Monday, December 29, 2008

Best of 2008...

The following list of my favorite things from 2008 is for your eyes only. Also, people who are not you can read it as well. You may feel free to read it to others nearby, or over the phone if you feel so inclined.

Big laughs:
Step Brothers is the funniest movie I have seen in ages, and Big Bang Theory makes me chuckle every week and Hamlet 2 is the new Napoleon Dynamite. SNL had a few great moments (most courtesy of Anne Hathaway) and Jizz in my Pants will be around for a while. Eddie Izzard is incredible live, and I am lucky to still be breathing after his performance. I am also hilarious. You are welcome world.

Braid: Play Braid. Complete Braid. Send your gratitude.

Dr Horrible: I met Neil Patrick Harris. I actually met Dr Horrible. The DVD arrived this week, and "Commentary! The Musical!" is fantastic. More music was written for the all signing commentary track than for the actual movie, features most of the cast, and contains a rock ballad about an online flash game, a song about a guy with a lisp, and a tune on how there are no Asian actors/actresses in movies and TV. Also, I want to have Felicia Day groomed by Tycho...

Rock Band: I have spent more time with Rock Band (and now Rock Band 2) than I have with any game since Tetris. I have played with different people ranging from 5 year old children, to classy "I don't play video games" girls, to senior citizens, and everyone found immense pleasure from the experience. I currently own 203 songs, and with more coming every week, including the just released No Doubt pack (sadly lacking "New"(but containing "Running!? WHY?!)) and March's release of Pearl Jam's "Ten". Harmonix has an amazing IP on their hands. Now if only they can get the whole Beatles thing right...

New music: 2007 was an amazing year for music, and while 2008 wasn't as great, there was a lot to love. Kings of Leon now have some fame, and Sex on Fire was a great way to introduce them to the world. Viva La Vida is a great album, with the title track being one of the best songs of the year. Death Cab for Cutie's Narrow Stairs struck a unique chord with its finely tuned mixes and wonderful I Will Possess Your Heart. My favorite lyric of the year is courtesy of Katy Perry with "the taste of her cherry Chapstick" even if she hasn't struck a permanent chord with with me quite yet. With solid releases from Weezer and The Killers and Vampire Weekend, not a lot to complain about.

Prince of Persia: Stop your whining you whiners! Who cares if the game is very simple, easy to pick up and play, simple to master, and if it steals/borrows the main conventions of superior titles like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. IF IT IS FUN, THEN SHUT UP AND ENJOY YOURSELF. While I am not as enamored as certain people like IGN's Hilary, I had a lot of fun with the Prince. Simple yet great flowing gameplay, wonderful story with a solid ending, and the best visuals and artistic style since Okami. I am looking forward to a sequel.

Comic book movies: Between Iron Man, Dark Knight, Hellboy 2 and now The Spirit, this has been a great year for the comic book movies. Even the previews, like Watchmen and Wolverine, have made the year better. While I might only read the occasional comic nowadays (Buffy) they were a large part of my youth and I keep up with the big news. I still don't care for anything Hulk related, though.

Me: Yes, I am one of my favorite things this year. I have found an incredible group of friends, made dramatic self improvement by losing another 30lbs on top of building up my muscles, and I love my job. I also have a nicer TV than you... unless yours is nicer... in which case, gimme.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Only the Good Get Cancelled Young- Part 3...

Veronica Mars: If your best friends (the industry's best and brightest) told you that there was this amazing girl (Veronica Mars) and that you would enjoy her company, that she is perfect for you, then you would give her a call, wouldn't you? Well if you were UPN/CW and the American Public in general, you never even picked up the phone. Veronica Mars was one of those shows that did absolutely everything right, but never drew the audience it needed to stick around. The show stars Kristen Bell as teenager Veronica Mars. She lives in a California coast town, Neptune, that is deeply divided between the haves and have-nots. She lives with her father, the former town sheriff who was forced out of office when he was unable to solve the mysterious death of Lily Kane, Veronica's best friend, sister to her true love (at the time) Duncan, and daughter to some very rich and powerful people. Keith, Veronica's father, opens up a detective agency, and young Veronica quickly shows her knack for solving mysteries, both for her father's agency, and for her class mates at school. The show uses Lily's murder as it's main plot point for the first season (another tradegy fills that role for seasons 2 and 3) with each weekly episode showing a little more of the truth, while Veronica and father solve other crimes, while also keeping normal social lives and going to high school.

Despite doing everything right, Veronica Mars never made it out of the bottom of the ratings bucket... of failure...? On average, Veronica Mars reached about 2 million viewers, a solid number, but for it's Tuesday night slot, not nearly enough. The fact that it was on the unpopular UPN/CW did not help Veronica's case. It steadily gained new viewers each year, despite a difficult transition to a college setting for the final season. Veronica never got the ending it deserved either, as it was never really cancelled, but put on hiatus in the winter (replaced with the Pussycat Dolls reality show), after which 5 more episodes were produced to make it a complete season, and then just not renewed. Creator Rob Thomas (Dawson's Creek, not the singer) made a great preview for season 4 where Veronica became a rookie FBI agent, several years after the 3rd season concluded. Sometimes a show can do everything right, from the theme song ("We Use to be Friends" by the Dandy Warhols) to the amazing cast (Bell and Enrico Colantoni as Keith Mars) to critical acclaim (Joss Whedon calls it the "Best. Show. Ever.") and never find the audience it deserves. So the next time that you get told to call the girl, pick up the phone.

Angel: Fox hates (hated?) Joss Whedon, and Angel is the last nail in the coffin of proof. To keep it simple, Angel remade itself from 2 years of serial storytelling into a weekly series and turned the character's world upside down. Now in charge of the evil lawfirm (ya read that right) Wolfram and Hart, Angel and co. now had the power to make a true difference in the world. Angel had a great run, and truly became it's own show, seperating itself from Buffy quite well, but the timing and nature of the cancellation is what hurts. Whedon was given JUST enough time to make a good finale (I want to fight the dragon) and the series found new life in comic book form (don't bother reading past issue 5 unless you are a big fan, in which case, you are already reading). Despite gaining it's highest ratings since it's premier, Angel was cancelled during the celebration of the 100th episode. No reason was provided at all. Costs were down, ratings up, it was the only Whedon show on the air, fans loved the new premise, dogs and cats were working together... everything was lined up for a 6th season to continue the magic, but Jordan Levin (WB's Head of Entertainment) cancelled the show without ever providing a valid reason. Ouch.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Only the Good Get Cancelled Young- Part 2...

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace: Darkplace is a show within a show, and sadly, only lasted 6 episodes back in 2004. Here is the premise; Garth Merenghi (played by Matthew Holness) is a horror writer with a giant British ego (the rest of him is British too) who describes himself as a "dream weaver" and "shaman" among other things. Garth decided to adapt his books into a TV series based in a hospital, where strange and horrific incidents happen. It is a cheesy, cheaply produced, poorly written (by Marenghi himself) 80s drama. Sadly, the show Garth Marenghi created never made it to air. What we as viewers watch is Garth Marenghi (Holness) airing his lost 80s TV drama, which stars himself as the lead doctor Dr Rick Dagless (Holness plays Marenghi who plays Dagless), producer/costar Dean Leaner (actor is Richard Ayoade) who plays hospital admin Thornton Reed, costar Todd Rivers who plays Dr Lucien Sanchez (also played by Holness...) and Madeline Wool playing Dr Liz Asher (Alice Lowe in real life). We not only watch these characters play these characters, but they also do commentary of the original show, with exception of Lowe/Wool/Asher, who mysteriously disappeared after Darkplace was produced. Go ahead and re-read those last 2 sentences again, I understand.

The show is a spoof of itself, and makes no apologies. Imagine if Mystery Science Theater 3000 had the cast acting as other characters... that is the best way to describe Darkplace. It takes place in modern times, with Marenghi showing his failed 80s TV series, and complimenting himself and his "art" all along the way. Marenghi's ego is what really makes the show work, with his name appearing in nearly every credit, including the music "based on melodies originally whistled by Garth Marenghi." You can find the majority of the show on YouTube (HERE YA GO). This is one of those rare shows that may BENEFIT from a short lifespan, but I would love to see a few more hours of what Dr Rick Dagless, aka Garth Marenghi, aka Matthew Holness had in him.

Dead Like Me: Any TV show that has it's title based on a classic novel written by John Howard Griffin must be a winner, and Dead Like Me is no exception. This Showtime program aired in June 2003 through October 2004, for 2 seasons. We follow 18 year old Georgia Lass. George, as she prefers to be called, is a slacker who cares about nothing, lives with her parents and sister, and is being forced to get a job by her mother now that she is no longer taking classes. While on lunch at her first day of work at the Happy Time Temp agency, a toilet seat falls from the sky from Mir space station, incinerating young George where she stands. Instead of dying, George finds herself wandering around, and learns she must become a grim reaper. Her task is to take the souls of those who are about to die in painful and gory situations, and escort them to the other side. She must also lead a "normal" human life, however she cannot be harmed or killed again.

Georgia works with several other reapers. The incomparable Mandy Patinkin plays Rube, the eldest and leader of the reapers. She is also joined by Mason, a British stoner, Roxy, a hard skinned traffic enforcer, Betty, an upbeat woman who quickly befriends George, and later Daisy, a starlet from the 30s. George returns to her Happy Time job as her new persona Millie, and finds herself living life for the first time despite now being dead. She works with the wonderful Delores Herbig played by the hilarious Christine Willes. The show lost a lot of the zest that made it unique in the first season, especially after creator Bryan Fuller left due to arguements with MGM. While some reports say that the ratings were over three times higher than the average show on Showtime, the full numbers, and reason for cancellation, have never been released. A direct to DVD movie has been commisioned, but is now 18 months behind schedule. Dead Like Me remains one of the most petitioned shows online and continues to have a very strong fan base.

PART 3 COMING SOON....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Only the Good Get Cancelled Young- Part 1...

For those of you who don’t remember (AND HOW DARE YOU!) I purchase a nice new big screen back in May. Don’t believe me? HERE YA GO. Since then, I have had a lot of fun. I have played some great Xbox 360 games, watched some Blu-Rays on a borrowed PS3 (Speed Racer is the movie equivalent to dropping acid) and watched lots of TV in HD. Sadly, most of the TV I have watched has sucked.


For some reason, this year’s crop of new TV shows has been below my normal TV viewing standards. The only shows I look forward to watching are House, Big Bang Theory, Fringe and The Office. Chuck is fun on occasion, but Heroes and other former favorites (and anything new) have been big let downs. What have I done instead of watching new TV programming? I have dug back into the TV archives with some great DVD collections. So which shows do I think were cut loose before their prime? 6 great series come to mind right off the bat.


Firefly: I will say very little about Firefly, because so much has been said, and so much has been done in regards to this instant Joss Whedon classic. Fox hopefully learned its lesson for the most part after manhandling this show, giving Whedon another chance with this fall’s Dollhouse. Firefly is clever, wonderfully written, atmospheric and deep. Thankfully we got a taste of what was to come with the movie Serenity, but Firefly will long remain the number one “cancelled before its time” show for many of us.


Carnivale: Carnivale premiered on HBO in September 2003 with a critically acclaimed first season, but after a slow start to the second season, the show was cancelled before the 3rd season went into production. Set in the 1930s dustbowl, Carnivale follows the story of Ben Hawkins as he loses his mother and joins a travelling carnival of freaks and weirdoes. Ben has the power to heal people, but does not understand how his power works, or the consequences it brings. He slowly learns about his past, and how he is connected to those are the carnival, and why he has this power. We also follow the story of Methodist preacher Brother Justin Crowe and his sister Iris in California. Justin is a God fearing man, a Russian immigrant who survived a train crash along with his sister, and was taken in by the church. He slowly comes to realize he has incredible dark powers, and begins amassing an army of loyal followers of the church, close to 20,000 at his side and hundreds of thousands via the radio, by the time the show ends. Ben and Justin are the opposing forces of good and evil, and are on a quest to destroy the other, though they have never met.


The show focuses on magic and mystery, the stories of the fellow carnies, and the ultimate battle that is to come. The story is told in flashbacks that the main characters suddenly have, as if their destiny is magically written for them. Sadly, due to a very slow 2nd season start, the show was cancelled just as things became truly interesting. Ben has found his boon and inherited new powers, we learn how sick and twisted Justin truly is, and even the secondary and tertiary characters shine bright. I would love to follow the story in any medium, either film or television or book or comics or anything. They planned a total of 6 seasons, and many small clues that appeared since the first episode will continue to remain mysteries now and forever.


PART 2 COMING SOON!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

War of the World Tour...

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, so is it an even greater compliment when the one that was imitated then imitates the one who imitated them in the first place? Not really, no. I am of course, referring to Rock Band vs Guitar Hero, or more specifically, Rock Band 1&2 vs Guitar Hero World Tour.

For the uninitiated, the original programmers of Guitar Hero 1 and 2 (Harmonix) got bought by MTV Games, while the original publisher (Red Octane) kept the brand name Guitar Hero and then were bought by Activision. Harmonix created Rock Band, expanding on their 2 years of Guitar Hero experience (and many years of great rhythm games like Amplitude and Frequency) which included not only guitar and bass, but also drums and a mic. Activision created Guitar Hero 3 with dev studio Neversoft (get it? lol) which took the guitar playing to the next level. Both Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band stood on their own, 2 significantly different products for the most part. Rock Band was easy to play with a constantly expanding set list for purchase, while Guitar Hero 3 pushed the limits of the guitar playing, especially in its difficulty and quality.

With Guitar Hero World Tour, Activision and Neversoft are trying to steal back their chunk of the market with a full band game, and for the most part, they do a good job. However, instead of taking the year to make a game that is better than Rock Band, World Tour is simply a Rock Band clone, failing in many of the areas that Rock Band 1 even succeeded in. But first, the good. The wider breadth of time to hit a note is a welcome return from GH3, you can crank or lower any individual instrument's volume, great for single player gaming, the character creating mode has good depth, the bass is given lots of attention with the no-fret strum, hammer ons and pull offs are a breeze to pull off (hehe), you can switch difficulty in the career mode at your leisure (like in RB2) and the bigger better drum set is more fun to play than Rock Bands thanks to a 5th pad and the cymbals, and the kit feels better overall. This is a fun game on its own.

However, when compared to other games, World Tour starts to falter. To start with, I really dislike the set list. I only care about 10 songs or so, and the rest are background noise. Normally, I find myself being won over by a few songs I have never heard before (Seven by Vagiant in RB for example) but World Tour simply lacks a great set list, and with Rock Band's nearly 500 songs, its a much bigger disappointment. The folks at Harmonix are musicians themselves and understand what plays great in the game, and what is good music in general. And the old Guitar Hero issues rear their ugly heads, like large segments of songs with nothing to play or only playing 1 or 2 notes (even on Hard) when there are really several to play.

Comparing Guitar Hero World Tour to the original Rock Band, even without the 500 songs, Rock Band still wins. Rock Band 2 creates an even wider gap in quality. I am still a HUGE Guitar Hero 3 fan, its the game I play when I want a quick solo session, even over my 200 Rock Band 2 songs. The lack of innovation and paltry set list don't even compare to a year old game. Don't get me wrong, I do not DISLIKE World Tour, I have had some fun, but I had higher hopes. On its own, World Tour is fun, and the drums are great, but it is a constant disappointment after playing other games from the same genre.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More like ROCKtober...

The following events took place in October:

-I met Neil Patrick Harris, of Dr Horrible and Doogie Howser fame. Oh, and that whole "Met your Mom" thing people tend to mention. Super nice, super tall.

-I also saw Laura Prepon (not as tall as you'd think) and Christopher Knight with wife Adrianne Curry.

-I voted, 2 weeks early because Nevada has that, and it rocks.

-Heroes continued to suck. I hate Peter, and Milo is quickly becoming one of the worst actors in history. Jeff Loeb got fired today, not surprised.

-Got upset that Buffy is now 2 months behind on new issues. Karl Moline does not understand the word "deadline".

-Was both super excited and extremely disappointed over the Beatles/Harmonix announcement. I want to play Beatles songs IN Rock Band, not switch to a completely separate game to play a Beatles song.

-Started watching Carnivale again on DVD (thanks Amazon for rediculously low prices). HBO had an amazing show, and just let it slip away. This is as good as Heroes was at it's best.

-Laughed at an episode of SNL for the first time in 8 years. Anne Hathaway once again proves she can do no wrong (except for Havoc... showing your boobs does not make you a "mature" actress)

-And finally, this happened on Halloween:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

10 Years is the Tin Anniversary...

Before Final Fantasy VII on the original PlayStation in 1997, RPGs were not as popular in the US vs over in Japan. Square’s magnum opus brought the joys that many of us had been experiencing since Dragon Warrior/Quest on the NES into the hands of the masses, and made them crave more. It pushed the limits of technology; with it’s never before seen CG work, endless lines of dialogue and side quests, and a deep story that made a connection with the characters that is still felt today. Despite the amount of praise I will pass the game’s way, and as often as I may laud its accomplishments, it is not my favorite RPG, or even my favorite game. That honor goes to Xenogears.

Today, October 21st, marks the 10 year anniversary since Xenogears hit US shores. Xenogears tells the story of Fei Fong Wong, a painter who found himself in a small village with no memory 3 years ago, fallen in love with a girl who is about to get married in town, and befriended the local doctor, Citan Uzuki. One day, a large mech, called a Gear, crashes in town. Fei finds himself in the cockpit of the Gear, hoping to somehow prevent the mayhem taking place, but winds up destroying the town in the process. He is exiled from the city, and bumps into a young redhead named Elly Van Houten, and the two instantly seem to know each other, though they have never met. This is the beginning of Fei’s journey.

The story is what sets Xenogears apart, and is its best feature. The main story is about Fei and Elly’s love for one another, and how their souls find each other again, over and over, generation after generation. The story covers Fei’s battle with himself, having formed split personalities after a tragic accident in his youth, and Elly’s evolution from a young naïve officer following in her father’s footsteps, to a grown woman with a past that spans centuries. God’s existence is brought into question, both literally and figuratively, and the origins of life and humanity on this planet are eventually discovered.

Visually, Xenogears went the opposite way of FFVII. Instead of 3d character models placed on pre-drawn sets, the world was fully 3d, with 2d sprite based characters. This led to some interesting platforming elements, and with full control of the camera’s rotation, it leads to some very well designed dungeons and towns. The audio is top notch as well, with a moving score that remains one of my favorites to this day.

This game nearly didn’t make it to the US due to its very adult themes, including death, sex, and the questioning of God. It nearly didn’t make it out in Japan either, as budgetary and time constraints forced Soraya Saga (aka Kaori Tanaka) and her husband Tetsuya Takahashi to remove many of the gameplay elements (dungeons and side quests) out of the final third of the game, the infamous 2nd disk, and focus exclusively on the story. This was done by having the main characters, specifically Fei, Elly and Citan, to talk directly to the player, in a first person perspective, telling the player what is taking place in the story, instead of having the player experience it themselves. The character would appear on the screen in front of art, with text scrolling along, with music playing behind. This caused a large number of players to never finish the game, detracted by the major change in pacing and gameplay style.

Saga and Takahashi went on to form Monolith, and eventually created the Xenosaga series, which Square-Enix would not allow to directly reference Xenosaga due to copyright laws. The Xenosaga series takes the story telling aspect of Xenogears to the next generation, with state of the art cut scenes, something that many gamers lamented. Sadly, the world of Xenogears seems to have come to an end, but for me, the story will live on as long as Fei and Elly continue to find each other again.

Friday, October 17, 2008

He Should Call Himself Roger LESS...

People say stupid things all the time. I have, on occasion, been known to say something that could be seen (or heard) as unintelligent. I, however, do not work for a major newspaper, and therefore, do not have to worry about my words being broadcast the world over for everyone to make fun of... except, ya know, if you read this and pass it on...

Roger Moore has been with the Orlando Sentinel since 1999, but I have not heard of the man until today. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, Spin Magazine, and even The Washington Post. He now finds himself as the Sentinels's movie critic after an award winning career.

His latest movie review is for the video game to movie translation of Max Payne, starring Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. For the first 9 paragraphs, Mr Moore offers a fair and balanced review, sharing his opinions on the movie and its less than stellar story, and sub par performances of the films stars. He even makes an extremely intelligent point, saying that as long as Uwe Boll is around, Max Payne could not possibly be the worst video game film ever made. I should point out that I have no plans to see Max Payne, only mildly enjoyed the first game (bullet time was born here) and almost every other review mirror Mr Moore's opinions.

However, his final thoughts sent a shiver down my spine. "But as good as a couple of its action beats are, Max still suffers from the heartlessness that makes games emotionally inferior to movies. Nobody ever shed a tear over a video-game character's death." This final sentiment will be the reason Roger Moore gains internet fame (ya know, other than because his name is Roger Moore, but not the actor).

This is an extremely bold statement by Mr Moore. Simply because a video game has not caused a deep emotional impact in HIS life, he decides to make the broad generalization for all games, and all gamers. It might make Mr Moore give pause to know that I have never cried because of a book, and yet I do not make the huge leap to say that nobody ever shed a tear over a book character's death.

I suppose I don't really have a point here other that to say I am disturbed by such bravado that Mr Moore has shown. Several video games I have played have brought deep emotional connections, with two bringing a tear to my eye (ironically, wait for my next post on Tuesday). The same number of films can make the same statement of giving me such a profound reaction. I think Mr Moore should take the time to experience a real video game story. When you spend 50 hours with a character, you are much more likely to experience a deep connection, than in a 90 minute film.

Feel free to read the entire review by CLICKING HERE and then check out Rotten Tomatoes for a great list of fantastic responses to his review by CLICKING HERE! I cannot wait until I read his response to the high volley of calls, emails and posts he will receive, and takes the time to enjoy a real game. At the very least, Mr Moore is about to get quite a bit of attention from my fellow interwebbers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Darwin Had It All Wrong...

The following image is responsible for several minutes of lost man power at work today because of laughter. Enjoy.


Image courtesy Ebaum's World http://ebaumsworld.com/

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Satellite, In My Eyes...

I tend to be pretty brand loyal. I drink Coke products 99% of the time, Burger King over McDonalds, Microsoft over Apple, Trojan over Durex, soap and water over rolling around in a small bowl of dust, you get the point. One product, or type of product, I have been behind for a long time is cable TV over satellite service. While satellite has a superior base technology (it uses friggin satellites!) I have been a proponent for cable service over the dish. I have even worked for the cable industry, quite proudly I might add. Heh, look at that, I added it. With my recent move, however, satellite has found it's way into my life. Seems like a great time to compare services!

I have had every type of cable service imaginable. When you work for the cable company, they treat you good, or treat you well, if you follow those 3rd grade English lessons. In order to best know the product, and properly trouble shoot it, the cable company will give you every channel and as many boxes as you need for free, or deep deep discounts. While I cannot say it is true for the entire industry, it certainly is for the company I worked for, for when I worked there. I have had an HD-DVR, non Tivo variety, since 2004. I have had 4 different types of cable HD-DVRs, different cities and generations and now I have an HD-DVR from DIRECTV.

In terms of picture quality, there seems to be absolutely no difference that I can see between the service offered by cable and DIRECTV for 99% of programming, but there are some minor differences. Cable has a slighty more blocky "digital" look to their standard def broadcasts on many stations, while DIRECTVhas a softer "broadcast" look to the picture. On the HD side of things, the only difference I have seen is that the DIRECTV does a better job at preventing noise in night shots. Normally, in a night setting, the darkness will look staticy and noisy, and this is improved in the DIRECTV broadcasts. Switching from SD to HD signals on cable was seamless, but the DIRECTV box takes an extra 2 seconds to go from one to another. Audio seems a little off on DIRECTV as well, much louder and bassier, with a low treble. This could have something to do with the much larger and more open room I am in, but I have a feeling it's the service. The only other difference I have seen so far is the lack of "digital tearing" you see when the signal drops for a split second. This is those blocks that will appear and the sound goes away for a split second. So far, none of that with DIRECTV. DIRECTV has a slight edge here

The biggest difference so far is the options offered by the digital converters and DVR services. Both let me record 2 shows at once, and have interactive digital guides. All cable DVRs I use have had a superior and much quicker guide, while the DIRECTV guide is slower to respond and takes a few extra clicks to get to some menus. Cable also offers different guide styles, while DIRECTV has only given me a single guide with no variation. The big positive here is that I can create a custom favorites list with DIRECTV, so when I click on Guide, only the channels I select will appear. No more scanning through 800 channels in the guide, I can look at just the 25 channels I watch the most. Overall, the cable DVRs are superior in my opinion, mainly because of the speed, customization and ease of use, but I love having the ability with DIRECTV to load only the channels I want.

I still believe that cable is a better product overall. It is easier to repair, less prone to being damaged or broken, and because so much of it is based locally where you live, can offer a more refined product experience. DIRECTV definitely uses superior technology, and seems much more "high-tech" overall. It is also more costly (gotta buy the equipment, yuck) and generally tougher to repair, but it does offer more channels. At the end of the day, I still prefer cable, but I think I will enjoy my satellite service once I get used to it.

EDIT: Day 3, realize during the Eagles game that there is no picture in picture. Big negative for DIRECTV....

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tales of Vesperia: A Review

I recently had one of those "I'm a grown-up now" moments when talking to some people about games. Looking back, I would pour hours upon hours into an RPG on the SNES Genesis, during the Saturn and PS1 days, and even with my PS2. However, for the past several years, I have had too much else going on in life to dedicate to these types of games more than once in a while. So when several RPGs come out, it is quite a tough decision to pick just one. When it comes to the Tales series, it's hard for me to not put in the time. In the case of Tales of Vesperia, I am glad I did.

Tales of Vesperia comes out a month short of the 10 year anniversary of the Tales games US premier. Tales of Destiny for the original PlayStation was a unique experience, especially for the time. You tour through towns and dungeons, make new friends and allies, and bring down a big evil. The difference in this RPG is that instead of turn based battle systems; you have direct control of your character, using standard combo attacks and special attacks. Tales of Vesperia continues this gameplay, and most of the Tales traditions. While there are very few new additions compared to the other games in the series, it refines and perfects almost everything the Tales series is known for.

Yuri lives in the slums of the world capital with his doggy pal Repede. He briefly joined the knights with his best friend, Flynn. The local blastia, a magic source that, in this form, controls the water in the slums, is stolen, and Yuri is arrested while trying to retrieve it. While escaping from prison, he runs into Estelle, a princess on the run, and together they escape. Along the way, they meet little Karol, a young monster hunter with no back bone, Rita, a genius mage who alienates everyone she meets, the voluptuous and mysterious Judy, and her dragon buddy Ba'ul, and Raven, a strange "old man" with a hidden past. They start their quest to retrieve the stolen blastia, and, well, things stick at that point for about half of the game.

The story doesn't get to the "world in peril" level, with the exception of wars and monsters, until about two thirds of the way through Vesperia. While this isn't a complaint, there were some points in the game where the characters had little motivation to move forward. The characters are also not as charming as in other games, but it’s great to see them mature. Yuri really shows his dark side by killing the corrupt, Rita turns a corner and becomes best buds with Estelle, and Karol becomes the group’s leader despite his age and inexperience. Again, the characters do blossom, but they are not as endearing as others from the genre. The ending is very short, with just a triumphant "WE BEAT THE BAD GUY" smile on everyone's face, and nothing else, which is disappointing, but fits with the rest of the story I suppose.

My complaints end there. Everything else, especially the combat, are as good as they have ever been. At hour 49, I was still enjoying every single fight I got into. The graphics are a solid anime style cell-shaded beauty, the voice over work is top notch, the loading times are non-existent, and the fighting engine is the best the series has delivered so far. It ended up taking me 50 hours to complete the main quest about about 90% of the side quests. Another 10 hours could be spent doing much more, like casinos and "find the missing guy" quests, but I am happy where things left off. Now I just need to find something to do with the next 50 hours....

IMAGES COURTESY IGN

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lars Ulrich would agree...

The following conversation took place on the GameFAQs forum for Rock Band 2. The names have not been changed to protect no one.

CLICK TO EMBIGGEN


Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's Been a Long September...

Well, I am a week away from finally moving to the other side of town. My 17 mile/45 minute afternoon commute will now be 3.9 miles and 11 minutes. I also have more space, more privacy, and less money... but what can ya do, right? Can't have it all. Some of the things I DO have are Tales of Vesperia and Rock Band 2, which I have been spending time with in between packing and paralyzing back pain CAUSED by said packing.

In case I don't write a full review, here is a synopsis of Tales of Vesperia. By far, this is the best Tales game since Symphonia for the GCN, the pinnacle of the series. The battle system has been perfected, and the ability tree is almost perfectly spread out across the game. In the past you could go several dungeons in between new abilities (looking at your Abyss...) but here you get new special moves right when you need them.

While the story here has been toned down about 5 notches, the characters develop very well. No flat folk here. The quest itself does not because "save the world" epic until about hour 30, but you always have a nice motivation to move forward. I am 47 hours in, about the enter the final dungeon with about 50% of the major side quests complete. I plan to complete the main mission within a week and get a chuck of the additional side quests complete within the month.

The rest of my month will likely be dedicated to Rock Band 2 which I picked up today. The biggest improvements are the ability to use any character in any mode for any instrument, hammer ons and pull offs are now more obvious and clearly indicated, and the challenge of each song has increased. The biggest negatives? Only 2 so far, and that is the aforementioned hammers and pull offs are a little more tricky to pull off, as you have to press the fret button AS they cross the line instead of being able to just have them held down before they play like normal notes, and unlocking songs.

You have two ways to unlock new songs, and both are in the career mode. You now play through a solo career, which is now like the previous band career mode, but it can be done as a single player game, which is a GREAT idea. No more list of songs that you complete one by one to open the next, you have to go from city to city, getting fans, money and stars, up to 5 stars per song. As new cities, and new gigs in those cities appear, you get more songs. After over 2 hours in the career mode, I had unlocked no new songs, only the original 20 that come unlocked with the game. Assuming that an average song is 5 minutes, that means I played every song at least twice and yet no new songs... Now 7 hours in, I have maybe 20 new songs, so roughly half of the disk is unlocked. I finally put down the guitar after playing Everlong, the reason I bout the game. My pinky has that little blister back, which I haven't had in months.

Alternately, you can play the new Challenge mode, which is series of different set lists. The issue in unlocking songs THIS way is that you need to play each instrument (guitar, bass, drums and mic) and also play as a band. While not a huge negative, this is an issue for solo players who want to just get new songs. There is an unlock code, the game even tells you so, but so far there is no word on what that code might be, and if it will effect your achievements and such. It shouldn't, considering I have seen what the achievements, but its a possibility.

So far, in career, I have 218 stars (got 4 stars on 2 songs), 394,400 fans and $5866, having already spent about $500 on new clothes. The game is a considerable improvement, with nearly EVERY complaint people had from last year being resolved. The quick play mode even lists the actual difficulty of each song and works like the music store, allowing you to quickly search through songs. With my 60 or so song downloads, the 80 I will have unlocked, that's about 150 songs for Rock Band 2. I plan on doing the Rock Band 1 export once the career mode is complete, so add in another 30-40 there that I actually play, as I will delete the rest. Check back for more details once I get the band back together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I Was Getting Listless...

Things have been slow here at the Vegasadelphia camp, but that should change soon. Another move (the other side of town), lots of games and new TV shows should keep me occupied. Let us discuss it in list format!

Favorite summer movies:
1) The Dark Knight
2) Iron Man
3) Hellboy 2
4) Step Brothers
5) Kung-Fu Panda

Summer movies I still need to see:
1) Wall-E
2) Wanted
3) Hancock
4) Speed Racer
5) The Dark Knight again...

Most anticipated upcoming games in 2008:
1) Tales of Vesperia (picking it up tomorrow)
2) Prince of Persia
3) Tomb Raider Underworld
4) Guitar Hero World Tour
5) Rock Band 2
6) Mirrors Edge
7) Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
8) Fallout 3
9) Star Wars: Force Unleashed
10) Infinite Undiscovery

Most anticipated returning TV shows:
1) House
2) Heroes (keepin' my fingers crossed...)
3) Big Bang Theory
4) The Office
5) Chuck
6) Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles (best season finale of last season besides House)

Most anticipated NEW TV shows:
1) Dollhouse (yeah yeah, not til 2009...)
2) Fringe
3) Damn... pathetic list...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Portal Effect...

I was teased a bit by certain people (person) for wanting to play Portal, and Portal alone, when it was first announced. Narbacular Drop was a great tech demo, and I had high hopes for the full game, even though Gabe Newell said it was only a short puzzle quest, and I knew nothing of the story or humor we would later fall in love with. What we eventually got was the most fun I had gaming for all of 2007, as brief as the session may have been. While it may be a little too early to put this in stone, Braid on XBox Live Arcade is this year's Portal for me.


While Braid doesn't have the humor found in Valve's Portal, playing Braid was a very similar experience to me. The game is short (all puzzles solved in about 6 hours), pretty (great hand painted appearance), has a great overall mechanic (rewind time to solve puzzles), wonderful music (like a tour through Irish fields), strange hidden secrets (super secret stars do nothing?) but more than anything else, Braid left me wanting more.

It took me roughly 4 hours to get through the 5 main worlds, getting 60 of the game's 72 puzzle pieces. To complete the game, you must find all 72 puzzle pieces, and once all of the level's puzzles are complete, the final World 1 opens up to explore. Those final 12 pieces took me about 2-3 hours alone, because Braid gets very challenging, and makes you think very far outside the box, using each world's unique mechanics in a way that is both brilliant and frustrating. Kill your own cloned shadow just to scavenge the key he was carrying? Reverse time to make the unreversable cloud appear below your feet? You will have to use your imagination to completely solve this game.

The story is unique as well, written like an epic poem, told through short paragraphs at the beginning of each world. The story starts with Tim searching for the Princess that has left him. We are told that "this happened because Tim made a mistake." It is not until you complete the very end of the final world, that you can fully appreciate the simple story. While not a "twist" per say, the ending to the game is very satisfying, and worth the journey to get all 72 puzzle pieces, and uses the game's time mechanic to reveal the truth.

At $15, a lot of people have been turned away from the game simply for the price, which is rediculous. I have paid a full $50 for games that lasted as long, and brought nowhere near the level of satisfaction that Braid brings. If you want something to last forever, then get GTA4 and Madden. If you want to have the most fun in a game all summer, then get Braid. The demo is free on XBLA, a PC version is on its way, and if you come over to my place (or where ever I move to) you can play my version. Just play this game already, smile, and thank me later.

Image courtesy http://braid-game.com/

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Ridin Dirty...

Teachin the nephew what ridin dirty is all about. Word....

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Building Myself up for Disappointment...

The Japanese don't really care about the XBox 360, or, as they call it, the "それは何であるか。(subtitle: nani). 360 exclusives don't really get their blood flowing, and they often make the leap to the PS3 before too long. However, a certain game, that I myself am looking forward to quite a bit, caused this to happen:


That's right, the Japanese LINING UP EARLY for a 360 exclusive. Which game you ask, or "どのビデオゲームか。" if you are actually Japanese and reading this (thanks Babelfish!)? Tales of Vesperia of course!

80% of my 360 games are from Namco/Bandai, an incredible number when you look at the fact that for my PS2 collection, only 2 Tales games and the 2 Katamari games can make that claim. That is out of +/- 25 games. Tales of Symphonia was one of my top 5 Gamecube games, and the original PS1 Tales of Destiny convinced so many twitch gamer friends of mine that RPGs can be fun.

Tales of Vesperia will be coming out at the end of the month. Let's hope that those fine young Japanese folk in line will be as happy as me.

Photo courtesy Famitsu

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

You say July, I say To-mat-oh...

Things have been a little hectic in the Vegasadelphia household as of late, hence the lack of updatieness. Here is a recap of what I have been up to.

Dark Knight: What can I say that hasn't been said already by every person ever? Amazing film, amazing story, amazingly realistic take on something that so many of us view in such a brightly colored and animated way. Also, it wasn't too long, it was the right length given the story that was told. One of my favorite parts is the Joker telling Batman they will probably be doing this for the rest of their lives, a nod to The Killing Joke, but with the roles reversed. As for Batman 3, I say we will be seeing a Catwoman centric plot.

Hellboy 2: Simply put, the most amazing visual experience since Moulin Rouge or the Matrix. Yes, I just lumped those movies together.... G. del T. has an amazing visual style to most of his work, and he pulls out all the stops in this one. While the story felt a little too stuffed at points, and too slow at others, Hellboy 2 surpassed the original for me. Now if only they could get rid of that horrible opening scene...

Step Brothers: Go see this movie. It is one of the flat out wackiest movies in ages. They make no attempt to be anything other than a random almgamation of words and sounds, and it works out wonderfully. My two favorite lines are "It's like masturbating in a time machine" and "that was like a combination of Fergie and Jesus." The serious part went on a little too long in my opinion, but that made the funny parts even funnnier. Will Ferrell and John C Reily should do every movie together.

Dr Horrible: In case you missed it (what is wrong with you?!!?) Dr Horrible made it's debut earlier this month, and was as wonderful as I hoped. I wish there was more duet work between NPH and FelDay, but it was the best 45 online only super villain musical I have seen in years. I will keep everyone posted on the DVD release, which is reported to include a musical commentary track.

Eddie Izzard: I saw Eddie Izzard this past Saturday night, and he was astoundingly funny. At one point (jazz chicken) I was unable to breathe for a minute as I was doubled over in hilarity, my body trying to continue laughing, but no oxygen was available. By the end of the show, I was so tired from laughing, I had to check my watch to see how long it had been. He did a solid 2 hours of comedy. If you ever get the chance, go check him out, he is one of the most amazing comedic minds in the world, even if he doesn't do jokes you can repeat without telling 15 minutes of sourse material.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Alohamora...

Luna says hi!


A pic from the upcoming (yet, until just now, not previewed in any way) Half-Blood Prince movie. I am excited because HBP is my favorite book in the Potter series.

I have also just started (and nearly finished) the Order of the Phoenix video game on the 360. It is a simple, fun adventure game, plain and simple. You basically have free range of the entire Hogwarts ground, and get to cast magic spells with the right analog stick on everything in sight looking for hidden secrets. I am already 40% through with only 4 hours of gameplay. Again, nothing fancy, horrible story elements, but its just fun to explore the grounds and solve all of the puzzles. A great game for Potter fans and adventure gamers alike.

**Image courtesy Mugglenet

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Weird Al...

Think about it for a minute. When have you felt completely uncool? When have you felt like, even if you had the prettiest girl on your arm, the nicest clothes, the best job, at this moment in time, you are completely and utterly uncool? This is how Weird Al Yankovic must feel all of the time. But the difference between Weird Al and the rest of us is that he doesn't care, as a matter of fact, he relishes in his uncoolness, and loves every second of it.



Last Friday night, Weird Al began the second leg of his Straight Outta Lynwood tour at the Henderson Pavillion, and it was a celebration of nerdiness and geekdom. Weird Al emerged with acordian in hand, long curly hair, pants hiked up to his chest. The show started off with the chicken dance (yes, the wedding-time, kids birthday chicken dance) and his latest polka mash-up (sadly the songs in it are now about 3-4 years old). I felt completely uncool. Me, someone who pointed at a dude in a "Browncoats" thsirt outside of the show and shouted "nice goram shirt buddy!". Me, someone, who earlier in the month, was at the same location for a video game music concert. Me, someone who says "epic fail" multiple times each week, has more than 2 video game shirts, over 20 anime DVDs and proudly displays his signed copy of Serenity for all to see.

In between each song, clips from the Weird Al Show and his MTV interviews and even random cartoons played. These were a fantastic break in the action and were some of the funnier moments of the show. Weird Al is an excellent comedian, perfect for the tv/movie world, and this showed off those skills. His music videos provide further evidence. After each video, Al would emerge in a different outfit, whether it was a red zoot suit for "Wanna B Ur Lvr", a silver track suit for "All About the Pentiums" or an actual fat suit for "Fat."

Stormtroopers in a kick line

Two moments stood out for me that had me screaming and singing along as much as anyone else. A long line of storm troopers appeared on stage, with Darth Vader in the middle. Al emerged in his Jedi outfit, and began to sing "The Saga Begins", not that you could hear much at first over the hooting and hollering. I felt OK when the "cool" guys I sat next to also knew the words. He followed that up with Yoda of course.

The show ended with an encore of the cell phone song, and an extended (yes, extended) version of Albuquerque. I felt a little cooler knowing that 500 other people knew all of the words to this 16 minute rant. The show ran for two hours and had about 10 costume changes. While I doubt I will go see Weird Al again any time soon, anyone who is or was ever a fan, will find something to laugh about, and if your friends are as uncool as you, you will have a great time.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Skadoosh...

If you had asked me back in March what I believed my favorite movie from the first half of the summer would be, I would have said I hope Iron Man. Well, I was right. But I would have never thought that Kung Fu Panda would be taking up that second spot. Here are my brief opinions of the latest movies to hit the theaters.

Kung Fu Panda: I went into this one with looooow expectations. It took a big beautiful pair of brown eyes to convince me to see this movie, and boy am I glad that I did. Instead of going with stupid fart jokes and a bunch of childish name calling, Kung Fu Panda is an intelligently written and excellently performed little movie. This movie was written for Jack Black, and the animators captured him perfectly. Nearly everyone brought a great performance, from David Cross's Crane, to James Hong's Mr Ping. A fun movie that no one should overlook.

Get Smart: I had high hopes for Get Smart, between Steve Carrell and the sitcom-heavy writers, and for the most part, the movie delivered. Changing Maxwell Smart from a clumsy goof who accidentally saves the day into an intelligent and cunning agent, who just happens to be a bit accident prone was a smart move in my opinion. The loads of fan service (Bill Murray in a tree as Agent 13, and Bernie Kopell getting hit by a car) and fun action was just the right combination without being too corny. A good time for fans of the series, and a fun movie for anyone else.


The Incredible Hulk: I dunno... I have never been a fan of the Hulk in general, either in comics or TV or movies. I actually liked the first movie, minus the zombie dogs and cloud/lake battle. The best thing I can say about TIH is that I had no complaints. It was a good action movie, with or without the famous lead. The thing is that I STILL do not see Ed Norton as Bruce Banner... A descent movie for actions fans, a nice comic translation, but little to nothing more.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Inner Child Is Not So Inner...

My inner child is on the floor screaming and crying and begging for his parents to buy him something. What do I... I mean what does he want? Looky!

3,800 pieces, $400, and 284582 hours of awesomeness!

Check out more at Gizmodo by CLICKING HERE!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Point, Activision...

Activision just sold me on Guitar Hero: World Tour with a single word. That word? Everlong.



Everlong is quite possibly my favorite song of all time, and GHWT will feature said song. When it was announced that you could make your own tracks, the first song I thought of was Everlong. Oh, IGN revealed a butt load of other new features like character creations and the new touch sensitive guitar as well in their preview which you can, and should, read by CLICKING HERE!

Now the only question is where I will store 2 freakin drum kits....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Video Games Live...

7pm on a Saturday here in Las Vegas. As I get out of the car, I check the temperature on the dashboard. 110 degrees. The sun is setting on the other end of the amphitheater making me squint, and the 5 lines are at least 50 people deep to get in the doors. I see Pac-Man t shirts, some dudes dressed up like Dr. Mario, lots of dudes in camo with toy guns, and more Mario and Zelda shirts, hats and costumes than at a Hot Topic stock room. Why have all us nerdy folk gathered in such blistering heat? To attend the Video Games Live concert of course!


Started in July 2005 by game composers Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, the first concert had 11,000 people show up in Hollywood to watch the LA philharmonic perform live versions of popular game music. This year, there will be over 50 performances by local orchestras, headed by Tallarico (as MC and guitar player) and Wall (conductor and hype man). The show has turned into a celebration of the gaming world, and while the main focus of the show is the music, so much more takes place.

Before the show started, the audience judged a cosplay contest, while others competed for high scores in Space Ivaders and Guitar Hero 3 outside of the auditorium. During the show, a Frogger competition took place while the orchestra played live, changing the music depending on the gameplay. One lucky winner (see picture below) got to wear a Space Invaders tshirt, and run across the stage trying to clear the first level using his body. Voice actor extraordinaire Dee Baker not only proved to us he IS Olmec, but did a live recording as one of the berserkers from Gears of War. A meet and greet afterwards allowed us to meet many of the former Westwood Studios employees, most now with Petroglyph, along with almost everyone mentioned above, from Tallarico and Wall, to Dee Baker and the stunning and sweet as sugar Becky Young.


What about the music you ask? The show started with a bang with a medely of classic game music, including games like Tetris, Frogger, Ghosts n Goblins, Dragons Lair, Donkey Kong, Gauntlet and others. A video from Hideo Kojima introduced the music from Metal Gear Solid, Koji Kondo introduced music from the Mario and Zelda series, and David Jaffe brought us God of War. Moving pieces from Medal of Honor and Civilization put a hush over the crowd. Web famous Martin Leung performed a medly of Uematsu piano pieces from the Final Fantasy series, and even performed the original Mario theme blind folded. Frank Klepacki rocked out with his Command and Conquer theme. They even premiered a track from Starcraft 2, a game that is not out yet, so this is the first time this music has been heard. And, of course, to close the show, the big tracks from Halo, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy VII (ONE-WINGED ANGEL FTW!) and Castlevania brought the audience to their feet.

When you think of a show being performed by an orchestra, you don't really expect the crowd to be shouting, hollering and laughing during the performance. Video Games Live brought together a group of people in a unique environment that was easily one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. If this show comes to your town, you need to go and witness it for yourself. Words cannot adequately describe the atmosphere and fun that this simple premise has produced. Whether it is Tommy Tallarico's LED Pong shirt, the crowd shouting out "KINGDOM HEARTS" after TT asked who liked Disney and Square (they played the orchestral Hikari theme of course, which, amazingly enough, you can see RIGHT HERE!) or the general social nature of the crowd, everyone who goes to see Video Games Live will leave with a sense of whimsy and delight, and rush home to pop in their favorite game, although maybe just to listen to it for a while.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thank Goodness There Is No Insurance Mini-Game...

It has happened. GTA4 (Grand Theft Auto 4, for those of you cave dwelling folk (which, if in a cave, how on earth do you have a computer and internet?)) has finally sunk it's teeth into me. I am about 15 hours into the game, and officially loving every minute of it. Want to get an idea of the fun I am having? Here is what I did just in the last hour of gameplay.


I drove an SUV from Bohan (Queens) into Algonquin (Manhattan) and bought some body armor and uzi ammo. I bumped into an old friend from the boat over to the US selling hand bags, and drove him over to get some money from a guy who owed him. The dude took off, and we hunted him down in a high speed chase, and got the money back. With some new cash, I bought a stylish new shirt, fancy jeans and brown loafers. I walked across the street into a car dealership, went upstairs, got into the seat of a Ferrari, drove it directly out of the 2nd story window and onto the streets. With my new speed machine, it took mere seconds to escape the pursuing cops. I drove into Times Square and jumped off of a conveniently placed dumpster over half of the plaza. With my car pretty much totaled now, I got off and walked down to the lower east side, and took a helicopter tour of the city. Once the tour was complete, I ripped the pilot out of his seat, and took my new toy for some joy riding under several of the cities bridges. After catching the attention of the cops and getting a full 6-star wanted level, I flew back Bohan, with police copters on my tail, and cop cars directly under me. I landed directly in front of my safe house, went inside, and took a well deserved nap. And yes, when I started the game back up again, my helicopter was still there in my parking space.

I am quite surprised at how much I am enjoying GTA4. I was ready to be disappointed and bored and underwhelmed while simultaneously being overwhelmed, but the game does an incredible job of slowly and methodically teaching you how the game works, and what is necessary to succeed. Gun battles are no problem any more, I can easily control almost any vehicle, and I no longer need the GPS or map to get thru all of Broker and Bohan, and half of Algonquin.

Yes, there are problems. Escaping the cops can either be the simplest 5 second escape, or an impossible onslaught that you will never escape. If you fail a mission 75% of the way through, you must completely start over from the very beginning, which is extremely taxing in the longer missions (I am looking at you Snow Storm!). The AI for the cars is the single most annoying aspect of the game. Other drivers tend to follow your lead, so they go the same speed as you, making it very hard to get around cars on highways or on bridges when going fast. Sometimes all of the cars on the road will suddenly, all at once, slam on their brakes, or all slam into the walls of the road for no reason. And do not get me started on waiting at the toll booth; it can take 30 seconds for a car to pay and pull forward.

But in the end, the fun you have far outweighs these complaints. The voice acting is very well done, with the only downright bad acting done for a character that you later find out is under cover, so the acting is probably done bad on purpose because the person is acting. The level of detail still astonishes me, with cab rides actually a bit fun when you can just watch the city go buy. I am only 28% of the way through according to the stats, so I have a ways to go, but I think I will enjoy the rest of the ride quite a bit.

Picture courtesy http://endersgames.wordpress.com/

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Special Deliveries...

This weekend has blessed me with two beautiful bundles of joy. Two gifts that are as special and wonderful as any gift imaginable. One came out of a large cardboard box, and the other from my sister's stomach. I will let you figure out which is which.


Click to embiggen

First is my new HDTV. It is a Samsung LN-T4069F, 1080P 120hz 40" LCD. Yeah, a 40" at 1080p, I know, not usually necessary on a TV this size, but there is a noticeable difference on this set compared to others of its ilk. Also, 120hz, so yay! I got an incredible deal, 42% total off at Best Buy during their Memorial Day sales. A buddy let me borrow his 360 HD-DVD drive (I would buy one if I could find one cheap) and the picture quality is amazing. I will be getting a PS3 soon so I can take advantage of this baby and the Blu-Ray drive soon, but want to find a nice deal first. So far my only complaint is that standard def programming is quite blockier than my old HD set, and some small writing is very hard to see in 480i/p.


Click to embiggen

The other big happening was my sister had her first baby, my first nephew. His name is Adam, he is 5lb 13oz, very small even at full term, and was born Friday, May 30th at 7pm. There are plenty of more pictures up on my MySpace, and I will keep adding, so check them out there.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spring 08 Recap Part 2...

SPOILER ALERT! THAR BE SPOILERS HERE!!!

The following opinions will be done in a tongue-in-cheek style, making it VERY hard to understand what is being said, hence the reason I am typing it instead of doing this orally. So let us take a look behind the scenes at how some of the big movies were made for this spring/summer.

Indiana Jones- Crystal Skull: The following conversation took place at some point in the past. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Stephan Speelbergo: Hey, Georgia.
Goergia Locust: Yes, Stephan?
SS: Make a list of your 4 favorite movies that I have done.
GL: No problem! I would go with that Jurassic dinosaur movie, that alien one with the Extra Terrestrial, the one that had those Close Encounters, and the one we did together, with the archaeologist, Dr Jones, and his wacky adventures.
SS: Excellent choices! Let us combine all of those movies, and make it into one big sequel!
GL: But do you think that will take things too far, all those genres rolled into one?
SS: Absolutely

So, Indy... fun movie, good time, but I have so many gripes. Like I said above, it was like SS and GL got together and just made a movie using everything from their previous efforts. This movie was heavily inspired and paid a lot of tribute to Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the whole alien theme went too far. The first three Indy movies were about mystical objects with a power imbued by God, good or evil. This one just blew the whole magical powers thing out of the water. I would have enjoyed it more if the aliens had simply left behind some artifact, and once returned, it gave knowledge and disappeared. The fact that the aliens were actually there and the ship takes off at the end... not cool. Oh, and if you didn't see the Mutt "twist" coming, you have never read a book, watched a TV show, or seen a movie in your entire life.

Chronicals of Narnia: Prince Caspian- The following conversation took place at some point in the past. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Andy Adamdad: Hey random person I am bumping into on the street, what was your favorite part of the first Narnia movie
Bum: The journey of the children, the quest they were sent on, the suspense of wondering what obstacle they would need to get around next.
AA: Oh, ok. What about the fights?
Bum: You mean the big battle at the end? It was cool, good fun, but nowhere near the best part of the movie, or what made the books such a great memory for all the children the world over.
AA: So the fights were your favorite parts?
Bum: What? No. The fights are the LEAST important part of the books and the story!
AA: Well, GREAT NEWS! The 2nd Narnia movie will be NOTHING but battles! No quest, no journey, no exposition, no character development AT ALL, just lots of battles!
Bum: Can I go now please?

Yeah, so, Prince Caspian, another fun ride, but very disappointing overall when you look at what makes the books so special, and what makes a good movie. Three epic battles are great and all, but where was my freaking character development and motivation? MOTIVATION PEOPLE! When the best two parts of your movie are dudes being dropped by griffins into a castle and Anna Poppelwell's face, you didn't do a very good job. A fun watch, but not what the books are about.

Death Cab For Cutie: DCfC just released their latest album, Narrow Stairs, and have been on tour promoting it, and I was lucky enough to be at one of their concerts recently. The show was really great, they know their audience and played to it well. They played only 2 tracks from Narrow Stairs, and those 2 tracks are two of my 3 favorites from the new album. Overall, despite the fact that poor Ben Gibbard had no monitor in his ear for the first 3 songs, they did an amazing job of just playing great music. A lot of bands their size get into a problem of having the levels blasting all over so you cannot really hear the music itself, so major props go to the band's sound designer for the concert at doing an amazing job. Photos of the show can be seen on my MySpace page.
As for Narrow Stairs, I am disappointed at the way the album came out. There are 3 great tracks, Bixby Canyon Bridge, I Will Possess Your Heart (although the 4.5 minute opening can be a bit annoying when you just want to hear the song) and You Can Do Better Than Me. The previous album, Plans, was amazing, and one of my favorite albums of all time, so this one had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, the sounds that DCfC has defined for me is not that present, with a lot of dark music, black sounds, and depressing songs all around. A good effort, but not up to par with Plans.

WHATS NEXT: Two big deliveries that I will be talking about very soon. As for movies, Adam Sandler's Zohan looks fun, Hulk (maybe, still not sold on Ed Norton), The Happening (cmon Shyamalan!), Get Smart, Wall-E, Hancock, Hellboy 2, The Dark Knight, Mama Mia, Step Brothers, The Mummy 3, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Hamlet 2, Star Wars: Clone Wars, and City of Ember.... we have a LOT to look forward to over the next few months... holy shnikies!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Hate You Activision...

I hate you Activision, in case you were too lazy to read the headline...

You confirmed today the newest Guitar Hero game will be Guitar Hero World Tour, which will include not only Guitar and Bass, but now the drums and mic too. Long story short, you are officially making a Rock Band "clone" and I have been pissed about it for a while.

Here is why: I already spent $170 for Rock Band and $100 on Guitar Hero 3 to get 2 guitars, a drum kit and a mic. Now, you are coming out with a completely different drum kit, and from the looks of it, this thing and the Rock Band drums will be in no way compatible with each other. My TV area is a small 10x10 room, and the RB drums and 3 guitars I have barely fit in there as it is, and now you are releasing your own drum kit and expect us to pay the premium AND have space to hold the new kit? By alienating the 3 million plus drum kit owners out there, they run the risk of having no one wanting to buy their game, and just making people upset in general.

And today, I am even more pissed. The official announcement reveals that not only will there be an "unprecedented" level of songs to pick from, but also the ability to create your own custom tracks to play in the game, and a battle of the band mode. It also appears that you can have multiple guitar parts, rhythm guitar and lead guitar. Oh, and bands like the Eagles and Sublime will have their songs in the game too. So why am I more pissed today? Because now I really want the damn game.

I hate you Activision....

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spring 08 recap....

SPOILER ALERT! THAR BE SPOILERS HERE!!!

So what have I been up to lately? I have been keeping quite busy as a matter of fact. Here are some highlights and opinions on what I have been up to:

Iron Man: What a way to start the summer movie season! Iron Man is up there with Batman Begins and Spider-Man and X-Men for the best movie adaptation from a comic book. Top 3 over X-Men actually. RBJr did an amazing job of being himself, which brought, albeit a different take, on the Tony Stark character to life. No alcoholism, and now everyone knows (or thinks) he is Iron Man, so there are some differences.
The fan service stuff was fantastic too! Rhodey commenting "next time" on the silver/grey armor, the Ten Rings terrorist syndicate, the whole SHIELD thing (which I figured out literally as the dude was about to say it) and of course, the after credits "Avenger Initiative" scene was just pure unadulterated fan service.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Another good movie from some of the Apatow crew. Jason Segel did an excellent job for his first script, and finding out how it so closely reflected many of his real life failures and experiences made it better. It takes real balls to put yourself out there like that, but anyone who has seen the movie could tell you that Segel has no trouble there. My favorite line? The "and now I have the freshest cereal" line still has me giggling, mainly for it's delivery. Also, Maria Thayer in a major motion picture, you go girl! I would actually go so the Dracula puppet musical by the way.

Walk Hard- The Dewey Cox Story: This movie should have been called LAUGH HARD! HA! Seriously, go watch this movie. When it came out in theaters (pronounced thee-ay-tears) it got passed over quickly, and no one wanted to see it with me. Finally on DVD, I got to see it. I love movies that don't even try to take themselves seriously and consistently break the fourth wall. Most parody movies as of late (meaning anything since Scary Movie) have been utter crap, but this one aced it. Oh, and without a doubt, Jenna Fischer is one of the most funny and beautiful women ever. Go rent it already, it costs a freakin dollar at Red Box!

House: Can House do any wrong? No, I think not! Am I biased? Well, yeah, duh. The final two episodes of the season, especially the first of the two, House's Head, were excellent as usual. House's Head really broke free from the mold, and created a very trippy and fun ride, and the finale was genuinely moving and well played. It was nice to let the show be about the characters more than the medicine, just like in the first 2 seasons. Wilson has been House's single support system since their college days, and having that not only taken away, but having House be the reason, is very interesting storytelling. And props to the writers for the fan service "you can't always get what you want" line. It brought a big smile to my face.

GTA4: What can I say that hasn't already been said? Grand Theft Auto 4 is a lot of fun, and has an amazingly detailed and living world. Am I having fun though? Well, yes and no. I am at the age now where I do not always have 3+ hours to sit and play a game, and GTA4 requires quite a bit of dedication. I am about 8 hours in, and am finally at the point where I can start doing single missions without having to worry that my phone will be ringing every 2 seconds with another mission that I am practically forced to take, or penalized for ignoring.
Oh, and for those of you who don't know, you can turn off the phone and the story mode! There is an option in the phone that lets you turn off messages and calls so you can freely roam around and have wacky car jacky fun. The manual and even in game tutorials (which I am still going through... there is a LOT to learn) never mention this feature, making it extremely difficult to pop in for a quick 30 minute session. Now that I have Little Jacob as a friend, have email access and can take cab fares, I can play for 45 minutes before going to bed instead of worrying about getting stuck in the game an hour passed the time I want to get into bed.
Are there issues other than that? Sure. Like the cops will stop chasing you when a mission ends, taking away from the realism and suspense. Trees are made of solid steel, which lamp posts and poles are made of ply wood. And I suck at free aiming when using weapons, the characters are usually too small on screen to make this useful.
But again, am I having fun? For the most part, definitely. I love that I now know the city and its streets well enough that I actually know where I am (at least on the main island) and the story is really done quite well. I still have a very long way to go, but so far, now that I have learned how the game works, I am looking forward to getting to the end of this one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

R.I.P. - 2005-2008


Back in later 2005, a quick trip to Walmart lead me to the shampoo aisle. I soon found myself picking up a bottle of Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo, with 20% Free with purchase. The 20% came in the actual bottle, so no fancy mail ordering or moving liquid from one container to another was necessary.

Since that time, I have washed my hair between 3 and 4 times each week. That is 3.3 times per week on average for 2.5 years. That comes out to approximately 415 times that I have washed my hair, and every time, I used this shampoo, and the bottle has only run out now.

Many say the bottle was blessed. Some say the bottle was cursed. Some say water got into the bottle during each shower because I never clicked the cap closed. No matter the reason, this single bottle of shampoo has lasted me for two and a half years. It has been a good friend, a descent source or hair cleaning product, and constant reminder of inappropriate Adam Sandler song lyrics.

Tonight, we say farwell to my close friend, Suave Daily Clarifying Shampoo with 20% Free with purchase that did not run out for 2.5 years. Or, as I always referred to it as, "SDCSw20%Fwptdnrof2.5y."

Goodnight sweet prince!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It Is Like Watching Moving Pictures On My TV!...

Nintendo launched the brilliantly named Nintendo Channel earlier this week for the Wii. The Channel does several things, including show game preview movies and interviews with Nintendo muckamucks like Miyamoto himself. The service also does things in the background, like detect your type of TV, how often you play games, and even what types of games you play. The service sends this info back to Nintendo, and will even provide you with game recommendations depending on what you play.

My favorite aspect of this service is the free DS game demos. Simply access the game you wish to try, turn on your DS, and presto, free demo for upcoming and already released games. Last night I tried out Ninja Gaiden DS and Jam Sessions. And ya know what? I had so much fun with Jam Sessions that I went online and bought the damn thing! Got it cheap too :)

What does this teach us? That if you give people a chance to try the product, consumers may actually purchase it! WHAT A FASCINATING CONCEPT!

Let us hope that Wii game demos and Virtual Console demos appear at some point, and that we get no shortage of things to try. While Nintendo is still "winning" the current hardware war in pure number of units sold (namely, all of the ones they build are sold) they have been lacking in software and Wii specific features. This is another step in the right direction, but until we get rid of freaking game-specific Friend Codes and see more AAA titles, I will keep playing my 360 more often than my Wii.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Buffy Top 10: Part 5...

#5 Who Are You?: Faith is my 2nd favorite character in the Buffyverse, following Giles as my numero uno. Her character is the most fascinating and curious of all the characters Joss has created. From her initial taking over of Buffy's life, to the unstable renegade teenager, to the murderous right hand to Mayor Wilkins, her journey has always kept me glued to the TV. So when Faith came out of her coma, and was back on the scene towards the end of season 4, I was expecting something good. What I got, was something great.

Without a doubt, the best acting by in the series is done here by Eliza Dushku. Long story short (I never get tired of saying that), Mayor Wilkins leaves Faith a device that will allow her to swap bodies with someone else, and of course, she swaps with Buffy. This is actually a 2 parter, with This Year's Girl preceding the episode, containing Faith's awakening, finding the weapon and battle with Buffy. That episode ends with Faith having just body swapped with Buffy, but no one except the audience is aware. Mind you, the only way you KNOW they swapped is because when Joyce asks "Buffy" if she is OK, after knocking out "Faith", Faith-in-Buffy responds with a sinister 5 by 5.

Eliza Dushku captures Sarah Michelle Gellar's mannerisms and speech patterns perfectly. The scene where Buffy-in-Faith goes into Gile's apartment, trying to convince him that she is not actually Faith is the best of all. The dialogue goes as follows:

Giles: "Look, I know what you are going to say, and..."
BiF: "I'm Buffy."
Giles: "All right, I didn't know what you were going to say, but that doesn't make you any less crazy. If you are Buffy, then you will let me tie you up without killing me until we find whether you are telling the truth."
BiF: "Giles, Faith has taken my body, and for all I know she's taken it to Mexico by now. I don't have time for bondage fun. Ask me a question, ask me anything."
Giles: "Who's President?"
BiF: "We're checking for Buffy, not a concussion. Giles, you turned into a demon, and I knew it was you. I mean, can't you just look in my eyes and be all intuitive?
Giles: How did I turn into a demon?
BiF: Oh, 'cause, uh, Ethan Rayne. And-and you have a girlfriend named Olivia... and you haven't had a job since we blew up the school... which is valid lifestyle-wise. I mean, it's not like you're a slacker type, but - Oh, oh! When I had psychic power I heard my mother think that you were like a stevedore during sex. Do you want me to continue?"
Giles: "Actually I beg you to stop."
BiF: "What's a stevedore?"

Only a long time fan would truly understand how wonderful this scene, and Eliza's job in it, truly is. But there is more to this episode than just the acting. We once again get to see the vilification's of the Watcher's Council, it is confirmed for the first time that Willow and Tara have more than just a friendship forming, and we learn that Tara is a more powerful and intuitive witch than those we have seen before. This chain of events also leads to the crossover with Angel in L.A. where Faith finally accepts her bad choices and tries to make amends, with some excellent Angel episodes from his freshman season.

I can't figure out how to close this post out.... so I will leave you with Faith in Buffy talking to spike:
Spike: "You know why I really hate you, Summers?"
Faith-in-Buffy: "'Cause I'm a stuck-up tight-ass with no sense of fun?"
Spike: "Well, yeah, that covers a lot of it."
Faith-in-Buffy: "'Cause I can do anything I want, and instead I choose to pout and whine and feel the burden of Slayerness? I mean, I could be rich. I could be famous. I could have anything. Anyone. Even you, Spike. I could ride you at a gallop until your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up. I've got muscles you've never even dreamed of. I could squeeze you until you popped like warm champagne, and you would beg me to hurt you just a little bit more. And you know why I don't? (pauses) Because it's wrong."