Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Assorted Media Opinions

First, I want to link to this again because everyone needs to see it. Dr. Horrible. This is the one. Stops time. Dr. Horrible. Tell your friends.

Now on to the reviews of recent movies, TV shows, and internet...things.

Hancock, rated PG-13, starring Will Smith, Jason Bateman, and Charlize Theron. I may have said this before, but Will Smith is incredibly entertaining, even in a bad movie. Not to say Hancock is bad, but it's made considerably better by the presence of Mr. Smith. Definitely not your typical superhero flick. Thumbs up.

The Happening, rated R, starring Marky Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, and John Leguizamo. Where to begin with this one? M. Night Shyamalan is an interesting guy. The Sixth Sense was amazing, Unbreakable was a new twist on an old story, and Signs was a mess. I didn't bother seeing The Village or Lady in the Water. So I approached The Happening with more than a little bit of trepidation. Ultimately, The Happening is just a bad movie. Bad plot, bad twist (if you want to call it that), bad acting, badly written characters. That flushing sound you hear? That's M. Night's career going away.

Mamma Mia!, rated PG-13, starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard. Let me be up front: I'm not a fan of musicals. I've seen a handful, enjoyed a couple, but for the most part the musical, as a genre, is just beyond me. That said, I didn't hate Mamma Mia. The songs were good (it's ABBA. Hatin' on ABBA is like punching a kitten in the face. Normal people just don't do it), the actors were surprisingly good singers (for the most part, anyway. I'm looking at you, Pierce Brosnan), and the story, while a bit contrived, was decent enough. If you're a fan of musicals and/or chick flicks, you'll definitely enjoy Mamma Mia!

Hellboy II, rated PG-13, starring Ron Perlman, Selma Blair, Doug Jones, and Jeffrey Tambor. Hellboy is another superhero comic book movie, but it's completely unlike any other superhero comic book movie. Hellboy's universe is an occult and supernatural one, and it makes for a very different experience. The first Hellboy film isn't required viewing before seeing the sequel, but since they're both excellent flicks, I recommend them.

Eureka, starring Colin Ferguson, Salli Richardson, and Joe Morton. Currently in it's third season (which started tonight), Eureka is technically science fiction, but I'd say it bends genres. It's part comedy, part drama, part mystery. So far, I've only seen the first season, but it's definitely enjoyable. The first two seasons are on DVD, so Netflix em if you've got it.

Generation Kill, starring an ensemble cast. This a new mini-series on HBO about a battalion of Marines (specifically, the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion) during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Since the series is based on a book by an embedded reporter, it's essentially a first-hand look at the operation and the soldiers involved. Only 3 episodes (of 7) have aired so far, but as a fan of war movies and documentaries, I'm enjoying this bit of historical re-telling.

And last, but certainly not least:

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day. Yes, ok, it's a musical. But it's also a comedy, and a drama, and a superhero story with a love triangle and a supervillian who's also the protaganist. It defies convention. It's a must see (it can be streamed for free right here!), even if you're not a fan of musicals. That's about all I can say without spoiling anything. Go. Watch. Enjoy. Sing along.

Monday, July 28, 2008


In case you missed it, it's back! Go watch it for the first time, or the thirtieth time, or anywhere in between. Go now!

Seriously, don't make me beat you.

The Dark Knight...of Bad Math

So, The Dark Knight. I still haven't seen it. Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "You'll go see Mamma Mia! but you won't see Dark Knight? Exactly how much cock do you chug?" Well, the answer is none of your goddamn business. I will say that I fully intend to go see The Dark Knight, preferably when there aren't lines that wrap around the building. I'm thinking a weeknight.

Anyway, that's not what this post is about. I want to talk about something that really gets under my skin, and that's bad math. Specifically, when people talk about numbers with a time dimension in nominal terms. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up.

The Dark Knight has made a shit-ton of money in a short period of time. At last count, $313,781,677 domestically in 10 days. I'll grant you, that's a lot of dough. So much so, that there's chatter about it breaking Titanic's record. And that's when I get pissed off.

Here's the thing: Titanic doesn't have a record. $600 million is a lot of money, yeah, but a record it ain't. Even though this shows Titanic at the top, that doesn't mean anything. Why? Look at the number 2 film. Star Wars came out in 1977. Do you think you could buy as much with a dollar in 1997 as you could in 1977? No, you couldn't.

Which brings me to using nominal values to describe something with a time dimension. In this case, looking at box office receipts in terms of today's money becomes useless after only a few years, let alone a few decades.

So let's get the real value by adjusting for inflation. Oh ho, this paints quite a different picture, doesn't it? Titanic tumbles all the way to #6. Still respectable, but not nearly #1, not by a half a billion dollars. That's right, a movie released today would have to do 1.5 billion dollars worth of domestic business in order to break Gone with the Wind's record. Not likely. Possible, but I don't know if any movie ever again would sell that many tickets.

Oh, and The Dark Knight? $300 million in 10 days is impressive, but that doesn't even put it in the Top 100 on the all-time list. Too bad, Bats.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

I was going to link to this earlier, but then I got distracted by something, probably boobs. Mmm, boobs....

No! So you need to check out Dr. Horrible. It's got Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day, and it's written and directed by Joss Whedon. It's a super-villain love story musical, and it is made of pure awesome. Go see it right now, because it ceases to exist on the internets in it's wild, free form as of Sunday night at midnight.

Go now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

E3 Postmortem

Another E3 has come and gone, so I thought I'd give a rundown of what happened.

First up, Microsoft...ah, hell with it. This sums the whole thing up pretty nicely.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Post About Rock Band 2

Already? Yes, indeed!

According to Gamestop, the game itself hits the Xbox 360 first on September 14, then the bundle for both 360 and PS3, as well as the standalone game for PS3 hits on October 19. Wii and PS2 owners have the longest to wait, as the game and bundles don't hit for those platforms until November 18.

I can wait until October 19.

I think.


I don't know if it's just because I haven't kept on top of the latest PC tech or what, but this is fucking amazing to me. That is a sexy beast, right there.

Now, I've always built my own computers (except for one very early, very bad decision on a Compaq that I still regret), but this is damn tempting. Core 2 Duo E4600 processor, 2GB of DDR2-667 memory, 320GB SATA hard drive, dual layer DVDRW optical drive with Lightscribe, and an NVIDIA GeForce 8400GS video card, all in a 22" flat panel monitor for 1200 bucks. And a wireless mouse and keyboard are included. Jesus, that's everything you need. It's even got wireless LAN. When the guy in the video (which autoplays, btw, that's kind of annoying) says you take it out of the box and plug in one cable, he ain't kidding, and that is all sorts of cool.

I'll say it again: that is a sexy beast, and it is very, very tempting.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Harmonix Is My Master Now

Technically, they have been since the OG Guitar Hero, but now even more so. E3 kicked off today, and they made some official announcements. I'm going to run through them and post my comments interspersed in italics.

- Local and global online modes to connect the entire Rock Band community
Nothing new here.
- World Tour mode, now online, simplifies the best of gameplay from the original Rock Band by fusing Solo Tour and Band World Tour modes and cranks it up a notch with an all new collection of opportunity gigs, challenges, cities, venues and hirable staff
Oh hell yes. In person rocking is still the way to go, but having the option of playing the world tour with people across town or across the world kicks serious ass.
- Tour Challenges that offer rockers a chance to play through mini-campaigns focused on the best songs by instrument, decade, genre, artist, album and more
- Battle of the Bands mode challenges players to go head to head against other bands in constantly refreshed contests created by Harmonix
I'm personally not into the competition aspect of the game, but that sounds very cool.
- Quickplay makes it easier than ever to get in and jam without hassle while allowing for new prefab characters or customized characters that can play on any instrument plus lets you make your own set lists and organize your song lists in a variety of categories (genre, era, etc.)
Nothing new here except for set lists.
- Customizable Set Lists keep the music rolling and your band rocking in Quickplay mode
Yay! Set lists!
- Drum Trainer mode gives players the fundamentals of different beats and fills, translating gameplay into real drumming skills
Wow. I can't wait to see how far they take this, but the mind boggles at the possibilities.
- Character Creator completes your look with all new choices in clothing, accessories, tattoos, hairstyles, instruments and more to keep your unique rock avatar playing the full rock part
Nothing new here.
- Backwards compatibility with all Rock Band downloadable music content released to date
Very, very cool.
- Disc Export Feature gives owners of the original Rock Band the ability to export most of the Rock Band disc tracks and upgrade them into Rock Band 2 gameplay--the first time ever in videogame history!
Fuck yes. The only thing that gives me the slightest pause is the word "most." It would suck most extremely if we could import stuff like "Ballroom Blitz" and "Electric Version" but couldn't bring over "Tom Sawyer" and "Foreplay/Long Time." Then again, who am I kidding? I'm buying RB2 if I can't import any songs from RB1, so this is just a really, really big bonus.
- The Rock Band 2 soundtrack will feature over 100 songs - with over 80 songs on disc plus an additional 20 bonus tracks which will be made available for free download this fall.
Nice. This is even nicer given that the soundtrack has also been officially announced. More on that in a bit.
- Unrivaled Blend of Classic, Developing and Emerging rock acts including Pearl Jam, Metallica, Allman Brothers, Motorhead, Devo, Jane's Addiction, Megadeth, Paramore, Modest Mouse and more.
Yes, yes, yes, ok, ok, yes, yes, and ok.
- Rock Band 2 is the first and only video game to feature the music of AC/DC. It includes their epic rock anthem, "Let There Be Rock”
Moar AcDc plz!!!11one
- After 14 years since Guns N’ Roses last official music release, Axl Rose selects Rock Band 2 to debut official new track, “Shackler’s Revenge” from the highly-anticipated album Chinese Democracy
Moar GnR plz!!!111eleven.
- For the first time ever, music from American music icon, Bob Dylan, is featured in a video game with “Tangled Up In Blue”
Moar Dob Bylan kthxbai!!!!11onehundredeleven
- With ongoing weekly DLC releases including individual tracks, track packs and full albums, the Rock Band music library will feature more than 500 songs by year’s end!
That's a lot of music.
- Fender Stratocaster Controller takes on a new authentic look plus adds a reinforced strum bar, quieter buttons, wireless functionality and a built in calibration tool that automatically sets your AV setup to an ideal setting for maximum rock.
Nothing groundbreaking here, seeing as how the PS3 guitar is already wireless, I've never needed to calibrate it, and the buttons are fine. I suppose the strum bar could use a little work, so ok.
- Drum set goes wireless while also featuring quieter, velocity sensitive drum pads and a metal reinforced pedal.
Yes, yes, and yes. I might end up having to get a new drum set, especially if my pedal cracks in half (it's currently hanging on by a thread).
- Microphone showcases authentic styling and weight.
Uh huh. Ok. Sure.
- Fender Telecaster Controller from Mad Catz features soft buttons with lower action to help you shred faster than ever.
O...K. Lower action? Seriously? You realize it's not an actual guitar, right?
- Fender Bass Controller from Mad Catz, the first bass guitar controller ever, takes the shape of the Fender P-Bass with extended length, tuning pegs and a split strum bar to replicate finger-bass style picking.
Ok, now this is awesome. Given that that's exactly how I play the bass (IRL and in the game), I may very well have to pick that up.
- Full-sized Squire Stratocaster Guitar Controller from Mad Catz multiplies the authentic guitar experience by featuring a controller built into an actual Squire Stratocaster body.
Yeah...no. Seriously, just buy a guitar.
- Cymbal Expansion Pack from Mad Catz is a straightforward but amazing upgrade to the Rock Band 2 drum set featuring add-on cymbals.
Interesting. Not sure that it adds anything (the cymbals would just be different inputs, but would still be mapped to 2 or 3 of the same buttons that the drum pads are mapped to), but ok.
- ION Drum Rocker, a real electronic drum kit that functions as a game controller, brings the Rock Band fantasy to life featuring a simple substitution that takes the drum kit from a controller to a real instrument.
Very, very cool.

And now, the official on-disc tracklist:
1. AC/DC “Let There Be Rock” 1970s
2. AFI “Girl’s Gone Grey” 2000’s
3. Alanis Morissette “You Oughta Know” 1990’s
4. Alice in Chains “Man in the Box” 1990’s
5. Allman Brothers “Ramblin’ Man” 1970’s
6. Avenged Sevenfold “Almost Easy” 2000’s
7. Bad Company “Shooting Star” 1970’s
8. Beastie Boys “So Whatcha Want” 1990’s
9. Beck “E-Pro” 2000’s
10. Bikini Kill “Rebel Girl” 1990’s
11. Billy Idol “White Wedding Pt. I” 1980’s
12. Blondie “One Way or Another” 1970’s
13. Bob Dylan “Tangled Up in Blue” 1970’s
14. Bon Jovi “Livin’ on a Prayer” 1980’s
15. Cheap Trick “Hello There” 1970’s
16. Devo “Uncontrollable Urge” 1980’s
17. Dinosaur Jr. “Feel the Pain” 1990’s
18. Disturbed “Down with the Sickness” 2000’s
19. Dream Theater “Panic Attack” 2000’s
20. Duran Duran “Hungry Like the Wolf” 1980’s
21. Elvis Costello “Pump It Up” 1970’s
22. Fleetwood Mac “Go Your Own Way” 1970’s
23. Foo Fighters “Everlong” 1990’s
24. Guns N’ Roses “Shackler’s Revenge” 2000’s
25. Interpol “PDA” 2000’s
26. Jane’s Addiction “Mountain Song” 1980’s
27. Jethro Tull “Aqualung” 1970’s
28. Jimmy Eat World “The Middle” 2000’s
29. Joan Jett “Bad Reputation” 1980’s
30. Journey “Anyway You Want It” 1970’s
31. Judas Priest “Painkiller” 1990’s
32. Kansas “Carry On Wayward Son” 1970’s
33. L7 “Pretend We’re Dead” 1990’s
34. Lacuna Coil “Our Truth” 2000’s
35. Linkin Park “One Step Closer” 2000’s
36. Lit “My Own Worst Enemy” 1990’s
37. Lush “De-Luxe” 1990’s
38. Mastodon “Colony of Birchmen” 2000’s
39. Megadeth “Peace Sells” 1980’s
40. Metallica “Battery” 1980’s
41. Mighty Mighty Bosstones “Where’d You Go” 1990’s
42. Modest Mouse “Float On” 2000’s
43. Motorhead “Ace of Spades” 1980’s
44. Nirvana “Drain You” 1990’s
45. Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky” 1960’s
46. Panic at the Disco “Nine in the Afternoon” 2000’s
47. Paramore “That’s What You Get” 2000’s
48. Pearl Jam “Alive” 1990’s
49. Presidents of the USA “Lump” 1990’s
50. Rage Against the Machine “Testify” 1990’s
51. Ratt “Round & Round” 1980’s
52. Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give it Away” 1990’s
53. Rise Against “Give it All” 2000’s
54. Rush “The Trees” 1970’s
55. Silversun Pickups “Lazy Eye” 2000’s
56. Smashing Pumpkins “Today” 1990’s
57. Social Distortion “I Was Wrong” 1990’s
58. Sonic Youth “Teenage Riot” 1980’s
59. Soundgarden “Spoonman” 1990’s
60. Squeeze “Cool for Cats” 1970’s
61. Steely Dan “Bodhitsattva” 1970’s
62. Steve Miller Band “Rock’n Me” 1970’s
63. Survivor “Eye of the Tiger” 1980’s
64. System of a Down “Chop Suey” 2000’s
65. Talking Heads “Psycho Killer” 1970’s
66. Tenacious D “Master Exploder” 2000’s
67. Testament “Souls of Black” 1990’s
68. The Donnas “New Kid in School” 2000’s
69. The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” 1980’s
70. The Grateful Dead “Alabama Getaway” 1980’s
71. The Guess Who “American Woman” 1970’s
72. The Muffs “Kids in America” 1990’s
73. The Offspring “Come Out & Play (Keep ‘em Separated)” 1990’s
74. The Replacements “Alex Chilton” 1980’s
75. The Who “Pinball Wizard” 1960’s
76. Abnormality “Visions” 2000’s
77. Anarchy Club “Get Clean” 2000’s
78. Bang Camaro “Night Lies” 2000’s
79. Breaking Wheel “Shoulder to the Plow” 2000’s
80. The Libyans “Neighborhood” 2000’s
81. The Main Drag “A Jagged Gorgeous Winter” 2000’s
82. Speck “Conventional Lover” 2000’s
83. The Sterns “Supreme Girl” 2000’s
84. That Handsome Devil “Rob the Prez-O-Dent” 2000’s
Too...much...awesome...brain...overloading...forcing...to speak...in short...bursts...
Seriously, though, wow. Of the 50 something songs there that I've heard, completely awesome. I'm sure most, if not all, of the other 30 something will grow on me once I hear and play them.

That's it for the official announcements today, and damn, what announcements they are. One more note on the tracklist. Supposedly, Harmonix couldn't get all the tracks they wanted together in time for the Xbox's exclusive launch in September, so that's why they're releasing another 20 tracks to RB2 owners for free download later this year. That's just incredible. At this point, since GH1 was a 10, GH2 was an 11, and Rock Band was a 12, Rock Band 2 is going to be a 13.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Two Handheld Reviews

I recently finished a couple of games on my handheld systems.

First up, Jeanne D'Arc, a turn-based tactical RPG for the PSP. I've been a sucker for these ever since Final Fantasy Tactics on the Playstation, and Jeanne D'Arc doesn't disappoint. It gets bonus points for not forcing me to level grind just so I can advance the storyline (like so many traditional RPGs do, and one of the reasons I don't play them anymore). An enjoyable game with an interesting plot and relatable characters equals a thumbs up from me. Now I can finally pick up and dive into Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSP. I hear it's a faithful update to the original.

The other game I just finished is Hotel Dusk: Room 215, a point-and-click adventure game for the DS. I've been a sucker for these ever since the LucasArts classic adventure games on PC (Monkey Island, Full Throttle, Sam and Max, etc). The only downside is occasionally getting lost and having no idea what to do next because it's unclear how items in your inventory fit into whatever you're trying to do. Other than that, Hotel Dusk was a fairly riveting mystery story that read very much like a hard-boiled detective novel (it even has you hold the DS like a paperback book). Thumbs up. Next up is Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. After all, I've only had it for 8 months...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rock Band 2

Rock Band 2 has been officially announced.

In short, DLC from Rock Band 1 is fully compatible with Rock Band 2 and vice versa, there will be new and improved instruments although the old ones will still work just fine, there are new modes and tweaks to existing modes (like Band World Tour, which will most likely jump to online, and possibly a "create-a-song" feature like Guitar Hero World Tour will have, although the PR-speak seems to imply that Rock Band won't be doing that until the third iteration or later), the ability to sing and play an instrument at the same time (with one character, rather than having to play multiplayer with yourself), an all-new on disc tracklist, which is the "strongest playlist [they've] ever assembled," as well as "new ways for you to transition from Expert to real instruments." What that last statement could mean is anyone's guess, but Bill Harris over at Dubious Quality thinks it could mean things like electronic drumkits that are compatible with Rock Band. It's going to be interesting, whatever it means.

Also, the folks at Harmonix are continuing to put out quality tracks as DLC, as well as a wide range of music that is certainly broadening my horizons. Since that was one of their mission statements with Rock Band, I'd say they're succeeding. Recent releases have included songs from Boston, Blondie, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, The Cars, Fallout Boy, Jimmy Buffett, Disturbed, Maximo Park, Avenged Sevenfold, The Offspring, Pixies, Weezer, and Papa Roach. Currently announced and coming soon are songs by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rush, and a 12 track "Greatest Hits" pack from The Who.

Speaking of great tracks, some of the songs rumored to be on Rock Band 2's disc include "Chop Suey" by System of a Down, "Give It Away" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Everlong" by Foo Fighters, "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead, "Hello There" by Cheap Trick, "Anyway You Want It" by Journey, "Pinball Wizard" by The Who, "Peace Sells" by Megadeth, "Testify" by Rage Against The Machine, "American Woman" by The Guess Who, "White Wedding" by Billy Idol, "Aqua Lung" by Jethro Tull, "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett, "Drain You" by Nirvana, "Man in the Box" by Alice In Chains, and "Spoonman" by Soundgarden.

Guitar Hero Who?