Terminator's Michael Biehn. Yelchin is Biehn, and I can't wait to see him do more in the sequel. (If I live long enough to see it, that is. Got a smoke?) Also, I would be remiss not to mention the appearance of "Arnie" as the T-800, one of the biggest geek-out moments in modern cinema history. Give more work to whomever executed that awesome scene.

Again, whether you like or loathe the movie will probably hinge upon whether or not you can look past its atrocious final plot point, but that isn't the film's only weakness. Despite his laughable attempt to sound American, Sam Worthington's Marcus is a great, memorable character who even outshines Christian Bale as John Connor; but if there was any attempt to explain his sudden reappearance in 2018, it was regrettably left on the cutting room floor. He's just there, and anyone who has seen commercials for the film or its trailer already knows exactly what Marcus is, so why not try to provide at least some information as to how he got there? I also can't fathom the logic behind having Reese, No. 1 on Skynet's "kill list," taken into captivity, identified, and not being immediately killed. No Reese, no John Connor, right? Instead, Reese is used as bait to lure Connor into Skynet. Maybe Skynet didn't want to take any chances? The machines, it seems, are as confused about time-travel paradoxes as I am.

Ultimately, however, the good of Terminator: Salvation far outweighs the bad, even with its STUPID FUCKING ENDING. I suppose that says a lot about the film's overall merit. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a watershed event in my life as a moviegoer, but, let's be honest, it's not exactly the sacred cow of cinema. It has its own share of plot-related leaps of logic and other missteps, one example being the SWAT unit running frantically away from Miles Dyson instead of simply taking his hand off of the detonator, another being some of the cringe-worthy dialog (a third being Edward Furlong's squeaky voice; funny how what you once thought cool as a youth annoys the shit out of you when you become a grown-ass man). I'm not saying Salvation is on the same level as Judgment Day, but it's in the same building. It's a worthy addition to the Terminator franchise, something that can't be said of the unnecessary Rise of the Machines. In fact, as far as the series goes, Terminator: Salvation is an inversion of Rise of the Machines in that the latter is a lame movie only saved by its ending, whereas Salvation is a corker that is only really hurt by its final moment.

In addition to having groundbreaking FX work (Stan Winston rest in peace), Terminator: Salvation continues the theme, first touched upon in Judgment Day, of what it means to be human, and in that regard it stays true to the series. Still, I can't help but think how cool it would have been to have Marcus live instead of (spoilers!) having that worth(ington)y give his heart to John Connor as a gesture of...what, goodwill? And that nod Connor gives Marcus right before he's about to take his heart?


3 1/2 out of 4 *_*

* Dude, seriously, get a real name if you want to be respected as an actor. Word to Ice Cube

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sax on the Beach

(Lame title, but my only other option was Your Daily Dose of ?????, so please be kind.)

Joel Schumacher's The Lost Boys was, undoubtedly, a pleasurable experience for me, and I dare say that it has aged well in the past twenty years or so since its release. But this post isn't about the film, per se, it's about a buff, Vaseline-covered dude playing saxophone on a stage at some third-rate seaside amusement park, and the scene in which he appeared.

I understand -all too well- that it was the mid-Eighties, and that physically imposing saxophone players with greasy ponytails were all the rage, but even so, I have to question just what manner of twisted logic was behind the decision to include the saxophone guy in the film. Friend of a friend's recommendation during a cocaine binge, perhaps? I guess in Hollywood, it's all in who you know.*

Granted, the scene itself is utterly preposterous, and I suppose responsibility shouldn't be placed on the guy's oily shoulders alone. Let's break this endearing catastrophe down. (Feel free to watch the video again, just in case you missed something crucial.)

1. Lady with pink hair, pretending to play the guitar. She wasn't even trying to look convincing. I could have done a better job. Give me a pink wig, guitar, and breasts, and I'll prove it.

2. Pastel-colored balloons. They totally fit in with the scene. Honestly. What better way to exemplify a nighttime concert than with balloons?

3. Fires blazing from within steel barrels. These props provided the scene with the street cred necessary to appeal to that big hobo demographic.

4. Chains used as jewelry. Nice move, sax man, as chains are both stylish and masculine. Be honest, though, and tell me (with a straight face) that you didn't steal them from The Humungus.

5. Corey Haim's attire. As stated above, yes it was the Eighties, so I guess Haim gets away with such a dreadful ensemble, but I don't have to like it!

6. Jami Gertz. Gertz was okay, I guess. She's mostly just prancing around, swaying back and forth, looking good, and clapping her hands in tandem with the music, which brings me to...

7. Clapping hands. That shit's out of hand.

8. The crowd. There were fat guys, bald guys, middle-aged guys, shirtless guys, girls sitting atop shoulders, elderly women, families, paraparetics; all of whom were outrageously enthusiastic about the performance. Needless to say, they were clapping their hands, too. (I bet you a dollar that at least one of them was wearing a members only jacket as well.)

9. The headbangers. One group engaged in a 'combo attack' of sorts, while the second pair whipped that hair like it was going out of style (which it most certainly was). Seriously now; barring whatever feelings a viewer may have regarding said activity, there's something about doing such things to music involving a saxophone that just doesn't compute. Tell me I'm wrong.

I've probably missed something, but that's for you to decide. At the end of the day, this particular day, I just can't imagine how the producers, director, and cast could have endorsed the inclusion of this scene into an otherwise likable movie. It's such a goddamned mess, and yet I feel like watching it again. Strange indeed.

* And I know big Mama Cass!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Where amazing happened.

I just watched LeBron paint one of those NBA 'Amazing Playoff Moments' in the span of a second.

23 feet, three points, one second.

It took one second to bring the Cavs back from the brink of a devastating loss and potential elimination (by who, Orlando?).

Even my wife stood up in awe. Fact is, I'd just spent the timeout explaining how a shot can be made in an under a second. She was skeptical.


It took one second for the Knicks' chances of ever landing LeBron to evaporate into the Quicken Loans Arena upperdeck.

One second for greatness.

History, witness and all that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Magical Morning (Groan)

Fuck Thursday morning. Tuesday morning and Saturday morning, too; and, while we're at it, let's add Friday morning to that list. I am not a happy boy. Don't get me wrong; I love the

(money I make)

job I have, but waking up early for work prevents me from doing three things I love dearly (four, if you count this hallowed blog. I don't). They are, in order of importance: talking to The 18th Letter on Skype, indulging in an adult beverage or ten the night prior, and watching playoff basketball. For now, I'm free after 9 a.m. on Thursdays, and when I went to Yahoo!'s NBA page this morning I was informed, quite surprisingly, NO GAMES TODAY. I thought that was kinda weird, because I expected the Eastern Conference Finals to tip off today (your last night, North American Constant Retards), but the Internet has never lied to me before and NO GAMES TODAY, I've been taught, means NO GAMES TODAY.

Displeased but not discouraged, I decided to carpe my diem by smoking a square (handsomely, I should add), browsing my bookmarked websites (CHUD for skewed movie news, Dave's for skewed newbie news, and Tube8 for skewed boobie views), jotting down a few notes for my unsolicted-yet-awesome Brothers Karamazov sequel, Hurrah for Alyosha* (Ivan is a drug addict, Dmitri is getting out of jail after a 20-year bid, and they foster a plot to assassinate a local political figure. Trust me, it's awesome), and eating some frozen pizza, although, full disclosure, it wasn't frozen when I ate it.

An hour or so later, logging on to Yahoo!, that Internet blackguard, to check my email, I was informed that Dwight Howard made some sort of spectacular dunk that broke the backboard or something in A GAME THAT WASN'T EVEN EXISTING! (Transcendent!) As far as I knew, anyway. Because I am a cripple, and Yahoo! Sports is my crutch.

Fuck Yahoo! Sports.

Too late to catch most of the first half and whatever destruction D-Ho wreaked, I watched the end of the second quarter, bore witness to Mo Williams laudable heave to end the half, and waited

(in my boxer shorts)

for quarter three to start on SBS Sports. Or maybe it was MBC ESPN. All I know is that they both broadcast glaringly non-sports programs -- like NHL Hockey and 2 Days 1 Night -- to fill up air time and that they have no sponsors for NBA games save the laughable Shinhan NBA credit card.

Despite earlier misinformation and perpetual NBA promos (seriously, I'd rather gouge my eyes out than watch another black-and-white montage set to Radiohead's "Nice Dream," and I love "Nice Dream" like I love my dick size), I got into the game, one fueled by a Magical comeback. (Kill me now.)

I didn't think Rashard Lewis would hit that. I did think Mo William's jump-ball-tipped shot was going in. It didn't, and I'd still be happy either way. Good game, fellas. I can't wait to miss Game 2 because of work/Internet ineptness/heart attack.

* Title subject to change

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The PK 27 -- Game No. 12

Psychedelic Kimchi may (or may not) be a great deal of things: trashy, artsy and/or fartsy, maniacal, endearing, etc. One matter you, dyslexic reader, may be certain of is that PK is nothing if not the amalgamation of five learned scholars working synergistically. Keeping this in mind, I thought it best to select a game which truly epitomizes one of our regular contributors (and his effortlessly circuitous essays). 

To that end, I give you the venerable Sword of Sodan, yet another stellar entry in the sacrosanct Electronic Arts library. This is idealjetsam, and if you're unprepared to appreciate such majesty, I suggest you bone up on your post-postmodern trancendentalism and try again. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The PK 27 -- Game No. 9

(image from

Let it never be said that I am not a renaissance man. Take today for example. In addition to work (although I readily admit that no one really considers both dressing and smiling sharply work anymore, myself excluded), I played the guitar until my fingers nearly bled*, collected 21 stars on Super Mario Galaxy IN JAPANESE, took a cell phone photo of a cute girl on the subway picking her nose (irony is so easy; it's the creative yin to cuisine's ramen-preparation yang), read about half a page of Tuesdays with Morrie (make me spend some time alone with Mitch Albom and I guarantee you I won't live more than a few hours), studied Korean ('언제나 이안은 티셔츠를 잘 입어요'), gayve mah dowg a wawk, and did some other stuff that I probably shouldn't mention because my Facebook page links to Psychedelic Kimchi and I still hope to be included in several of my relatives' wills.

Yep, it was a good day for art. One of the best.

All silliness aside, I'm not the person to ask whether A or B is art, because I honestly have no fucking idea. I can tell you what I consider art, and then you can tell me I'm wrong, but where does that get us? Nowhere. Because you're wrong, too. (Glibness is so easy.) Art to me is shit I like. Lord knows that's prosaic, but whatever. It saves me from trying to appreciate Salo as a film and scat porn as erotic, although I'm willing to try, just not when I'm eating. Today, Jeremy G. Butler posted a DVD review of Hannah Montana's first season on that caught my attention, because instead of the knee-jerk response (read: vile hatred) most 20 to-30-somethings might expect, he was surprisingly honest in his review. Instead of shitting on the show -- which I've seen enough episodes to, I believe, give my own opinion on, one which isn't too different from Butler's -- he understands its popularity. There's a reason Saved by the Bell is similarly remembered, and it's not because of its artistic value, whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. Our lives are shaped by the culture surrounding us and the shared comfort it provides. You might never understand why, in 2019, your grown children are bopping out to "The Best of Both Worlds," but you can empathize.

So, does that make Hannah Montana art? You bet. Live to be 60, 70, 80, hell, 90 and beyond, I'd say everything is art. Not to discount criticism, but, fuck, if I only have a short while to live (and we all do, some more than others, and I'm purposefully being glib again), I'm going to make everything art to some degree.

Can a video game be art? Roger Ebert says no, Clive Barker says yes, and I'm stuck in the middle with you. To me a game can, although few fit the bill, and you're better off trying to settle the Israel-Palestine conflict than taking a side in this war.

In 2001 I was reading a lot of Haruki Murakami novels and playing Ico on the Playstation 2. I've since grown upper, the games have gotten a lot deeper -- so I hear -- and it's been a long time since I thought about a horny kid (a kid with horns, I mean) leading a mute girl around a castle full of shadows.

Ah, nostalgia. Art? Maybe not. Probably not. But a hell of a lot more satisfying than pictures of you and Grandma planting trees in the backyard or a dress made out of meat.

Like the corners of my media-addled mind.

What's the frequency, Yorda?

* in the process mastering more chords than The Ramones and learning to play Neon Bible BY ACCIDENT

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Goodnight, and Good Luck

I just finished watching Anvil! the Story of Anvil, an excellent documentary aboat a Toronto-based heavy metal band that never really made it. And it got me thinking about Game Seven of the Lakers-Rockets series, which tips off shortly (lamentably) after 4:30 AM, KST; a game that will be decided while yours truly sleeps the sleep of the just, because, sadly, I got bigger fish to fry.

Watching Anvil, I couldn't help but notice the parallel between the band and the Rockets. I really, really wanted Anvil to make it, which is a testament to how well told the film is and not, perhaps, to how great a band Anvil is. But, despite Anvil's shortcomings, they're dedicated and passionate about what they do -- a rare, admirable trait. After all, everyone loves a feel-good story.

That's the Rockets! After losing Yao Ming they stood strong -- well, aside from getting blown out by 40 points -- and pushed the Lakers to a seventh game, winner takes all. But, like Anvil, the Rockets probably won't succeed. Sometimes life is like that. Predictable.

Still, it's always nice to dream. Maybe I'll wake up tomorrow to find that dreams came true. That would be nice. That would be pretty neat.

Rockets-Nuggets, Western Conference Finals. I like the sound of that.

Sounds Hawaiian.

I Love You Like I Love My Dick Size

I have a crippling hangover, one which I hope isn't clouding my judgment...for I'm about to declare Only Built 4 Cuban Linx the best hip-hop album ever, not now but right now. Longtime Constant Retards may remember a few years back -- 2006, I believe -- when I compiled a list of the top 100 hip-hop albums and named A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory No. 1. My regret then, maybe even now, was that I didn't put Brand Nubian's One for All at the top spot. But even bigger, I forgot just how high I placed Cuban Linx. No. 8? Really? That's just not fair.

So I am now retroactively altering the Top 5. Because I can. Linx comes in at No. 1, followed by, in ascending order, Tribe's The Low End Theory, Common Sense's Resurrection, Brand Nubian's One for All, and Boogie Down Production's Criminal Minded.

(Lists are stupid.)

Now, excuse me while I get reacquainted with an old, dear friend.

Bonus: mediocrity!

(I think it's fair to say I'm not exactly excited for Cuban Linx II...I mean, if it ever gets released. Which it probably won't. Still, it's nice to see that Rae and RZA have kissed and made up.)

The PK 27 -- Game No. 5

Metallic dinosaurs flying through space. I ask you, divergent reader; what else need be said?

Not much (correct!), but I'll say something anyway. Sure, Demon Attack was a rip-off of an earlier game entitled Phoenix, but hey, this was the Atari 2600, and there was only so much that could be done on the antiquated console.

I'll also mention that countless hours were spent in an equally antiquated basement (replete with brick walls painted in a pattern which consisted of alternating shades of bright yellow and orange) playing this game fervently, as if reaching the twelfth wave of enemies would have somehow validated my existence, which is to say that my brother was always a bit better at the game than me, and by overtaking his prowess, he would have shown me some -proper- respect. (Kids think the darnedest things.)

Demons cascade down the screen, and you fire projectiles toward them. Avoid death. Lather, rinse, repeat. That's it.

P.S. Metallic dinosaurs flying through space!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Okay, so today I watched the Lost season 5 finale, and my synapses are firing! Well...what to say*? Religion is the root of all evil. Now you flash your cards. Or maybe not. Maybe we're all just confused, without a place or time to call home. Maybe there's a paradox that needs fixing, which would explain why some kid named Jake keeps calling me, asking me to save him from some haunted house and to rewrite The Phantom Menace, replete with vagina.

Maybe we're all just the imaginings of some autistic kid. Word to St. Elsewhere (and not Hill Street Blues, as I'm oft wont to sbcbtm).

That sounds nice. I sorta like that tune...Women, don't forget them. They are either the key or the lock to solving/complicating this mystery. (There goes my master plan, wherein religion -- or basketball, at least -- and women are the path to my redemption. Maybe they're both, but I don't think so. Blame Lost for throwing a monkey wrench into the cogs of my belief system.) I can't fault the season five finale, though, because it was well told. But...fuck! Give me something new! Or old! Give me polar bears and Walt. And Vincent. Okay, you gave me Vincent, but that was cheap. You know what was cheaper? Rose and Bernard. Damn you. I came back not to an island but to a television -- or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile thereof -- and you give me this? I should holler. I should protest ABC Studios, boycott Disney, and drink a milkshake. A Shamrock Shake. I should throw a party like Demetri Karamazov, aware that while I'm not guilty, I'm far from innocent, for I too played a part in this abject debacle.

I've been stranded on Lost for six fucking years, and now you pull this shit?

(I've been living on Earth for 31 years and now you pull this shit?)

Yeah, I'm mad. But that's life; and, as a wise little sprite once told me, it's good to be alive. Because then you can watch stuff. And, word to myself, then you can complain about it. Until people eventually start ignoring you.

Live long enough, you grow to accept it. But it's still hard.

Six fucking years.

I want to live forever, or at least long enough to eat another bacon double cheeseburger. But it's getting harder.

* Son of a cock!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Honor Thy Father

Here's to you, Masta Ace, on this, the holiest of holy days.



Monday, May 11, 2009

The PK 27 -- Game No. 17

Year: 1988
Ownership Status: Rental
Players: 2 (teamwork!)
Names of Spacecraft: Vic Viper, and Lord British* (first and second players, respectively)
Objective: Fly into the body of a massive alien invader, and destroy it from within
Konami Code: You better believe it

I wouldn't label Konami's celebrated N.E.S. release the best spaceship shooter ever, but I will contend that it's one of the most entertaining. What better way was there to spend an afternoon with a pal than blowing your way through an alien's massive (and laughably disproportionate) body? **

* The ship's name is Lord British. Really.

** Don't say flipping through an issue of Playboy. (Too easy.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Star Trek -- Review

I only recently became a fan of Star Trek (the original series), last year to be precise. Growing up, I would occasionally watch syndicated episodes on Saturday afternoons, and they would invariably put me to sleep; perhaps because, as much as I'd like to fashion myself a deep thinker, I'm not fond of Big Ideas, or at least I didn't use to be. For I am of the Star Wars Generation, and any show set in space that didn't involve whiz-bang action and was heavy on both concepts and dialog wasn't my idea of fun. My bad, because some twenty years later, after a former co-worker gave me a burned DVD of Star Trek's first season, I realized how great the series is (despite its camp and tendency to cannibalize itself, surprising for a show that lasted only three seasons). I could go on and on about exactly how and why Star Trek hooked me so late in life, but it basically boils down to one thing: the contrast between the infinite expanse of space and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the USS Enterprise's bridge.

In that regard, JJ Abrams new film left me disappointed. For a movie that is largely set in space, I rarely felt a sense of wonder at the settings, whether they were on alien planets or far-off galaxies. That gripe aside, Star Trek manages to be a compelling picture that both pays homage to and redefines Trek lore. The characters are re-imagined in such a way that they, remarkably, stand boldly apart from and complement their earlier counterparts (save Karl Urban, who mimics DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy so accurately as to elicit goosebumps; and I dare anyone to find a single flaw in his performance). No mean feat. Hardcore Trek fans might begrudge the film's writers for making Spock too emotional (and, in a blatant plot device that works, making Uhura less one-dimensional) or for tinkering with other canonical aspects, such as the color of Chekov's hair and Romulans seen on the view screen pre-Balance of Terror; but it simply works, and, in fact, the plot hinges on just that idea: one of an alternate reality. Rebooting the Star Trek "franchise" while staying true to its roots -- however sleight-of-hand it may be -- is, much like the film itself, a thing of wonder; and despite its faults I cannot say the movie suffers from a lack of effort.

The plot is another matter. Discounting the great character development and winks to fans, there's not much there, all told. Par for the course vis a vis so-called "origin" movies, too much time (read: the entire fucking movie) is spent showing us how the Enterprise's crew formed, and invariably some shoehorning has to be done. The ubiquity of Uhura in earlier scenes is just the tip of the iceberg; and when Kirk is marooned on an ice planet and first encounters Old Spock, then Scotty a hop skip and a jump away, the movie leaps from somewhat-believable coincidence into the realm of script manipulation. I can forgive the film its 10,000-plus lens flares if I try hard enough, but I'm only Vulcan, and that criticism is, I think, somewhat logical.

Star Trek has a lot going for it: it's well filmed, despite the aforementioned lens flares -- a style concept run amok -- and a glaringly Apple-esque/insane-asylum-padded-room sterile bridge; despite Nero's ship looking like a titanic pine cone; despite the usage of words such as "bastard" and "bullshit," shocking in their context, seeing as how the context is Star Trek. Despite Scotty being the caretaker of a new-millennial Ewok whose reappearance later in the film is never explained...

3/4 *_*

PS - While the film's denouement elicits chills, boo on not having William Shatner narrate the closing lines.

Psychedelic Kimchi

This is how I feel. This is how I look. Welcome to the universe.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Thursday, May 07, 2009

The PK 27 -- Game No. 6

Who's that man with the killer Cypher?

Strider Hiryu!

Strider who?

Rewind to 1989, on a family vacation to Arkansas. What we did while there, I can't remember. How long we spent there, I can't be bothered. How we got there; take a guess, as long as that guess consists of the words station and wagon.

What I do recall is that on our long drive through Missouri, our family stopped at a Wal-Mart to stock up on food (that's right, fine eateries like Stuckey's and Big Boy were unnecessary for folks like us) to eat during our journey. Being that shopping was not my forte, I was given free reign to roam the aisles at my leisure for about forty minutes. I never made it past the vestibule. Beside the mechanical crane and gyrating airplane, stood a lone game cabinet: Strider.

I had four quarters in my pocket, and I was eager to spend them. From the onset, in which the titular, acrobatic one-man wrecking crew, Strider Hiryu, hang-glided into a futuristic Russia to dispense justice with his deadly Cypher (the best way I can describe it would be to call it a tonfa with a blade attached, capable of creating a blurry arc of electricity when swung with blazing speed) against an armada of robotic Ruskies (this was 1989, you know), I was hooked. The graphics were superb for the period, as was the sound quality. That being said, I only made it up to the second stage, Siberia, before I succumbed to the game's wiles. Nonetheless, I was entranced, and lamented the fact that I would have to wait quite awhile to play it again, if ever. Keep in mind that I'm from Iowa, and quality arcade games could be hard to locate at times, at the time.

One year later, I had the distinct privilege of attending Thanksgiving dinner at my (then) sister-in-law's parent's home. If nothing else, I'd like to emphasize that it was a decidedly awkward affair, given that I rarely spent time with any of those people, and because I had nothing in common with them whatsoever, brother notwithstanding.* Amidst all my malaise, a ray of light: there was a Sega Genesis, courtesy of my sister-in-law's brother, and he had a copy of Strider, one of the best ports of an arcade game to a home console (as of 1990). It's hard to believe that a Genesis (and not a DJ) saved my life , but it's true. I played that bastard till the sun went down, food was digested, and farts were discharged. I also managed to avoid conversation with my extended family, and for that, Hiryu, I am forever grateful.

For the record, Strider Hiryu was developed by none other than the geniuses at Capcom, the company behind several memorable titles released since 1984. Never heard of them? Don't worry, you will. Trust me on that one.

* Don't get me started!

The PK 27 -- Game No. 23

I guess we'll have to save the unorthodox for the next entry, because Pac-Man, that big yellow sonuvabitch with an eating disorder, is our leadoff hitter.

I don't know about you, but when I think of video games, two iconic characters come to mind; and while mustachioed plumbers are cool and all, for me Pac-Man is to gaming what the cross on the Golgotha is to Christianity. See, I can play Mario in many of his iterations, from platformers to 3D, from puzzle games to fucking kart riding, but all I need from Pac-Man is one game. To rule them all. And the cold truth that I will never finish it...well, over the years I have learned to accept my fate.

For I am only human. I am flawed. Sometimes I eat up all my power pellets and get cornered by fruity-colored ghosts. Sometimes I turn left when I should have turned right (or I get run down in the warp tunnel!). Life is hard like that. And while I try to learn from my mistakes, it ain't easy. I oftentimes find myself racing down the same dangerous path, chased by ghosts of my own creation.

It's at those times that I wonder, "What's the point of it all? How does an orange or a bunch of grapes or a damn golden key change my fate? Sure, they may satisfy me in the short term, but eventually I'll lose them all with nothing more to show for it than a measly high score of 143,651*."

Those times can be really hard.

But I try to keep my faith. Because what else is there? Reset? Reset is for cowards. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I've at times lived on berries and shrubs -- a pineapple is a shrub, right? It looks like one, at least -- in the wilderness, on a single man, and persevered. So will I again, in the future.

Still, I know the future looks bleak. Not a lot of options when you're 28 and trapped in a never-ending maze. It can put hate into your heart, you know? That's when I call on Him. I'm resigned to the fact that I will never reach the 256th level and attain split-screen enlightenment. No one will, especially not Asian-American elementary school student false prophets who trick Ronald Reagan into congratulating them...

Billy, if you're up there, I need a little bit of your strength.


* and an eight-inch cock!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


May is a month of days: Worker's Day, my birthday and Buddha's, Teacher's Day, my mother's birthday, Parents' Day (Korea), Mother's Day (the West), and Masta Ace Day (Psychedelic Kimchi). But none are bigger to me than May 5th, Children's Day.

I don't need a reminder that I have a daughter so amazing that a thousand adjectives can't do her justice, but it's nice to commemorate it once a year. Sometimes it's good to be wistful, too.

This is for the 18th Letter, who speaks in universal truths; who once told me, correctly, that, "It's good to be alive, because then you can do stuff."

Damn straight.

As you once told me, "Children's Day is for everyone, because everyone is someone's child."

Happy Children's Day, everyone.

Daddy loves you, Rahne.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The All-New PK 27 -- Video Games Edition

Longtime readers and archivers of this hallowed blog may remember the PK 27: twenty-seven songs -- and then some -- that we, the illustrious PK brain trust, deemed essential to the Psychedelic Kimchi ethos. And the fact that there is no Psychedelic Kimchi ethos made it all the more fun.

This is going to be sorta like that, only comprised of my and Kmart's favorite time killer not onanism, video games.

But it isn't about our "favorite" games or games we consider the best. No; this list will be about games both past and present that define PK. And since PK is indefinable, "Your guess is as good as mine" is a good maxim to stick to both when reading each entry and when visiting Psychedelic Kimchi. But you already knew that.

Neither is it going contain entries on games we've exhaustively heralded. Which means no Chrono Trigger. No Panzer Dragoon Saga. No Contra 4. No Devil's Crush. No Castlevania (although I may in the future write about my undying affinity for Castlevania: The Adventure and how it's been unfairly maligned by some).

No Double Dungeons.

Intrigued? Probably not. But that's never stopped me before. Trust me, for you Constant Retards who aren't fans of video games, I'll try to make this as painless and as entertaining as possible. You'll just have to trust me.

Still not convinced? All right, here's a preview from the first entry (exaggerated for dramatic effect):

No. 24

Ice Hockey (NES)

"...and that's when my brother thwacked me over the head with his controller. It's not sound to taunt your big brother when you're up 11-3 late in the third period, I discovered; nor is it wise to chant "USSR!" over and over again during the Cold War, especially when it comes to hockey. But I didn't know that."


The greatness of the forthcoming video speaks for itself.

In other news, who the fuck steals the 8 ball from a pool table? Are you just a total asshole, or were you molested as a child?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Psychedelic Kimochi

1,000 pictures x 10,000 words = 10,000,000 machinations

Burn Victim

Yeah, Celts-Bulls is one for the ages (I'm constipated because I watched all those overtime periods instead of delivering my Chuck daily morning mail), but I'm more intrigued by that series' bizarro equivalent, the Heat vs. the Hawks. While Celts-Bulls is tighter than mouse sphincter, Heat-Hawks is a clinic on blowouts and How Much Jermaine O'Neal can Help/Hurt His Team on Any Given Night (and if you want to know how I really feel, Jermaine O'Neal can fuck off and die).

Tune me in tomorrow. I'm itching for a barn burner. Whatever the result, we all win.

Wake me up on Monday morning. But only if the Heat won.

(We both know that I'm watching that fucker at 3 AM. No sense in pretending.)