January 29, 2009

Paul Blart: Or Why Kevin James Alone Cannot Save a Movie

I had some misgivings about Paul Blart: Mall Cop before seeing it this past weekend. It seemed like one of those movies where the previews give us all the good stuff, only this one didn't even give us many of those.

It was a stinker (see attached). The movie is a long Segway commercial and public service announcement for hypoglycemia. The first part of the movie feels like Ben Stiller, complete self-deprecating drivel. And as for the rest, it has its funny moments if you can completely suspend your sense of reality. I give it about a year before it's made its way to the TBS "waste-away-watching-bad-comedies" lineup.

And hey, I've seen some great movies in Slumdog Millionaire and Gran Torino right before this. It's nice to keep things in perspective with "sucky" or "not good" movies, as my friend so eloquently calls them.

-- "All I got was that dumbass stick that sounds like it's raining. How come you got a wife?"

January 28, 2009

What Would You Do? Zombie Ed.

It's not about Left 4 Dead. This time I wanna talk about The Walking Dead, a graphic novel series based in a post-zompocalyptic period. It doesn't involve magic or any super-heroes slowly saving the day against the zed hoard; it's a true to life simulation of what could happen.

The stories follow Rick, an officer of the law, who awakens from a coma with no family or friends around him inside a lifeless hospital. What follows are adventure stories detailing his survival and the constant struggle against fear and hopelessness.

The realities of a dark world are constantly constricting the living with the need for safety and survivors dying all around them. But the struggles slide between the survivors themselves as confrontations lead to murder and sometimes grotesquely detailed torture. It has its moments of comedy, as most great dramas do, but the "how are they going to survive this?" and "what will they do now?" moments drive these novels forward.

I'm in the middle of volume 7 of the series with number 8 already right behind it. The 10th volume is slated for August, and the author, Robert Kirkman, has no intention of stopping. Let's my hunger is sated whilst waiting for future volumes.

-- "Some people like to carry a rabbit's foot. I like to rock a pocket of puke."

January 27, 2009

My Lube for the Boob Tube

A new season has started up for television, and way too much time will be spent watching great shows. A couple of J.J. Abrams ventures, the Nerd Herd, Hiro and the misfits, and Bruce Campbell return to suck the life right out of me for another semester of TV geekdom.

Fringe - The newest to join my lineup, Fringe was coined from "fringe sciences" meaning stuff that doesn't really exist but made believable enough to people so they question our own existence. It's kinda like the Harry Potter muggle world meets the wizarding world. But before I take this brilliant comparison any further, I'll make the particular distinction that Fringe involves someone dying and things being dissected...every episode.

Lost - The veteran joining in last week with its 5th season is Lost. I thought I might be able to stay away from this new season as the last season finale didn't leave me shreds wanting to know what happens next. (Un)Fortunately, the new episodes are good and filled with intention and purpose again. I feel the show is answering more questions without raising others, and it feels great to know an end is approaching even if time/space is unhinged.

Chuck - The unwitting spy that goes by the name of Charles Carmichael is returning with more geekpop-culture and gratuitous "SpikeTV" hotness and violence. The attractive women aside, this show would still be good because the characters are all written very well. The interaction between friends seems genuine and the spy stuff doesn't seem too over-the-top to take you out of the story. Plus Buster from Arrested Development, Tony Hale, and Jayne from Firefly, Adam Baldwin are starring alongside.

Heroes - Ah, the show I wish I could stop watching. Heroes definitely stumbled in its last season with some awkward writing and acting, but thankfully some people were killed off and good still prevailed. I write this more in anticipation of the next season which looks reminiscent of some X-Men stories where mutants are hunted down. I still like the show because it's the first to handle super heroes in a "real-life" manner and multiple, congruent character stories rather well. It may be losing its initial spark, but hopefully a proven, adaptable story will kickstart back to life.

Burn Notice - If you haven't heard about this show, it's because it's on USA. Suffice it to say it's just starting its 3rd season, and it's still phenomenal. The acting and casting have been spot on. And the action involved in the spy plots are full of twists, explosions, quick joint locks, gunplay, etc. Also hinted above, the geek cult-hero Bruce Campbell co-stars in one of his best roles ever. Everything is top-notch, and the main character is good-hearted to boot.

Hopefully nothing else really hooks me because there is enough to keep me clamoring for more right now. And don't even say Battlestar Galactica, I'll get to it someday.

-- "Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades, don't you think?"

January 22, 2009

The Prince Hath Returned

The new Prince of Persia game is a current gen redressing of the entire franchise. It's not the same prince from The Sands of Time/Warrior Within/Two Thrones era, and it feels very fresh otherwise too. Just to be clear, I have only played the great, the magnificent, the stupendous Sands of Time Persian royalty game and not the other two (I heard they weren't nearly as stupendous and merely scoffed). But this new illustrative-style Prince seemed very intriguing.

The visuals are gorgeous. Just wanted to get that outta the way and move on.

The gameplay calls back to what made SoT so great without hourglass mechanic or constant flipping around during fights. The exploration and traipsing around through levels is tons of fun...if you don't mind the difficulty. It doesn't require expert timing or mediocre skills making sure to be looking in the exact direction for a jump. It's effortless. I say this loving what this game has done. It's great to pull off maneuvers so much you can engulf yourself in the fluid animation and stare slack-jawed at the painted landscapes all around you.

Do you remember the difficulty of the original Prince of Persia? Well take that and turn it around. It's nice to not feel so frustrated with a game every time you make a timing mistake and backtrack via a loading screen to your last save point.

The combat? Eh, has something that's good but not quite fully realized to it. The story? Well thought out and designed with care thankfully through dialogue between the pair of heroes. And that dialogue? Oh how snarky and hilarious it can be. The timing and actual discourse was a great addition to an already fantastic game.

-- "It's brilliant being depressed; you can behave as badly as you like."

January 16, 2009

No Greater Time to be Infected!

With the first big patch for Left 4 Dead now live on PC and having freshly beaten Prince of Persia (more on that later), I want to put together some tips for playing as the Infected in versus matches.

Overall #1 tip: Be patient. Doesn't matter which class (even the tank in some cases), patience is necessary to not only set up some great ambushes, but it will also make survivors more paranoid, sometimes more impatient, and lead to their mistakes. When there are lulls for survivors, they tend to split up into separate rooms. And pay attention to your own sounds.

Hunters: Pouncing isn't everything. They patched the standing swipe damage down and the pounce up a little bit, but there are other things to do. Destroying doors is great when you are waiting ahead of the survivors making it easier for not only your team but also the regular zeds running around during panics. Another great thing for hunters is jumping around or pouncing on one side of the pack as a sacrifice so the Boomer can come in and coat them. You can also wait for a whole team to get coated to then jump as the survivors won't see a teammate on the ground then.

Smokers: Stay in the dark or hidden by trees whenever possible. It's a simple tactic, but you'll rarely, if ever, do any good out in the open. But most of all, try to pull the survivors back. Limiting forward progress is key for Smokers and Boomers, they just handle it differently.

Boomers: Opposite of Smokers, the Boomers need to be in front of the progress to be most effective. They'll stop teams dead. And don't spawn until the last second around close corners; Boomers are extremely loud. On top of that, you can find a lot of unexpected, hidden spots really close to survivors when they are hunkering down. One other key tip for them: aim for the incapped guys (or Zoey). They'll never be able to revive them during the panic!

Tanks: I think Tanks are the hardest of the four classes to play. They're very simple and focused when survivors have a lot options. If the survivors have the weapon upgrade, be very careful about being in the wide open: you'll die before you get one hit. Remember you also have a ranged attack to knock people down for a second. And during the Tank time is the best time for the rest of the team to prey on single targets while everyone is more than likely splitting apart.

Of course this isn't comprehensive, but I do very much delight in tightening down the grip on the other team as I scream with glee after exploding on an unsuspecting, frenzied survivor.

-- "You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize."

January 12, 2009

DCU Online = Better CoH?

Kinda sounds like one of those online Universities at first glance, but DCU Online is starting to look like a great contender in the MMO 'verse. Is it a WoW killer? Hardly, but games don't have to be raking in that much cash to be successful.

Gametrailers posted new videos from this year's Consumer Electronics Show of one of the developers taking us through some of the content. The system looks more adaptable than many other archtype-based class systems and fairly simple (though it has to be for PS3 controller usage).

I don't need anymore MMOs, but these things are running rampant now. This one looks to be one of the bigger contenders for people's pay-to-play wallets soon.

-- "Tonight you're all going to be part of a social experiment."

January 11, 2009

Fun but No Games

I just saw the movie Gran Torino earlier tonight. It's not about games at all, but it was the best movie I've seen in recent history. It's Clint Eastwood as a crotchety, racist old veteran. The acting was solid for the most part (except for a couple parts when one of the actors forced emotions not there). It was crude, hilarious, and one of those "thinker movies that gets 5 stars." Usually this means it was depressing. And it still has that, but not as gutwrenching or lasting because of all the subtle humor and great Eastwoodisms (my new favorite one-liner includes an infix and word of praise).

As Will Ferrell as James Lipton from Inside the Actor's Studio might say, "It's a delight."