Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Splinter Cell

Finally finished Splinter Cell tonight. I had been sitting on the next to last mission for almost a week, and I got the urge to play again today. So that's one down, two to go. It seems I've got plenty of time before Double Agent comes out, and even then, I might wait a while. I'm not that excited about paying $60 bucks for any game.

Anyway, my thoughts on Splinter Cell, as a whole. Awesome. Great character, tight gameplay, interesting levels and objectives, engaging story (kind of hard to believe it came out in 2002, and involved a terrorist plot against the US. In the post 9/11 world, I'm amazed it wasn't boycotted), and relatively open-ended gameplay. Depending on your individual style, there were often many different ways to progress through a level. You could turn the place into a morgue (like I did), be a complete ghost, or anywhere in between.

I can't wait to get started on Pandora Tomorrow.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Here we go with another movie review. This time, it's a "classic" from the Coen Bros. Fargo won some Academy Awards, and I think that's evidence that most of the Academy Awards that were handed out in the 90s went to films that weren't very good.

Before you say, "You didn't get it" or "You didn't understand the plot" let me stop you. I did get it, and I did understand the plot, I just didn't think it was that good. I enjoyed Steve Buschemi (because I think it's hard not to enjoy a Steve Buschemi performance), but other than that, I was kind of bored. I watch films to be entertained. I don't watch films to analyze them. If you and the rest of your "Film Studies 101" class like Fargo because you can discuss the way it deals with human nature, greed, and shows that sometimes the simple things in life are best, that's fine. But don't tell me that it's a good movie. The Big Lebowski was a good movie. Fargo, not so much.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

X-Men 3

Actually, I don't think it was titled X-Men 3, but rather, X-Men: The Last Stand. Regardless, it was the third movie in the series, and according to public consensus, the last.

I saw it early Friday evening, with a pretty packed house. I went in with virtually no expectations, as the release date sort of snuck up on me. I had seen the trailer a few times, but read no reviews or heard anything from anyone who had seen the midnight premiere. Anyone who knows me knows I avoid spoilers like the plague, so I hadn't been spoiled going in, and I'll keep any spoilers out of my discussion here.

If this is the last in the series, what a way to go. Wolverine kicking serious ass (finally), Colossus and Beast doing their thing (awesome), mutants versus mutants versus humans on a large scale, love triangles (yeah, that's plural), shocking deaths (no, I won't say who died, but there was one that was definitely unexpected, and the funeral scene got me a little choked up. The first movie to accomplish that since The Green Mile, IIRC. There were some sniffles from the rest of the audience, as well, something that I honestly don't ever remember experiencing at the theatre. I certainly didn't expect that sort of emotional impact from a comic book movie), and lots and lots of violence. Seriously, the body count was staggering. Probably one of the most violent PG-13 rated movies I've ever seen. I think it would have gotten an R if the deaths had been bloodier or more prominent.

My recommendation: Must see, at the theatre, preferably with a lot of other people. Prior knowledge of the X-Men really not necessary, but if you haven't seen the first two films, you're definitely missing out on a couple of awesome flicks. My local paper gave X3 2 and half stars. I don't remember what they gave the first two, but I think this was the lowest, and they didn't seem as enamored with it as I am. But what the hell do critics know, anyway? Two thumbs up, bitches.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Being a city boy, I've never seen raccoons before. Unless it was at the zoo. But certainly never in my backyard.

Until tonight.

At first, I thought they were cats in the patio, looking for food. It was dark, they scurried off, and I saw the wet footprints they left. Hmm, awfully long toes for a cat. I grabbed a flashlight and looked out at the back fence. They it hit it hard, and glanced back just before they went over. Cats don't wear bandit masks.

Raccoons! In my backyard. I wish I'd been able to get a picture, but they left too quickly, and the batteries were dead anyway.

But yeah, raccoons. Not sure where they came from, or why there were two of them. Big damn things, though.

One more completely unrelated thing: I was playing some Splinter Cell (the first one) tonight, and these checkpoints are really pissing me off. All I want to do is enjoy the game and watch the story unfold, but the game won't let me. I've played through the same section about 7 times because there's so much distance between checkpoints, and so many things can go wrong in the span of about 10 minutes. Fucking checkpoints.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

X360 Games Coming Soon

The X360 has what look to be some killer games coming out in the next few months. Release dates are from Gamefly, subject to change.

Hitman: Blood Money, 6/1. The Hitman games are awesome, this is a must buy.

Prey, 7/12. Seems to be a fairly innovative shooter. Hopefully it'll be better than Doom 3.

Chromehounds, 7/13. Could be a generic mech game, could be awesome.

Dead Rising, 8/24. "Don't you wanna check out the rest of E3?" "Does the rest of E3 involve killing zombies with a hedge trimmer?" "No, I don't think so." "Then why are you talking to me?"

Saint's Row, 8/30. If it's half as good as the GTA games, it's a must buy.

Splinter Cell: Double Agent, 9/28. Anticipation for this game made me go buy the first 3 games in the series, just so I can play them until DA comes out.

The Godfather, 10/4. If it's half as good as Mafia, it's a must buy.

Rainbow Six: Vegas, 11/30. Never been a big fan of the R6 games, but this one looks intriguing.

Of course, that takes us into the holiday season, during which the Wiiiiiiiii will be released. I am sooo getting one of those, for Zelda, Mario, Metroid, and Smash Bros alone, not to mention the back catalogue.

One More Quickie Movie Review

Ocean's Twelve, rated PG-13, starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Elliot Gould, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac (can I stop now?), etc. I enjoyed Ocean's Eleven (the remake, I haven't seen the original). The thing about that movie was the big twist. But with this movie, it seemed like it had twists just for the sake of twists. Not a good movie, and I was bored halfway through. And for chrissakes, they're making Ocean's Thirteen.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Quickie Movie Reviews

I had absolutely nothing better to do today, so I watched a bunch of movies I had never seen. So here we go with some one paragraph or less movie reviews!

Wedding Crashers, unrated edition, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. Basically a romantic comedy for guys. Still not that great, though. Funny, but ultimately forgettable.

Scarface, rated R, starring Al Pacino. A classic that is actually deserving of the praise it gets, unlike, say, Easy Rider or Bullitt.

Cruel Intentions, rated R, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillippe. While it would have been much better had any of the female leads shown their tits, not a bad flick overall.

The Aristocrats, unrated, staring a shitload of comics. I'd actually seen the first 30 minutes of this previously, but I finished it up today. Funny stuff, although I must say Tim Conway's bit at the end made me laugh the hardest.

Deliverance, rated R, starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight. Wow. This movie would cause a stir if released today, I can't imagine the kind of reaction it caused back in 1972. Plus, if this movie didn't earn some Oscar nods for acting, it should have.

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle, unrated edition, starring some dudes I've never heard of. Funny, yet forgettable. Although Neil Patrick Harris doing a cameo as himself was fucking awesome.

Monday, May 15, 2006

End of Season Roundup

So we're coming to the end of another network television season, and I think it's time to revisit the shows I've been watching for 8-9 months.

Monday night:

How I Met Your Mother, 7:30 pm, CBS - A quality show that surprised me with how good it was, and that I actually liked it (since it's basically a romantic comedy in a sitcom format). Plus, you've got Alyson Hannigan, and recent guest stars and Buffy-verse vets Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker. We still don't know how the main character met his wife, but if we did, they'd have to end the show, I suppose.

Prison Break, 8:00 pm, FOX - Apparently, the fans came back after this show's 3 month hiatus, and FOX has a second season planned. The cons escaped in the last episode, so maybe they'll have to change the name from Prison Break to Manhunt.

Tuesday night:

Veronica Mars, 9:00 pm, UPN - This show switched nights midway through the season, and Tuesday came to be known as "Veronica Mars-day." However, I must now go through a painful, months-long withdrawal from VM, and I don't know if I'll make it. I'll have to clutch my DVDs and rock myself to sleep until the best show on television returns in the fall.

Wednesday night:

Bones, 8:00 pm, FOX - Another show that seems to have a second season planned, and which also switched nights midway through the season. I can finally look at David Boreanaz now and not see Angel.

Lost, 9:00 pm, ABC - This show will be on as long as the people involved want to continue making it, because the viewers will show up, even if it was on at 4 in the morning.

Thursday night:

Smallville, 8:00 pm, WB - This is probably the weakest show on the list. I could miss the first half hour, and still know exactly what's going on, because the characters explain it to me. If I missed a half hour of Veronica Mars, I'd be just as lost as the folks on the island on that other network.

My Name Is Earl, 9:00 pm, NBC - Jason Lee rocks. He rocks so much, he gets another season, after surviving the switch to Thursday midway through the season.

The Office, 9:30 pm, NBC - Hi-larious. Another season for the gang at the office, who survived the move along with Earl.

Supernatural, 9:00 pm, WB - I had to watch this show's whole season on tape delay, since there was always something else I wanted to watch during it's slot. Hopefully, it'll get another season, because this one ended with a gigantic cliffhanger, and absolutely nothing was resolved. CW execs, I swear to god, if you don't pick up this show and VM in the fall, I will...well, I won't watch your network. And if I see you walking down the street, I'll spit in your eye.

Justice League Unlimited deserves a special mention here. While I never watched a single new episode on TV, I discovered it on DVD, and it's fantastic. Unfortunately, it's also over, since apparently DC is concerned with their continuity, and their big two franchises, Bats and Supes (except in the case of Smallville, or that FOX kids show, The Batman, or pretty much anywhere else except for JLU). So a great show gets the axe, whereas a mediocre show and an absolute shit show get to live on for eternity.

One more thing, remember this post? I don't think Sony will have a production shortage (they're planning on shipping 2 million consoles by the end of the year), in fact, I think they're going to have a huge surplus. PS3's will be sitting on store shelves this Christmas. That #3 is important, because that's what position Sony will be in the console war. Wait and see.

Monday, May 08, 2006

PS3: It's new, it's shiny, it costs a shit-ton

So Sony announced the North American launch date and pricing for the PS3 today. It'll hit on November 17 this year (contrary to my prediction of next year, but it's not like anyone you or I know will actually have a PS3 in 2006 anyway), and will come in two flavors, a 20 GB HD version and a 60GB HD version (even though Sony had previously said they weren't going to have two price points like Microsoft did). Oh, and did I mention the price? Yeah, it's $500 for the "core" system, and $600 for the "platinum" system.

Holy shit, I think the PS3 is going to be DOA in the US. It'll sell as many units as they can make in Japan, because Japanese people are just that nuts, but US consumers are not going to shell out that much bank for a fucking game console. Especially since just like the core version of the 360, the cheaper PS3 is going to be missing key features.

The only semi-good thing about all this is the controller. Sony ditched that fucked up batarang/banana/dildo looking piece of shit, and went old school. In fact, that's the same design as the DualShock and DualShock 2, except for a few key differences. 1: It's wireless. There's USB connectivity for charging, or for use with a PC. 2: The R2/L2 buttons now have more travel, and act more like triggers. 3: There's no more shock. Sony instead opted to have a motion sensor with "6 axis of movement." So here we have a controller that is pretty much exactly the same as Sony's 2 previous controllers, except it's wireless/USB with a play and charge kit like the 360, has Xbox-like triggers, and a motion sensor like the Wii Happy Fun Time (except not as good). Way to innovate, Sony.

Personally, I like Microsoft's reaction to Sony's press conference. I had heard hype about Sony's response to Xbox Live, and apparently what they talked about today was a "vague" online strategy. Which is all I'd really expect. Microsoft has had 5 years and two platforms to perfect Live, and it's pretty damn good. Sony can't expect to jump right in and try to compete. And the $200 price delta is nothing to scoff at. That's a lot, and I fully expect it to get even larger, since Microsoft would be silly to not cut the price of the 360 by at least 50, if not 100 bucks on November 17. Or perhaps throw in a game with the bundle. Perhaps a small, niche title like Halo 3?

How can Sony possibly justify that price? Is it the Blu-Ray? I don't think so. The DVD player functionality moved PS2s because DVD was already an established format, and people could pick up a PS2 for 300 bucks, or a stand-alone DVD player for 250. So they bought the PS2. But Blu-Ray isn't an established format, and it's going to be fighting a war with HD-DVD (which Microsoft has thrown their hat in with). Even if Blu-Ray is the clear winner, it doesn't mean people are going to buy a PS3 in order to have a Blu-Ray player, especially at that price.

Maybe Sony has a killer list of apps? That's gotta be it. Let's see here, there's MGS 4. That's an exclusive. Final Fantasy 13, if anyone cares. A new Sonic the Hedgehog game, but that's multi-platform. Project Offset is an interesting indie game, but that's multi-platform, too. Elveon caught my eye, and that's exclusive. A new Gran Turismo game, but again, who cares. Then there's Rainbow Six: Vegas, UT2k7, and John Woo's Stranglehold, but those are all mutli-platform. What does the 360 have on the horizon? Let's see, there's Chromehounds, Prey, Halo 3, Gears of War, BioShock, Too Human, Mass Effect, Huxley, Saint's Row, and Forza Motorsport 2. All exclusive to the 360 (and in some cases, PC). There's also Superman Returns, Hitman: Blood Money, and Splinter Cell: Double Agent, which will probably end up being multi-platform, but they haven't been announced for PS3 yet. So the games aren't really in Sony's corner, at least not right now.

Wow, so we're looking at a $600 piece of shit. Bravo, Sony. I salute you.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

So...why should I buy it, exactly?

The RIAA sucks. In their misguided, bullshit war on piracy, they've managed to piss off just about everyone, included the loyal music buyers (like myself) who still buy just as many CDs as they used to, before the advent of file sharing. Well, they just lost me. And it wasn't even something they did to me directly. Let me tell you why.

My dad bought a new CD. It doesn't matter who the artist is or what album it is, because I bet shit like this is going to keep happening. Anyway, he was upset that it wasn't playing on his portable CD player, so he asked me to see if I could figure it out.

This CD is a flipper, with a CD side and a DVD side. I'd seen discs like it before, and was struck by the ingenuity that the RIAA was using in it's effort to combat piracy. Have the album on one side, and extra content like videos, studio sessions, or live concerts on the other. That way, if you pirate the audio, you're not getting all the extra shit. Ingenious.

I explained to my dad that he was trying to play the DVD side, and he should just flip it over to play the music. He did so, and it still refused to play. Hmm. Ok, I suggested we try it on the computer. If nothing else, he could rip the songs and then reburn it to play it on his portable.

Just one problem: it wouldn't play on the computer, either. The drive failed to recognize there was even a CD present. I tried flipping it over, and the DVD booted right up. That's fantastic, but how the hell am I supposed to play the audio portion, and just the audio? So I checked the CD case. There's a handy table that has "CD * side" and "DVD side" on the back. Under "CD * side" it says, "Audio tracks." On the "DVD side" table heading, it said, "Audio in surround sound, music videos, and outtakes." I wanted to know what the hell that asterisk meant, so I found a line at the bottom that read, "* The audio data on the CD side is not in a standard CD audio format, so some CD players may not be able to play it."

What the fuck? Not in a standard CD audio format? It's fucking CD audio, for chrissakes, how can it not be in a standard format? Let me get this straight: We've got a CD, that my dad paid for like the good consumer that he is, and you're telling me that he can't fucking play it in his goddamn CD player? You expect me to play it in the DVD player so I can get it in "surround" sound? Fuck you! I'm the goddamn end-user, not you. I decide how the fuck I want to play my music, not you. I don't use my fucking DVD player to listen to music, and I don't know anyone who does.

More importantly, I know why the RIAA is pulling shit like this, because they have a raging hard-on for stopping piracy. But let me give you a clue, RIAA: you don't treat your customers like criminals, or they'll start acting like it. Fuck you, RIAA. I will never, ever, buy another fucking CD ever again. You all can take your anti-piracy hard-on and shove it straight up your collective asses.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Ad-semen. That's right, I said it.

You know what chaps my ass? (that's an oldie but goodie, right there) Websites with fucking flash ads or whatever the hell it is where the ad pops up over the page content, and you can't make it go away until it's done with it's bullshit. Now, I'm so desensitized to banner ads and shit that I don't even notice them anymore. But popping an ad up over your content? Isn't that counter-productive?

Let's think about this. You have a website. Websites cost money to host, and if you have other people creating content, it costs money to have them on staff. So you allow space for advertisers to pitch their product. That's all well and good. But why in the blue hell would you allow an advertiser to splash their shit all over your content? Joe Websurfer doesn't come to any particular website just for the ads. I mean, shit, do people watch a particular TV program just for the ads?

Wait, maybe that's a bad example. I know some people that are more interested in the Super Bowl ads than the game itself. Shit.

Even so, I don't think people visit any given website for the ads. Period. So we come back to my question: why would any webmaster let advertisers shoot their ad-semen all over their content? Because as a websurfer, if I see that shit, not only am I going to leave the site immediately and get that content somewhere else, but I'll probably never come back. So both the webmaster and the advertiser get fucked.

Of course, as with a lot of other things, maybe I'm the only one that feels this way.

Entirely new levels of radness

That's what my monitor has shown me. Levels of radness that I had no idea were even possible. Untapped potential radness. Radness that, until now, had been unreachable. Well, I've seen the mountain-top, folks. And it is rad.

First off, no dead pixels. Or at least, no dead pixels that I can see. And on a screen with over 2.3 million pixels, I'm not sure I would even notice if one or two were dead.

The first thing I did with it, believe it or not, was surf the web. And guess what: it's too big to surf the web in fullscreen, I've gotta go windowed. Not that that's a bad thing. Hell, I could have two browser windows open side by side with no overlap. That's some hot shit.

Then I popped in some Oblivion and rocked it 1080i style for a bit. Gaming in widescreen is totally not disappointing, I must say. Especially when I can play from across the room with my wireless controller.

I followed that up with a DVD of Forbidden Planet, which I'd never seen. Good flick, and surprisingly well done special effects, especially for 1956. Plus, Leslie Nielson in the type of dramatic part that he used to do all the time until Airplane! and Robby the Robot in his very first role. Robby had the funniest line I've ever heard a robot deliver: "Sorry miss, I was giving myself an oil-job."

I've since played my other X360 games, which all look great, and a handful of other DVDs (movies, TV, porn). This monitor gets two big thumbs up from me. Best thousand bucks I ever spent.