Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dark Knight (Action 2008)

Oh wow, where to even begin? One of the last movies to receive my highest rating was The Prestige, and guess what? The same writers and director did this film too. Needless to say, they got one new fan for life.

This movie was unbelievably good. It started out with the same feeling that Batman Begins did, but soon afterwards, the intricate plot, in-depth character development, and fantastic music carried this movie to a whole new level. When the plot seemed like it was going to end, along came many more twists and turns that added more whipped cream to the frappuccino. I didn’t expect any of the “extra” story to be integrated, but when it was, you knew that this was definitely not your average action film.

The core theme of the movie was not simply good guys vs. bad, but a much deeper look at human nature and the good and evil in everyone. How is an average Joe ever supposed to think of this concept and write a screenplay on it? I sure as hell couldn’t.

The acting was very good from the late Heath Ledger. It’s pretty sad to think that he actually had the skills to be a great actor. Him, becoming the character of the Joker couldn't have been done better. He played a role that was worlds away from what he was in A Knight's Tale or Brokeback Mountain...worlds. I can only shake my head at the loss of such talent to the movie industry.

This whole package was very impressive. It showed that action movies have the potential to contain a deep plot while still maintaining the adrenaline-pumping standards of the genre. I think the director and writers Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan have successfully placed themselves on a very high pedestal. We can only sit and wait for their next film to be released. But for now, believe the hype.
Rating - A+

The Invasion (Thriller 2007)

After watching and hating The Happening, this movie seemed like a filet mignon compared to M. Night Shyamalan's ground beef. I guess this film was based on some earlier movie? I didn’t do a lot of research, but none is really needed.

This movie was not that bad. Not many people on IMDB seemed to like it though. The story was very similar to any “body snatcher” film. An alien microorganism lands on Earth and starts infecting people and spreading throughout the world. Kidman plays a psychologist who tries to rescue her son, who is one of the few people immune to the alien virus.

The science behind the story was not explained thoroughly, but it was enough to get the plot moving. Acting was good, although I kept on waiting for Daniel Craig to start whippin’ out some guns or plastic explosives. One car chase scene was actually really well done for a non-action film. It had fire, people jumping on roofs, and everything in between, just like a zombie movie. In the end, I’d say that I did enjoy it, even though it had a very weak ending and the main kid character was too much of a pussy.
Rating - B

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Astronaut Farmer (Drama 2006)

This movie was pretty blah, so that’s probably the reason why nobody has ever heard of it before. Billy Bob Thornton played a guy who used to be in NASA, but had to drop his dreams of being an astronaut because of family issues. Ever since then he had been living in rural Texas as a rancher of some sort while building his own space shuttle in a barn.

Now I’m no engineer, but even if you were a hella smart engineer I highly doubt that you would be able to put a whole space shuttle together. No way in hell can somebody know everything about the electronic systems, computer guidance systems, metals and alloys, construction, rocket propulsion, etc. And on top of all of this, he and his son were able to put this ship together using old spare parts? Unrealistic is an understatement.

The movie was supposed to be an inspirational film about a guy fulfilling his dreams while having the U.S. government and his bank trying to hinder his progress at every step. Although I felt for the guy, I couldn’t stop thinking that this was a pipe dream and thank God this was a movie or else it would’ve definitely had a bad ending. Even so, Billy Bob and Virginia Madsen were both very convincing. Too bad they were in a story that should’ve had accompanying unicorns and fairies.
Rating - C

Friday, July 25, 2008

Auto Service

O.K., for starters, I'm very much aware that different car dealerships can have good or bad service departments. One cannot blame a whole car maker for the faults of one dealer, but I'll still make a note of it. Lithia Subaru of Reno is the only dealer in Reno, so unless I want to drive down to Carson City to see if I can get better service, I don't have many options.

One issue with my car that I noticed on my long drive back from SLC was that one of the steering wheel buttons did not feel the same as all the other buttons. You had to hella press harder on the "bottom function" button in order for the feature to actually work. Is this a small issue? Yes. Does it matter to me? Yes. It's just one of those annoyances that can really bother you when you spend a lot of money on something.

Anyhoo, so I make an appointment online for this button to be fixed and show up on that day. When I got there, the dealership had me down for an oil change. I dunno how this happened considering that I never clicked a box that even remotely mentioned an oil change. The service guy said that they don't do warranty work on the weekends so I would have to reschedule for the following week. "We don't do warranty work on the weekends"? What the fuck type of an excuse is this? That's just like McDonalds saying that they don't serve breakfast on the weekends. I call bullshit on this, but O.K., everybody gets one.

So my next appointment date comes along and I go in for service. I explain the problem to the guy working there, so he takes my keys and gives it to the mechanic. Not 7 minutes later he comes back and says that his techs opened up the steering column, checked the button contacts, and everything looked good. I know they didn't open anything up because nobody in the auto industry is that fast or diligent. I then asked him to go to my car and press the buttons himself and to tell me if he noticed a difference. He did and said that there was a small amount of extra pressure needed to make the button work. I then ask him if we could go hop into a new Impreza so that I could show him the day & night difference. He said no. Fuck him. At this point his face and tone had changed to that of what I picture telemarketers' faces look like when they are ignoring what the other person on the line is saying as they go off on their sales pitch. But instead of selling, he gives this memorized spheel about how the button works and the amount of pressure one person uses can be different from another, so this is a preference problem, which is not considered a warranty issue that can be fixed.

For an analogy, think about your computer's keyboard and how much pressure any of your fingers have to use in order to place a detectable keystroke. Now think of a time when you used a defective keyboard or after you spilled a drink on it and how much harder one or more of the keys needed to be pressed in order to make it/them work. In my opinion, if every button/key works the same way except one, then that one button is broken. Anyway, I saw that there was no point in arguing with the bastard because I had wandered into his "picky, annoying customer" category, so whatever. He can go to hell.

What did I learn from this? When you get a car that is "common", may that be a Subaru, a Honda, or a Toyota, etc., you are treated poorly because your business means nothing to them. After you leave, there will still be a huge line of peeps ready to buy the next car that comes into their lot. I don't consider myself a car snob or something, but I do have higher than average expectations, and right now these expectations are not being met. In a few months, I'll be writing up a thorough review of my car and there you will see where 'satisfaction' is hardly the word I would use to describe my feelings.

Monday, July 21, 2008

There's always something new to learn

I've always considered myself pretty domestic, considering that I enjoy doing laundry and vacuuming without complaint. One activity that I'm never too excited about is washing dishes. A few nights ago, I decided to utilize my new dishwasher. I didn't have any "special" soap on hand so I shrugged it off, put in some Dawn, and started it up. I was randomly surfing the web on my computer when I heard a very peculiar noise behind me. When I turned around, only one word flashed in my brain, "Bubbles". Millions and millions of bubbles flooding the kitchen. I went into panic mode and found every towel, shirt, sock, or cotton-based absorbent material to fend off the growing bubble advance. It was one hell of a battle, but after 20 minutes or so, I won. Now...who the fuck makes regular dish soap incompatible with that of dishwasher soap? I always thought it was just a marketing gimmick, much like 409 vs. Ajax, but I guess I was wrong. I think this mistake is supposed to be made when you're younger, but I obviously missed that boat.

Another discovery that I've recently made is with Ikea.com and their shipping. I knew I wanted a desk and bed from there, but I really didn't feel like making my brother-in-law drive all the way to Sacramento just so I could get my furniture. I calculated the shipping vs. gas/time cost, and it worked out to be marginally the same. But as I soon discovered, there was a one other factor that I never really took into consideration since I've been spoiled with Newegg's quick shipping for far too long. On the morning of July 1st, I placed my order online. I just got my stuff on Saturday. 19 days of waiting sucks. Maybe it's because I'm currently unemployed and all, but waiting a little under 3 weeks for a bed and desk really really sucks. I would not recommend ordering online from them if your items are considered "bulk" and need to be freighted over on a semi.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hancock (Action 2008)

Yeah…well this movie goes directly into the ‘”suck” bin. The beginning was O.K., but soon afterwards it started melting into crap. Charlize helped out in the visual appeal department, but man did the story blow, especially at the end.

This movie was one that felt very unorganized and disconnected. There didn’t seem to be enough back-story to make the ending believable. It’s like talking about Superman, but not showing any scenes from Planet Krypton. Just saying that “a guy has special powers” does not make him a believable superhero.

Even the acting prowess of Will Smith was not able to compensate for the lack of glue for the plot. His lines were humorous at times, but again, it just wasn't enough. What was good? The special effects were pretty neat…and that is all I guess. This should’ve been a rental watch, not a theater one.
Rating - C

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mass Effect (3rd Person RPG PC Game 2008)

Everyone knows that Bioware is the premier developer of high quality, modern RPG games. Ever since Baldur's Gate, they have continued to produce award-winning games that set the gold standard for the genre. This game was built on that same philosophy, but in a space environment instead of a D&D fantasy or the Star Wars universe.

Story
The story was pretty intense throughout the whole game. You play a specter, an agent similar to a Jedi, but without lightsabers. You get assigned a mission to bring down a fellow specter gone rogue, and along the way you pick up a diverse group comrades while you traverse through the movie-like plot. Having a good story pretty much makes or breaks an RPG, much like any Final Fantasy game. And luckily for all of us, the story was awesome.

Cinematics
The cinematics were good. It did have a substantial amount of pre-rendered stuff, but graphics these days have gotten to the point where in-game and pre-rendered look pretty similar if you're not paying close attention. All of the cinematic insertions added more to the experience of "playing a movie".

Gameplay
The gameplay was great. After you get the hang of all of the controls and such, what you "do" in the game maintained its entertainment value throughout all of it. I did a good number of side quests, but I know the game could've lasted me many more hours if I all of ‘em. Towards the end, I became too impatient becasue I really wanted to see how the main storyline would play out, so I went for the gold.

Controls
The controls were fair. I'm still not sure if I totally dig the "over the shoulder", 3rd person perspective, but considering that it's a shooter, it does utilize the angle in a very user-friendly way.

Graphics
The visuals were sick. Having a souped up computer and maxing out every setting was a blessing for my eyes.

Sound & Music
The sounds were also good. Every laser blast, gunshot, or special power use was accompanied by a very realistic and well-made sound. The music was way above average though. This was a game that sounded just like a movie. It sucks you into the story and makes you forget where you are and who you are. Now that's entertainment!

Overall
This game was hella fun. It was the best of what Bioware can do. The story and music were top-notch, which made the rest of the game just seem all the more better. Bad thing is that the company was bought out by EA a while back. I'm hoping that EA won't corrupt something that’s already good, but who knows. This just might be the last fantastic game that Bioware pumps out, just like Aladdin was Disney's last, great cartoon movie.
Rating - High

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Coche

So yesterday was a very long day. I had to get up at 4:30AM so that I could catch a 6:15AM flight to Salt Lake City, UT. I had reserved a used Subie and was flying out to get it. Surprisingly, everything went just like clockwork. The plane picked us up on time and got to its destination on time. There were no delays of any sort. Maybe it was because it was in the morning? I never travel that early. Anyway, when I arrived in SLC, I was surprised at how clean the city was. The trees were nicely cut, the bathrooms in the airport were clean, and the whole city was configured like a little grid; sorta like Tucson but without the nasty, Southwest art and atmosphere. Anyhoo, I did get my new baby, Rachel IV. It's a 2008 Subaru Impreza Wagon.

The 7.5 hour drive back home kinda sucked, but it was only a little more than 500 miles, so still not too shabby. There is nothing in the middle of Nevada, just like the drive from Reno to Vegas. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring any CDs or my MP3 player, so I had to resort to having conversations with myself. I did stop by the Great Salt Lake and tasted it. It's really salt on the ground!

WALL·E (Animated Family 2008)

Good ol' Pixar. They never seem to disappoint, but this one was definitely different. I'm not sure if it was becasue Wall·E was a robot and didn't have any speaking parts, but without the quirky dialogue that Pixar is famous for, a lot of enjoyment went out the door.

The movie was good, but others have been better. Let's hope that this was an isolated event and not becasue Disney now owns Pixar. Who knows how much influence the parent company has on film projects like these. Disney lost its animated story flag a long time ago.

From the beginning, the movie seemed to drag on for a long time. And even when things finally did happen, the story still didn't seem to connect with the audience. I believe this to be it's only flaw.

Kudos to the team who produced this film becasue it was very apparent that a lot of time and effort was spent making the robots express themselves with the use of only voice tone and body language. That was impressive, considering that the two main robots didn't really say anything other than their names. Animation was good, as was sound and music. I did like the whole "green" theme that the movie was based on.

This was a good movie, but almost all of Pixar's other films were better. I'm blaming this on the fact that there was not a lot of dialogue, but who really knows. We'll see how the next one performs.
Rating - B

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Good to Be Home

So, I've been home for a week now and man is there a lot of stuff to do. I had to wait forever to get a cell phone because I wanted the monthly payment to be the lowest possible. Me being a student "again" in school has allowed me use a school discount. Crap thing was that they had no rebates on cool phones so I had to opt for the cheapest one so that it would be free. I'm selling this on Ebay as we speak. I also had to buy a bunch of stuff for my place because it was pretty much empty except for the very few things that I brought up here from Tucson.

Currently I am waiting until money is transferred from one account to another to purchase a car. I was going to go the cheap route, and get an econobox, but for 2K more, I could have all the fixins'. Yeah, being in Reno with no car sucks. It was totally opposite in China, but I'm totally feeling the burn.

All of the films currently available at a Redbox have been seen, so I'll have to wait for a bit until they are updated. There have been like 5 films that have been released to theaters, but yeah, I can use the "no car" excuse again. In due time though!