Monday, December 31, 2012

Total Recall (Sci-Fi Action 2012)

For a remake this definitely is one of the better renditions. Yeah no shit right? I'm usually not one to give props to any movie with Colin Farrell in it, but this was seriously a solid Sci-Fi action flick.

I don't care for Biel at all but Kate was totally workin' her stuff all over the place. The story diverted from the original movie but in a good way. Action and special effects were nice as well as the robot cops. They were a hybrid of the androids from I, Robot and any futuristic Anime mech suit. Great designs. So yeah totally worth a rental if you just want to enjoy an evening of action & fun.
Rating - B

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Looper (Sci-Fi Action 2012)

This movie was different and good. Thankfully it wasn't super confusing like other time travel-related movies can be. Drama was OK, action was fair, and the story was interesting. I barely remember Bruce Willis being in it as he didn't really play a big role. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the primary and he made the whole movie go. Weird thing was that it felt like he was the exact same character he played in Inception. I'll probably forget everything about this movie in a few weeks just because it was one of those non-memorable ones, but that shouldn't take away from its quality.
Rating - B

2005 Infiniti G35x

So after being bored to death with the good old Honda Fit, I decided to get a faster car with AWD since winter was approaching again. I hunted around for quite a while but eventually landed on the Infiniti G series as a viable replacement. Most reviews were positive minus the fuel mileage so I decided to take the plunge.

After hunting around for close to two months, I found a CL posting of a guy selling a 2005 with only 32k on the odo. I guess he worked from home so that's why the miles were so low. I test drove it, carfaxed it, and everything seemed to check out fine so yay, I got myself a new to me car. And as an added bonus in Nevada you don't pay any sales tax on a private party sale.

So I've been driving the car around for 5 months now so I think that's enough time to get my bearings around  all the details of this automobile.

Engine
The car is a 6 cylinder 3.5L 280HP monster. It's the most powerful car I've ever owned and yeah it doesn't disappoint in the performance department. Power is balanced throughout the whole spectrum so when you're at 0, 25, 45, or freeway speeds, light application of the accelerator will cause the car to become a rocket.


Handling
The handling and suspension is sick. No body roll at all. I can do whatever I want in this car and it feels very controllable and stable. It does seem a bit heavy though, both when accelerating and when cruising but the engine can handle it with no added effort.

Ergonomics
The ergos in this car suck, straight up. There are so many small things that are so annoying that I can't believe they passed QA testing during development.

The door controls for the power windows and door locks are blocked by this huge-ass bar. I totally have to twist my wrist in an odd angle to reach the controls. How this wasn't flagged is really beyond me.



The e-brake is a foot one like they usually have in trucks. WTF.


The HVAC control buttons are the exact same shape and they don't have any tactile differentiations. You can't feel your way through the buttons at all which means that you have to take your eyes off the road to make any changes to the climate control.

The snow mode button is totally hidden by your right knee. I so didn't even know it existed until I accidentally dropped something and went to go pick it up.

The heated seat buttons have 3 settings for off, low, and high but the light is the exact same if it's on low or high. No bueno. They should've had 2 LEDs or make the 1 LED dimmer or brighter depending on the setting.
The steering wheel controls are way too square and too far away from the edge of the wheel. You have to have some monster fingers to be able to drive normally while working the controls for the audio and cruise control.
I think a lot of these ergo problems were addressed in the next generation of the G series...too bad I couldn't readily afford one. But not all was negative. They did have one feature that was pretty neat. It's a pass-through hole built into the center console armrest for a phone charger to snake out.


Gas Mileage
As expected the gas mileage on the G35x is horrid. I consider myself a fairly light-footed driver and I still get 20 mixed and 24 highway. Premium gas too so yeah it's a night and day difference between the Fit and this car...oh well I try not to think about it.

Insurance
My insurance went up only $1. Goes to show the difference between a 2005 Lux Sports Sedan and a 2009 Econobox Wagon.

Quality
The quality parts of this car reside in the leather seats, suspension, and chassis. All interior plastics are pretty much Toyota/Nissan/Honda-standard. I think most people get this car for the performance and less on the Lux. Note in the pic how the cheap plastic does not clean all too well.


Sport Shifting
Yeah this feature is worthless. If you try to shift like an economical driver, there is a very long delay and then the tranny shifts. I think it's only meant for racing and avoiding the redline. One additional odd thing is that the sport shift mode is usually activated by moving the stick to the left on most other cars, but on this one you activate it by moving the stick to the right. Weird.

Heated Seats
The heated seats aren't that good in this car. The low setting BARELY works, like we're talking 1 degree if that. The high setting is OK but heated seats in a Mini Cooper or a Saab are so much more impressive.

Power Seats
The power seats have a horribly dumb UI. There is a cancel or auto setting and it supposedly has the ability to memorize settings for 1 or 2. I won't go into too many details but it doesn't remember any settings worth a damn. I think I know why but if I'm correct it means that the design of the power seat's memory is not on the same wavelength as my brain and it just pisses me off to think about it.

One extra thing of note is that the driver's seat makes a very odd grinding noise when it moves. I read on a few forums that a part is broken and needs to be replaced. I'll be $85 in the hole after I buy that part...

Windshield Wipers
The wiper fluid design on this car is actually pretty nifty. It's built into the wiper itself and will spray directly onto the windshield from 2cm out, instead of from spigots like on the hood of a normal car. Don't know if it works any better but it's a nifty change.


HVAC
I think automatic climate control in all cars is stupid. In this car if you turn it on, in any weather, it will auto-turn on the AC. I'm sure there is a reason for this but I think it's just plain dumb. I enjoy having full control over fan speed, temperature, AC, etc...this car only allows you to manually change fan speeds and go through a bunch of pushing to toggle through modes. It's annoying and inefficient. If it had an API I would reprogram the whole damn thing.


Audio
Low and behold the CD/MP3 player doesn't shuffle music, just like on the Saab. Nuff said. Bose sound system is pretty good but yeah if they make it so difficult to get music through the speakers then what's the point? Luckily I don't drive very far to get to work anymore so yeah it doesn't bother me as much, but it's still lame.

Push-Button Entry
One of the main reasons why I wanted this car and others like it was the Intelligent Key feature of being able to just walk up to the car and get in without having to get the FOB out. In this car I still have to push a small button on the door handle, but yeah the tech does seriously work. I would love it if I could just pull the door handle, but this was the 1st gen of this technology. I had also wanted the car to auto-lock if I walked away from it, but to no avail. I still have to press the button on the door handle to lock up the car after getting out. One day they'll improve upon this I'm sure.


Twisty Start
So first gen auto-start was this twisty-start knob instead of a push button start. Good thing is that I don't have to get out a key but yeah a push button would've been better.

So yeah overall the car has been a nice change from the Fit. When I first got it, I performed all of the fluid changes myself to make sure all was kosher. I learned a bunch about this car, so that was educational. I just hope that nothing major breaks because I have a feeling that it'll be quite pricey to fix. The main downer is the gas mileage but yeah all the Infinitis are like that except for one new M-series hybrid that they produced, but damn is that car expensive. Now that I have a sedan, I'm noticing how convenient a wagon/hatch was even though I didn't always utilize it. For example if I were to buy new tires I think there would be a problem fitting all 4 in the trunk and back seat without scuffing up the leather. Either way we'll see how many years I'll stick with this config, but currently it's handling things nicely.


The Rising Horde Volume 2 by Stephen Knight (Book 2012

This last book in the series didn't disappoint at all. It was full-bore action the whole way through. At times the gun-fighting got a bit confusing, much like the first book, but it was fine overall. The ending was a bit shocking and kinda a downer but it went along with the whole theme of the story. Overall this was a very enjoyable series for any zombie & military fan.
Rating - High

The Rising Horde Volume 1 by Stephen Knight (Book 2012)

This second book was pretty good. Perhaps its the familiarity of the characters from the first and interim book, but they really start growing on you. This one was all about plot as the group of military peeps travel to TX where a cure is being developed. At the same time a huge mass of zombies are converging on the same location led by the smarties. Characters were the same, action was good, and it was a pretty engaging read.
Rating - High

Friday, December 28, 2012

Borderlands 2 (FPS PC Game 2012)

So it seems as though I'm temporarily back into PC Gaming for a while. Why? Well that's simple. Work is stressful, life is equally stressful, it's freezing outside, and I don't like drinking or sports so what is a guy to do? Play video games. For a long while there was an extended lull with nothing to play, but slowly more games are appearing that are getting better reviews and aren't too immature. Unfortunately this game isn't one of those.

So yeah, I kinda got tricked into this one. All the reviews were very positive and the Youtube videos looked decent enough so I thought I would give it a go. I had this game in mind as sorta a backup while I was actually waiting around  for someone to post the sale of a Farcry 3 code, but Gamefly had a sale on this game for $29.99 so I jumped on it.

Let me be short and sum up this game. It's an FPS of Torchlight that is set in a static/respawning world with guns. Ok so it's not exactly the same but you'll get the same feel for it just like I did after playing Torchlight for a few days. All you do is kill things and do missions to move the main storyline along. Most weapons suck until you get something better, and then you keep on killing baddies and upgrading weapons to no end. This circle of gameplay got boring really fast. The cartoony feel of the graphics is different but I just didn't like playing in the world. The human mobs were totally forced to look and behave like dumb post-apoc raiders and for some reason that just annoyed me. The only positive parts were some of the dialog and jokes. If I were 16 again I would probably would've had a blast with it, but I'm not.

When launching the game through Steam on a PC, the co-op mode drops connections 90% of the time. I read on some forums that others have experienced this as well...terrific. Additionally I think many peeps are playing the DLCs meaning that if you don't have the DLCs installed, you are left out of the queue pool with most other players. This is just a guess as the active games to choose from were not as populated as I thought they would be. If the multiplayer portion worked it might've been a difference experience for me but I doubt it since I really didn't have fun playing it.

Yeah overall I thought it was disappointing and not worth the $30. It is a $10 game; $15 if the multiplayer worked correctly.
Rating - Mid

Friday, December 21, 2012

Left with the Dead by Stephen Knight (Book 2011)

Hey not too shabby of a story. It picked up right where The Gathering Dead ended, following around First Sergeant Gartrell as he tries to escape the zombie-infested city. He does meet up with an odd, annoying family but there was a definitely purpose to this in terms of his character development for the future.

The plot had lots of action and a few repetitive moments like in the original book, but overall it was nice and short. Now I'm more inclined to read the actual sequel to the series to see if it gets any better. What a difference one book makes.
Rating - Mid

Monday, December 17, 2012

Black Mountain by Greig Beck (Book 2012)

So Black Mountain is the next story following This Green Hell, which continues the adventures of Alex Hunter. This time we're back in the US and the main mystery involves some odd disappearances surrounding a cave entrance that had been sealed off for thousands of years.

The historical and evolutionary background in this story was fair, but not as detailed as others. I think this was because the background information was not given enough attention. With this story, Greig seemed to put more time into developing multiple subplots and having their storylines converge into one finale near the end. Although it worked, I think there were too many things going on which prevented the real plot from working its magic.

After clearing the first chapter, I kept on reading non-stop because I wanted to learn more about the creatures, their history, their habitat, their culture, and how they survived for so many generations. But all I seemed to get were more side stories about the various different military units out to get the Arcadian. Although this has a lot to do with the Alex Hunter series in general, sometimes the more intriguing part of a story doesn't concern the main character at all.

The anthropological information integrated into the plot was quite fascinating and added a bunch of scientific details. The author's research abilities in this area are quite phenomenal. But as a big fan of all Greig Beck books, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with this one. I think it could've been so much better if Greig concentrated more on the story of the creatures and the caves and less on the drama among the various factions.
Rating - Mid

The Gathering Dead by Stephen Knight (Book 2011)

So this zombie book was OK I suppose. The beginning was pretty exciting but then it slowed down quite a bit towards the middle. Many of the scenes described the characters either fleeing and fighting. You kinda lose track of what is going on because they kept on repeating this same formula. After more than 5+ scenes of the same scenario it totally got old. Another thing that really bothered me was that some of the zombies retained their skills from their former life so zombie soldiers could shoot rifles and drive cars. That was lame. I know it adds to it being a different story and all but damn...it's hard to envision that for a zombie book.

I did enjoy reading through it, albeit with some reservations, but I just may continue with the series. We'll see...
Rating - Mid

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution (Action 2012)

Holy shit was this movie bad. I tried to actually sit and watch it and it was just too awful. Next I tried to multitask it in a smaller window and that didn't take either. I think I would describe it as a crappy video game with some of the worst writing one could ever imagine. This one did it for me, no more Res Evil movies.
Rating - F

Survivors (The Morningstar Strain) by Z.A. Recht

It has definitely been quite some time since I first read the initial 2 books of the Morningstar series, but it's funny how quickly one can recall snippets of the old plot and jump right back in.

So the story was told from two points of view. One was from the General and his crew camped out in a government biolab trying to find a cure and the second was from the main baddie who was making his way to the lab. They eventually meet up and a substantial battle takes place and then poof the book ends. Although the whole series was brought to a finale, it was way too abrupt and it totally seemed rushed. People were getting axed left and right and I lost track of 40% of the characters. Although I did like the series as a whole, this one unfortunately stuck out as being the worst of the lot.
Rating - Mid

Friday, December 07, 2012

Czech CZ-USA VZ-58 Rifle


So I finally managed to find a VZ-58 on a forum after searching around for quite some time. I had wanted to buy one from Czechpoint and get the free shipping with inclusive transfer fees, but they raised the price on the deal and I just couldn't get over the fact that I had lost the opportunity with the sale price. The rifle I did manage to get was a bit older, as it was labeled CZ-USA on the box, but the quality was still great.

The first thing I noticed was how lightweight the gun actually was. Even with a milled receiver it was quite a bit lighter and had a more compact feel than that of an AK. I like the design of the short-stroke gas piston because it's easier to clean one section of a rifle instead of needing to clean the whole receiver and all the innards like on an AK. On the VZ, you really don't even need to take apart the rear portion like the bolt carrier/spring because it doesn't get dirty at all.


The mags I had locked in perfectly with zero wobble. I believe that can be attributed to the fact that it's a Czech gun and there weren't any variants that wandered away from the original design. The aluminium mags were also quite light and shaped a bit differently to allow for the BHO to work. I thought that I would like the BHO feature, but while shooting I never noticed the bolt holding back and I still tried to pull the trigger one last time. I'm sure this was a user problem.


I wasn't too fond of the location of the mag release because you had to jam your thumb between the trigger guard and the release lever. It felt awkward and would be more cumbersome with thick, winter gloves.


Surprisingly I really didn't like the safety. Although it's touted to be much more ergonomic than the AK's large lever safety, I always found myself forgetting if the safety was on or off and I had to position my hand differently to work it. For me the AK safety has a more positive and robust feel.


The trigger itself sucked. There was some creep but what bothered me was that I was unable to doubletap in a smooth fashion. I've been able to doubletap all semi-auto rifles and pistols that I've ever come across but for some reason the VZ gave me problems. It felt like the trigger group needed time to reset properly before being able to function for a second round.

The way the front hand guard locks into place was a good design, much better than the AK. It was also stable enough to probably keep zero on an optic. I didn't have the aftermarket parts necessary to test it out for myself but the whole section seemed to not move at all after the pin was pushed back into place.


The barrel and top handguard got hot with constant shooting but it was comparable to that of an AK. Other than that the rifle shot fine. Sights weren't canted and the paint on mine was nice and glossy.


So overall the VZ-58 was a nice rifle with a lot of different design features not seen on an AK. Although some were good, many others bothered me personally. Everyone's opinion differs but for me I'm still an AK guy.




Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Easier to clean
  • Toolless field strip
  • Tighter tolerances
Cons
  • Didn't like the safety design
  • Didn't like the trigger feel
  • Didn't like the mag release lever
  • Expensive; not worth the extra $$ in my opinion

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Ted (Comedy 2012)

As expected this movie was pretty damn funny. It's humor was out of control in some scenes but yeah, very enjoyable. If you're looking for a crude comedy then this one takes the cake. The plot towards the end was kinda dumb but I guess they had to do something to move the story along. Either way, good stuff.
Rating - B

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Kingmakers by Susan & Clay Griffith (Vampire Empire, Book 3) (Book 2012)

So this is the last book in the series. It was OK, but I still think the first one was the best. This was seemed to just want to finish up the plot and have some sort of conclusion for our fated pair. Everything was fine from the writing and flow perspective but it didn't have much depth at all since all of that was contained in the first book. No matter though, it was still a great series. Hope the two authors write some more stuff soon.
Rating - Mid

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Skyfall (Action 2012)

Yeah so I'm not seeing where all the extra hype is with this film. It was a Bond movie, so you know what it's going to be about and what to expect. A good intro, lots of action, a few dress-up scenes, a few girls, and some more action. Was it better than some of the other Bond films of late? Yes. Was it the best of all time? Maybe. I still have good memories of Casino Royale for some reason although I don't remember a damn thing about it.

One funny thing about this film was that all the chicks were hella inconsequential. They were all fancy in a few scenes and then poof, they were gone. One chick didn't even say a single word; I wonder if she'll even show up on IMDB. Hilarious knowing that she had just been used and cast away like an opened coconut.

The story in this one was quite different from the others and it had more depth to the character of Bond himself verses any other Bond film. The ending also led into a whole new generation of future films that are to come. Javier Bardem is a sick actor who totally played the part well, probably even more-so than Daniel Craig.  The chase scenes were kinda dated but the gun battles were quite nice. Overall it was a good action movie and one of the better Bond ones.
Rating - A

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brave (Animated Adventure 2012)

Pixar has lost it. This movie wasn't horrible, but Disney has totally removed the great storytelling that used to take place with pure Pixar films. It was so superficial and had next to no depth at all. I think I laughed during only two scenes and the plot was quite forgettable. Things have definitely changed and not for the better.
Rating - C

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Cloud Atlas (Drama 2012)

This movie was quite good, but it did have issues that held it back. We'll get to all that in a bit. The move was a bucket of confusion during the first 40% of it. It kept jumping in and out of so many stories during so many timelines that is was very difficult in getting everything straight. After a while it did reach a distinct point where everything started making more sense.

I can't even describe what the movie was about plot-wise because I don't really know...it had a story and the peeps in them were related but its main purpose eluded me.

Acting was good, special effects were good, story was all over the place but still good, and music was excellent. During the end, the music integration and cinematography was perfect during a few key scenes.

The negatives were that for some viewers it was indeed too confusing with all the scene jumping...a lot of peeps will not like it because of that. But I'm sure after watching it a few times, things would start making sense for everyone. The main bad thing was that the make-up required to make some characters more "Asian" was laughable as they made everyone look like aliens, no joke. While watching it you were all like "this guy looks kinda familiar....oh wait...that's a shit ton of make-up...wow...is he supposed to be a mutant or just a white guy dressed up like an Asian". Unfortunately, it was the latter, and that made the whole New Seoul timeline seem way too odd. The badass guns during this future setting sorta made up for it though...

So after the 2.8 hour film, I was still confused as to some parts but overall it was a pretty good movie which will win some awards. I don't think it's good enough to win Best Picture, but it's still up there.
Rating - A

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

As expected this one was a silly mess of a movie. Throughout the whole thing it just kept on trying to push the scenes to the next action sequence. Having a story 100% went out the door.

As a whole the movie sucked. I don't have a clue as to whom the actors were, the vamps were boring, and again the story was nonexistent. The only positives were that Mary Todd wasn't too bad on the eyes and the costumes were accurate per the era. A big fat "No" from me.
Rating - D

Sunday, October 21, 2012

This Green Hell by Greig Beck (Book 2012)

So here is another great story from Greig Beck. This Green Hell is the 3rd book in the series that follows around the exploits of Alex Hunter and his group of elite soldiers. Aimee Weir also returns in this story to add more depth to the interpersonal subplot. Like all Beck books, this one mixes in heart-pumping action with great writing, and a historical back drop.

In this adventure the team is in South America investigating a plague that has taken out a good chunk of the population in an isolated village. To make things interesting, a Green Beret detachment sent to the area was eliminated by something other than the virus. The main baddie in this story was a bit over the top in terms of its physical abilities, but it was a menacing villain indeed. Beck did an excellent job describing every pertinent detail of the environment and characters while keeping the story fresh and exciting. It was definitely one of those stories where “just one chapter more” easily turns into half the book being read.
Rating - High

Resident Evil: Damnation (Animated Action 2012)

Yup so I think I'll be adding these video game CG movies to the list of "what not to see anymore". The CG was good but the story seemed to literally come from a video game. It kinda sucked plot-wise and was way too short to build any sort of character. I totally felt way too old to be watching this type of stuff. Oh well, free is free.
Rating - D

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Comedic Drama 2011)

So this was a nice little drama film. It had a bunch of British actors in it so some of the words were a bit off, but yeah still understandable. It was about a bunch of random Brits who were all old and were looking for something different in India. They all came for different reasons and all found a new home of sorts. Very light movie...perfect for a plane trip.
Rating - B


Thursday, September 06, 2012

The Remaining: Aftermath by D.J. Molles (Book 2012)

So this was the second book in the series that took over right after The Remaining ended. I have to admit that I didn't like where the story went with this one. The writing was still good, but the plot and characters were a bit weak. The first book had a bunch more inner-dialog which I enjoyed while this one had new characters who could've been cardboard cutouts.

In this second book the main character meets the primary bad guy. This antagonist was quite weak and the story didn't go into him as much as it could've. The main character also starts turning into a Rambo of a man which was a bit disappointing but you got to have your hero right?

The ending left a 3rd book wide open so I'll read it if the author decides to write it, but yeah there are better zombie books out there.
Rating - Mid

The Remaining by D.J. Molles (Book 2012)

So this zombie book was OK. It started out really good but then it didn't follow through like it should've. I think it was a bit too slow story-wise but at least it was well written.

The story was about the regular zombie upheval occurring but this time the main character was part of a military initiative to have a few individual special forces peeps hold up in underground bunkers only to be let loose into the world a month or so later to try to organize a civ and rebuild. Not too shabby of a plot.

What happens after he leaves the hole was just too slow...realistic to a point but everything happened at a putt putt rate compared to other books I've read. The whole book was a bit short as well but these are minor gripes.
Rating - Mid

Monday, August 06, 2012

The Book of Deacon by Joseph Lallo (Book 2011)

So first off don't let the title of this book scare you away. It's a fantasy novel with no religious underpinnings.

So the plot and storytelling style were pretty good in this one. It isn't Dragonlance by any means but it's decent. The story is interesting enough as are the rules of magic, but it's missing something; and that's other real characters.

In this book there were probably only 3 characters who had any meaning...this seems like too little for a fantasy novel. On top of that the main character is a very annoying "goody goody" treehugger type of person. Myself as a reader cannot empathize with such a character. Sure, maybe she will mature a bit more as the story goes on, but for now she is a turd of a person who just so happens to have an uncanny magical talent.

For a free book this was definitely worth the read, but I don't know if I'll be compelled enough to purchase the other 2 books in the series. You have to have a much stronger main character who makes better life choices.
Rating - Mid

Battleship (Action 2012)

So yeah as expected this movie was pretty crappy. The previews made it seem like there would be a huge armada fighting against these aliens but the story killed that pretty quick. In place of that we're left with a loser AF model in command of a Naval ship who somehow saves the world. The writing really sucked as did the dialog, and Liam Neeson essentially had only a cameo. Special effects were on par with Transformers but yeah without a good plot I don't know where it could've gone.

Towards the end it got way too silly for my tastes. No thanks.
Rating - D