Monday, January 28, 2013

The Movies of February 2013

So here I am trying to get back into the swing of blogging because it makes me happy on a strange, deadline ridden level. I was doing four movie preview posts a year (and was failing horribly); so why not up that to one a month? Seems like a fine plan. Actually it's because of a certain a red headed reader that complains because I sometimes leave out movies he wanted to hear me bitch about for some reason. So here we are. A movie preview post all about the month of February. The process I follow is to go to the IMDB, find the list of films for a given month and watch the trailers for said films. Then start writing. If I leave anything off this list then it is absolutely not worth my time.

Remember, I use my totally made up Hype Rating System (HRS) to discern how much I want to see or not see these movies. Level 1: I plan to see this movie in theaters and so should you! Level 2: I'll probably wait until post theatrical release to see this film (Netflix, Blu-Ray, osmosis). Level 3: I will never see this movie, not even if you asked me really nice like. Level 4: I don't want to see it, but the Wife is making me; nothing I can do about it, I signed a contract.

February 1:

Warm Bodies - Level 4
Okay, so we found the cure for being a zombie. Love. Apparently all it takes is one mildly attractive blond chick with a shot gun to kick start your zombie heart back into being a human and bang, cured. While the story is way stupid and the zombie fad is so 2011, I'd probably sit down and watch this when/if it hits Netflix because it looks funny and John Malkovich is awesome. Note: after writing this, the Wife watched the trailer and informed me we will be seeing this in theaters (Da Fuk?) making this a Level 4, somehow.

Bullet to the Head - Level 3
In light of recent events, I will be censoring my hype for this movie by creating a mad lib of the following paragraph for the Wife to fill out: I wish Sylvester Stallone would put a frog through his own shiny head and stop making these pretty pieces of cute movies that all kick giant donkey dogs. No one wants to see his old cat shooting at trees anymore. You're old! Go act as some sort of crappy person would. Complain about the pink weather! Just stop making these purple movies to prove how big your chair is! Sweet car of New York City!

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia - Level 3
The description reads: "A young family moves into an historic home in Georgia..." and I stopped right there. The name of this movie is The Haunting in Connecticut 2. But it is in Georgia? I don't... understand. Did the Connecticut ghost take a road trip? And where the hell is that movie? The Haunting in Connecticut 3: Road Trip starring Tom Green and a snake!

Stand Up Guys - Level 2
You can't go too wrong with Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Throw in Alan Arkin and you have a pretty decent looking old mob guy buddy comedy. At least it seems like a comedy/drama, but trailers are so misleading these days. Is this funny, is it serious? Is it both, but which one is it more? I'll find out via Netflix.

Sound City - Level 2
Documentaries are awesome! Sadly, living in the middle of nowhere means you can't even get Les Mis at your theater on opening day. So this will never get within miles of me. That said, I don't have too much time to watch documentaries in a theater anyways, but a cold winters night with and a documentary about music directed by Dave Grohl on my couch, yes please.

February 8:

Identity Thief - Level 4
I am already tired of this trailer, and that woman (Melissa McCarthy). I have not even seen her in a movie and yet I know she will annoy the utter living crap out of me. This seems like a buddy, road trip movie with a twist. The twist being one of the buddies has stolen the identity of the other and they are not buddies at all. I somehow feel they will end up being great friends in the end. That must be my predictable Hollywood shovel-ware movie sense tingling. Sadly, February is sparse with movies the wife and I want to see, bumping this to Level 4 for me.

Side Effects - Level 3
Wife sees Channing Tatum and Jude Law flash across the movie screen and she sits up; attention obtained trailer. Then it starts talking about  the side effects of medicine and the hypochondriac in her comes out. For once it pays off, scratch one less time I have to suffer through a Channing Tatum movie in my lifetime. But holy crap is that Rooney Mara? She looks different not all, dragon tattooed...

February 15:

A Good Day to Die Hard - Level 4?
Stupid, dumb, mindless action. Old dude still trying to prove he is a bad ass. A good day to die hard indeed. This comes out so close to Valentines day that I am preparing to deem it an official Valentines day movie just like the original Die Hard is without a doubt a Christmas movie. I wouldn't normally see this in theaters because I like actual substance and story in movies, but when Valentines day rolls around and your wife says "Lets see Die Hard!" instead of "Lets see random smoochy, kissy movie!" you hand her the Wife of the Year award and go see f***ing Die Hard!

Beautiful Creatures - Level 3
According to the trailer this comes out on the 13th, because that makes it cooler or something. What would probably make this Witch's coming of age story better is if they threw out the script, fired the writer and burned the original book source material and started over with a tale about two very beautiful squires trapped in a dangerous tree full of poison nuts and crazy owls. I bolded the Level 3 grade for this movie up top to help get my point across. Do not see: angst filled teen drama ahead!

Safe Haven - Level 3
Robin? Wait for it... Gosh girl first the Avengers and now this? Is scotch and Barney not enough anymore? Must you go wondering around doing movie roll after movie roll? And Mr. Nicholas Sparks. Good Sir! I say, how many damned books have you written? Surly you now have enough money to unburden us mortal men who must suffer through your horribly predictable film adaptations. I mean, these trailers... Girl and boy meet, hate one another at first, then fall in love, then conflict, ???? and profit. So easy a cloned, genetically altered Neanderthal could do it... Ha, topical scientific jokes.

Escape from Planet Earth - Level 2
This looks like a fun animated movie. Really it does. If I had kids I'd definitely take them to see this. A good subliminal lesson in governmental paranoia never hurt a kid either.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III - Level ?
Had no idea what this was. Watched trailer. Still have no idea what this is. Judge for yourself:

(Also, IMDB has about three release dates for this so, I don't know when it's coming out)

February 22:

Snitch- Level 3
Apparently this movie is NOT about a has been, alcoholic Seeker who has to fight adversity and sober up to get one last shot at winning the Quidditch World Cup and his girl back. I am disappoint. I have to be honest, until Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson wins an Oscar award for Best Actor/Supporting Actor, I will laugh and think to myself "Do you smell it?" every single time I see him pop up in a movie trailer. Always and forever.

Dark Skies - Level 3
So there are aliens, and the guy from the State Farm Insurance commercials knows all about them, and says you're screwed. They are going to get you, and probe you and make you listen to Beiber. Seems like a pretty straight forward alien abduction movie. I bet they are saved at the last moment by some inexplicable plot twist.

So there, the movies of February. You have been warned.

Friday, January 25, 2013

JJ Abrams to Direct Star Wars VII

This has not been confirmed, but with how many news outlets are reporting it, and no denial by JJ or Disney (that was weird to type) I think it's safe to say we can now prepare ourselves for frantic, shaky cam runs through the halls of the Millennium Falcon and lens flaring light saber battles.

I kid (mostly). As some of you long time readers know, I started this blog with a review of the 2009 Star Trek reboot directed by JJ Abrams. I gave it some harsh criticisms for the ramifications it made to the Trek universe. I have softened my views slightly in the years following, preferring to view it as a chance for Star Trek to continue on in some way (even if it's not exactly what Gene Roddenberry had in mind). Now as the sequel (Into Darkness) prepares for a May release, JJ Abrams seems to be taking the leap from the final frontier to a galaxy far, far away...

I actually believe he is a good choice. First, JJ is a self-proclaimed Star Wars fan. If nothing else, we need someone who truly respects the franchise to be in charge of its future (George Lucas sure didn't). I also feel JJ has a good chance to recapture the visual feel of the original trilogy that the prequels failed miserably at doing. JJ Abrams likes to use sets and only insert effects where needed. The prequels were so filled with Green Screen, I'm starting to wonder if Hayden Christensen is a real person at all.

The script for Star Wars VII is being written by Michael Arndt, who won an Academy Award for his screen play of Little Miss Sunshine (a fantastic movie). This seems like a pretty big genera shift, but the Academy doesn't just hand out awards to bad writers. So the real question now, a question which in my own humble opinion is much greater than who is writing and directing the film: what characters are in this film? It is very reasonable to think that all the primary actors could be brought in to play older versions of themselves. Disney, if anything, has plenty of money to throw at reluctant, bitter actors, unwilling to reprise a roll. I mean damn Harrison Ford; you played in Cowboys and Aliens! Or do they cast the film further into the future, possibly using Han and Leia's children as the primary actors with smaller parts for the original actors? They could recast the original actors, but I see this as a last resort.

I viewed Disney buying Star Wars as a fresh start for the franchise. It makes money, and like anything that makes money, people will continue to milk its teat for more money. So if we must have new Star Wars films forced upon us, they may as well be as good as possible. I think JJ Abrams will ensure a quality product that is a fun, action packed ride that will leave us wanting more.

Or, Star Wars VII starts off right at the end of Return of the Jedi. Just after Luke burns the body of his father and smiles at some ghosts. Suddenly a black hold rips through the sky, pulling the entirety of Endor through it! Endor, along with all principal cast, arrives in the past just in time royally screw up some important plot point, altering the timeline of this past in unknown ways...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Path of Exile Open Beta

I don't often write about video games on this blog. I'd like to more often. It's a big hobby of mine. From now on when I do write about games, they will mostly be PC games that are cheap or free, because I am both cheap and free. I'm going to start with a game that enters its open beta tomorrow: Path of Exile.

Path of Exile is a free to play Action RPG (ARPG) developed by the New Zealand based Grinding Gear Games. If you're not familiar with an ARPG, think Diablo/Touchlight like isometric view, loot grinder. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, basically you run around, killing monsters to loot their smelly corpses of delicious treasure. Treasure which in turn aides you in the slaughter of more odorous monsters.

I can't write about Path of Exile without at least acknowledging the 800 pound demon in the room that is Diablo III. In fairness, I'll only hover here briefly because Path of Exile is very much its own game. Diablo III and Path of Exile are polar opposites of one another. Blizzard (DIII's developer) took total control of your character, giving very little room for unique meaningful customization. Path of Exile on the other hand basically says "Here are a bunch of options, see what you come up with!" It is very possible to cripple a character in Path by making the wrong choices, which I believe is what Blizzard was trying to prevent in Diablo III. But it is also possible to make a character that plays just how you want it too. It is extraordinary the amount of options given. Below is a screen shot of the Passive Skill Tree in Path of Exile; try not to soil yourself.

Don't look directly into it!
Saying you can cripple a character in Path of Exile is selling the game a little short. Respecing is possible to a degree. There is no option to fully wipe the Passive Skill Tree (the only time this would happen is if the Devs amend the tree). You can however, earn respec points that allow you to respec one skill per point. In this fashion, you can make subtle changes to your character over time. You keep the feel of the same character that a full wipe just doesn't give. In this way, your digital caterpillar morphs into a unique murderous, fire breathing butterfly right before your eyes. This also encourages multiple characters as part of their free to pay system (more on that below).

The amount of options available is mind blowing. The above mentioned Passive Skill Tree is just one part of it. Most armor has slots where Skill Gems can be placed. Skill Gems are the meat and potatoes of the combat system in Path of Exile. Character classes have no innate abilities beyond swinging the weapon they happen to pick up. What separates them are the stat(s) they are more proficient in and their stating location within the Passive Skill Tree. All active abilities (Fire balls, freezing strikes, and other basic fantasy fair) come as these Skill Gems that you can slot into your armor. They then become usable via your hot bar. These Skills can be further modified by Support Gems to crazy levels of awesome. I won’t get too into it here, but what if you could turn one fire ball into a three fire ball attack where each ball splits into two more fire balls on enemy contact? Fantastic? Yeah, I think so too.

Beta is still beta however; so expect changes. As with any PC game these days, beta can mean many different things, but Grinding Gear Games has expressed that this beta is a real beta and major changes can be expected. I’d like to see the basic attack animations get some work myself. In a game about attacking, some variation in the way my small pixel character swings his/her tiny axe can make all the difference after eight hours. I also had some trouble clicking on smaller enemy monsters; nothing game breaking by any stretch of the imagination.

Path of Exile is free to play and as of right now they mean to only sell cosmetic items. I had to calm my wife down just now; explaining to her cosmetic does not mean blush and eye shadow. Pets, character slots, stash tabs and adding a glow to your weapons and armor is what they have mentioned they will sell so far. No Pay to Win in that list at all. And while I commend the attempt to sell only cosmetic, I hope they can make it on those sales alone. I guess it is up to us, the gamer, to show how much we appreciate that model by supporting it.

Path of Exile is free to play starting tomorrow (January 23)! You can create an account and pre-download it here. Come join me in the furious clicking on monsters until their necessary demise.

Been playing Path of Exile? What do you think? Have a game in mind I should take a look at? Drop all these and what ever else your deranged mind has on it in the comments.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Lance Armstrong

Did you ever want to believe in something so much you purposefully ignored clear facts? I have. I think it’s pretty clear what I am talking about, but I haven’t wanted to talk about it at all because it hurts. I am not mad. I am hurting in my soul. Writing this has my stomach all rung up because I don’t want to say it. I was wrong. I guess we won’t know anything for certain until the over hyped, narcissistic interview airs tonight, but didn’t we already know? Lance Armstrong is indeed a cheater and maybe more importantly, a liar and a bully.

For those of you who don’t know, I have been a very big Lance fan for years. I have a USPS cycling jersey, I read the book, a have the overpriced custom sunglasses. In years since his retirement and second retirement, I have adamantly defended him in accusations of doping. This is all over. He cheated. He lied about it. He viciously attacked those willing to come forward and tell the truth. He built a charitable foundation on a mountain of lies and bribery. This hurts more than just Lance and the people he took down with him. This hurts the people who believed in the idea of the Livestrong Foundation. I just don’t see a way it can continue on after this. But I am not going to harp on about all this, there are plenty of people doing that for me. I’d much rather forget him, move on, and try to help the people with real problems.

There are those out there cheering this fall from grace and I have words for you:

You were right, now shut up. What kind of sad, messed up world do we live in where people are happy when news like this breaks? This was not just a great sports story, it was a great human story. What has happened to our culture? We enjoy tearing people down more than building them up. Lance deserves every bit of criticism coming his way, no doubt. He brought this upon himself by first cheating and second lying about it and trampling those around him who did nothing but tell the truth. But must we revel in it? I am sad because I can no longer trust anything.