Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Evil Children of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio (Book 2013)

So the author of this book was kind enough to provide me with a copy of her latest work in the late summer of this year. I was quite busy these last few months but as promised, I was able to complete it this year, albeit the last day of this year.

So the three stories that are contained within this book exist in the same fantasy realm of the first book. You don't need to have read the first in order to read this one since all of the short stories seem to be independent of each other. Either that or I have a very bad memory, which these days can indeed be construed as fact.

Like the first book, the settings of the three stories varied in that one was in a cold, Nord-like area, the other was within an Egyptian-like setting, and the last was your average medieval locale. Each story had something to do with curses, past deeds, redemption, vengeance, etc. and they were all solid as short stories.

Herein lies the problem though. The author is a pretty good writer, especially for an independent. She's able to weave a tale much like many D&D authors have done in the past, but the bad thing is that the format of the book is not one solid story with characters that you can follow through an adventure. It's 3 wholly separate cast of characters and plots. For fantasy novels, most readers like myself enjoy it when a whole book is dedicated to one group or one protagonist. The Dragonlance Series was one of the best in the whole D&D world in my opinion, and all the books that sprung up from the 6 primary books all somehow related back to the main group of characters or their locations. Additionally, Drizzit was the main character in all of the books that sprung around his character in the Forgotten Realms Series.

I believe if the author concentrated on doing something like this, it would make for a more solid book. For what it was though, the book was good, but unfortunately it was also forgettable because the characters were only around for a short period of time. Hopefully in the future the format of her books will change into more lengthy novels.
Rating - Mid

Monday, December 30, 2013

This Is the End (Comedy 2013)

It's been a while since I've seen a crude comedy, but this one definitely takes the cake. It's totally one of those 'weed' films mixed with some raw-ass jokes. I was laughing throughout most of it so that means it was hella funny.

Yeah the actors in this movie played themselves so that was a bit odd but I think it just made things even funnier. It had a huge cast of cameo actors who were in it for only a few scenes, but still pretty cool that they got all the peeps together. The movie had lots of super crude dialog and humor...I'm surprised that it got approved for the theaters. Silly and stupid fun but damn was it funny. Towards the end the story got shitty like most movies of this type do, but at least they let up on some of the more low-brow jokes.
Rating - C

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Planes (Animated Family 2013)

Yeah this movie is exactly what you'd expect from an animated Disney one. It was made before Frozen so thus it used the old equation of having no songs. Funny how much difference it makes. The movie felt like Cars, only crappier since real talent usually resides with Pixar's crew instead of Disney's crew.

Either way it was a very average movie that could be playing in the background of any kids' playroom. Your undivided attention is not necessary or recommended.
Rating - C

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gravity (Sci-Fi Drama 2013)

Well this movie sucked me in. 'Intense' would be the correct word and the reason for this was 90% the music. Props to Steven Price, a composer who has probably convinced me to buy one of the tracks from the OST.

The movie only really had 2 people in it and if they would've picked a better main actor, a slot that was eaten up by Sandra Bullock, I may have maxed out the rating on it. Whatever anyone tells you, Sandra Bullock is not a very good actress. She could've been the same FBI agent from The Heat, and I wouldn't have even noticed.

The visuals, cinematography, and CGI effects were great. Not sure how they made it seem like they were really in space, but props to the director and his team. The movie was a great thrill-ride and I'm sure it would've been nuts to watch it in IMAX. Some actions by the main character were stupid, but overall the good outweighed the bad.

You really have to have a decent sound system or a nice pair of headphones to fully appreciate this film; it's one of the rare ones where music carried the story.
Rating - A

The Walking Dead (Adventure PC Game 2012)

So I bought this game on a Steam sale last year sometime but never got around to playing it until now. It got a lot of accolades from other reviews and I got to say that I totally agree with everyone else.

You have to be in the right mood to play this game though. If you're involved in some fast-paced FPS, you really shouldn't jump back and forth from this game to others if you really want to experience it all. The whole story needs to soak in like a marinade.

So yeah the gameplay is different in that it's a story-driven adventure or at least that is how I would define it as. I can't think of a single game that's similar since I don't think any of them have this type of structure. Essentially you're watching a movie but are able to make certain dialog decisions at specific times. The result of your decisions do play a part in how other characters treat you as the story progresses.

The highlights of this game are the voice acting, music, story, and "animation". I swear the facial expressions of the animated characters are better than what some real actors can produce. The great voice acting only buffered this. I don't know how the makers did it, but all the characters seemed so real even though they were totally animated. As the story proceeds along through all of the episodes, you start feeling like you're a part of the adventure, emotions and all. I don't think I've ever felt an emotional connection to characters in a game before...movies yes...games no. So yeah it was definitely a new thing. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the time.
Rating - High

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Tower (Foreign Korean Thriller 2012)

This movie was reminiscent of films like Volcano or Speed where there's one main object that is the source of misery and panic. In this case it's a high-rise building that catches on fire and traps a group of peeps inside. A team of firefighters go in to try to save the day and the rest of the movie turns into a predictable set of events.

Because it's a Korean movie, you inevitably have your overly melodramatic scenes coupled with fair to good music integration. Lots of shots of people screaming and a bunch of weeping to push home the emotion as well.

I thought it was average all around. Characters were superficial, action was OK, and it was all in all a forgettable watch. I just remember stumbling by a trailer for this film once, and noticing how the music in it was pretty good. Too bad the movie didn't follow through.
Rating - C

Monday, December 23, 2013

LG Google Nexus 5

It's pretty surprising that I haven't upgraded my phone in such a long time, but the whole "Pure Google" landscape was exactly what I was looking for in a phone and OS. After Google announced that my old Galaxy Nexus would not be receiving Android 4.4 KitKat, I decided to take a look at the latest iteration of the line being that of the Nexus 5.

Software
Native 4.4 KitKat is pretty good, but the changes were minor in my opinion. I'm just glad that I'll be guaranteed a bunch more updates for years to come.

Hardware
Honestly this phone feels like my old one, only with a larger screen and it being much faster. Everything is super snappy to an extent that I never noticed how slow my old phone was. Everything from opening apps to typing to even powering it on takes much less time and it's quite noticeable too...kinda like how adding more memory to an old PC back in the day would make worlds of difference.

Besides the speed factor, the main hardware differences are that the phone can be wirelessly charged, the battery is non-removable, the screen is larger, the camera takes better quality pics, and yeah it's an LG.

The only negative I have with the Nexus 5 is that the power button makes a clacky noise because it physically has too much play. I read an article where it said that newer production runs of the phone would correct this issue by having more fitted power buttons, but current owners are just SOL. Sucks for us early adopters.

Overall
I'm definitely glad with the upgrade. It would've been more of a downer if the phone would've just been a new phone with a new OS, but luckily there was a very noticeable speed increase and I'm all about that.

Update
Sold. Final Comments.

2 Guns (2013)

So this action flick was pretty good. I'll totally forget all about it in a few days, but from what I remember it was a decent watch. There's really not much to talk about since the trailer gave most of the movie away. One guy is military while the other is a DEA agent, both undercover both getting jacked by their respective organizations. Hijinks ensue when they start dishing out payback, just like a marketing line. Everything was on par from what you'd expect.
Rating - B

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4 Game 2013)

So it didn't take long at all to beat this game. It had to have been only 8 hours or so. For my first dive back in to console gaming I have to say that it was a bit disappointing. Some of the reason can be blamed for my lack of skill with these damn controllers but the gameplay wasn't all that with this shooter. The story was super blah and was absolutely nothing compared to any of the three games in the Mass Effect series. Bioware still has a lot on many other developers; sad how they sold out to EA.

So I've only played one other Killzone game for the PS3 way back in the day and I remember getting nauseous before stopping. Years later I think the reason for that reaction could be attributed to the TV I was using and its slower refresh rate. This game on a modern LCD was better, but yeah it felt more like a crapper version of Crysis than anything else.

For a gamer who's only interested in the main storyline, this one was not worth it, but alas how many other games are there for the PS4 right now? Not many...so I think I'll play everything as long as I can sell off/trade off what I currently got. If there was more of a variety out there though, I'd totally skip this one.
Rating - Low

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

State of Decay (3rd Person Shooter RPG PC Game 2013)

So when I heard about this game, being that of a Zombie Survival one where you have to maintain a base and all, I was oh so all over it. But like most things, it got old really fast. This one is a 3rd person shooter of sorts, reminiscent of GTA in terms of controls and gameplay. It was fun in the beginning but then you start noticing that it's essentially the same old thing.

The game itself only has 3 main parts: The first is having your simple base and maintaining it. I thought there would be more to this but really it was over-simplistic and kinda annoying as resources get depleted daily, and the 'radio girl' keeps on telling you to run random stupid errands. The use and misuse of resources barely has an effect on the game which pretty much makes maintaining it a moot point. Random people die, join, get pissy, etc...and none of it really makes any difference.

Second part is the actual "fun" that one might imagine. You wander around from building to building looting it for goods and returning said goods to your base. The crap thing is that you're highly hindered by one's backpack and the second you find a 'primary resource' being that of food, ammo, fuel, construction tools, etc...you can't carry anymore stuff and are forced to huff it all the way back to base. So the game becomes a repetitive set of tasks where you go from house to house, shuttling goods back to base, so they can be used up by imaginary survivors. In addition to this, the storage locker that everything is stored will change inventory a lot, so it kinda refills itself if you use up too much ammo and such. I know that the developers wanted to add some more realism to it, as in other survivors using up or refilling the resource pile, but it just felt stupid and unrealistic.

The last part of the game is a combination of all of the lame side tasks that you're randomly asked to take care of and the main storyline which is pretty bland. The rewards that you're given at the completion of said side tasks aren't worth the time, so again it turns into a greater set of pointlessness.

So yeah the game is an interesting thrust into the post-apoc zombie genre, but the fun didn't last very long at all. Thankfully it was only $13 during this Winter's Steam sale. I don't really know what would make the game more interesting...maybe multiplayer? Maybe more exploration? Maybe being able to give commands to other survivors to take care of piddly crap tasks? Who knows...but yeah one thing I did kinda learn is that in a real zombie apoc, being forced to scrounge for supplies day in and day out would get super boring really fast.
Rating - Low

PS4 Search

The long search has finally come to an end. I really haven't been a console gamer since the original NES stopped producing, but for some reason I felt like I had to get this. Turns out that Best Buy was stashing a bunch of them for a Sunday release so I wandered over one morning, waited in line in the ass-freezing cold, and got my console. I've been having fun with it but as expected I've been sucking quite a bunch at FPSes because of the damn controller. After decades of KB + Mouse on the PC, it's hard to go to something else. Hopefully I start improving soon since the PS4 really doesn't have too many games out right now.