Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bella (Drama 2006)

This movie was supposed to be a romance, but it wasn't. It was instead a very poorly done drama.

The plot was stupid. Some waitress gets preggers and gets morning sickness and is late for work. Her boss fires her so the boss's brother, who is also the cook, ditches work to go hang out with the waitress for a day. You find out that the cook used to be a badass soccer player until he accidentally ran over a little girl and had to go to jail. He became all emotionally messed up because of this event.

During their day trip, the cook takes the waitress back to his parent's place where you find out that he was adopted. The cook then convinces the waitress not to abort the kid and to give it to him instead. At the end of the movie, the kid now 5 or so and having been raised by the cook, meets her mother for the first time. Everyone is happy. What a boring boring movie. I so would've walked out if I were in a theater.
Rating - D

Monday, October 27, 2008

Warhammer Online (MMORPG PC Game 2008)

The last MMO that people have been waiting for finally arrived a month or so ago. After testing it out for 30 days, I'd have to say that Blizzard does have its work cut out for them. Most of this review will be in direct comparison to WoW since that's what most people want to know. Although the two are very similar, this game is inevitably better.

Story
The main story is pretty old school since the major factions were written about back in the 80s. This game is all about the story, as opposed to WoW, where the quests seemed to be more disconnected with the gameplay. Many hours can be spent reading about the history and lore of this world via the built-in encyclopedia called the Tome of Knowledge. For people who don't care about the story, then this fact is a null factor.

Cinematics
The intro was pretty good, but I still think Blizzard can whip out better ones.

Gameplay
The gameplay is very very similar to that of WoW. That familiarity is good while all of the following tweaks make this game the better of the two:
  1. Soloing is very possible everywhere. Most of the time if there is a group of 3 mobs, you can pull each, one at a time. In WoW you were usually screwed unless you were a mage or a tank. This was one of the major annoyances in WoW, so it's good that they made it easier to level.
  2. Mobs res much quicker than in WoW so again, it lets players get things done in the swift manner.
  3. If a quest wants you to click on an object, where your toon kneels down and interacts with an object, this usually does not auto-trigger the mobs around that object. This wins points with gettin' quests completed with a minimal amount of hassle. I think in Tier 3, I did come across one quest that did activate a mob, but it was only one.
  4. Public Quests (PQs). These are very fun because everyone contributes and you don't need to be grouped to make it happen. PQs are major quests that require a bunch of people in order to complete every stage. They are all in open areas and are not instanced. While it does pose a problem if you play when few people are online or if your server sucks, it is a quick way of getting better loot when people are active, like Friday or Saturday nights.
  5. PQ "rolling" for loot. This is a fantastic way of splitting up the loot without having people ninja-ing them. The more you contribute to the PQ, may that be through damage or healing, the higher the chances are for you to get a good loot bag. Every PQ has a certain number of bags, and out of those, some may be better than others. This means that if a PQ gives out 1 blue bag and 5 green bags, 5 people will be guaranteed some sort of loot while one lucky person gets the best loot from the PQ. The game even keeps track of how many times you have attempted a PQ without receiving a bag. So if you try and try but still don't get a bag, each time around a bonus will be added to your score because of your persistence.
  6. Tome of Knowledge. This is more of a random fun feature, but it's very LOTRO-esque in terms of keeping a record of kills and giving your toon special titles and such. The title thing is blah, but you are also able to get abilities and special items from killing more PvE mobs. At least now you will actually get something for killing 1000 boars.
  7. Traveling from zone to zone is MUCH faster than WoW. There is just one short cutscene of you leaving your area and then the next zone immediately starts to load. No longer do you have to waste a bunch of time watching your toon sitting on the back of a griffin.
  8. PvP anytime via scenarios. Scenarios are the Battlegrounds of this game. You have a button that allows you to join every queue of a tier of scenarios. You don't have to be in a capital city for this to happen. It means that you can be happily questing, get thrown into a PvP scenario, and then when its finished, continue questing where you left off. I personally don't like scenarios because it's the same thing over and over again, but if you're a Counterstrike fan, it will probably be up your alley.
  9. A whole lot more greens and blues are random drops, so getting loot is not always a one-process deal.
  10. When not in a fight you regain your HP, MP, and Action points much quicker than that of WoW.
  11. Finding a group is much easier. Their interface shows you what groups are in the current zone and what they are doing, may that be RvRing, PQing, or PvEing. It also displays how much time it would take to get to the group, so if you see a close group doing a PQ, all you have to do is click a button to join their group and then get to where they are on a map. Nothing like this ever worked well in WoW even though they had a similar feature.
Graphics
The graphics are pretty toony and very similar to that of WoW. I like it much better than Conan.

Sound & Music
I've muted the music and have turned down the sound to a very low level. It's more efficient in terms of time to be listening to NPR or Soundtracks while gaming.

Community
In order to get your full in terms of RvR or PvP, you have to be with a large guild that actually does stuff. After jumping around a bit, I did manage find one, so it has been fun to play, but it's all about finding one that doesn't have a bunch of highschoolers in them.

Bugs
There are still a few visual bugs, such as a spell effect staying active on your screen when it no longer applies to your character or an odd Crash to Desktop bug that occurs with no error message at all, but I'm sure these will be ironed out in the coming months.

Overall
This game took a lot of the annoyances of WoW and improved upon the gameplay to make having fun be a "faster" option. I haven't experienced all that the game has to offer since I'm only Rank 32 out of 40, but it has been a lot more fun than WoW. The developers have tried their best to cut down on the grind so that players can get to the real PvP action. This is the first game where I've experienced RvR and it has been a blast. Taking keeps, defending them, or having open-field brawls are all insane. As long as you have some guy healing you, it's a fantastic time to kill a bunch of peeps. After you get to Tier 4, supposedly you can take capital cities and such. If guilds become organized, that feature could eventually turn into something very grand.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunheat Infrared Portable Heater (Random Product)

As smart as he is, my father sure is gullible when it comes to "practical" gadgets. Mind you this doesn't mean a touchscreen celly, Bluetooth in a car, or LED backlighting on a monitor. Instead, he's only interested in objects more grounded in necessary usefulness. Because Reno is located on the midline of the US, it does get cold here, sometimes hella cold. Around this time of the year, people start using their central heating systems and cranking up the thermostat. I'm not sure how much more it costs to heat a house during the winter, but supposedly it's a lot more money.

I guess one evening my father was wandering around the local Ace Hardware when, from the story I hear, he saw a guy hawking this device called a Sunheat. It's a portable heater that supposedly can "save you 50% on your heating bill", as stated from their website. Now you have to understand that this salesperson was pretty much standing on a soapbox, trying to get people to listen to his spheel. I'm sure he had a microphone set up and everything. If you've seen that Simpsons episode of the monorail or the one when Homer and Grandpa Simpson were trying to sell some Tonic, you can probably picture this in your head. Sketchy...I know.

Anyway, the main sales pitch of this item was that it was:
  1. Safe because it uses a fan to blow heated air out of the box, as opposed to most other portable heaters that require you to have nothing in front of it for a few feet in order to avoid a fire.
  2. Clean, because it only requires electricity as opposed to having a wood stove or wood fireplace.
  3. Some other bullshit about how it can heat a house evenly.
  4. Efficient because it has a temperature timer that shuts down the heater after a certain temperature is reached.
  5. Has a lifetime, washable filter.
My father was convinced that this heater would be a great investment, so he purchased 3 of them without even trying one out. I inherited one and have been using it for a few weeks now, so I can report on my findings.
  1. I tried to attach a piece of tissue paper to the front metal vent to see if it would catch on fire. After 30 minutes of the tissue being right up against it, it did not, so yes I guess it does pass the "safe" test.
  2. This is an unfair comparison. Portable heaters are for exactly that, portable heating. If you need extra heat in one room, you can take the heater into that room and it should do its duty. Portable heaters are not replacements for wood stoves or pellet stoves because these are supposed to take the place of a central heating system in older houses or if you live out in the boonies.
  3. I guess this device is supposed to heat a house evenly so that there is only a 2 degree difference from the ceiling to the floor. It can pull this off in one, 230 sq. foot bedroom, but if I try to have it heat 2 bedrooms and one hallway, which in total is approximately 522 sq. feet, it fails at this task since the hallway and secondary bedroom are dramatically colder than the room that the heater is located in. On their website it states that it can heat 500 sq. feet or less, so at least they are not over-embellishing even though I sincerely doubt it can evenly heat 500 sq. feet.
  4. Yes, the heater has 3 different modes: standby which drains 0 watts, heat & fan-on which drains 1446 watts, and fan-only which drains 18 watts. The fan-only mode is so that after the set temperature has been reached, the heating element will turn off, but the fan will continuing blowing out warm air until the heating elements cool off.
  5. The filter is hooked onto the rear intake vent via magnets. The filter is made of some material that looks like plastic so it's far from being a HEPA filter. Who knows if it even works.
Prior to receiving this, I was going to buy a portable heater that they had at Costco for $60. The main difference was that it did not have a fan and did not have a turn-off mechanism. If you compare this Sunheat with what I was going to buy, it seems like a pretty fair comparison, right? So what's the catch you ask? The price for this Sunheat heater was somewhere in the ballpark of $550-650. Yeah....WTF....exactly my thoughts too. It doesn't matter what this little heater claims to do or does not claim to do. That much money for a space heater is highway robbery, and of course my father who never researches anything prior to buying, just became another statistic. People like him are the reasons why companies like AOL still have subscribers.

I'm sure my $60 Costco infrared heater would've gotten the job done for 9% of the cost. I searched the web to see if anyone had reviewed this device but nothing came up. Why? Maybe because it is not a mass-marketed product made by a large company. I'm all for small businesses trying to make a something and earn a living and all, but charging that much money and tricking the ignorant shoppers of this world is a little immoral, don't you think? But of course when it comes down to it, it's the customer's fault they are uninformed.

So what's my "cut to the chase" take? This device is a space heater since it cannot heat a whole house. Space heaters can make things catch on fire, so if you use one, don't be a dumbass. If you're not going to use your central heating system to heat your house because it's either too expensive, you're too cheap, or you don't have one, don't make the mistake of comparing this Sunheat heater to a central heater because it's not the same thing. With that being said, the ballpark price for a space heater ranges from $20 to $165. Keep this in mind next time someone tries to charge you half a grand for a device that can only heat one room at a time. If my father would've just given me the money, I would be sitting in my room, warm and toasty, with a $60 Costco heater and a new Playstation 3.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (Action 2008)

Well well, not too shabby at all. After the abysmal 2003 film, I never thought that people would actually try to retell the story of this super hero. It's like trying to remake Daredevil or something, but I'm surprised at the stark difference that writing, directing, and acting can make.

This movie was good. It wasn't as polished as Ironman, but it was a shitload better than Spiderman 3. I thought the special effects were insane, especially at the sonic emitter scene. These days good special effects are the norm, so it becomes harder to actually get a rise out of the audience. Kudos to the CG peeps.

The story was much better and much more believable than the 2003 version. Funny how I use the word realistic when describing the story of a giant, green superhuman person, but it's true. The story didn't seemed rushed, nor did it scene-jump. It was instead, a pretty pitiful story of a guy continuously getting chased and screwed with. Liv Tyler had a few too many teary-eyed scenes. This was reminiscent of Jennifer Connelly's performance of the same character. Perhaps it was written into the comic book character that Dr. Betty Ross should always look sad and helpless.

So even with a few slight hiccups, the film was still very entertaining.
Rating - B

Friday, October 10, 2008

Weather Change

So overnight the weather has changed from crappy & windy to gloomy & hella freezing. It's 33°F outside and inside my unheated home, it's 64°F even though it feels much much colder. Did you know it was 88°F in Tucson today? Yeah... It's funny how easy it is to forget what you don't like until you're put into the same situation again. For example, I didn't remember how much I hated humidity before going to Hainan last spring, just like how I didn't remember how crappy it was being unemployed before coming back home, and now how I'm forced to remember how much I hate being cold even though I do get to wear better-looking clothes. It ain't worth it; being cold sucks. Hope you're all at a warmer place than I.

Run Fatboy Run (Comedy 2007)

I guess it's comforting to know that when Americans make a crappy movie, they do it right along the same lines as the Brits.

This movie was pretty dumb. It was about a guy who tries to win back his old GF by entering into a marathon against the old GF's current BF. Of course he's a loser while the other guy is a rich turd; go originality. I'm not sure if British people would actually find the "jokes" in this film humorous because I just didn't. I think I chuckled at a few scenes, but overall most of the lame, slapstick comedy received a mute response.

The main guy, Simon Pegg, was the primary in Hot Fuzz, so I know he can be funny if the script is written well, but sadly this move wasn't one of them. Oh, and guess what I just found out; David Schwimmer directed it...no more words of explanation needed.
Rating - D

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Made of Honor (Romantic Comedy 2008)

This movie was very Plain Jane. I'm sure that the plot had been done before because nothing struck me as being new. Even though that might not exactly be the case, it doesn't change the fact that it was a very formulaic copy of all of the other romantic comedies out there.

Patrick Dempsey played this womanizer who had a best friend played by Michelle Monaghan. The best friend ended up meeting a guy, becoming engaged, and appointing Dempsey's character as her maid of honor. Dempsey started to notice that he had feelings for her, so he set out on trying to win her over.

There were a few funny parts; I remember two. But unfortunately the rest of the movie kinda felt like plain, white paper. It wasn't well polished and not much thought was put into it. Again very average and not impressive.
Rating - C

Friday, October 03, 2008

Crysis Warhead (FPS PC Game 2008)

The original Crysis was a pretty fun game, but damn were the system requirements harsh. Playing that on a laptop's GPU was not a fun adventure. This game was its first standalone expansion, meaning that it didn't require the original game to play. Market price was a little cheaper, only around $30 instead of the regular $50. Was it worth it even at the reduced cost? For me, no.

Story
The plot followed one of the other soldiers from the original, but its timeframe ran parallel to the first. So what you got to play was more of the same action, but on a different part of the island.

Cinematics
There weren't any CG cinematics, only cutscenes using the regular game engine. The videos helped the plot along but that was about it.

Gameplay
The game functioned exactly like the original. It was fun messing with all of the gun attachments as well as the cryosuit, but even with these perks, you still had to deal with overly-skilled mobs who were able to shoot a pistol from a 500 yards out and tag you, or those with super-spidey hearing who would start shooting you even before they were on radar or within visual range.

Graphics
It has been a year since the release of the original so that's a plus for all of us. Video card GPU technology has moved along fine and a lot of systems are now able to boost up the visual settings. Surprisingly enough, I had to reduce my graphics down by 2 notches (out of 4) in order for the frames-per-second (FPS) to be completely consistent. I don't have a clue as to how beefed up a person's rig would have to be in order to handle it maxed at the 4th notch. But since this game used the same engine as the original, all the visuals were great.

Sound & Music
Sound was good, but the music only kicked in at certain "exciting" portions of the plot. This was a nice bonus in terms of placement, but that meant that the rest of the gameplay time was spent with no background theme and thus less immersion.

Bugs
The only real bug I ran into were mobs being able to shoot through walls. This wasn't COD4, where it was built into the engine. Also, a lot of times when you killed a guy, their body would disappear immediately, taking their dropped weapon and ammo away with them.

Overall
Even though this was a cheaper, shorter version of the original, it still wasn't worth the $25 cost (I had a $5 discount from Circuit City). I've never finished a game in one evening, but I did with this one. I didn't install the multiplayer addition, called Crysis Wars, from disc 2, so maybe that's where it was supposed to shine. But from the standpoint of just a single-player game, I'd say that it was definitely mediocre.
Rating - Mid