My best friend gave me an Xbox 360 and helped me hook it up to my entertainment system. Xbox live rocks, and he and I are having fun playing Halo Reach together (I don’t have any images from Halo Reach, but this poster for Halo 3 I have stuck in with the video game t shirts. It’s pretty cool). The game came with Mass Effect 2, and I was thinking about playing it. Another friend of mine told me to play ME1 through first because it is supposed to have this amazing story on the order of Knights of the Old Republic. This is saying a lot, because Knights has one of the best “OMG” moments in game play history in my opinion, but I figured I’d try it out and see what it is like.
I downloaded it last night and started playing this morning. After two hours I am bored stupid. I have probably spent 2/3ds of that time generating my character, watching cut scenes, grinding my way through interminable dialog sequences with every dope in the universe, trying to figure out the game interface (the in game controller guide offers a chance to change your Y axis, something I have never ever known anyone to ever do, and that’s it. No manual with a download. Besides, I’m not trying to break a government spy code. Most games are pretty intuitive and I can usually figure them all out within a few minutes. It shouldn’t be this painful) and micromanaging not just my inventory but the inventory of two other NCP morons who seem to feel the best way to protect me is to get in between my gun and the enemies. The game itself plays like I’m trying to push a car to a gas station while steering it through the open window, and aiming feels like I am trying to flick a light switch from across a room with a 30 foot PVC pipe.
I am sure that over time once I figure out all the controls, level up so I am not worthless in combat, get some decent gear upgrades, and stop caring about all the dialog and inventory crap, it could get fun (although the reason I keep getting sucked into the dialog is because I want to see this amazing story and I feel if I don’t play the RPG part of it I might miss something cool), but why would Bioware make a game that starts you off feeling like you are trying to pass a kidney stone rather than make it fun and interesting so you get sucked in and want to play it through? Most games start off easy and get harder as it progresses, but I don’t know how much harder to play they can make it without figuring out a way to electrocute me through my controller.
As for this amazing story that is supposed to surface if I can stomach about 1,000 hours of dialog boxes, during the 20th minute of trying to figure out how to level up, or if that was really an option in this game, or if it was an option at the baby level I was on, it suddenly occurred to me that if I really want to see an amazing story maybe I should go watch a movie, something I have a bit of experience at and (sort of) get paid to do if in a roundabout manner. While I have had a couple of very positive video game story experiences (KOTOR and Silent Hill, for example) for the most part a story is icing on the cake for games. If the icing is delicious but the cake itself is made of sawdust, asbestos, and dog excrement I am pretty disinclined to eat it.
I’ll probably return at some point and see if it is due to improve, or if my attitude is better, but to be honest I don’t have time for it. My time is better spent writing up reviews for bad movies. As for comments, feel free to post here but be warned that anything on the order of “You must suck at video games (and/or life) to not be able to play ME” will be promptly discarded. I am not an maniacal video gamer, but have been playing them for most of my life and like to think I am at least of average ability. If an average person cannot make this game fun than that pretty much says there is something wrong here. I am sure ME2 and 3 are better from a game play point of view, but at this moment I think I would rather go back and play a few hours of I Maed a Gam3 W1th Zom1es in it!!! Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu or email specific questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More movie stuff coming out soon. Talk to you later.
It is pretty widely known that Microsoft if the Evil Empire of software companies, but this goes beyond the pale. Basically if I understood what I just read the new X-Box 720 is supposed to have a system in place to prevent the use of used games. How is that a good call on their part? Is it not enough that they already get a ton of money from the video game players out there? They have to stomp on all the kids who don’t have enough money to buy games new but have the patience to wait a few months to play it? How about old games from the 360 days? Are those wasted when you buy the new 720? Technically they are used.
Actually, what if I have a couple cool games and want to go over to a friends house and play them there? Is that no longer allowed? My friend is sick and I want to lend him some games so he can rest in bed? Oops. Microsoft says to hell with you.
When you think about it, when I sell a used car to someone the car manufacturer doesn’t get a chunk of the sale. They gave that up when they sold it to me. Sorry, but I am a big fan of used video games and this whole concept is driving me nuts.
The control freak shirt I found in Dave’s video game t shirts. Seemed kind of appropriate given Microsoft’s attitude.
Martin Scorsese throws a nod towards Steam Punk.
I find myself in a weird spot reviewing this movie. I mean, who am I to review the work of a true movie making genius like Martin Scorsese? He is responsible for so many of my favorite films, including Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Shutter Island, and The Aviator. Of course, he has done a lot of stuff no one has ever heard of, including a ton of documentaries. However, for a movie amateur like myself to offer criticism feels like I am hanging around giving advice to a brain surgeon.
But then I remember that I have an obligation to deliver my unbiased and honest opinion to you, my beloved reader. Fortunately, Hugo is a decently fun movie, and even if I didn’t know Scorsese had directed it I would have enjoyed it. It was fun, well acted, extremely well directed, and overall a quality movie experience. Like pretty much 100% of the movies I nit pick apart it has a few items I can take issue with, but overall pretty cool. I think one of the things that really works for me on this film is it is so different from any of Martin Scorsese’s other films. It’s great to see a director head into something new.
It is the story of young Hugo (Asa Butterfield-the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Return of Nanny MacPhee), the son of a clockmaker who has been orphaned and now lives in a Paris train station, winding and maintaining the clocks. His only legacy of his father is a mysterious steam punk automaton that was rescued from a museum store room and is in need of repair (steam punk Sonic image courtesy of the Video Game T Shirts). He gets caught trying to steal parts from a grumpy toy shop owner named Papa George (the great Ben Kingsley-Sexy Beast, Ghandi, Shutter Island, Schindler’s List), who confiscates Hugo’s fathers notebook. He gets Hugo to work for him repairing windup toys to make up for the stolen goods. Meanwhile Hugo befriends George’s goddaughter Isabelle (played most excellently by Chloe Grace Moretz, the Hitgirl from Kick Ass. She was also the vampire from Let Me In. What a talented young actress. I am sure we will see some amazing things from her in the future), who is something of a bookworm and looking for adventure. She sees the potential with Hugo and together they work on the mystery of the mechanical man.
I don’t want to get too much into the story, as I don’t want to hand out any spoilers. Hugo is beset by the station inspector (Sasha Baron Cohen-Borat, Sweeney Todd, Bruno, Ali G) who adds an element of danger to the story. Papa George has a mysterious past that he wants to keep secret. Clocks get wound. Mysteries are solved.
The stars. All around quality film. Direction, story, and overall experience excellent. Two stars. The acting was awesome, although how could you expect any less from Ben Kingsley? Chloe was decent too, although occasionally she and Asa seemed to have forced the scenes. Two stars. The camera work and visual were really, really good. Two stars. The story overall was very immersive. You really felt like you were in the Montparnasse train station in the 30’s. One star. Steam punk-ish. One star. Based in part on a true story. One star. Total: nine stars.
Now, though it galls me to do this, I have to award the black holes. The biggest one is going to have to be the fact that 3D sucks. It really did nothing to in any way enhance this film, and it is obvious Martin Scorsese, being new to the 3D art form, was looking for and writing in extra visuals to better display the 3D effects. Unfortunately this really did nothing but aggravate the next two black holes I am about to give. One black hole. The movie, perhaps due to the extra visuals, seemed to really drag at points. The fun of watching Hugo wind his was through the massive gears and cogs of all the clocks in the station kind of loses it’s magic when we have to watch it a second and third time. Plot progression seemed really slow. One black hole. The movie, supposedly for kids, runs a whopping 127 minutes. I saw more than one family have to leave early after the kids got bored of watching gears spin, and even I had to take a bathroom break about 3/4 of the way through (the ocean tanker sized Diet Coke did not help). One black hole. Finally, while Sasha Baron Cohen was probably the best actor in the film, his role as the menacing station inspector was significantly compromised by his comedic bearing and delivery. It literally felt like Hugo was being chased by Inspector Clouseau, and it is tough to feel concern for anyone in that situation. The rest of the movie is actually really poignant and serious with whimsical element, but every time Sasha got on screen the slapstick-o-meter dipped deeply into the red. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a grand total of five stars. Not bad, but not awesome. Hugo is a fun, quality movie. But it in no way compares to Shutter Island or Goodfellas. Worth seeing? Yes. Worth seeing in a theater? Yes. Worth seeing twice in a theater? Probably not, unless you are into the 3D art form or the movie history portrayed. Good date movie? Sure, as long as your date is a visual person. Not my first choice.
Thanks for reading, and don’t hate me for not gushing all over this film. I really am a Scorsese fan. Just not his best film. Perhaps he was so distracted by the details of 3D he couldn’t apply as much focus as usual on the other aspects of the film. Short review, but that’s what usually happens when I enjoy the film. I will write up the Descendants tomorrow, and hopefully see something else then for Monday. Maybe Arthur Christmas. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Talk to you soon.
Ever feel like you don’t have enough germophobia in your life? Contagion has the cure.
So tonight it was Contagion, a movie about a plague that kills millions and causes Purell sales to skyrocket. Overall a decent flick, if a little dry and, ironically, low impact. What do I mean? Let’s find out.
The movie starts off with Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) coming home from a wild trip to Hong Kong filled with drinking, casino gambling, and adultery. She comes home not feeling well and falls over to shuffle off this mortal coil, followed shortly by her young son. Her cuckold husband, Mitch (Matt Damon) is somehow immune. Meanwhile, the camera runs around the world showing major metropolitan cities where people traveling from China are infecting their local communities. We cut to several CDC lab scenes and officials, including Lawrence Fishburne as Dr. Cheever, the head. Plague chaos and medical research ensues. A local blogger manages to disrupt things by claiming a homeopathic remedy is the cure and runs around San Francisco in a homemade bubble suit (never underestimate the power of a well crafted blog. Of course, for this blog underestimate all you want. Also, did they really have to make the crazy conspiracy nut reside in San Francisco? Weren’t their other stereotypes they could exploit?).
This movie was well written and directed. The most interesting part for me was the progressive degeneration and break down of society they showed, although I think a few steps ended up on the cutting room floor as at one point the chaos went from fairly concerning to chaos on a massive scale in one scene change. The science seemed pretty solid as well, with nothing obviously stupid being done. The movie did manage to illustrate how the US has a really hard time moving quickly when dealing with drugs and vaccines that have to get out to the population in a timely manner, and there were undertones of pharmaceutical companies intending to exploit the health needs for profit, something I firmly believe they would do without hesitation.
Why, then, do I say kind of low impact? The fact is, after the two initial deaths, for the most part none of the main characters died or were connected to people who died, in spite of any number of secondary characters introduced seemingly to provide fodder to make the movie more poignant. There were a couple of mass grave scenes, but nothing that really looked like more than a bunch of carpet remnants being buried. One doctor died, but the guy who was supposed to care didn’t even mention her again. Basically the deaths took on a number aspect with little to no real emotional impact. It started to feel like racking up kills in a video game. The movie tended to be pretty dry anyway, with no violence to speak of or any kind of real conflict between characters.
Of course, I spent a lot of the movie hoping the corpses would get up and start trying to eat the flesh of the living, so maybe I’m a little skewed here. I guess not all deadly diseases can be as cool as the T Virus (image courtesy of the video game t shirt category).
The stars. Very well and intelligently written. Two stars. Nobody did anything stupid that made me want to scream. One star. Acted very well across the board. One star. Marion Cotillard (the hot French girl from Inception), who is one of my favorite actresses and hopefully my future wife, spent the movie looking pretty good. One star. The progression of anarchy and the CDC and government responses to the epidemic felt very real and well thought out. One star. Good science. One star. The research episodes appealed in the same way CSI seems cool. One star. Overall a good movie. One star. Total: nine stars.
The black holes. The whole “death lacking impact” thing I just mentioned. One black hole. The CDC seemed to spend a lot of time trying to figure out where the disease came from rather than working on a cure, and as part of that pursuit spent a lot of time looking at security footage that looked exactly like it had been shot by the same film crew that did the normal scenes. Most movies at least try to make security footage look grainy and black and white, without sound and/or full effects. One black hole. They laughingly list the population of San Francisco as 3.6 million people. Most people don’t know this, but it is actually a fairly small city, with a population at last census of 808,976 people. I guess they were trying to increase the effect of an outbreak in SF. They can’t even claim to be using the population of the entire Bay Area, as that exceeds 7.6 million. They were doing this thing where they listed the population of each area and probably felt something that low would feel less impactful, but it took me literally 10 seconds to look up and that kind of lazy writing always bugs me. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
There were a couple in the irksome category. First off, I can’t decide if this movie was too gory or not gory enough. We get treated to a semi-graphic autopsy of Gwyneth Paltrow (would you like some surrealism with your coffee?) but other than people foaming at the mouth don’t see much. I think the lack of gore, while appealing to my desire to see movies not rely on that banal Hollywood crutch, kind of aided the lack of emotional content. A couple scenes of people coughing up their lungs while dying a painful, prolonged death might have brought it home more. I also found a few of the many sub plots kind of unnecessary. Not enough to hurt the plot. Just kind of dead time on the screen.
So a final tally of six stars, a very respectable score. I think if you are into medical dramas or CSI style crime investigation you will really enjoy it. However, there is nothing visually that really cries out for a big screen so if you want to save a few bucks wait for NetFlix. Not at all a good date film, as your date will not want to have anything to do with human contact after this film, and odds are neither will you. To be honest I went to the bathroom afterwards and really washed my hands. I think I will now give my bathroom and kitchen the scrubbing of a lifetime. OCD, here I come!
Follow me on Twitter, where you can stay in touch with no chance of any kind of disease transmission @Nerdkungfu. Warrior next, I think, if I can muster up the testosterone. Thanks for reading this.
Yes, I liked it. I’ve pretty much liked the whole series. I now realize there is no way I could have fairly reviewed it without having seen the rest of them, so I think I took the right path. I will also say that there was a lot of stuff I didn’t understand, and some stuff that came up in this movie that I probably could have used about five movies ago, so I guess I’m now at the point where I pretty much have to buy and read the books. Do they all have to look so goofy on the cover? One thing the Lord of the Rings has always done right is made their covers as dignified and ominous as possible. I think I would have bought the books years ago if they hadn’t all featured a skinny, bespectacled kid who has a goofy smile on his face.
By the way, after my rant about carrying a ton of extra wands and using a wand in both fists my best friend Dave invented the Gatling wand, so I want to give him props for that. I think it’s brilliant.
I am going to keep my questions down to the ones I feel won’t spoil the plot at all, in case someone like me has not seen it yet or read the books. I will also keep the story synapses to a minimum. Basically Harry and his friends are still on the horcrux Easter Egg hunt, and it leads them to Hogwarts, where the imprison the entirety of Slytheryn (finally) and then are besieged by Death Eaters. Cool stone statues come to life to defend. Stuff gets blown up. People gets killed. Everyone seems to have forgotten where they hid their brooms again. Voldemort rains unholy nostril-faced hell on pretty much everyone. Two of my three predictions pretty much came true.
The stars. Great ending to a pretty awesome story. Two stars. Great special effects and CGI. One star. I’ve gotten so used to all the characters that none of them bug me, and they have all matured nicely as pretty good actors, especially Daniel Radcliffe. One star. The story, in a very real way, was extremely satisfying. One star. They didn’t waste any time with a recap of Part I at the start of the film. It was a huge F you to anyone who didn’t see the first one, but really who is that dumb? Besides almost me. One star. Snape had a really cool, integral part that actually gave him a lot of depth. One star. Despite my fears, Draco Malfoy manage to not end the movie dead or in a horrible situation. One star. The plot was fast paced and made a lot or sense. One star. Ron and Hermione finally kiss. One star. They didn’t try to get a softer movie rating by holding off on the massive carnage. One star. Two more bonus stars for an all around great movie experience. Total: thirteen stars.
Now the black holes. I am going to give one for all the stuff that I would have known had I read the book but they couldn’t stuff into the movie for illiterate morons. I know this would be almost impossible to pull off in a less than six hour movie, and I don’t hold it against the film, but I still see it as somewhat of a failure. One black hole. Voldemort seems to play pretty fast and loose with his last remaining horcrux. One black hole. Dumbledore resurfaces to ruin all the respect he gained from me in the last couple films in order to prove he was exactly the manipulative, heartless bastard I though he was in the first few movies. One black hole. A couple of the deaths of characters I liked kind of really harshed my buzz, especially Ron’s brother. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a grand total of nine stars, an excellent score for an excellent series. I feel pretty good about this. However, it would not be one of my Harry Potter reviews if I did not come up with more dumb questions to ask.
Back on wands. I now understand a bit more of wand lore, thanks to one scene where a wand loremaster kind of lays out some details, but I am still intrigued by the idea of size and shape. Could you make your want the size and shape of a baseball bat? Then, if you are in a duel and your opponent is kind of kicking your ass but you are up close you could give him or her a magical concussion. What if you made your wand into a broom stick? Then you could fly around and basically dive bomb people. What if you made it into the shape of a boomerang? Then, if someone disarmed you it could come back. For that matter, could you just make a wand the size and shape of a shotgun stock? And then just maybe mount a shotgun to it? That way, just as you are doing one of those different colored firehose duels, with minimal effort you send a load of buckshot at him. Sure, most if it would probably get vaporized in the conflagration, but if a couple pellets managed to hit Voldemort in the shin that would be a pretty huge distraction. (Shotgun image courtesy of the video game t shirt category).
There is a scene in the movie where a bridge gets blown up with explosives, along with a bunch of bad guys. That kind of implies that explosives have an effect on wizards. Why, then, instead of stone guys armed with medieval weapons does Hogwarts not just have a couple of self propelled artillery pieces? The part where the Death Eaters are all together on a hill shooting at Hogwarts could have gone pretty bad for them if someone had called in an airstrike. I don’t know if magic really has to mean you can’t occasionally throw in some modern technology, especially if your life is in danger.
Is Snape not still obligated to protect Draco Malfoy due to his unbreakable oath? He seems to take a pretty lax position with regards to that, letting Draco run around and get almost burned to death. If I were obligated to protect some kid on pain of my own death I’d have him locked up in an oubliette with crate of canned food and a Game Boy until the fireworks were over.
Where did the giants and spiders come from? Did they just see the action brewing and come along for the ride? Does Voldemort have an account with Rent-a-Monster, but his credit limit isn’t enough to get dragons so he just ordered the two he could afford? For that matter Hogwarts can afford to hire dragons, as they did for the Tri Wiz competition. I think I’d have a few of those locked up downstairs in case a huge army of Death Eaters, spiders, and giants happened to come calling.
So every single kid at Hogwarts is some kind of super brave hero? Sure, Slytheryn is evil and all got locked up while Gryffindor is supposed to be the brave ones, but there wasn’t a single Hufflepuff who was like “Hey, I’m just here to get an education. I don’t want to get mixed in this dark master crap.”? If an army of unimaginable evil had laid siege to my high school and I had access to a flying broom I would have bugged out so fast your eyes would spin, and I probably would have set up on a hill nearby with popcorn to watch the show. (Actually, if an army of unimaginable evil had had destructive intentions towards my high school I probably would have gone out the them with a bunch of Cliff Bars, in case they were hungry. However, we are not here to discuss my high school experience).
That’s pretty much it for now. I have to run. Thanks for sticking with me on my Harry Potter marathon. It has been a blast. New movies this weekend. Talk to you soon.
Ok, I guess I can’t not see the new Harry Potter, as it is breaking all kinds of records. The problem I have is that I have never seen a single Harry Potter movie or read any of the books. My first instinct was to just see the most recent and then try to review it blind, but while I might write something funny I don’t think that would be fair. In addition, I don’t want to get on the bad side of all the rabid Harry Potter fans.
So what options have I? Really only one. I am going to borrow all the Harry Potter movies from my friend who is a rabid fan (hi Liz) and watch them all back to back, marathon style, next weekend. Then I will watch the one in the theaters on Sunday night and right possibly the best review ever for it. I don’t know any other reviewers who are dedicating a whole weekend to this.
The only problem I have is I can’t decide if I should be looking forward to or dreading this weekend. I guess I’ll see.
(Wizard image courtesy of the video game t shirt category)
Yesterday we talked about how having her invite you over for a movie is in most cases a good thing. What, on the other hand, if she wants to come over to your place?
To be honest, this is 100% a test. She want’s to see what kind of place you live in, if you actually have furniture and not just milk crates, and make a more accurate assessment of what your probable net worth is. This is actually a huge pain in the ass as it requires you to do a ton of prep work, mostly in the cleaning department.
Yes, you will have to clean up, and not in the “Just run the vacuum around the living room” sense. Before even cleaning the grime and crud out you have to clean up your life. This means get all forms of pornography out of your place. If you feel the need to store them put them in your garage but I guarantee if you just stuff it all into a closet at some point in the evening Murphy’s law will dictate that you or her will find an excuse or need to go into your stash and will be rewarded with an avalanche of magazines and old DvDs. Move it out of there.
By the way, if you are planning to watch the movie on your DVD player be sure to empty said DVD player of whatever you were watching the night before. I can’t stress that enough. If she sees you unload a DVD she will see it as an opportunity to gain a clever insight into your personality, and if the last thing you were watching was porn or Jackass or whatever she could really get the wrong (or right) idea. Same goes if you are going to stream NetFlix. Make sure you que is not visible if you have anything embarrassing.
Second, get rid of anything you bought while in college, even if you are still in college. This means that poster of the two hot girls kissing on the bed, the other poster of the thong wearing girl bending over to reach into the refrigerator full of beer, the poster of different kinds of pot, the bear bong, the bong, the moldy couch that smells vaguely like a dead dog, the St. Pauli Girl neon sign, the lava lamp, the samurai sword, the collection of novelty shot glasses, any anything else that reminds you of your Freshman year college dorm.
Third, arranged a pleasant movie watching environment. Furniture is pretty much required. Couch>futon>easy chair x2>easy chair x1>bean bag>folding chairs>old mattress>picnic cloth on the floor>carpet>hardwood floor>concrete floor>dirt floor. A coffee table for drinks is great. TV positioned at a good angle and distance with remote on coffee table. Make sure your wires are hidden and are not creating a fire hazard. Put the Xbox or whatever game console you use away, along with all the games (Bioshock image courtesy of the video game t shirts). A couple of throw pillows and a comfy quilt folded up at the end of the couch will add a lot of she is in a snuggle mood. A candle or two will add mood. Also make sure you draw the blinds. Girls will not generally make out with you if they think that there could be someone watching.
Fourth, minimize your nerd hobbies. I know, that is more or less contrary to what I have been preaching since starting my blog about being proud to be a nerd, but great deeds require great sacrifices. At this point odds are she knows you are a nerd, but you don’t want to keep reminding her of it even if you met her at a comic book convention or something. I am sure you want to fantasize about her being a super model. Odds are there is a piece of her brain that wants to fantasize about you being one of the cool kids. You don’t want to burst her balloon by having your Warhammer miniature painting table right next to the couch, of your souvenir Starfleet Academy graduation certificate framed above the TV. Shove it all into a closet or spare room. You will have plenty of time for that after she is your girlfriend and her fantasy has died a natural death.
I have to get going today, but will continue this process with tomorrows post. Talk to you soon.
Before I get into my review I would like to say a few words about the tragic death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage. I have never been a huge pro wresting fan in spite of wrestling myself in high school. However, I became a fan of Macho Man when he played Bonesaw McGraw in the first Spiderman movie. I also enjoyed him immensely when he played Rasslor in Dial M for Monkey from Dexter’s Laboratory, one of the best episodes they did. It’s obvious he had a great sense of humor, and I will miss hearing his signature “Oh, yeah!”
Anyway, Pirates of the Caribbean. This has always been my favorite ride at Disneyland, although as a kid I (according to my mother) called it Pirates of the Can-o-beans. I also have to admit in spite of my natural inclination to despise anything with the Disney stamp on it, kind of enjoyed the first two films. I missed the third one, something I think might have damaged my enjoyment of this one somewhat. I should also like to warn you that I am a huge fan of the great book On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers, and author who either produces some of the greatest fiction on the planet or complete boring garbage. He writes like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Boring.
So On Stranger Tides is one of his best (second only to Last Call, in my opinion). However, when I heard this I have to admit that the bar was raised considerably for me, which is always a mistake. This film didn’t suck any more or for any other reasons that the other ones did (although they managed to avoid the stupid three barreled gatling gun cannon that Davy Jones had in the second film), but when it committed all the usual annoyances it wasn’t so much that they tripped on the bar as clotheslined themselves with it.
As an aside, I was really expecting them to keep some of the great story elements from the book, but except for the facts that the story involved pirates looking for the Fountain of Youth and using zombie crewmen, they more or less ignored the book entirely. It’s like the writers chewed up and swallowed the book and, twelve hours later, excreted a steaming On Stranger Tides flavored pile of script. It’s unfortunate, as the book is really good and would have made an amazing movie, but now that Disney has marked that territory it will never happen. (Zombie image courtesy of the video game t shirts category)
Those two paragraphs are a little unfair. Pirates offers up an entertaining two and a half hours in the standard Disney formula. The only real problem is if you have seen any of the first three movies you have pretty much seen this one. I challenge anyone who is not a screaming Johnny Depp fan to sit through a Pirates marathon. You’ll be keel hauling yourself by the end.
Anyway, the movie. I really don’t want to throw in any spoilers, but there are a couple points I need to make that might do it a little. I’ll put in spoiler alert when I do, but really if you hate spoilers you might want to skip the next couple paragraphs. So, Captain Jack Sparrow is without a ship or crew and needing to recruit them all. Some dumb filler crap happens in London and he ends up shanghaied into the crew of Blackbeard, who for some reason has super hot Penelope Cruz as a first mate is is somehow his daughter and one of Jack Sparrows ex love interests. Blackbeard has been prophesied to die at the hand of a one legged man. By coincidence Capt. Babarossa has resurfaced missing a leg and having complete hatred of Blackbeard. Anyway, Blackbeard wants to find the Fountain of Youth in order to cheat the prophesy. Babarossa has been sent by some foppish English lord to find the Fountain of Youth and, as a floating deus ex machina, the Spanish have sent three ships to find it too. At that point the movie basically becomes Scooby Doo meets the Amazing Race as the three groups progress towards the fountain.
Pirate hijinks ensue (literally. The action was pretty goofy. Disney is to action scenes what Twinkes are to dieting). Mermaids attack. Zombies are promoted to middle management. Johnny Depp is charmingly self centered and irreverent. Barbossa and Sparrow get involved in the stupidest teeter totter ever. The physics of sailing vessels is more or less disregarded entirely.
First the stars. The story is linear and entertaining. One star. Johnny Depp is extremely engaging as an actor. Two stars. Pretty much all the rest of the acting was well done, especially Blackbeard (Ian McShane, from Deadwood). Two stars. Penelope Cruz is hot. One star. Casting was great. One star. Filming and editing were really good. One star. They restricted the comedy relief to Jack Sparrow. One star. Overall, the story was more like Curse of the Black Pearl and less like the lame second film. One star. Dialog was clever and funny. One star. Total: eleven stars.
Now the black holes. The “action” started off lame and got worse as the movie progressed. I’m sorry, but two guys carrying a plank are going to notice a fully grown man jumping on the plank, not keep carrying him perfectly level through the crowd. I know these movies are supposed to be dopey on the action, but this stuff felt like a toothache that got worse as the movie progressed. One black hole. Claiming to be inspired by a great book but then ignoring it completely. One black hole. Mermaids were kind of dumb. One black hole. SPOILER ALERTS! They had a really interesting plot conundrum in having to transport a mermaid over dry land in a big aquarium but as soon as it became inconvenient she magically grew legs. One black hole. The Spanish had a secret goal they could have accomplished about 45 minutes into the film by destroying some artifacts but didn’t. One black hole. So much deus ex machina that God must have been working as a Production Assistant on the set. One black hole. A shockingly anticlimactic ending. One black hole. They crowbarred in a really dumb romance that made almost no sense. One black hole. Total: nine black holes.
So a net total of two stars. Not bad, and if you can stomach dumb Disney action entertaining. If you can approach it with the right attitude (cough cough stoned cough cough) it will actually be a lot of fun, and for the most part good for kids too (I had another crying baby in the theater, BTW. What is up with you parents???). Worth seeing in a theater, in my opinion.
Not sure what I have on deck for tomorrow. I have a lot I am doing this week and am getting ready for a big gaming convention this weekend. If any of you are going to Kublacon stop by and say hi. Talk to you soon.
So with May 21st creeping up on us and the supposed end of the world incoming, I plan to fill this week in between movie posts (Priest review tomorrow. I had to wait to see it as my girlfriend wanted to see it and tonight is the only night we can do it) with a series of the world is coming to an end posts. However, I have been meaning to talk about the real end of a world that at one point was as important to me as this one, the World of Warcraft.
I don’t want to sound like one of those “I started playing WOW back in vanilla when questing and raiding was hard” jackoffs, but really, I am one (Classically trained raider image courtesy of the WOW t shirts). Back then you had to run on your mount (which you only got at level 40, not level 10. Of course, I was so broke I had to wait until I was level 47), flight paths were few and far between, and the lack of ease of battleground meant you were getting ganked and camped about every ten minutes. Five man raids were honestly hard and you wiped a lot, and when you wiped graveyards were miles away and you didn’t just fly back to your corpse. Raids required you to find 39 competent players and were wipe fests too. Just spending time in a raid dungeon did not mean you would eventually kill the boss. Epics were rare, and just having on tier 2 piece meant a huge difference in your DPS and survivability. I remember running into a AQ40 equipped hunter who kicked the crap out of me and two of my guildmates in spite of having decent T1 and T2 gear.
Then came Burning Crusade, which was a lot of fun. Raids were still tough, Outland was fun, and for the first time we had flying mounts. You had to be really good to see the death of the final boss in Black Temple (which I did, before they nerfed him). Overall a good effort, but the first signs that WOW was beginning it’s death spiral showed up. First of all, epic gear became much easier to get. Instead of being happy with decent blue gear and a few epics, now everyone was epic’d out about three days after hitting 70. Flying mounts, while cool, made stuff like farming minerals and herbs really easy. They made battlegrounds easier to get into, and I saw the first decline of world PVP.
This was also when we first saw the preview of the complete nerfing of the game in the form of raid addons. In vanilla addons were minimal, didn’t really work great, and were essentially complex macros that might or might not help, but even with them you still had to make sure you were on your game to stand in the right place, heal the right person, and hit you shot rotation correctly (I always played a hunter). No real alarms or anything. In BC we saw addons that pretty much made the game easier. Recount, Grid, Gatherer, Deadly Boss Mods, and any number of class specific addons made raiding and playing much easier. However, the game was complex enough to really need them. Overall BC was a great addon. Raiding and PVP was fun and challenging, and overall you still had to know what you were doing to play.
Then came the first mortal blow to the game, Wrath of the Lich King. Northrend sucked and was painfully boring. Battlegrounds got so easy to get into that no one did world PVP any more. Flying mounts, which earlier cost 5K gold and were something of an achievement to get, became ubiquitous and made things even easier. Most classes saw their game play simplified. Towards the end of BC all the losers who couldn’t play well complained to the developers about how they never saw the inside of Black Temple and whined about not seeing all the content, so Blizzard nerfed raiding to the point that most dungeons are raids were more of a gear check than anything else. They added hard mode for the really hard core raiders, but even so it was significantly easier than vanilla or BC. However, the thing that really nerfed the game was the addons. Blizz started incorporating popular addons into game play, but everyone with an ounce of programming skill were developing stuff to do everything by change your diaper for you. The ones that really hurt the game IMO were all the quest finding addons, showing you exactly where all your quest items or goals are located. At the time I thought they were cool, as they really saved time, but in retrospect I can see the end was near.
The one thing they did was added the achievements, which I jumped into with both feet. I loved getting achievements. I would play for hours trying to grind the most obscure stuff possible (if you know the game, you should either be really impressed or really sad for me in that I got the Insane in the Membrane achievement. Yes, I had no life). It was enough to keep me going.
Then came the final death rattle. Cataclysm. Instead of spending the time and money to develop a new zone (hey, writing new content is hard work) they just recycled a bunch of old code and let us fly around the old world, which they somehow made more boring. Addons, including the questing addons, were completely incorporated into the stock UI of the game. Most of the dungeons were simply a matter of time, not effort, and getting a dungeon group has become super easy, especially if you are a tank or healer. As I approached 10,000 achievement points I came to realize how achievements were really a never ending quest and a massive time sink. Every aspect of the game became easier and softer, catering to the casual gamer.
I think that is what does it for me. I don’t have the time or inclination to be a hard core raider anymore. However, if I am going to play I don’t want to be one of these casual player jerks. The problem is the game is either for super hard core raiders or freaking idiots who play a couple hours a week. There is no middle ground. The game has gotten so painfully easy to play it’s like reading one of those choose-your-own-adventure novels. Unless you are raiding hard mode there is no challenge whatsoever. I think this point was finally driven home for me one day when I was doing a quest that had me riding my mount underwater (remind me again why I spent all those hours fishing up the Turtle mount if any normal ground mount can swim underwater now). I got done and climbed to the surface. At that point I figured I was due for a long, grinding swim to shore to mount up on my flying mount. However, I had a mount macro that would mount my flyer if possible and low-and-behold, I was flying! How much easier can they make the game?
Anyway, WOW was fun while it was fun. I don’t regret the time I spent playing it (although I refuse the type /played as I am afraid the answer would send me into a serious depression). If you are a casual gamer who likes to log on for a couple hours on the weekend, or a hard core raider who puts in 30+ hours a week, than good on you. I won’t deny that there are people out there for whom WOW still fulfills a need. About three weeks before Wonder Con I stopped logging in as I was too busy, and haven’t logged on since. I really don’t miss it, and find myself more excited about writing long, bitchy blogs like this one. For me, the World of Warcraft is fail.
Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately, but this last weekend I was going to go to the SAWS Challenge Warhammer Tournament in Sacramento. While not huge, it is big enough and been around long enough to be worthy of being called a Grand Tournament and therefore worth my full attention. This meant I spent a big chunk of last week painting some new models and rank fillers. I was up until 2am Thursday and barely made it.
The tournament was fun and frustrating in equal measures. I won’t get into specific details in this as most of you readers probably wouldn’t understand the nuances of the game, or even care much for that matter. I had a conflict with one of my opponents regarding his willful misinterpretations of the rules that cost me a lot in the course of the tournament. Let’s just say I don’t want to play that guy ever again. Otherwise it was a typical tournament; lots of really great opponents, some awesomely painted armies, and a lot drinking going on before, after, and during the event. I place 8th overall in spite of getting screwed and had 4 great games and 1 horrible one.
Something that may interest my female readers is the girl to guy ratio stayed about the same as usual at 1 to 30. If you are a girl that feels you need to have your ego stroked by having a large number of desperate guys paying a ton of attention to you I can’t recommend another type of event more. Even comic book conventions seem to get a decent number of women, but gaming conventions and tournaments might as well be held in the men’s locker room for the number of women present. Something to consider.
Other drunken gamer hijinks ensued. One of my inebriated friends locked himself in the bathroom of our hotel, vomited into the toilet, and then passed out on the tile, blocking access to the bathroom and forcing another one of my wasted friends to wander outside in his boxer shorts to relieve himself behind a bush at 3am. Another group of our friends had an “upper decker” rendered unto them, adding to the general hilarity of the weekend. If you don’t know what an upper decker is you should count your lucky stars. I won’t say if I know the guilty party was, but I can say odds are the victims will never find out.
Anyway, in spite of the 5’9″ fly in my soup I had a good time. However, now that the event is behind me I have the time to work on things like this blog. I am also going to get on with my elaborate t shirt descriptions. If you haven’t seen them I think they are really good. This 8 Bit Revolution shirt from the video game t shirt category is one of my personal favorites. It kind of spans the scope of what I like to do in these.
Anyway, tomorrow I think I am going to do my final review for WOW Cataclysm, and on Wednesday probably a review of the movie Priest, which I have been looking forward to for a long time. I only hope it comes out better than Dylan Dog.