|Beautiful cover art. Still my favorite 3D Zelda.|
Movie: Stranger Than Fiction
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Album: Dante XXI by Sepultura
Song: Becoming the Dragon by Trivium
There was also a little known sleeper hit released by Nintendo, called Chibi-Robo, a VERY Japanese title in which you play a tiny robot (Chibi meaning small or tiny), whose sole purpose is to clean. A housekeeper bot. But this particular one also has a bit of a Johnny 5 (Short Circuit) complex going on, where it has a "big heart" (or glitchy programming that makes him super nice), and so Chibi wants to make the family in the household happy as well. And that is the basic premise of the game: walk around a giant (to the robot) house, clean up messes after the humans (and their dog), explore and solve quirky situations (including at one point having to talk down a renegade toy army general), and help the family get along with each other better. It sounds on the surface like "What the fuck, why would anyone play this?" But BENEATH that surface, I assure you, it's actually quite fun and engaging. I never beat the entire game, but I did put in several hours of good house-cleaning elbow grease.
|SUCH great art!|
But as the picture above alludes, hands down, my Game of 2006, was the new Zelda entry, Twilight Princess. Now, the caveat in that is that I didn't actually play it until early 2007, but I'll explain why. As I've said, I didn't own a Gamecube during that console generation. I intended to buy one when this new Zelda was originally supposed to release in 2005, but then it got delayed for a year as they decided they also wanted to port it to their upcoming console, the Nintendo Wii. Now, stupid name aside, the Wii little by little revealed itself to be something I actually wanted, and since I had the money to buy one, and learned that it was going to be 100% backwards compatible, playing all Gamecube games and controllers etc., that I just decided to wait and play the GC version of Twilight Princess on Wii instead. I wanted to specifically play the GC version, not the Wii port, because it was the "real", original version of the game that I had been waiting years for, and I wasn't sure about these new-fangled "motion controls" anyway.
Well, long story short, because I was an idiot and didn't pre-order the Wii, I wound up having to wait months to actually get one, because they were literally out of stock in the entire area for awhile. Thanks to the runaway success of a simple title like Wii Sports, the damn thing was out of stock. Well, thanks to a contact I had at a local game store (NOT called Game Stop), I finally got my hands on one in February of 2007, along with copies of Wii Sports and Excite Truck (both fun games). But the main event, was borrowing Harold's GC copy of Twilight Princess, which of course he'd already beaten, and I had to make him shut the fuck up MANY times so as not to spoil anything for me. FINALLY getting to play it myself, I can firmly tell you.....it was worth the wait. I had more fun playing that Zelda than I had with almost any game in ages (outside of maybe Pikmin), and in my first playthrough I put almost 80 hours into the game, not because I had to, but because I spent a LOT of time just dicking around and exploring in between dungeons and plot points. It was a blast, and I genuinely enjoyed myself. It is, to this day, my favorite 3D Zelda (my favorite of all time of course being Link's Awakening, as detailed here).
As for movies, 2006 was, I'd say, perhaps the beginning of a downward trend in Hollywood, at least for me. There were some major stinkers that came out that year, such as Bryan Singer's (the man behind the not-at-all-accurate-to-the-comics-on-purpose X-Men films) latest foray into not really giving a fuck about being true to comic book source material, Superman Returns. Now, in spite not liking what Singer had done to my precious X-Men, I went to see this film solely because it was SUPPOSED to be a direct sequel to the previous 70s and 80s Christopher Reeve Superman films, the first two of which, at least, I love. However, it was.......less than enthralling. It certainly wasn't a BAD film....it just had an absurd plot, and for a movie about a bulletproof strong guy who can fly at the speed of sound...it was rather dull. 2006 also saw the "rebirth" of James Bond, going from the so-so era of Pierce Brosnan, to the NEW "reboot" style era of Daniel Craig. Now, Craig the actor is fine, he's talented, nothing against him. But what they did to Bond, the route they took, basically changing the character from the cerebral, suave thinking man's spy, into basically a generic action hero who shoots his way out of trouble and blows shit up.....that I hated.
On the fun side of things Mission Impossible III, even though it was directed by JJ Abrams (IE the man who tried to ruin both Star Trek and Star Wars), was a surprisingly good entry in that franchise. And the sequel to the Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest, was probably the most fun of that trilogy, especially because, I mean, c'mon, it had a giant Kraken. Grandma's Boy, starring Adam Sandler cohort Allen Covert, was also an R rated romp through video game and pot jokes. The pot jokes I could do without (as I don't partake), but it was still dumb fun. 16 Blocks, the last film directed by one of my favorite directors, Richard Donner, starring Mos Def and Bruce Willis, was also a very pleasant surprise. But in general, there just weren't any movies that felt BIG to me, that I could point to say say "Yes, THAT is my Movie of 2006!"
But the movie I did pick, was yet another surprise. I have been a Will Ferrel fan since his SNL days, and his early cameo appearances in the Austin Powers movies. I have not loved everything he's done, but I like some of his movies. His screaming and whatnot act wears thin on some, and many people aren't fans of his. But even to people who aren't necessarily his fans, I would highly suggest watching Stranger Than Fiction. As a writer myself, it was a delight to see a movie about the process and the struggle of writing, but also getting down into the fundamental elements of storytelling. Plus the story is very quirky, and endearing, and I would say this is easily Ferrel's finest performance as an actor (much like Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler's turns at more serious films revealed some great acting in them). It's a incredibly well done film, engaging from start to finish, and so it deserves the nod for 2006 film.
|Simple but effective cover art.|
Now the song of the year also goes to the runner up for album of the year, and that is Trivium's "The Crusade". Trivium is a band I had heard of, but never really listened to, in the early 2000s. They were, to some extent, part of that era's so-called "malcore" movement, which doesn't actually mean anything, except to imply that it's another kind of "hardcore" metal, but interspersed with pretty "clean" singing. Point is, I never got into their music, until this 2006 album came out. It was with Crusade that they changed their style (albeit briefly), to more of a 80s Metallica type vibe, more thrashy, dropping the screamy vocals almost entirely, in favor of Hetfieldian growling, which is just fine with me. Not all the songs on the album were winners, but several were, most especially the one that is my pick for song of the year, and that is the song "Becoming the Dragon". It's a really "pump you up" kind of song, that also happens to have a solid foundation in Chinese/Japanese mythology, telling the tale of the Koi fish who spent 100 years struggling to swim up great water falls, until he finally reached the mystical "Dragon's Gate", and was rewarded for his perseverance by the gods, transforming him into an immortal Dragon form whose very breath could create flame and storms. Basically, a song of surviving and transforming yourself into something greater, and I love it to this day, it's still a bit of a personal anthem to me.
As for album, well, Sepultura had been rockin' it with the Derrick Green lineup for some time. For those unaware, a lot of whiny metal fans with nothing better to do with their time, have spent the years since 1996, when original band leader Max Cavalera left the band, complaining that "It isn't Sepultura without Max", and bemoaning that the band should have just quit or changed their name. Even though Max started the "nu-metal" outfit Soulfly, and Sepultura with American singer Green, went on to make some great albums, especially 2001's "Nation". Well, while their work since has been okay, I personally consider "Dante XXI" to be their last great album. It was a concept album, based around Dante Allegiri's classic Inferno, and a diverse album with everything from thrash to outright peaceful music within. Certainly not one of my favorite albums of all time, but I was absolutely rocking it in 2006.