Archive for September, 2010

DBZ Abridged Ep. 18: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Saiyan

“I need an adult!”

September 30 2010 | Humor, Videos | 2 Comments »

Movie Reviews: July-Sept 2010

By request, I’m going to see about doing movie posts and reviews more often. My previous attempt at “Friday Movie Blogging” last year didn’t really pan out since I didn’t have the time to commit myself to weekly movie articles. It also didn’t help that I rarely even got one comment per post, not exactly making it worth it. Come on – I like to feel loved, people.

I’ll see about moving up these movie reviews to one a month. That way, I’m already talking about movies in the now for a change. And if I don’t watch enough theater movies, I’ll review something random. Onto the last three months in the theater:

The Karate Kid
What is it?: Another movie about Jackie Chan not getting along with black people.
Better than the first?: Was the first really that great? I think the original movie was sold purely on Mr. Miyagi’s “wax on, wax off” training technique. They apply a similar, but more complicated, version in the new movie with the “take off your coat, drop it, pick it up, hang it up, take it down, put it on” version, which doesn’t roll off the tongue very well. So one point goes to the original. Then again, the original also sold itself on it’s “zero to hero” montages, and I found the new training montages actually made it look like the kid was learning something. There’s a few odd differences here and there, and a strange sub-plot involving a snake, but other than, both are the same movie with no surprises.
Hollywood has to stop remaking movies!: I can only agree so far on this. For example, I loved the new “Italian Job,” but I’ve never bothered to watch the original just because it looks lame in comparison. I’m sure it’s a good movie, but my age difference instinctively turns me off the dated style of the film. I’m certain a lot of kids these days go through the same thing, and the only way to get them to sit through the classics is to remake them. While a remake is a studio cash-grab, it can also be considered a way to preserve a classic story. I consider the new Karate Kid movie just another version for today’s youngsters to enjoy.

Shrek Forever After
Took you a while to see this one!: No, I saw it back in May. I just forgot about it.
So it’s not a memorable movie?: It is if you remember “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Same movie, except with ogres, witches, and Donkey.
So worse than the third one? Not worse than the third one, but it still has a straight-to-DVD quality about it. It probably has a few good moments, and I will give them credit for changing the Shrek formula (where usually half the movie is watching Shrek walk somewhere, and the other half is watching him walk back.) But much like the third one, nothing memorable about the film is jumping out at me. But unlike the third one, I don’t feel as angry about having seen this.
Favorite Scene?: Yeah… I don’t have one. I usually remember at least one great scene from most movies. Not this one. How about the “ri-donk-ulous” joke? It’s in the trailer, but I’ll let it pass.

Salt
Is this that movie about gay people?: No, that’s “Milk.”
Quick refresher then: Angelina Jolie. Russian spies. Jumping off overpasses. Any other recap would be loaded with spoilers.
So is it good?: If you like political spy thrillers, this is a safe one. It did not incite any negative feelings from me. No huge positive ones either, unfortunately, but at least it was cheap night at the theater.

The Sorceror’s Apprentice
Let me guess… you liked it?: I did.
But I heard it sucked: So did I. What’s wrong with those people? This is a very entertaining movie. A B-Movie, of course, but closer in the direction of a B+Movie. Lots of imagination, some great action sequences, and it even has the dancing mops with the accompanying music. Actually, by the time it had gotten to the mops, I had completely forgotten that I was watching a movie based on a short from “Fantasia” – so this is a good example of how to work with very little source material. Also, Nicholas Cage rules.
Alice in Wonderland, Fantasia… what’s next?: Yeah, Disney’s doing a lot of live-action remakes from their own library lately, including an upcoming “Sleeping Beauty.” I wouldn’t be surprised if they tackled “The Sword and the Stone” or “The Little Mermaid” next. Actually, “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” and “Lilo and Stitch” could also be some ideal candidates when it think about it. Live-action versions of those would make some serious bank. So brace yourselves now just in case they do it.

Inception
OMG THIS IS THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER!!!: Hey, I do the reviews!!!
But I want to review this movie!: Okay, fine – review it.
I don’t know where to start: You know what? Neither do I.
It’s just one of those movies, huh?: Yeah. If anyone’s reading this and hasn’t seen the movie yet, just go see the movie already and form your own opinion. Even I can’t complain about it – it’s Christopher Nolan’s best work, and I used to be obsessed with “Memento” years ago. But to describe it would ruin the experience and probably confuse you even further once you do see it. Because it is a very confusing movie and you will need to pay a ton of attention to everything to make sense of it all.

The Expendables
So did this movie make your head explode?: If would have if Arnold Schwarzenegger hadn’t been such a dick and walked out in five minutes. President, my ass. You were COMMANDO, Arnie. You get back in here and you help kill terrorists like everyone else!
But otherwise?: I think we have a movie on hand that might give “Crank 2″ a run for it’s money.
Don’t let Jason Statham hear you say that: But he’s in this movie!
I don’t think that matters to Jason Statham: Hmmm… good point. Help me barricade this door.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
So what is it?: It’s a martial arts sci-fi fantasy, indie-hollywood-bollywood, anime, video game, comic book, sitcom musical romantic-teen comedy spoof… and probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. In fact, let’s just say it’s a new kind of film.
What? Better than Inception? The Expendables?: “Scott Pilgrim” is a very rare kind of movie: it’s tailor-made for people like me. It celebrates everything I love – the music, the dialogue, the physical humor, the action sequences, the art direction, the pop culture references, the characters, and the overall nonsense just appeal to me on every single level. It’s like they packed all my favorite movies into one and still came up with something original. And not to toot my own horn, but it feels like the movie was planned with the same kind of twisted logic I put into my own projects. There’s even a Ducktales reference in the first two minutes as if the director were secretly sending me a message.
Good for you. But good for everyone else?: I can’t see why not. If you’re a self-proclaimed geek and haven’t seen this movie, check it out. It’s the geekiest movie in existence and even features a scene where Donkey Kong fights Double Dragon (or something like that.)
But what about Michael Cera? I’m okay with him now. He’s actually a pretty great guy. We’re doing brunch later this week.
Then it’s good?: If I had to pick five movies to be trapped on a desert island with, this would be one of them. For me, it’s the funniest movie I’ve seen in years, and it’s an overall celebration of awesomeness. I’m just worried the theatrical experience might be lost on DVD – I was probably sitting with the best audience ever when I saw it. Either way, I’m buying this as soon as it comes out. It’s one of the definitive “Chris” movies.

Anyhow, if I’m going to be posting more often about movies, I’ll gladly take any suggestions for topics in the comments below – just so I have a better idea of what people want to read about.

September 26 2010 | Movies | 1 Comment »

The Katy Perry/Elmo Affair

I don’t think people are getting offended enough these days. I woke up to hear two radio hosts complaining about a Katy Perry video on Sesame Street as if the show were finally teaching sex ed. So naturally, the first thing I did was hop out of bed and turn on Youtube before even grabbing breakfast. The end result: all she does is show some skin and keep asking Elmo to play dress-up with her. I’m sorry, but I saw twelve more offensive things than that on billboards just driving home from work. Not to mention that five year-olds would be paying more attention to Elmo than Katy Perry’s cleavage.

Frankly, I’m more shocked at the amount of green-screen going on in this video. And where are the sticks that hold up Elmo’s arms? When I was a kid, we didn’t get no fancy digital compositin’ on our Sesame Street sketches. If they filmed their puppets against a blue screen, they left that screen right in the video!

Anyway, here’s the video if you want to see what the controversy’s about. Unless you’ve been living in a bunker since the 50’s, you may be disappointed. Frankly, after all these years, I’m surprised Sesame Street isn’t more scandalous. If you’re a parent, and this video is the worst thing that can happen to your kids all day, consider yourself lucky.

September 24 2010 | TV | 3 Comments »

The Silver Lining: Chapter 2 Released!

“The Silver Lining” has been on a roll with meeting deadlines lately! Episode 2: “Two Households” is now available from the POS website and continues the story from the hour-long intro that was Chapter 1. This new chapter includes 2-3 extra hours of gameplay, several additional puzzles and characters, and a new running animation that you’ll have hours of fun with if you’re anything like me (step 1: double-click in a spot to run, step 2: start singing the Batman theme song.)

Once again, I hadn’t played through the whole thing until now, so I was a little surprised at the things missing in this chapter (I’m guessing there will be a lot more things to do in Chessboard Land in the next chapter.) I don’t do any voices this time around either. My biggest contributions to this chapter are the closing cinematics and a death sequence I created involving the Sea Nymphs (try leaving without giving them a gift for a laugh or two.) The rest were odds and ends. Sadly, I had to call it quits with this chapter because my new job coupled with my own projects were tying me down and I wasn’t getting as much finished as I wanted to. Fortunately, I got plenty finished for the upcoming chapters.

Personally, I enjoy this chapter a lot more, although I did find a couple of strange things: 1) The character of Jollo is unusually brain-damaged and insensitive, cracking jokes about comatose children and slapping his knee about it. And 2) there is a three-minute long “easter egg” that you’re probably going to find very easily. I’d been bugging them to hide it a little better because it’s like driving a train through the fourth wall, but what’s done is done. At least it’s fun to watch.

Anyhow, the game is good to go! Enjoy!

September 18 2010 | Video Games | 1 Comment »

Some Distracting Videos for You

I was just about to post an awesome video when Terrence sent me a link to yet another video that completely distracted me from posting the first video. It was this one:

I then spent the next fifteen minutes going through Parry Gripp’s YouTube channel and getting a dozen new songs stuck in my head. Around this time, I completely forgot about the video I was going to post in the first place. Here’s one for you, Brittany – apparently, this Parry Gripp guy is the same one who sang the NOM NOM NOM song.

I was then about to publish this post when I suddenly remembered the first video. So I figured I’ll just add it in here, even though it has nothing to do with the first two videos.

September 16 2010 | Videos | 1 Comment »

This Boat’s a-Rockin’!

Some footage caught from a cruise ship camera as they hit some rough seas. Given how many cruises my parents take a year, I wonder if this is really a lot more fun than the people in the video make it out to be. I can totally picture my dad riding the piano.

September 07 2010 | Videos | No Comments »

In Which I Review Classical Music

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. It’s normal when the only two things I do these days are game development and home renovation, but somewhere in the middle of painting my walls pink (or “rouge-beige,” as if that makes it sound any better,) it occurred to me that I should shut off my iTunes, shut off the radio, and expand my horizons by revisiting some of the classics through the magic of YouTube’s flexible music laws, and the even better magic of grooveshark.com. I already knew a fair bit of the REALLY popular songs from some of history’s greatest composers, but with all my free time, now was as good a time as ever to actually listen to every single thing they ever wrote and develop a real opinion on their works – as an experiment, of course.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Queuing up music playlists, studying the classics by year, exploring the artists’ history, and otherwise becoming a scholar in the fine arts. Granted, my experience of listening to every composition back-to-back couldn’t compare to experiencing the music firsthand at the height of it’s popularity. Times were different and society has changed since then, so the meaning of the music itself is somewhat of a novelty to me. Still, I thought I’d share my experiences with you, my friends, as well as give my impression of ten famous artists of old.

Black Sabbath
This experiment was already off to a good start. I was only familiar with songs of theirs like “Paranoid,” “Iron Man,” and whatever popped up on the “Brutal Legend” soundtrack, and it was nice to find out that quite a lot of their other songs were just as awesome to listen to. What I really liked is that with every album, there was a sudden leap in the band’s style, as if they were always trying to invent new kinds of music. I ultimately prefer the Ozzy years (’70-’78), but the band had their moments throughout the 80’s.
Favorite Album(s): Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Never Say Die, Mob Rules, Headless Cross

Led Zeppelin
Okay, so holy crap. Apparently I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin for years – I just didn’t recognize most of their music on the radio because nothing else they write sounds like “Stairway to Heaven.” Good to know! Much like Sabbath, they liked to experiment with music for the first few years. They also had this crazy thing for making every other song 10 minutes long. That got a little annoying whenever they started up an extended jam session of some generic blues-inspired rock later in their career. As it turns out, I’m not a big fan of blues rock, and this was just a taste of things to come.
Favorite Album(s): Led Zepplin IV, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti

Deep Purple
Okay, I get that these guys are supposed to be really, really popular and are considered pioneers of heavy metal, buuuuutttt… they really only have about three or four great songs, a few good ones, and a whole lifetime of them just backing down from the metal scene and playing bar music. Rock, blues, rock blues… lots of blues rock. Kind of disappointing, really. They were inventing heavy metal for a while, and then stopped and did the other kind of music for the next thirty years. I could have stopped listening to their music anytime, but that would defeat the purpose of this experiment.
Favorite Album(s): Machine Head

Motörhead
This is one of the bands I was COMPLETELY unfamiliar with, as none of their songs ever hit radio around here. I couldn’t even identify a hit from them, unless it was a cover of another popular song. Still, there’s something appealing about their balls-to-the-wall approach to music. In the early years, all their recordings sounded like they were piss-drunk on stage, and they’d just jam incoherently about women, booze, and cars. Then, in the course of 30 years, they almost never changed their style. In fact, about 95% of their songs all sound the same (like a motorcycle engine trying to learn our language, making it the manliest form of music in existence.) Still, as awesome are they are, listening to their entire discography from beginning to end over three days of renovation can be very mind-numbing. And they have A LOT OF SONGS.
Favorite Album(s): Motörhead, Ace of Spades, Orgasmatron

Iron Maiden
If you would excuse me, I need to kick myself 666 times in the head for not listening to every single one of Iron Maiden’s songs before. This is the kind of music I’m always cycling through the radio stations listening for, and apparently, it’s all comes from one band. I could fall asleep to any of these albums and wake up feeling like a million bucks. And I did. They were awesome then, and their new music is awesome now. Much like Motorhead, they rarely changed their style, but who’s complaining?
Favorite Album(s): Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Seventh Son of the Seventh Son, Brave New World

Judas Priest
I just realized these last six bands are all British. Between Monty Python, Doctor Who, and all this music, that’s one hell of a country! Their chief export? AWESOMENESS. “Judas Priest” rocked too. Not as much as Iron Maiden, but they still made me want to tear down the establishment. They had a great run with albums too, up until Rob Halford left the group and they re-invented themselves as a generic death metal band. Then for the first time, I actually skipped over an album (every song was about blood and pain or something like that, with nothing catchy. At this point, my experiment had failed.) Then Rob came back and everything was awesome again.
Favorite Album(s): Sin After Sin, British Steel, Turbo, Nostradamus

Metallica
So… just a heads-up, it turns out I really, really don’t like thrash metal. Nothing against Metallica, of course – I think they’re awesome now – but when I started listening to them, the first four albums were nothing but thrash metal songs. After the first hour, I couldn’t take it anymore and I found myself skimming through the songs, listening for anything that didn’t damage my ears. Then the “Black Album” finally came along and I fell to my knees and cried. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. Well, maybe beautiful compared to having my eardrums ground into mulch, but their leap in quality was nothing short of a miracle.
Favorite Album(s): The Black Album, Load, ReLoad

AC/DC
Remember when I said I didn’t like blues-rock? AC/DC is the exception. They’ve ALWAYS been the exception. All they ever play is blues-rock, and every song still turns into the best thing ever. I’d already been a big fan of theirs for years, so listening to all of their albums was a nice musical reprieve. It also made me sit down and watch “Maximum Overdrive” again, for good time’s sake.
Favorite Album(s): T.N.T, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Let There Be Rock, Highway to Hell, Back in Black, For Those About To Rock We Salute You
Best Album Cover Ever? This one.

Pantera
I didn’t even know who Pantera was, or that they were considered to be a classic band. Yet they end up on just about every top ten list of great heavy metal bands – so I had to check them out. And guess what? Thrash metal. Practically nothing but thrash metal (if you skimmed ahead to this part, I don’t like thrash metal.) I honestly liked Pantera’s earlier work a lot better, back when they did *dramatic sting* GLAM metal. Hey, it had better energy, catchier riffs, and didn’t sound like an angry homeless guy stuck in the dryer. I’m entitled to my opinion, even if it does get me crucified by metal fans worldwide.
Favorite Album(s): Projects in the Jungle, Power Metal
A Side Note: I’m aware of the hypocrisy between me liking Motorhead and not liking thrash metal. The only explanation I can come up for this inconsistency is that Lemmy Kilmister’s awesome mustache has healing powers.

Ozzy Osbourne
Don’t ask why it took me so long to get back to Ozzy. The important thing is, I did. After noticing a certain lack of all my favorite songs while listening to Sabbath, I’d made a mental note to catch up on Ozzy’s solo career to find where they had gotten off to. And as it turns out, Ozzy is an even bigger musical genius than I expected. Fans aren’t exaggerating when they use terms like “Godfather” or “Prince” to describe his role in heavy metal – he is what they say he is. The Beatles, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Queen, Weird Al – all geniuses in their respective styles as Ozzy is in his. While his signature voice stayed the same, he was always trying to re-invent his music and make every song sound unique. His winning awesomeness almost makes me feel half-bad for never watching his reality show, but at least I can appreciate movies like “Little Nicky” on a whole new level now.
Favorite Album(s): Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman, No More Tears

So there’s the big ten I’ve been listening to for the last while. I’ll probably look into more later on – and any good recommendations are welcome since I want to hear all the essential artists eventually.

A fun note: for just about EVERY song I listened to on YouTube, you could always scroll down and see people complaining about Justin Bieber in the comments. I have nothing against complaining about Justin Bieber, and I’m certain I will hate him too if someone makes me listen to his music – but isn’t it a little nuts that I can listen to almost a thousand songs on YouTube from over a hundred different albums by ten different artists, and the one name that appears in almost every comment section is “Justin Bieber?” I don’t know why all these metal-heads feel so threatened by this little kid. I’m pretty sure I could take him in a fight.

September 02 2010 | Music | 2 Comments »

Game Reviews: Sam & Max – The Devil’s Playhouse

I haven’t done a game review in a while, have I? It’s not for a lack of gaming, that’s for certain – I definitely have a few things to say about my experiences with “Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe” and “Katamari Damacy.” But what got me out of my procrastination was finishing the third season of Sam & Max last night, and finding myself just a little overwhelmed at how far the series has come over the years.

For anyone unfamiliar, “Sam & Max” is an adventure game comedy about two freelance cops in New York – one’s a dog, the other’s a rabbit, and they go around solving bizarre “crimes” of a paranormal nature. The first game was back in 1993 with “Sam & Max Hit The Road” where they travel across America looking for a missing Bigfoot. A few years ago, Telltales Games started making new, shorter games in episodic format, and released them as seasons (much like a TV show.) It’s been very successful since then and “The Devil’s Playhouse” is Season 3 of the series.

I’ll keep this review of “The Devil’s Playhouse” as spoiler-free as possible, but I really wanted to comment on some of the more innovative features of the new five-episode season. The general premise of the story is that Max suddenly develops psychic abilities, and becomes a target for many power-hungry villains. Throughout the adventure, you discover special “Toys of Power” that unlock even more abilities, such as Future Vision, Teleportation, and Shape-Shifting. This lends to some interesting puzzle solving as you have to use Max’s psychic powers in tandem with Sam’s inventory to progress throughout the game. This results in a lot of unusual – but brilliant – situations where you’re required to think outside-the-box, especially in the scenarios where you have to experience the story non-chronologically. Experimenting with the powers often leads to success, or to some incredibly funny and/or awkward scenes.

The other thing that stands out about Season 3 is how grown-up the series has become at this point. The non-sequiturs and infantile humor are still abundant, but the story and characters have gone through all kinds of development. Everyone has a back-story, their own share of secrets, and intricate relationships. On top of that, the story takes some very dark turns – not funny dark, as is tradition for the series – but, well… let’s just say characters die. Good characters – that I like. And I feel sad when they die – yet I want to keep playing. It’s very involving. The words “epic” and “emotional” normally never apply to Sam & Max (the series specializes in general silliness,) but this season is a big exception.

In spite of my love for this season, it’s still hard to recommend to everyone. To really appreciate it, you have to go through the first two seasons, learn about the characters, and follow some very important sub-plots which factor into this season. On top of that, if you don’t share the game’s unique sense of humor and abnormality, you’ll probably get fed up or offended after one episode. Sam & Max can be an acquired taste for some people. Fortunately for me, I’ve been following their work since I was a kid, so it’s already part of my personality.

That out of the way, I just want to share some personal thoughts on the various episodes:

Episode 1, The Penal Zone: I thought this was a great opener for the season, as it introduced me to the new puzzle-solving system, and the story played out like a blend of “The Twilight Zone” meets “The X-Files.” Max’s Future-Vision ability really makes this episode fun.

Episode 2, The Tomb of Sammun-Mak: This was the first episode of the season that truly blew my mind. Explaining why would spoil it, but I can say that Sam sports a pretty awesome mustache in this one.

Episode 3, They Stole Max’s Brain: Oddly enough, I didn’t like this episode. It starts out great, but gets disappointing very quickly as they rush from one plot to another. Then there’s the question of all the red herrings left around the game – buttons and levers that do nothing, items I can’t take, pointless shape-shifting forms, a completely useless new character – it’s like they forgot to put in the puzzles – and the ones they left in can be easily solved by accident. Personally, I think they let the new guy design this episode.

Episode 4, Beyond the Alley of the Dolls: This one redeems Episode 3. With a darker tone, some great cinematography, and one heck of a huge EPIC pay-off, this was my favorite of the season until…

Episode 5, The City That Dares Not Sleep: In which they took the huge epic pay-off from Episode 4 and made a whole episode about it. The puzzles in this one were very fun to figure out – albeit too easy at times – and there was some very creative elements to the overall design. This one turned out to be especially heavy on the drama, however, as well as convoluted and bizarre sub-plots (Sybil’s story is a little too weird, even for me.) And the ending… oh, man. Right now, the Telltale forums are abuzz with people debating the ending like it was “Inception.” Some hate it, some love it. Personally, I think it’s one of the best adventure game endings ever written, but maybe that’s just me.

All in all, a great season, a great adventure, and some great fun. All the more reason to look forward to Telltale’s “Back to the Future” later this year.

September 01 2010 | Video Games | No Comments »