Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Soulforge: The Raistlin Chronicles, Book 1 (Book 1999)

Weis and Hickman never lose their touch. This was a great book that detailed Raistlin Majere’s childhood life before he took the Test to become a mage. It was very well written, with a lot of details and a stable plot. Other authors usually screw up books like these, but if you stick with the original writers, you can't go wrong.
Rating - High

We Own the Night (Crime Drama 2007)

Cop movies have become a little dry ever since The Departed was released a few years ago. This film had two great actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg. But even though they were in it, their presence still didn’t prevent this film from being seen as only a mediocre movie.

I'm sorry to say, but it was pretty damn boring. None of the characters were interesting, Eva Mendes was hella annoying as a GF, the action was sub-par, and Joaquin Phoenix’s character was not bad in the way the trailers presented his character. This wasn’t a story of 2 brothers on the opposite sides of the law. It was more like one brother being a cop and the other brother having a lot of criminals hang out at his place of employment.

The film was like a stale cracker. It’s edible but not very satisfying.
Rating - C

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Musical Drama 2007)

I didn’t know that this was going to be a musical, did you? Johnny Depp has certainly come a long way since his "21 Jump Street" days and then his sudden disappearance from the face of this earth shortly thereafter. I wonder what he was doing all that time? Sleepy Hollow was the film that put him back on the map, and From Hell just added to his fame.

Tim Burton directed this one so everyone could already guess how the ambiance and décor of all the sets would be. He has never yet failed in creating a dark, Gothic type feel to everything he has touched.

The movie was very enjoyable even though there wasn’t a whole lot of character development for any of the supporting actors. I think they spent most of that time singing, which isn’t bad considering that this was a partial musical. Sweeney Todd is a character who has gone a little bonkers after a judge, played by Alan Rickman, had him forcefully incarcerated in order to get at Todd’s wife. He comes back for revenge and that's the basis for the whole story. I thought Depp and Helena Bonham Carter were great together and I couldn’t stop laughing at all of throat-cutting scenes. I don’t know why they were all so humorous. Maybe because I knew that nobody was really dying or maybe because of the way their bodies hit the ground of the cellar with a hard, wet plop.

This wasn’t a horror or thriller at all. It was seriously a musical drama that had a universally dark undertone. It was a fun film that kept me entertained. I didn’t really care for the ending, but they had to somehow end it.
Rating - B

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Blueberry Nights (Drama 2007)

Don’t ask how I came across this one, because I would’ve never picked it out in a million years. Portman is in it, so that’s a plus I suppose, but nothing else really.

The film is about a chick who, after getting replaced by a BF, tries to “find herself” by traveling around from city to city, working and interacting with many different folks. Along the way she bumps into people who are having relationship problems of their own and notices how her life is not all that bad. After her wanderlust she returns to her city of origin, New York, and starts a new life with Jude Law as an emotionally stable honey.

It wasn’t a bad film, but it wasn’t particularly good either. The main actor is Norah Jones and I guess she’s some singer? The name sounds familiar, but both her face and music is foreign to me. Unless there are some synthesizers or unless she is with some philharmonic orchestra, I doubt I’d be interested in her taste of musical entertainment.
Rating - C

Eastern Promises (Crime Drama 2007)

This movie was recommended to me so I thought I would give it a whirl. It was a Russian crime film set in London; but unfortunately, it was hella lacking in the gangster portion of the intended plot.

To sum it up quickly, it was very blah and highly predictable. Naomi Watts was very annoying for some reason. She was too ballsy and too much of a goody-goody to be believable. I’m sure it’s the writer’s fault for that because I’ve seen her acting skills highlighted in many other different films. Viggo Mortensen pulled off a good Russian accent and was a very convincing character.

One cool thing was the blood in this film. It had one fight and a few homicides using bladed weapons, so that was pretty snazzy. What gangsters don’t have guns these days? I know it's London and all, but I’m sure it was only that way because they needed to keep the budget within a certain spec.

I wouldn’t recommend it because it was a pointless and forgettable film. I don’t think it ever reached theaters either, so that tells you something.
Rating - C

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Universe at War: Earth Assault (RTS PC Game 2007)

It’s always hard to pick up a new RTS and not think to yourself that you’ve already played it before. Usually producers of no-name games seem to use the same equation that has been a standard for years, and even decades. Warcraft II and Starcraft were known as the first, badass RTS games and nobody has been able to beat’em. The Command and Conquer series surly has its portion of fans, but they’ve never been able to compete directly against Blizzard’s foothold on the genre. This game was touted as being one that was both fresh and innovative. Would it be enough to convince this old gamer that it had something new to offer?

Story
The main plotline was pretty standard in terms of aliens. You had your modern humans trying to defend their planet, an enemy race bent on destroying everything in their path, a super-powerful race with mystical powers, and a robot race trying to help. The story was good enough to introduce the key players, but that’s all that really matters because campaigns are usually straightforward and bland.

Cinematics
The intro and in-game movies were well done as far as CG is concerned, but they didn’t have the same mystique that Blizzard’s cinematics always bring to the table.

Gameplay
The producers weren’t lying when they said that the gameplay was going to be new because it totally was. Each faction had their own units, strategies, strengths, and weaknesses, so it never felt like you were playing the same faction, only with a different skin applied to the exterior. It was fun messing with each faction to see which one you liked best in terms of gaming style.

Controls
The controls were exactly like any other RTS, but this is one of those things that “ain’t broke, so don’t fix”.

Graphics
The visuals were all pretty standard. I couldn’t turn up all the settings, but it really doesn't matter with RTS games.

Sound & Music
The sound was O.K., nothing too spectacular, but the music was great. They gave out the soundtrack for free off some forum website a few months ago and the music seriously sounds like a real composer was responsible for its creation. At certain moments during the campaign mode, the music was perfectly integrated and really made your blood start to pump.

Overall
The game was fun for as long as it lasted. I was a little disappointed at the fact that a few bugs were still not fixed, but it didn’t hinder overall gameplay. Having a population cap of 90 was really lame. I would’ve liked to see it higher, but alas. Playing random skirmishes was fun, but it lost it flavor fast, just like any other RTS. If you’re an interested gamer who wants to try out something different, then this would fit the bill, but only for a while.
Rating - Mid

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Golden Compass (Family Adventure 2007)

Have you ever watched a movie where one of the main actors just annoyed the hell outta you? I have. The first was Georgie Henley from Narnia. She played the youngest daughter and man was she annoying. She was one of those girls who were probably called “cute” by every adult she ever met. Whenever she was on screen, she would give off this vibe that said that she also thought of herself as cute, but nothing could be further from the truth. She’s not cute because her face reminds me of a pickle.

I mention this because this film also had a chick who annoyed me to death. Her name was Dakota Blue Richards, and unfortunately for me, she was the main actor. I bet she was always told that she had a lot of talent and would be destined to become a great actor because that’s how she presented herself throughout this film. Arrogance. Nobody likes that in a person other than foolish, adolescent females who date guys who treat them like shit. Because I had to watch this chica throughout this whole movie, I couldn’t help but hate it more, even though I really shouldn’t be that biased.

The movie was not very good. I, like most others I’m sure, became interested in it because I saw that they had a talking polar bear in the trailer. Now who wouldn’t want to have a talking bear as a buddy? I’ve always pictured my imaginary animal friend as a fat panda bear who would sit on the couch and laugh at all my jokes. So leave it to the writers to create a character who would speak to a fond, childhood memory of mine. Unfortunately, the film did not live up my expectations because it ended up sucking, bears and all.

This film isn’t worth remembering because nobody seemed to care if it made sense or not. The majority of the movie seemed to be quickly thrown together with a bunch of post-it notes and no real guideline. Characters were introduced much too quickly, a weak plot caused them to move to different locales, and artificial drama was added to push the story along further. What you had were a bunch of people you barely knew or cared for, running away from baddies and trying to save the lives of some children. There were so many unanswered questions that I just stopped caring about what was going on. It was a convoluted mess that was conveniently left with an open-ended ending. Hopefully the annoying chick’s golden compass leads her straight to the bargain bin for the continuation of this asstacular story.
Rating - D

Friday, February 22, 2008

Living in China (February 23, 2008)

So all is quiet on the western front, or so the saying goes. I’m sure that came from some movie that was way before my time. Being back in China is a tad odd because it’s just like being sent to jail, without all the rape. You wake up every day in new surroundings and gradually realize that various liberties and freedoms are no longer available to you. And of course I’m mainly talking about the Internet. Last time I DLed something, I was sitting at 1.5kb/s, which is roughly half of a 56k modem connection or equivalent to an old-school 14.4k modem. Do you know that this bandwidth can barely fully download an average webpage these days? A quarter of the time the connection just times out and leaves me scratching my head as I vehemently press the F5 key while glaring at my monitor in disgust. It also pisses me off that so many “must have” websites like Wikipedia and Youtube are blocked. The latter is because of my school, but the former is this country. All this does is slow down my productivity and the overall connection to & from this country. Don’t people realize that?

My second gripe, associated with my prison analogy, is the food. I’m sure prison cafeteria food is nothing close to a gourmet meal, just like an average meal at an average restaurant in China is just plain shit. Everything is overly oily, either too spicy or not spicy enough, and you’re destined to randomly get sick around 1 out of 5 meals. It makes you realize how much better a real, home-cooked meal is or how even a random trip to Mickey-D's can be so satisfying and makes you forget the term “fast food” while you’re horking down some nuggets and fries. What I would give for some mash potatoes and a Sugar Dr. Pepper! I really should have eaten more mashies while I was at home…

One last bit of news, that most of you have probably already heard, is that HD-DVD finally threw in the towel and acquiesced to the large association that backed Blu-Ray disc. Even though the technology is more-less the same, it seems silly to call the next level of high-definition video a complexly different title and not sticking with a correct naming scheme. It’s both disorganized and pretentious and only satisfies the egos of some fat, rich executives.

As for me, I’ll soon be teaching around 5 classes a week which are split between two different departments. It’s a little more than what I had last semester, but oh well, right? Hopefully the class sizes will be smaller and maybe, just maybe, a larger percentage of students will actually give a shit about their education. But I have my money on “No”.

Reign Over Me (Drama 2007)

This one wasn’t very good. Adam Sandler played some dude who was mentally fucked up because his family died on 9/11. I don’t know shit about psychology, but it didn’t seem very likely for someone to be that screwed up. I’m sure it would suck if that happened to a person, but to degrade to such a level? Yeah probably 70% of the film were scenes showing Don Cheadle getting shut down while trying to help a buddy. I woulda given up after the first meeting.

Because the story was so weak, none of the other parts of the film mattered. I never once cared for any of the characters because I thought they were all bullshitting themselves. The end of the film was also lame, as it alluded to the fact that having a new, hot, supermodel-looking GF would equate into a person getting their life and sanity back. Not going to happen people…just not going to happen.
Rating - D

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bag Update

For anyone who cares to know, my lost luggage was finally returned to me after 51 hours of being MIA. The airline actually sent a driver all the way from Beijing Airport and had him transport my bag straight to my door in Yanjiao. It arrived on a plane around 9ish and then at midnight I got to touch my long lost bag.

Not too shabby. I was honestly expecting more drama and many more harassing phone calls coming from my end, but it turns out none of that was needed. Maybe they're sprucing up their service for the Olympics or maybe it's always like this. Anyhoo, although it was hella annoying not to have my luggage with me, I'm glad that it was finally sorted out in a realistic time frame.

Today is some random holiday and firecrackers are exploding everywhere outside. Very noisy and a great waste of resources. Go China.

No Country for Old Men (Drama 2007)

OMG why didn’t anyone tell me that the Coen Brothers made this film? I hate every movie I’ve ever seen from them, namely O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and now this. I am out 2 hours of my life and I could’ve seriously spent that time doing anything else. I would’ve rather sat on another airplane flight, looking straight ahead at the seat in front of me with no forms of entertainment instead of being subjugated to a bountiful amount of crap that this film has just spewed on me.

This film blew ass. Fuck anyone who thinks that it’s good. I’m not kidding, this isn’t an opinion thing; this movie sucks and nobody can reverse this fact. I’m sure that some may think that there’s some deep-rooted symbolism that somehow makes this movie a masterpiece. But that line of bullshit usually comes from those, arrogant enough to think that they possess a heightened level of intelligence which enables them to appreciate films like this. Well they can keep their craptacular 6th sense and their shitty movies.

One positive thing I can say is that Javier Bardem is one creepy mofo. His role as a psychotic killer was spot-on, while even giving me some goose bumps in the process. Best supporting actor all the way.
Rating - F

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Atonement (Drama 2007)

This was the last movie I saw on the plane. Even though it wasn’t planned, I ended up saving the best for last. I wasn’t sure what to fully expect because the preview didn’t strike me as anything out of the ordinary, but most of the reviews had been exceedingly positive. Would I be one to agree with the majority? As it turns out, yes I would.

The movie utilized a ton of time jumping to tell a story. I’ve seen this style attempted a good number of times, but most directors usually fail at it. Luckily for us, the director, Joe Wright, has more talent than some of his peers. The film was a lovey-dovey drama flick that had a romantic subject, but was not a romantic movie. The storytelling style was fairly unique; I’m guessing because it was all based on a book. The introductory character scenes with Knightley and James McAvoy provided a convincing foundation, but their acting was nothing spectacular. The story was what eventually made this film stand out, just like The Notebook in that regard. The cinematography was tastefully done and had a hidden, artistic twist to it.

The highlight of this film was its music integration during the final few scenes. A number of tears actually formed, believe it or not. All the kudos goes to the story and music. Since I’ve not seen all five films nominated for Best Picture, I can’t say this one is destined to win, but it’s currently the solid front-runner. It’s also the current top dog for Original Score, but I haven’t seen The Kite Runner yet.
Rating - A+

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Drama 2007)

It’s weird. Why would someone make two movies about a historical figure using a similar title and the exact same actor as the main character? Elizabeth is the same as Elizabeth: The Golden Age, except that they differed in terms of time frame, but they both had Cate Blanchett as the primary actor. Is this supposed to be an unstated sequel or what?

I remember watching Elizabeth back in 1998 and being unimpressed. This film was totally different in terms of ambiance, but surprisingly enough, the director and writer are the exact same peeps in both. The first film was much darker and slow-paced, while this new film had more charismatic characters and a better story. Cate Blanchett did a good job, yet again, portraying this 16th century monarch, and Clive Owen wasn’t half bad himself. I liked this movie. It had a good story and it left out a ton of cryptic dialogue that many period pieces tend to utilize.

From a historical perspective, I have no idea if any part of this film was accurate, exaggerated, or wrong. English History always seemed too dull for my tastes, so I never read up on any of it.
Rating - B

Michael Clayton (Drama 2007)

Syriana was the first film Clooney did that was memorable enough to be considered decent, and this one would be his second. There’s a good reason that this was nominated for best picture. Do I think it deserves it? No, but only because I was lucky enough to clear a second film on the nomination list.

This movie was all about a guy, Michael Clayton, who was a lawyer who worked for some big wig firm and had the responsibility of legally cleaning up other people’s problems. The plot was not too complicated but I’m sure you can read up on it somewhere else. All I need to tell you is that Clooney’s acting was terrific and the story itself was excellent. The plot wasn’t super intricate, but it was full of multiple, key characters and it had a lot of detail. It also used morals as a guiding catalyst for the story; ironic that most everyone in the film was a lawyer.

This one stood out because of a very strong story, but that was probably the major highlight. So even though the package was good, it wasn’t great, so thus it probably doesn’t deserve any additional accolades that it doesn’t already have.
Rating - A

Monday, February 18, 2008

I Still Hate Traveling

So yesterday I departed my beloved country and headed back to China. A good lesson was learned though, and that’s if you’re going on an international flight, give hella ample time in terms of a layovers because these days delays have become more of a standard. Although US-based flights will put you on different planes and such to accommodate you, making the same accommodations for international flights is a pain in the ass and they’re totally not going to hold an international flight for a few late birds.

So yeah, I was chillin’ on the Reno plane, ready to go to San Fran when the pilot gets on and says that we’ll be sitting there for like 1 hour and 15 minutes because there are some clouds in San Fran. No shit. It’s near water. That’s just like saying that there’s rain in Seattle or the sun is out in AZ. Yeah I don’t think I will ever understand the aviation industry and how a delay in one part of the country can totally screw over travelers in another part. Long story short, I do get to San Fran, but I only get 30 minutes to get to the international terminal, get my ticket, go through security again, and then get to my gate. I was totally in the scene from Home Alone 2, hauling ass through an airport terminal and looking like a tard while huffing a heavy-ass backpack on my shoulders. I did make it to the gate, but there were no overhead compartments available so I had to ride out the flight with zero leg room.

I took Korean Air from San Fran to Seoul. I had a little 6” LCD all to myself that was filled with a la carte films of my choosing, so 3 reviews are inbound. Time went by fast because of the movies, but my eyes, head, and ears were all in pain in the end, so I eventually paid for it. They didn’t have AC plugs on this plane either…some old Boeing for those who are interested. Seoul to Beijing was uneventful, but after I got off, I discovered that I had no baggage. Makes sense though...I’m sure that if I barely made it on the plane in San Fran, chances are that my luggage wouldn’t have. So yeah I had to waste more of my time filling out missing baggage forms.

Anyway, I waited for an arranged driver to pick me up outside when I suddenly got nauseous. Yeah I guess I forgot to mention that for the last 2 months I’ve been eating everything in sight with no regard to its contents because I knew I would be camped out at home the whole time. That led me to not think while on the plane, as I horked down everything that was placed in front of me, namely a bunch of noodle dishes that I totally can’t have. So yeah, I think the combination of questionable food, polluted air, and me losing my bag all attributed to me getting ill. On the way back to Yanjiao I had to have the car stop 2 times so that I could hurl on the side of the road, and then after I got back to my gate, I had to hurl 2 more times before reaching my apt. There, I emptied out Mr. Stomach of everything but the lining for a whole hour.

Yeah…what a blow-fest of a trip. It’s all about direct flights from now on. It’s totally not worth it to have it any other way. I wonder how long it will take to get my bag and exactly how many items will be missing from it. As of 3:05PM this afternoon, it's still MIA.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dragons of the Highlord Skies by Tracy Hickman & Margaret Weis (Fantasy Book 2007)

For any fan of the Dragonlance series, this book is another one of those add-ons that is a supplement to the Chronicles Trilogy. It adds a bunch of details in terms of Kitiara and the quest for the Dragon Orb. If you haven’t read any of these books, then this whole posting will probably not interest you in the slightest.

It’s nice to know that when movies fail, the books are always there to gain back support. Kudos to Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman for bringing my imagination to life for more than a decade of very enjoyable reading.
Rating - High

Stardust (Fantasy Adventure 2007)

For an adventure movie, this was actually quite entertaining. I am a fan of Claire Danes though, so that definitely played a part in me enjoying the film.

The movie was a magical adventure, chalk full of witches, princes, amulets, spells, and stars as primary sources of imaginary drama. Michelle Pfeiffer and De Niro did terrific jobs with their characters while the main character, played by Charlie Cox, was both blah and uninspiring.

The story didn’t linger much, so that was good. Character building was kept to a sparse minimum, but I’m sure that was done to cater to the younger crowd who would be watching this film. I guess that is how you tell the difference between a film that is catered to a young vs. older demographic. Young peeps like things direct, obvious, and quick, while older peeps have higher expectations and enjoy depth and quality.

It's a fun little movie that's worth a watch if you just want to see something simple that doesn’t suck.
Rating - B

Thursday, February 14, 2008

We Are Marshall (Drama 2006)

This was an inspirational sport movie that wasn't made by Disney for once. Was it any good? Yeah it was alright, but it lacked the simplicity that often comes from most Disney films.

The previews pretty much gave you the premise of the movie. A college out East had a tragedy happen to their football team back in 1970. The remnants of the team petitioned the school, in a very unorthodox manner, to keep their football program alive. The school gave in to the student body, hired a new coach, and started their football program over fresh.

A lot of the drama after this point was not understandable because I, for one, have never gone through a situation that would universally affect families, a school, and a town. I guess it would be pretty bad because the film showed how a lot of the key players in the town kept on being turds for no apparent reason other than blind anger or frustration. The story kept on going off on how the town was “hurting” and that putting a losing, sub-par football team back together so quickly after the original team had died was disrespectful or something. All I know is that the director was trying to show something, but the message was totally lost on me.

Matthew McConaughey's skill at playing an eccentric head coach was O.K., but I don’t know if I was more annoyed at him or the role that he was playing. He always dressed so freakin’ bad, but I guess the 70s were like that. Anthony Mackie, some random character actor, was actually fairly convincing. Hopefully his career starts to take off somewhere.

It’s pretty hard not to try to compare this film to Remember the Titans, but when the comparison is made, this movie falls below it. I'm guessing that the partially confusing drama and the odd characters must have something to do with it.
Rating - B

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Renaissance (Animated Drama 2006)

This was indeed a different type of movie. The whole thing was done in animated black and white, which made it artistically driven, much like Waking Life or Sin City. But underneath this unique style was a solid drama with all the regular trimmings.

The film’s story followed around a cop who was trying to solve a kidnapping case in a futuristic Paris. A large corporation had a good amount of influence in this new world, quite reminiscent of the Umbrella Corporation from Resident Evil. The kidnapped chick worked for this corporation and was of great importance because of the genetic research she was doing for the company. The plot slowly plodded along through regular twists and turns to get to the bottom of this kidnapping mystery.

The music was probably the most noticeable positive for this film. It seemed like quality stuff that you would only find in well-funded movies. I’m not sure how they pulled off this whole film. Some scenes seemed too realistic to be CG but other shots were impossible to do without it being CG. I’m too lazy to go and research it, but if it was full CG, I’d be impressed. I’m betting on it not being that though.

Even though the movie seemed to have most things needed for a good film, I just didn’t like the story that much. That and the fact that it was hella slow probably influenced my decision. What I’ve discovered is that watching a full drama in animated black and white really sucks. Personally, I need more stimuli to keep my mind occupied.

This one is a toss up. I can see people liking this movie while I can totally see people not. It really does depend on preference, but I personally didn't like the artistic direction that was taken for this one.
Rating - C

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Vexille (Anime 2007)

This was a pretty good Anime flick for those who are fans. The CG was probably the most advanced in its class. Robots man…this film was all about robots and cool robotic suits that the main soldiers in the movie wore. Very advanced, and very impressive. The first quarter of the film was definitely the best.

The sound was very crisp and accurate. A few of the scenes purposely had the camera rotate around a few times to show how well done the 5.1 Surround was. The music was done by Oakenfold and a few other techno peeps. It ranged from pretty good all the way down to fuck awful. They really should've kept to a standard so that everything was either good or bad. Mixing musical talents is sometimes O.K., but it wasn't for this film. It seriously would be hella good music one second and then shit poor music during the next scene.

As I previously stated, the CG was incredible. It was more advanced, like Appleseed was, but it was definitely different in terms of art direction. The plot and characters were a little blah, but convincing enough. It had a direct story and was not all weird like some Anime films try to be. Yeah I’m talking to you, Evangelion.

All in all it was an O.K. anime action/robot flick. It’s good to see that more CG technology is getting used to create great, awe-inspiring visuals. All you need now is a well-written story with a good director at the helm.
Rating - B

Friday, February 08, 2008

Hot Rod (Comedy 2007)

What a terrible movie. Just plain terrible. Whoever approved the funding for this film should be dragged out to a tree and left there to rot, like Van Damme in Cyborg.

I don’t really have any other comments other than “it wasn’t funny” and “exaggerated humor doesn't work for anyone past the age of 8”. I didn't laugh even once.
Rating - F

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Sins of a Solar Empire (Space RTS PC Game 2008)

The screenshots for this game looked pretty good since it was touted as a much faster type of Homeworld II. I became interested because it looked like the closest thing to Eve-Online, but on a larger scope in terms of control.

Story
The intro story was average, but there wasn’t a one player campaign mode, so the story became pointless. You have 3 playable factions, each with different looking ships, powers, etc.

Cinematics
There wasn’t a true CG intro so I can’t say there was one.

Gameplay
The gameplay was much like any RTS in terms of resources and building up a fleet. The main difference was the fact that it seemed more like a turn-based strategy because players are only allowed to move from one planet/asteroid belt to another.

One part of the gameplay that blew ass was the factor of “pirates”. In a nutshell, even if you created a game with only one enemy, pirates would have a base and control one planet within the solar system. They planned timed raids on whomever was “worth” more in bounty. So, if I put a bounty on my enemy, the pirates would raid that person's base. Crap thing was that most of the time the pirate base would be located in the center of the map, meaning that I would not be allowed to settle in systems that could be in the “route” of a pirate raid. They would attack the first faction they came across, even if they were worth less in bounty. It was such a bitch to stay on top of upping the bounty on your opponent. Did I also mention that the pirates have hella powerful ships and make multiple invasions per hour?

The rest of the gameplay was fairly direct with resource allocation and the building up of defenses and attack fleets. But something about the whole “planet” format of things made it less fun than a real RTS.

Controls
The controls were nice. You could zoom in/out very easily and there were a lot of convenient hotkeys.

Graphics
The visuals were fair, but if you got in very close, you would notice that the turrets didn't actually move. That seemed very tacky, but that’s just me. The rest of the visuals had to be turned down because of my lappy's specs.

Overall
I’m sure some people will love this game, but it’s just not for me. Even though I later found out how to make a custom map without pirates in it, fighting an opponent and taking over planets and asteroids was not very appealing. I’m sure Homeworld II fans would love it though. It certainly has a very large scope in terms of fleet sizes, just like Supreme Commander.
Rating - Low

Once (Drama 2006)

This was a little drama about two poor musicians who, by fate, came together to write, play, and record a few songs after barely knowing each other. It’s supposed to be a love story of sorts, but in a more down to Earth setting.

The music was O.K., but only one song survived long enough to make it into my collection. A lot of the other songs were normal “guitar” type of songs which I rarely like. Yeah everyone who knows me knows that I hate those poser fucktards who play a guitar and think they’re so damn talented when all they really need is some detergent to wash their dirty, pot-smoking selves.

One thing I didn’t like was the personality of the main dude. He was way too pushy in trying to spend time with the girl, like harassing her multiple times a day. He was lucky she liked him or else he would’ve been flagged a creepy stalker or something. Pushy people suck. What ever happened to subtly?

The movie was fair. It was of perfect length, which I thought was great, because a lot of times directors and writers waste too much time putting BS in as fluff. There was a little too much singing though, but that’s probably because I didn’t like most of the songs.
Rating - C

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Moment with You (Drama 2006)

This was an independent film made by a group of guys who used to go to UCSD. I’ve been watching their shorts for a few years now and they recently completed this feature-length film.

This movie was a drama about love, moments, and opportunity. Does any of that really make sense? No, sadly it does not. But even so, I got to give props to the creators because there was a bunch of time, effort, and editing involved in making this, all without the backing of a major production company. The music was nice and original and some of the cinematographic shots were very well done. The less than stellar portions of the film can be blamed on the acting. Most of the characters were decent, but one of the main guys and one of the supporting girls didn’t perform all too well. Overacting was rampant and there were too many shots that either lasted too long or were generally overused. As a critic, I definitely saw room for improvement.

I didn’t really understand the main story, or putting it another way, the actors didn’t do a good-enough job at conveying to me what their purpose was. One guy never had a GF and was getting some attention from a hottie. That portion of the plot was understandable. Another guy was still hung up on his ex and failed to notice that a female friend of his wanted a piece. I don’t know what this second guy’s purpose was. He was obviously a blind fool, but was there some deeper lesson to be learned?

I respect Wong Fu Productions for taking the time to put this together, but I can’t say that it was a great film by any stretch of the imagination. What these guys got down is the marketing, media arts side of things, the music, editing, and front-end web development. They still need a lot of help with the writing, dialogue, finding good actors, and directing.
Rating - C

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (3rd Person RPG PC Game 2005)

I originally played this game on the Xbox when it was first released in 2004, but I ran into an unfixable bug that could not be bypassed without reloading from an earlier save point. Of course my dumbass only had one saved game that I used, so I would’ve needed to start over from the beginning. Instead of doing that, I sold the game out of pure frustration. 4 years later, I was wandering around Target and saw that the game had been ported to the PC, so maybe the bug had been fixed?

Story
Because this game was made by Obsidian, we all know that the story would not be on par with Bioware. This was really the main reason why the first Knights of the Old Republic, won many game of the year awards back in 2003. Their storytelling ability of that company is on a whole different level. The story for this sequel started out O.K., but it quickly made a sharp decline as the plot came to its finale. In the end, I was left with a wrinkled brow and a very confused look on my face. The story that this game was built on sucked…it sucked bad. I would even go as far to say that it didn’t even obey the rules of the Star Wars universe, but that’s just my opinion.

Cinematics
The movie scenes were not very impressive. They were all transitional scenes of a ship arriving to or departing from a city. There were a few action-like sequences during climactic moments in the plot, but they were all short and minimalistic.

Gameplay
The gameplay was good because it seemed to use the same engine as the original. There was no innovation involved because they merely stuck with what worked.

Controls
The controls for this port worked out well. It was a fairly intuitive use of the mouse/keyboard combination.

Graphics
The resolution was locked to either 800x600 or 1024x768, so it looked a little better than that of the Xbox. I also downloaded an enhanced graphic and sound package, but I think that only upgraded the cutscenes.

Sound & Music
Both sound and music was a direct rip from Star Wars, so every laser blast and lightsaber swing sounded very crisp and authentic. The background music was that of the John Williams original, so no complaints there.

Overall
The game was quite blah because Obsidian and their crappy storytellers suck. I was not as immersed into the plot and characters as I had been with the first. This game is a perfect example of how important a story is to the quality of a game, much like that of a film. At least I got to make my Jedi character, as he ran around killing Sith with his dual purple lightsabers for a total of 27 hours and 14 minutes.
Rating - Mid