Friday, May 30, 2008

Getting a Nasty Bug, Mass Effect and New Drums

My kids both had respiratory infections this week, which I think they managed to pass on to me. I didn't get the chest congestion they had, but the bug has definitely sapped every ounce of energy I've got to just get up off the couch or out of bed the past couple days. Fun!

Fortunately, today has been better, which is just in time as I've got my review copy (download) of Mass Effect installed and I'm eager to get started. Plus a buddy of mine is hosting another "barcade" party, to which I'll again be bringing Rock Band. That was loads of fun the last time (what I can remember of it through the drunken haze), so I'm looking forward to doing that again. This time, however, I'll be turning down any "mystery" concoctions. I also downloaded the Boston track pack a few weeks ago, so I'm eager convince someone (other than me) to do lead vocals on some of those songs. Should be a recipe for hilarity.

Finally, I had EA send me a new drum kit as the yellow pad on my original one never did work quite right. It arrived on Wednesday and, wow, what a difference. In between feverish naps I broke it out to make sure it worked. I was never able to get past Green Grass and High Tides on Medium and with the new kit I passed it on the first try. (Not by much, but still.) So I'd say the new set of pads works considerably better.

Anyway, I'll try to get some Mass Effect (PC) impressions up by Sunday or Monday. Have a good weekend everybody!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Battlefield Bad Company Demo Tokens

EA sent me a large batch of free demo tokens for BBC. The demo comes out June 5th but if you want to play it now you can by going here. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Pain

In The Princess Bride our farmboy hero, "dear sweet Wesley," challenges his nemesis, Prince Humperdink (sp?), to a duel, "to the pain." Frankly, I think I'd rather lose that duel than ever again watch this trailer for Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS. But because misery loves company, I'm embedding it here for your torture. Consider it my contribution to the Hump Day Music Break. Watch it at your own risk.

If you're not sure that you're up to it you might try Googling "Two Girls One Cup," instead. It's only slightly less nauseating.

Hump Day Music Break

Sleater-Kinney is hit and miss with a lot of rock fans -- you either like that voice....or you don't. I've always liked these girls and was bummed when they disbanded. Anwyay I found this performance on Letterman today. Damn good. I had never seen this one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flying High

There's a good article (if you like the Red Wings) in today's Detroit Free Press talking about how happy a lot of Wings players are just to be Red Wings. Here's a small snippet:

Cleary signed a five-year extension earlier this year that averages $2.8 million a season; he would have gone as high as $3.3 million had he hit the open market this summer. Niklas Kronwall signed a five-year extension last season, but only because that was the maximum term offered.

"I would have signed even longer," he said. "I really like being here, and any time we get a new player in, they always say this is by far the best place they've been."

That's because they hear it from the guys who've been in Detroit for a decade or more.

"Why move when you like it so much here?" Holmstrom asked. "I know my family is going to have it good here, and that's a big part of it, too. And I love, love to be on a winning team."

The Wings have gotten off to a dominating start against the Pittsburgh Penguins, having shut them out back-to-back (4-0; 3-0). The Penguins have shown flashes (the first period of game 1 and chunks of the second period in game 2), but for the most part the Red Wings have completely controlled the play and on the few chances they do allow Osgood is there to make a clutch save.

You can tell it's getting to some of the Pens players as they really started getting chippy (and cheap) in the third period last night. In just the last few minutes of that period alone they hammered Henrik Zetterberg after the whistle. Had two different players jack Johan Franzen in the head (only one of which was called). Franzen was playing his first game back after missing something like nine consecutive games with "concussion-like" symptoms and don't think guys like Gary Roberts didn't know that. Then they took a couple of runs at Osgood (who did ham it up on the second hit). Hey, I can appreciate a team getting smoked taking up their physical play a notch to try and get something going for the next game, but as Ron Burgundy would say, "that's bush."

The Cystal Skull is Cracked (Todd's Extra Tasty Spoilery Review)

You get one warning: This review makes no effort to hide spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

My dad and I took in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Friday night. This is one of the few times since I had kids that my dad and I have gotten to just go hang out and do something together, which was really nice. And I'd love to tell you that Crystal Skull was a great way to spend that time. I didn't go into it looking for it to be bad. But it was. It was simply awful.

I don't know how I feel about the switch in plot focus from religious historical artifacts to otherworldly ones. I'd like to think that if we got a good alien artifact plot that I'd be entirely satisfied. No such luck here. The crystal skull is an intriguing artifact and there's some interesting dialog in the movie as the characters debate its authenticity, but it's also wildly inconsistent. In some scenes it has a massive amount of magnetism (the gunpowder bit in the beginning is pretty damn stupid), in others it appears to be just another hunk of glass. I think when you're going to deal with the paranormal you can get away with something that's far-fetched, but you still have to be consistent about it and Spielberg/Lucas & Co. are incredibly not in this film.

I also think the ability of Spielberg and Lucas to do just about anything in a film through the use of special effects allows them to play far too fast and loose with reality. One of the great stunt moves I've ever seen actually comes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy leaps from a moving horse onto a moving tank. I never really noticed it until I watched the movie again last week and I was just like, "Damn. That was frigg'n cool." There wasn't any effects work for the shot. It was just a straight up stunt. Simple and awesome at the same time. And it was exactly the kind of action they had to use in the original trilogy. Now they can do pretty much do whatever they want and the results are horrible. (This isn't to say modern effects can't be used to great effect. They can. Just look at Iron Man. They just weren't used to great effect in this film.)

Whether it's Henry "Mutt" Jones III swinging on vines like Tarzan with a bunch of monkey allies at his heels (I wish I was making that up) or Indiana surviving, unscathed, at ground zero of a nuclear test detonation by hiding in a lead-lined refrigerator (also, sadly, true) or twelve living alien crystal skeletons merging into one, suddenly fleshy, whole (huh?), there's stuff in this film that is so far beyond the realm of even film reality that you can only just sigh and be glad when the movie reaches its merciful conclusion. Evidently Spielberg has yet to learn that just because you can do something on film doesn't mean you should.

Now, this is not to say there aren't good moments in the film. There are. Indy suddenly finding himself mistrusted by his own government was a highly intriguing plot angle that was never really played up. Indy reflecting on having lost his dad and old friend Marcus Brody in the last year was moving. (Especially the line about, life giving you a lot until you reach a certain age and it then just taking everything away.) Indy's action scenes at the Area 51 storage facility (the one where the Ark is stored). You might notice a trend here. When the film is focused on Indy being Indy, it is mostly a very enjoyable film. Harrison Ford really does a job in letting us see an aging, far past his prime, but still full of piss and vinegar Indiana Jones that was fun to watch.

I also think Shia Lebeouf as Indy's son, if they ever bother to give his character a 3rd dimension, could be a decent successor. Personally, I think the kid can act. It's tough to say for sure, since he has yet to appear in a good vehicle for his talents (we all know Transformers was absolutely awful), but if he's ever given good material to work with, I think he could do a job on it. But I think those that are saying the last scene, in which Indy's trademark hat ends up in his hands, is a passing of the torch may be misreading the scene. I don't know what Lucas and Spielberg themselves have to say about it, but in the movie, the hat rolls into his hands. He picks it up and then Indy walks by and snatches it back. To me that says, "I'm not done with this just yet, kid." Though, that could just be wishful thinking on my part.

Karen Allen? Man, I'm conflicted. I loved her as Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark. And there's some scenes in Crystal Skull where some of that old fire shines through. But it's mired in chunks of the film where she all but disappears -even when on screen- and there's more sickening sweet goofy-eyed gazing at Indy than a normal human should have to tolerate in a lifetime. Ultimately, the much-desired return of her character feels like a wasted opportunity and that's really what the whole film feels like to me. (I'm not even going to get into just how much they wasted Cate Blanchett's talent on a worthless villain.)

There was an opportunity here to put together a film that, while not as good as Raiders, could have been every bit as enjoyable, nostalgic and fun as The Last Crusade. They didn't do it. Truth be told, I'm not sure right now if it's even any better than Temple of Doom. For that I'll have to reserve judgment until I've seen it one or two more times. If you're on the fence, go see the movie. I mean it's Indiana Jones for Christ's sake. Just don't expect to fall in love with this movie.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Search of Conan

Just a quick update before I get back to playing Mario Party with Ashley and her gaggle of friends --

I want to play Conan. I really do. But stores here are sold out of the boxed version. Sold out. A PC game. No copies. I'll try again Tuesday before my basketball night.

Update: Just got this in my Inbox:

Funcom is proud to announce that Age of Conan is one of the fastest selling PC games of all time. More than 400,000 gamers have entered Hyboria over the last few days, with almost half coming from the North American market. This amazing figure for a PC game shows that the positive pre-order trend has transferred into actual sales, and people from all over the world are now flocking to the most savage, sexy and brutal MMO ever created.

Over the weekend an astounding amount of concurrent gamers were logged on to the game, making Age of Conan one of the busiest MMOs in the western hemisphere. With stock flying out of several retail chains, Funcom expects the number to increase in the days to come. In addition to the many gamers logging in, there was also substantial traffic to the Age of Conan websites, with more than 2,2 million unique visitors during the last ten days.


Holy Krom.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Todd's Indiana Jones Movie Round-Up

Well, I had to miss a large chunk of the Pistons game last night to do it, but this week I sat down and re-watched the full Indian Jones trilogy. It's been a few years since I last watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and even longer since I really sat down and watched Temple of Doom or The Last Crusade. How do I think they held up? Let's dig in:

Raiders of the Lost Ark

This one, to me, still stands out as the best of the series. It's also the only one that really takes itself seriously (at least, successfully). I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that this was a story that just happened to have Indiana Jones as the lead character rather than a vehicle to support Indiana Jones. It wasn't Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, it was just Raiders of the Lost Ark. (To be clear, I could care less about Lucas/Spielberg re-titling it to the former on the DVDs. I'm just saying that's not how it was conceived.) This is by far the most balanced of the movies as well. It's got action, but it's not wall-to-wall (a good thing). It's got drama, but it never feels slow and plodding. It's got a sense of humor, but it doesn't try to be a comedy (like the Last Crusade). But most importantly, in the midst of the seriousness of the overarching plot, it's a got a real sense of fun and that comes out most in the performances of Harrison Ford, who is at his absolute best, and Karen Allen (as Marion Ravenwood), who is a strong female lead that is played with a lot of heart. This really is a wonderful movie.

Temple of Doom

I remember, as a teenager, thinking this was the weakest of the series, but I really hadn't seen it since. I figured, going into watching it again, that I was probably overly harsh on it and that a fresh look would turn up some under appreciated aspect of the film.

It didn’t.

This is supposed to be the "dark" Indiana Jones movie. But while I like "dark" movies (Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek II, for example), this one isn't dark. It's just bad, almost from start to finish. And I don't blame the vacuous female lead, Willi Scott (played by Kate Capshaw) or comic relief of kid sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). They do what they can with the work given them. And even if they're both played a little over the top (for example, Capshaw being enamored with the diamonds in the Sankara Stones mere moments after watching a ritual human sacrifice), I actually kind of enjoyed what the characters brought to the film. They were totally 2D, but they served a purpose.

Likewise, the plot could truly have been interesting if they had bothered to do anything interesting with it. If you can accept the fantastical powers of the Ark then there's no reason to poo-poo the existence of magic rocks. I also think the notion of exploring India's religious history is very fertile and fascinating ground. Instead what we got was a half action, half horror/thriller that doesn't do either of them particularly well. The gross out scenes, of which there are far too many, are simply childish and often diminish whatever scene they're in, rather than amplify it. The dinner scene (complete with chilled monkey brains and eyeball soup), in particular, completely took away from the intriguing dialog between Indiana Jones and the court of the Pankot Palace. (They also wasted two intriguing characters in the li'l Maharaja and his advisor.) The human sacrifice scenes are built to be high-tension and drama and they are, instead, just dull. It's so bad that there were multiple points during the movie during which I just wanted them to move on because they so thoroughly fail to build any tension. The villain is a blank slate on the level of a Darth Maul. And worst of all they reduce Harrison Ford to being Dirk the Daring (from the Dragon's Lair game). The amount of time he's forced to dedicate to ill-conceived Indy emotes is just embarrassing. In the future, when watching Indiana Jones movies, I may just skip this one and instead pretend that it never existed.

The Last Crusade

This is the movie about which I'm a bit conflicted. I really do enjoy it. I think it's a fun, entertaining and humorous movie. But then, I'm also a sucker for a good father-son bonding flick. But there's an extent to which this movie makes me think of Return of the Jedi in that for all the good stuff in it, there's some horrible miss-steps as well.

Some of the plot points don't make a lot of sense (like why evil-genius Donovan thinks Hitler is going to just give him the Grail). And as much as they seemed to want to make Temple of Doom a cheap horror flick, this one falls dangerously close to just being a screwball comedy and that's no good either. In particular, bringing back the wonderful characters of Marcus Brody and Sulla only to turn them into a bad C3PO and R2D2 side act is just shameful. Brody's character especially just gets raped in the second half of this film. (Perhaps that blow to the head he took from the Brothers of The What'sHisName Sword did some lasting damage?)

On the other hand the dynamic they create between Indy and Henry Jones is wonderful. Ford and Sean Connery play so incredibly well off of each other that there isn't room here to detail the number of both little and big moments between them that make me adore this movie, despite its shortcomings. I also like the female lead, Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), who shows all kinds of range in the film and is probably the only Indy "villain" since rival archaeologist Renne Belloq (in Raiders) to be fleshed out in any meaningful way. I also liked the pre-story that let's us get a glimpse of Indy's coming of age moment as a kid. I think it's extremely well done and the transition to Indy's acquisition of The Cross of Coronado is a great change of pace just because it's the only Indy pre-story in which he actually acquires the object of his search. Finally, they really brought back the fun that was missing in Temple of Doom, especially in the action scenes. I don't think this is a better movie than Raiders, but it is more personal and, for me, a more enjoyable film to watch.

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
My dad and stepmom are coming into town tonight so I'm getting tickets to a late showing for my dad and me. It's only fitting since my dad was the one who took me to see all these movies when I was growing up. Based on reading a lot of early (but spoiler-free) impressions, I'm not expecting another Raiders (as much as I'd like to get one). Honestly, I'm expecting something in between The Last Crusade and Temple of Doom, which I can live with. It sounds like, similar to Crusade, they got a lot of stuff right in this film but that it also has some glaring problems. We'll see. I'll definitely post some impressions of it next week.

Assorted Links

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. Between my daughter getting sick (she had a 103.5 temp) on Tuesday, and then she had a 1st grade musical last night -- she's had a busy week and in between all of that I've had to take care of her by watching movies with her. Tough job, but I'm usually up for it. We're also knee deep in Mario Kart, Smash Bros, and Boom Blox.

She was a bit bummed because she had an actual part in the musical but she missed rehearsal due to her fever so she was placed in the front row of the chorus. Still, she had a lot of fun and to see her sing these songs with such enthusiasm...I really enjoy being a dad.

I still haven't had time to try Conan yet. That is on the radar, though. Also on the radar is the upcoming Alone in the Dark "sequel" that is set for release on June 24. I sent a writer out to San Fran last week to get a look at the game and he came away with a really cool report that I posted last night on GameShark. Really neat ideas, check it out.

Also we posted the next chapter in our There Will Be Games saga. I still find this a fascinating story.

Our latest "Indie Chat" was posted this week, this time talking with Adam Ryland, developer of wrestling sims for Grey Dog.

As for me, I'm wading through Twilight of the Arnor and XII Century, a Total War-like clone that doesn't quite stack up to the Creative Assembly games, but it's not a total waste of time, either. Reviews are forthcoming.

Finally, I've been a trading machine of late, moving out old boardgames that I know I'll never play and getting some new goodies in return. That is the best thing about Board Game Geek -- the trade feature. Just in the last week or so I have landed copies of:

Combat Commander: Europe
The Last Night on Earth (Zombies!!)
Return of the Heroes

We're planning a big zombie game night soon. That's always a plus.

Speaking of zombies, I finally saw 28 Weeks later the other night. (OK technically not a "zombie" movie) Reviews were pretty good for this sequel and I just don't get it. It doesn't compare to the original and is full of so many "that's just plain dumb" moments that even for a horror movie...was bad.

Lastly -- this weekend is Indiana weekend. Anyone seen it yet?

BTW -- back to an earlier discussion -- Temple of Doom gets a very bad (and more than a bit unfair) rap, even with diehards. That movie isn't THAT bad.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hump Day Music Break

While I post a lot of newish music for our Hump Day breaks, anyone that knows me knows that my first love is classic rock from the 60's and early 70's. I've been listening to The Who since I was about 12 so I thought I'd post some vintage stuff today but I found this while doing some searching. It's an acoustic version of The Seeker with Pete and Jack White. Very cool.

Jim Leyland Swings a Big Stick

There was an article published in the USA Today yesterday about the Tigers and their clubhouse. Former MR pitcher Jason Grilli (traded to Colorado) popped off about the clubhouse being stagnant. Gary Sheffield said the team is too relaxed. Carlos Guillen, suddenly one of the most error prone fielders on the team, has the audacity to insinuate that a team with the second highest payroll in baseball was suffering from unfair expectations.

Look, the Tigers have been inexplicably bad this season. Their level of suck in churning out the American League's worst record has been, in a word, epic. And 2006's magic man, manager Jim Leyland, has had absolutely no answers for it. It's baseball. It happens. Yet, whatever ails the team on the field, one thing you couldn't accuse Leyland of doing is throwing his players under the bus. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but at no point this season (or in the last three) has he called out players in the media.

The USA Today article, though, saw him walk right up to the edge. This audio clip (look at the list of audio links on the right of the linked page) of Leyland taking a huge swing at players talking to the press is simply awesome (especially towards the end of it). At several points he just rips Jason Grilli to shreads:
Grilli should worry about Colorado. And if Jason Grilli’d done a better job, he’d still be here. So I don’t wanna hear any weak s**t from Jason Grilli right now either, because he belongs to somebody else.
But he also fires several warning shots across the bow for the rest of the team:
I’m not lookin’ for problems here but I’m a f**kin’ man, I look in the mirror, when I’m horses**t I’m horses**t and right now I’m horses**t and there’s a few f**kers in that clubhouse right now that are horses**t too, and they need to look in that mirror. Don’t look in mine, look in theirs. And don’t look at the f**kin’ guy next to ‘em, look in the f**kin’ mirror yourself. Don’t be pointin’ f**kin’ fingers over here and there… that’s all weak s**t, really [bleep], some of the other s**t I read in the paper today, that’s weak f**kin’ s**t. WEAK.
But that's not my favorite bit. That was saved for this exchange with one of the team's beat writers, Jason Beck (who is damn good at what he does):

What d’you think, Beck? You write a f**kin’ horses**t story, you don’t blame [Detroit Free Press writer] John Lowe, do you?
That comes at the end of the clip and the assembled reporters just flat out crack up at that point. It's gold, Jerry! GOLD! Anyway, Leyland's dead-on ball's accurate with this one. I'm not saying it'll give the team the jumpstart it needs (though they beat the Mariners 12-8 last night), but like "Big Stick" Leyland says, it sure as hell can't hurt. If you have five minutes to kill, listen to the whole audio clip, which can also be downloaded from here.

(A big tip 'o the cap, by the way, to Roar of the Tigers for transcribing all the best kibbles and bits.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Let's Go Red Wings!

I've avoided talking about the Pistons and Red Wings on this blog for the simple reason that playoff trains get derailed quickly. And as the Tigers have proved, so do regular seasons. But as of last night the Detroit Red Wings are in the Stanley Cup Finals and that makes Todd a happy young boy. Too bad that in a fit of supreme ineptitude I forgot to watch the series-clinching game last night. Angie turned on Bones at 8:00. When that was done I fired up Raiders of the Lost Ark. It didn't occur to me until about ten minutes after the game was over that it was on. Ah well. The video highlights at were fun to watch.

As a Wings fan it's really easy to take for granted to the enduring greatness of this franchise. They built one of the top two franchises in the NHL in the 90s and into the pre-lockout new millennium, winning three Stanley Cups ('97, '98 and '02). New Jersey was the only other team to win as many during that time ('95, '00 and '03). But the rap was always that the Wings were the Yankees of the NHL. That they bought their Cups by offering big free agent contracts that other teams couldn't match. And there's an argument to made for that with the 2002 team, in which they stockpiled Brett Hull, Dominick Hasek and Luc Robataille in a single off-season to go along with their existing roster of Hall of Fame talent.

The lockout was supposed to change that. It was supposed to decimate the Wings franchise. Their aging core was past its prime and they wouldn't be able to stockpile free agent talent like in the past. They were done.

Yeah. Whatever.

The end of the Wings run of NHL dominance has proven to be just a smidge overstated. Yeah, the return to the Stanley Cup Finals took a few years, but since the lockout season of 2004, the Wings have won their division every year and won two of the last three President's Trophies for having the best regular season record. (They've also won four of the last six overall.)

How did they do it? The fact of the matter is the greatness of the Wings franchise was never dependent purely on free agent acquisitions. They paid handsomely for a lot of talent over the years, no doubt, but that was what the financial system of the time demanded. The rules changed, but not the brain trust putting the team together. They adapted.

It's easy to overlook the fact that a lot of their talent was and is homegrown and found in the later rounds of the drafts. Take their two premiere young superstars: Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Detroit drafted them 171st overall (6th rnd) and 210th overall (7th rnd) respectively. How about Johan Franzen? With 11 goals in 10 games he was only the hottest player in the playoffs prior to a mystery concussion-like injury that cost him the past four games. The Wings took him 97th overall, in the 3rd round. Perennial Norris Trophy (best defenseman) candidate Nicklas Lidstrom was a 3rd round pickup (53rd overall). Their promising young bruiser, Niklas Kronwall? Okay, yeah, he was a first rounder. The 29th guy taken in that round.

That's not luck and that's not buying anything. That's a team that knows how to scout talent. It's a team run by one of the best GMs in all of sports in Ken Holland and his track record does all the talking required.

Needless to day, I'm really looking forward to start of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday. (Watch the series dammit! The NHL needs the ratings!) The Pittsburgh Penguins are a scary group of upstarts that have dominated the Eastern Conference playoffs, losing just two games. They're not fluke. They're really frigg'n good. But the Wings are not the Flyers, Rangers or Senators. I'm expecting a drawn out, exciting series. We get that and win or lose for the Wings, I'm happy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Where Did the Week Go?

I was sitting here at work, taking a short break when it occurred to me it's been about nine days since I last wrote a post here. It wasn't a planned break, but it was probably a needed one. Angie (my wife) has been having issues at work (there are some people there who truly suck), my kids had strep throat (fun!) and then there's the whole Pistons/Wings playoff runs that have me in front of a TV just about every night watching one game or another. As for the Tigers, let's just pretend they don't exist for now. (Never in my wildest dreams did I think the team would be at the bottom of the AL past mid-May. They've now been shut out seven times. That's just ridiculous.)

Latching on to Bill's post about Conan. I'm seriously thinking of giving that game a go. I never really got into World of Warcraft. I first played it about a year after its initial release and that only last a month or two. LOTRO I jumped on from the start, and I enjoyed that a lot, but even on that one I let my subscription lapse after only two months. It's not that I don't think those games are any fun. I just like a little more purpose to my swords and sorcery gaming than an MMO generally provides. Just leveling up and collecting gear only does so much for me and the social aspects of those games were never a big draw. I like big, epic stories. Plus there's that whole monthly subscription thing that I find just plain irksome.

Wrapping up, today I actually really started to get excited for the new Indiana Jones movie. I've seen a lot of negative criticism of it, with a few positive bits mixed in. The consensus seems to be it falls somewhere in between Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade, but well short of Raiders of the Lost Ark. As long as we're not talking a collapse of Star Wars proportions, I can live with that. I just want to see a new flick with the man in the hat. I want to hear the theme music blaring from theater speakers. In short, I want to be reminded of what it was like as a kid to go to the theater and see the first three movies.

I'm hoping to prep for the experience by watching my DVDs of the trilogy, which I haven't watched since they were first released a few years ago (and that I've never watched on my projector screen). If I do, maybe I'll do an Indy movie round-up along the lines of the Marvel movie round-up I did a week ago last Friday.

Age of Conan

I'm a sucker for a few things in life. Good ice cream. The smell of a newly opened boardgame. Dogs.
And new MMOs.

After I broke the WoW habit over a year ago, I developed a tendency to play new MMOs for a while, then quit. City of Heroes, Lord of the Rings, Vanguard...etc. Even when I don't review them I like to play for that first month before the company wants more money from me. So it will be with Age of Conan. So, starting on the 20th, I'll be lopping off heads on a routine basis.
Anyone else getting this?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Big Brown and More Games

Big Brown is a freak. A true freak. That was about the easiest Triple Crown win as you will ever see. Well, not the THE easiest. That would be this race.

But he's a marvelous horse and absolutely has the look of a TC winner. But so did Smarty Jones, and 9 others since '78. that was easy.

OK -- quick game update. I'm still playing The Show. So that's what...3 months and I'm not tired of it? If that's not a stamp of approval I dunno what is. Review wise I'm heavily into the GalCiv II expansion-- big thumbs up.

My copy of the new edition of Blackbeard is set to arrive on the 20th. Yarr. Also, Mike recently reviewed a game that I just got called Manoeuvre which looks like a lot of fun -- a 'simple' 2-player card driven tactical Napoleonic wargame.

In other boardgame news I am planning on creating a new website for a game that I am designing with my father. The site will basically be about the design process --along with info about th egame itself. I was thinking of just doing that stuff here but it didn't seem to fit plus I think we want our own site for it.

The design is actually very well along right now and we're about to start some play testing.

Exciting stuff.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Some Details of Deep Route (Long but worth reading)

OK -- so the game should be ready in June. It's looking great, and I have been given permission to post some attribute info to give you guys an idea of what the game is doing under the hood.

Here's the website again -- keep an eye out for a press release soon. This is going to be fun. From what I have seen first hand, all of these attributes really matter. It's not just window dressing.

Position Rating

This rating is an "overall" rating of how the player compares in aggregate to other players at the same position in primary attributes. This should be used only as an quick indicator, but not in place of good judgment. For instance, you may have an agile QB with lower accuracy rated below a slow footed QB with better accuracy. Which should you use? That all depends on your line and how you use your QB.


Taller receivers may have an advantage over shorter corner backs. Shorter QBs are more likely to have balls batted down at the line of srimmage.


Weight is used when determining the attributes based on size (Strength / Size, Speed / Size, Cover Skills / Size). Larger players will be naturally stronger than their smaller counterparts, but will also be slower with less ability to cover the players they are assigned to defend. Bigger O-linemen can be naturally harder to move than their smaller counterparts

Strength / Size

How strong your player is based on his size. Again, larger players are naturally stronger, so a 300 pound player with a 50 strength will be stronger than a 250 pound player with a 50 strength. This is used by both blockers and defenders when trying to fight through blockers or fight off defenders. Is also used in determining how hard it is to bring down a player trying to avoid being tackled


This is used to determine how quickly a player begins fatiguing, and how quickly he recovers. All players are affected, but some positions (like QB) don’t use it as often (unless, of course, your QB does a whole lot of scrambling). RB’s and defensive players are affected the most, as this helps determine how often they need to be spelled


How tough a player is. Can also be a determining factor on how hard a player tacklers another


Not a big determinant on a play by play basis, but is used in several ways. First off, an athletic player may, on occasion, outplay his numbers. Also, it helps determine how well a player may play out of position. Finally, it is used on the kick and punt return coverage as well as the return person himself


Obviously, this is how smart a player is. Smart players tend to make better decisions, and put themselves in positions to make plays more often. Smarter QB’s will call more audibles and make better decisions.


Ultimately, teams with strong leaders will tend to perform more consistently as a unit than their counterparts with weaker leaders.

Clutch: Currently only kickers and QBS

Clutch QBs will perform better latter in close games; clutch kickers are more likely to hit field goals


How consistently a player performs at his maximum level. Highly consistent players will perform to their levels on almost every play, while less consistent players may make mental errors that cause them to perform at a level not constant with their skill levels on every play

Passing Arm

How far and hard a QB can throw the ball. Strong armed QB’s can throw better long passes than their weaker armed counterparts, and are less likely to get picked off on those long passes.

Passing Accuracy

How accurately a QB throws the ball

Handle Snap

How well a QB can take the exchange from the center


How well players can avoid being tackled. A combination of being able to squirm out of tackles and simply keep from getting tackled

Speed / Size

How fast a player is for his size


How quickly and accurately a player's feet can do what he asks of them. Obviously important when trying to make cuts, but equally important to exterior blockers (tackles) to make sure they can get in position to block oncoming defensive ends, and to those applying pressure on the QB to help avoid being blocked

Cover Skills / Size

How well a player can cover another player when they are in pass coverage

Shed Blocker

How well a player can get away from a defender who is blocking him and has already engaged in contact

Pass Catching

How well a player catches passes. Also used to determine how well a player fields punts


How well a player runs his assigned route and is where the QB expects him to be when trying to pass

First Step

How fast a player accelerates. Important particularly for blitzers, running backs, pass defenders, and receivers.

Run Blocking

How well a player blocks for runners – NOTE – once a player is past the line of scrimmage, this is used even on pass plays

Pass Blocking

How well a player keeps defenders from getting to the QB


How consistent a snapper is in snapping the ball


How apt a player is to attack a play. Players with high motors tend to be involved in more plays on the defense and pursue more actively, Players with very low motors have a tendency to take plays off

Read Opposition

How well a player diagnoses a play. For QB’s, this would be how well they read the defense. For Defenders, this is how well they diagnose a play. For running backs, it is a bit like natural instincts when trying to make a decision on which way to run


How well a player wraps up and tackles

Feel Pressure

Used when a player gets hit. Players that are more prone to know a hit is coming are less likely to fumble. "Feel Pressure" is an indicator of how well a player can "feel" a hit coming before it does.

Protect Ball

The likelihood of a player fumbling.

Find Opening

The ability of the ball carrier to see a hole develop and attack it

FG Accuracy

How accurate a kicker is

Kicking Strength

How strong a punter / kicker’s leg is

Punting Accuracy

How good a punter is, particularly at not allowing returns or pinning an opponent deeper in the endzone


Will eventually be used to determine how much of field drama a player is likely to incur.


Receivers with great leaping ability may use it at times to reach balls other receivers can’t. Defenders with great leaping ability may be able to knock down balls other defenders couldn’t . Used in conjuncture with height.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hump Day Music Break

A little Johnny Cash today. Man...this song is just plain haunting.

Power Pros Screenshots!

I'll get the entire batch up on GameShark today (there's a lot of them). Here's a taste.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lost Cities

My take on the XBL version of Lost Cities is up today.

I'd also like to take this chance to say that NBA 2K8 hasn't age well. And by "age" I mean since it was released back in, oh...October of 2007. That game, against the AI at least, has absolutely no flow whatsoever and plays very little like an NBA basketball game should, IMO at least. I gave the game a B+ review --and I was wrong. And why can't 2K release rosters that are worth a damn for this game? Seriously. how hard is it to release playoff rosters for your flagship basketball game?

I'm a month into my MLB 08 franchise and while I'm still not thrilled with the way doubles are handled and the overall speed of the gameplay (and I'm now firmly in the camp of there being WAY too many plays where the first baseman is pulled off the bag) I'm very much looking forward to each day's game, which says something, I think.

I'll have more on Deep Route today or tomorrow. It should be ready in June. I have the go ahead to post the player attributes and what they actually do in game terms. It's extremely impressive.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Todd's Epic Marvel Movie Roundup: Hope for the Future?

In the comments section of my spoilery Iron Man write-up Loren brought up that Marvel already has two named projects in the pipe for 2011: The First Avenger: Captain America and The Avengers (titles are tentative, of course). This comment rather neatly dovetailed into something I'd been thinking about since seeing Iron Man last week, which is Marvel's record in movies with their properties. Here's the lineup, with the Blade franchise excluded as I don't think it's part of the regular Marvel (616) Universe. (At least, among my many thousands of comics, I've never seen Blade turn up in a regular Marvel title.)
  • X-Men (2000; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): This straddles the line between good and merely decent. We'll call it a win, though because it was a relative commercial success and had a lot of good stuff in it. (It's also the first successful team-up/group superhero flick that I can think of.)
  • Spider-Man (2002; Columbia Pictures / Marvel Studios): Just a great, great superhero origin movie that really sticks true to the heart of the character. There's really nothing to complain about here. (I could quibble with killing off Norman Osborn, but it set up the second film so well that I think it was the right thing to do.)
  • Daredevil (2003; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): Ben Affleck is horribly miscast in this flick. (His good buddy Matt Damon, as the Bourne movies can attest, would've been a fine choice.) It has some classic Daredevil imagery in it, but the plot just sort of meanders about and doesn't really have anything to say about anything (to the best of my recollection).
  • X-Men 2 (2003; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): This remains (barring some repeat Iron Man viewings) my favorite comic book superhero movie to date. It does lose some points for Cyclops remaining an underused character and Professor X once again being taken off the board (knocked into a coma in the first one and manipulated and abused in the second), but everything else that's there is just so note-frigg'n-perfect that in the end I don't care. I so want to see the X-Men 3 movie that director Bryan Singer set up in this film, rather than the wasted POS that we eventually got.
  • Hulk (2003; Universal Studios / Marvel Studios): I didn't hate this as much as other people, but it was, without question, a pedestrian, meandering film. I really hope Marvel Studios manages to do better with the upcoming re-do, though the trailers haven't done much for me so far.
  • The Punisher (2004; Artisan Entertainment / Marvel Studios): Didn't see it and the general consensus is I don't need to. A great big F for this one.
  • Spider-Man 2 (2004; Columbia Pictures / Marvel Studios): This one may in fact be a better overall film than X-Men 2. I just like that film better for personal reasons. A crappy Peter Parker musical interlude aside (when his life is all great and shit because he's no longer Spider-Man), this is pretty much a perfect Spider-Man story. I wasn't convinced Doc Oc would make a good on-screen villain, but man was I wrong. Spidey 2 was also like X-Men 2 in that it setup up a lot of really promising plot points for a third film only to fail miserably when said film came out.
  • Elektra (2005; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): Another one I passed on after the buzz indicated this film was a waste of celluloid. I have no regrets about not seeing this.
  • Fantastic Four (2005; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): This one looked like a dud from the very first trailer on. And it was. A complete casting and plotting disaster. That guy from the horribly Buffy wannabe TV Show, Charmed, who played Doom should never be allowed in a big budget motion picture again. And frigg'n Jessica Alba as Sue Storm? Here's the deal guys, if your sole criteria when casting Sue Storm is just to get a hot Hollywood hottie, get one that actually fits the part, because when you try to make Alba look like her blonde-haired, blue-eyed comic counterpart, she's no longer a hottie. Frankly, she just looks creepy. Plus, not so much for her with the whole acting thing. I'll give a pass to Chris Evans as Johnny Storm. He looked totally wrong for the part -again, the Storms are Nazi poster children; blonde hair and blue eyes- but he's the only one who sold their performance. (Michael Chiklis was okay, but had almost nothing to work with.) The only perk was the final battle in the last 20 minutes of the flick when the onscreen action really came together and clicked. I had hope it would set up a good sequel..... guess we came up snake-eyes on that role. (You can tell how much I hated this film by how much I just wrote about it.)
  • X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): You had to know this film was in trouble when the directing duties went from the great Bryan Singer (even if Supes Returns was a missed-step, he's still great) to Brett "I make crappy action movies devoid of any substance" Ratner. Here's a little tip to Brett and his writers: when you decide to take on The Phoenix Saga, the most venerable story in X-Men lore - Don't. Fucking. Screw. It. Up. So what did they do? They made it a ridiculous side plot to a more ridiculous (and totally played out) let's rid the world of mutants with our magic syringes of anti-mutancy storyline. The Phoenix is a sideplot to nothing and this film was an unmitigated disaster that didn't deserve nearly the box office returns it got.
  • Ghost Rider (2007; Columbia Pictures / Marvel Studios): At some point I'd actually like to see this to see if we're talking about a merely subpar film (Daredevil) or something truly awful (Fantastic Four). The buzz indicates the latter.
  • Spider-Man 3 (2007; Columbia Pictures / Marvel Studios): I hate orgasm and stiffy metaphors when talking about movies and games, but damn if the trailers for this didn't give me a pole the size of the Washington Monument. The actual film managed to make that go away right quick. Truth be told, it wasn't bad on the level of X-Men 3. I didn't hate this film with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. I was just very, very disappointed in it. The action, at times, was pretty kick ass, but shoehorning three villains into a film is pretty much never a good idea. No plot point had time to breath, a problem that was made worse with the constant, "Hey, Peter's a dickhead who thinks he's bad ass now," musical interlude insanity. When I heard people say this movie's suckage was caused by director Sam Raimi getting back at the studio for not letting him make the film he wanted to make (the rap is that he was forced to include Venom and Gwen Stacy), I thought they were nuts. After I saw the film, though, I had to acknowledge they might've had a point. I don't think Raimi actually sabotaged Spider-Man 3, but I do think he mailed it in (along with the rest of the cast; who should all be replaced - even Toby Maguire).
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007; 20th Century Fox / Marvel Studios): What a complete piece of shit this film was. I actually had some hope for it because of the strong finish from the first movie and a pretty kick ass trailer, but it's just two consecutive hours of lame. When Johnny Storm asks Reed Richards if his Dodge-logo'd Fantasticar has, "got a Hemi," I just about vomited on the person in front of me. The effects were good, but when you take on the Galactus/Silver Surfer storyline from the comics, you damn well better do it right. F#@ing it up like they did in this clusterf$#% of a movie is unforgivable on a level with screwing up the Phoenix storyline in X-Men. Director Tim Story simply should not be making superhero films. He's damn near on the level of Joel "I killed the Batman franchise for a decade" Schumacher.
***Note: this list was compiled from this Wiki

Near as I can figure, prior to Iron Man, Marvel has put up an abysmal record of 4-9, in which only the first two Spider-Man and X-Men movies were really worth a damn. If you wanted to subdivide between merely subpar and god awful you might give them a record of 4-3-6, with Daredevil, Hulk and Spider-Man 3 in the not quite responsible for the fall of civilization category.

Now, here's the thing: when you look at this list, Marvel franchises have basically been critical (and mostly commercial) flops for the last four years. So how did Iron Man break the streak? My theory is that it's all about Marvel Studios. Marvel may be a bunch of shameless whores (hey, who isn't in the publishing business?), but they know their properties pretty well and they know their audience. And it seems pretty clear they didn't control the production for any of the films in the list above. Fox drove the production of the X-Men film, Sony was in the drivers seat for Spider-Man and so on. Starting with Iron Man, Marvel is producing their films themselves. Paramount is merely distributing them.

Is Marvel being in control of the production of their own properties the golden ticket? If Iron Man is any indication, it certainly could be. You still, though, have to put the right people in the right places. There's no question Marvel knocked the ball out of the park when they tapped Jon Favreau to direct Iron Man.

I think the real barometer will be the forthcoming release of The Incredible Hulk. I've never heard of the director on this one (Louis Leterrier), and the trailers have been less than inspiring, but I'm still holding out hope that this flick will be what Hulk should've been. (I can live with lackluster CG if the scripting and acting are worth a damn.) That said, even if it flops, I wouldn't write off the slate that Marvel has in store. In 2009, for the first time since 2001, Marvel has absolutely nothing coming out in the theaters, but they've got a total of four flicks scheduled for 2010 (Thor and Iron Man 2) and 2011 (Captain America and The Avengers). It could be these first two films are fliers, while they get their ducks in a row for what's coming next. The post-credits cameo from Iron Man would certainly seem to indicate as much (see my last post re: Iron Man).

New Top Ten

This week we run down the Top 10 Non-Shooter Shooters. Fun read.

Mr. Jack and Blackbeard

Fortress Ameritrash has a review of the new Blackbeard boardgame -- this is actually a remake of a 1992 game (which I own). My copy of the updated version should arrive soon. I'm excited. I love Piratey stuff. You can also play solo, which I always appreciate in a bg design.

I played a couple of games of Mr. Jack the other day with Mary and Ashley. I enjoyed it. While I really dislike it when games water down a notoriously nasty villain like Jack the Friggin Ripper, Ashley enjoyed the deduction aspect of figuring out which character was Jack.
Basically, there are eight investigators from a street cop and a gas lamp lighter to Sherlock Holmes and even Dr. Watson (why Sherlock Holmes is in a game about the Ripper...let's just move on..) One of these eight characters actually IS Jack and only the player playing Jack knows who it is and he's trying to get that character to escape off the board before the other player catches him. Each character has special movement rules, and the investigator has ways of guessing who Jack really is.

Like I said, it's fun in a light-hearted sort of way. Not the kind of game I'd play without Ashley around, but she wants to play again tonight, so I'm glad I own it. Any game that I can get her to use her noggin and not just reflexes and rapid eye movement ---I'm game.

I-Phone Picture of Sorrow

Yes, her name is Sorrow. I didn't name her but I am of the belief that you can get used to any dog name. She's Sorrow, and after 13 years it no longer sounds remotely odd (or sad). This was taken by Billy Baroo and his IPhone during Abnercon.

That Spider-man bed/chair used to belong to Ashley but Sorrow has since confiscated it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Power Pros, Cool ; NBA 2K8 Online, Not So Much

A new MLB Power Pros is coming out for the Wii this summer. That's great news as Power Pros is a personal Top 10 baseball game. Really, really good. Let's hope they don't muck it up.

I'm playing NBA 2K8 on XBL during my lunch breaks. Billy Baroo bought the game and we've been battling. That said, a few things annoy the piss out of me.
  • In a one-off match against a friend you can't change the sliders, the difficulty or the minutes? Am I missing something? You can edit this stuff in league play, but not in a basic set up?
  • You can't set up a tournament with just 2 players and let them play the teams they want? Huh? Why do I need 4 players to play a tourney and 8 for a league? Limits like this suck. And are dumb.
That makes zero sense to me.

Oh, yes, the next Cracked LCD There Will Be Games column is up today. Great stuff.

Finally, I've been playing Mario Kart every night for the past 5 days. It's all about Ashley and if I didn't have a 7 year old I doubt I'd even own a Wii, but I do have a 7 year old, and it's probably the most fun console in the house because of it. Playing WITH her as she uses that little plastic wheel, hollering and laughing...awesome.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Getting Sick of the Clinton Spin Machine

Indiana, as you just might have heard, held its primary yesterday (along with North Carolina). No shock here, I cast my ballot for Obama (and gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson). But after a 2% Clinton "victory," the Clinton camp is oh so excited that they won their "tie-breaker" state, managing to declare victory before there was a projected winner.

You heard it here first, Indiana is a democrat tie-breaker state. I guess that's true if you factor out... well, reality, I guess.

I just don't get it. Bad media narrative aside, this thing has been all but over since early March. The good news is that, last night, the major media networks finally got hip to the fact that Clinton has absolutely zero chance of winning this thing. But that reality hasn't managed to leak down to Clinton's surrogates. I know they have a job to do and all, but I still can't quite wrap my head around the level to which these people will sink to not only make this race sound competitive, but to make it sound like Clinton is winning. That takes a special kind of delusion. Sure, if you just look at the delegate counts it might look close. They're only a couple hundred delegates apart out of about 3,000. But with only a handful of unpledged and supers left, Clinton has zero chance of having them all break her way (which is what she needs at this point).

I particularly like hearing the Clinton people talk about how, "Obama hasn't won a significant primary in two months," nevermind how disingenuous that sentiment is. Obama cleaned house in Frebruary. There were exactly three primary dates (totaling 6 states) in March. There was one in April. A total of seven states. Obama won three of those states outright (Vermont, Wyoming and Mississippi), so I'm sure those states will be relieved to know that the Clinton campaign still doesn't think they count. And that gives Clinton credit for "winning" Texas, even though by the only barometer that matters -delegates- she actually lost Texas (99-94). But they're right, North Carolina was Obama's first win since the Ice Age.

I get that this is easy for me, being an Obama supporter sitting over in the cheap seats. And I know this is a race for the White House and all, but there is such a thing as losing with a little class and dignity, something that said bye-bye to Miss Hillary a long time ago.

The thing is, I always had a favorable view of both Bill and Hillary Clinton. BJs from not very attractive White House interns aside, I always liked Bill Clinton. There's no doubt he earned the name, "Slick Willy," but I do think that he ultimately wants to do right by this country and I think he largely did that. As for Hillary, the fact of the matter is, my biggest grudge with her at the beginning was her last name. 20-30 years of Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton-? is not what our founders had in mind. This is not an aristocracy. I started to lean towards Obama very early in the primary season -hell, I started to lean Obama after his 2004 convention speech- but it wasn't until this primary season really got going that I started to outright loath the Clintons, something I didn't think was possible.

I don't like people who are willing to do or say anything to win an election. Granted, most any politician fits that bill, but some will take it a little farther than others. It was one of many reasons I didn't like Bush when he ran in 2000. It's the primary reason I have absolutely no intention of voting for McCain, whom I liked back in 2000. (For those of you still clinging to the notion that McCain is a "centrist" and Repub party "maverick," I've got a bridge to sell you.) But back to Clinton...

In the Clinton-narrative, the only states that count are the ones that vote for them. The rest, I guess, can all go out drinking and fuck themselves once they get home. The only polls that count are the cherry-picked ones that show them in the lead. Which is sort of like determining the winner of the Super Bowl by going with the team to which Vegas offers better odds. Michigan and Florida are maligned innocents that the Obama campaign is stamping down, as if Obama controls how the DNC elects to handle this clusterf#@ of a situation. Obama can't win the big swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania because, well, apparently these record democrat turnouts in the primaries will all just stay home or vote for Bush's third term, I guess. Nevermind that national polling has Obama competitive with McCain in a lot of states where Clinton is not and that the electoral math favors Obama. (There's a bunch of detailed electoral math posts at Daily Kos to this effect.) And all that is after Obama's 3-week Reverend Wright nightmare, gas tax pandering, and the other obligatory nonsense about lapel pins, elitism and bittergate. If Obama was going to sink under the weight of all this junk it would've shown up in the results last night. No such luck for Clinton.

What I really don't get, though is that two months of outright shameful campaigning has worked for her in a lot of ways. The more mud she slings, the more "reality" she invents, the better she seems to do with her core supporters, who don't seem to care that her campaign has tried to move the goal posts at every single opportunity as soon as their narrative of the day was no longer convenient for them. Nevermind the reality that the only thing Clinton really had going for going into yesterday was a media narrative that parroted her campaign's garbage for everything it was worth (and more).

Thankfully, that appears to have ended last night. I flipped back and forth a lot between CNN and MSNBC and the storylines were all the same. Without a huge win in Indiana and at least a close loss in North Carolina the door was going to shut on her chances of winning the nomination. She didn't get it and as hard as the Clinton surrogates tried last night to spin otherwise, the overarching narrative last night was that she's now fighting an impossible battle. The only question is just how far she'll go. My guess is, not much farther.

Clinton's only real hope up to this point was coup by superdelegate. And her "insurmountable" lead in that segment of a few months ago has all but disappeared. It seems like every day another superdelegate drops into Obama's column and after last night, I'm betting the superdelegate floodgates really start to open over the course of May. At the end of this month the DNC is going to meet to determine just how to handle the Michigan/Florida question. Once that is dispensed with I'm betting it's just a matter of days to the end game.

I don't know how they should handle that. You need to find a way to seat the delegates for the convention. But you can't count the primary votes in those states at face value. Even if the rules are idiotic, they're the rules everyone agreed to and Michigan and Florida broke them. (Hell, only Clinton's name was even on the Michigan ballot and 40% still voted uncommitted.) It's ludicrous to think that should change just because the clock's running down in the fourth quarter. Not that it matters. Even if you gave Clinton her 55% in Michigan and 50% in Florida it wouldn't put her back in the nomination race.

For reasons passing understanding, Clinton's going to get her big numbers in West Virginia and Kentucky over the next two weeks. That seems pretty clear at this point. But after that, the well runs dry. Though, I suppose Guam could break for her. (Woo!) But even then it won't be nearly enough without locking up nearly every uncommitted superdelegate left in the game and that's fantasy land. (Granted, the supers can change their mind at any time, but these people are not going to just hand Clinton the nomination when the pledged delegates significantly favor Obama.)

Clinton needs to use the next two weeks (and their primaries) to put on a good *clean* show for her supporters, one that focuses on McCain's shortcomings and not Obama's, and then she needs to rally her base behind Obama and bow out. It's the only thing she can still do to retain any shred of credibility in the eyes of this voter.

Hump Day Music Break

Here's a tune from The Delgados called Accused of Stealing. This is a still picture video, but a very good song.

And here's my favorite New Pornographers song, Mass Romantic...performed with The Sims 2. Ha.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

iTunes Movie Purchases - No Big Whoop

There's been a lot of press the past few days about Apple putting movies up for sale on iTunes that will be day and date with their DVD releases. I've been wanting to write something up about how this is all sound and fury, signifying abso-frigg'n-lutely noth'n, but as is usually the case, someone else has done it far better than I could have.

This time it's Windows guru, Paul Thurrot. And yeah, while Thurrot is primarily a Windows guy, I think he's very fair-minded about Apple. He gives them props where they're due and calls them out when they deserve it.

I also like (sarcasm in full force) the few pundits I've seen tie this announcement into the recent narrative of Blu-ray not doing very well since the demise of HD-DVD. Check out The Digital Bits for a nice rebuttal on that front. It's the "My Two Cents" post dated 5/2. Just scroll down to the paragraph that begins with, "There are also a couple of interesting stories in the mainstream press worth commenting on."

Keep in mind this isn't to say digital downloads don't have their place and that they won't eventually become a big part of the future. But that day is not today. And it's not next month or next year. Digital downloads are in their absolute infancy here. They're a convenient, but incredibly limited way to purchase and watch movies. And storage -despite becoming incredibly cheap over the years- is still a huge issue if you plan to amass a large movie collection in HD quality.

Thanks, but when it comes to movies, in both HD or standard def, I'll stick with something on a disc. (Not to mention, for the relatively techie, there are plenty of easy-to-use tools out there that'll let you rip your DVDs to your PC and portable media player.)

Monday, May 5, 2008

More Iron Man: This Time With Spoilers

Okay, so I tried to keep my initial Iron Man impressions as spoiler-free as possible. In this post, that goes out the window, so if you don't want to know stuff, abandon this post with all due haste. This is also going to be largely negative, as I'm focusing on the parts of the film that I think hold it back from being a perfect adaptation. Don't take that to mean I think it wasn't an awesome movie, because it really was.

If you hadn't guessed, by the end of the movie Obadiah Stane goes from trusted confidant to arch nemesis. That's fine. I don't really remember how it happens in the funny books, but I'm sure it's a bit different. (I don't think the two characters were ever friends.) Doesn't matter, it's a great adaptation for the film. That said, they jammed into the end of the film, what I think they should've saved for a sequel. Stane should have been the shadowy menace throughout the entire film. The guy whose true, sinister nature isn't fully revealed to the audience (and to Tony) until damn near the very end. Use the sequel for Stane to develop and learn to use his own suit of armor, where you could really sell it as plausible and really take your time in developing a knock-down drag out fight that isn't forcibly hamstrung by Tony's (equally lame) dead battery problem. Beside, there was plenty of on-screen action for Iron Man just in Tony Stark's core mission to destroy the Stark Industries weaponry that had fallen into the hands of terrorists. The film didn't need a direct arch-nemesis.

I also think it was a bad idea to "reveal" that Stane was behind Tony's terrorist abduction, at the beginning. Sure, have him provide the terrorists with Stark Enterprises weapons and all that. But at the start of the film the terrorists let Stark live so that he can build them his new missile prototype. Yet, after his escape a few scenes later, the terrorist's have gotten their hands on the Stark Industries version of the same missile via Stane. If it was so easy to get one that way, why blackmail Stark for three months to get him to build one? Personally, I think it would've been better if Stane just provided the standard weapons and then used Stark's change of heart upon returning to the States to usurp control of Stark Enterprises from him. (Again, setting up the inevitable sequel.)

Then there's the computer AI Tony has in his lab that helps him build his Iron Man suit. I'm fine with him having an uber-advanced setup for his home/lab, but the "Jarvis" AI (a nod to the Avengers' butler?) bordered on sentient, which is a bit much.

Beyond those nits, Iron Man was just about the perfect comic book movie so there's not much more to dissect... except for the Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, Director of SHIELD cameo after the credits. I've seen some say it was lame, but I thought it was cool as hell. Sam Jackson was born to play Nick Fury. Hell, the Nick Fury of Marvel's "Ultimates" series is based on the Sam Jackson = Bad Ass persona. And for him to reference an, "Avengers Initiative," was just sixty different shades of awesome.

That said, you have to wonder how Marvel is going to pull an Avengers flick out of their hat. I mean any Avengers movie has to have Iron Man and Captain America in it, which means they absolutely have to get a Captain America movie out first; that is, unless his origin is going to be the plot focal point for an Avengers movie (which I think would be a mistake).

My fear is that Marvel shoots for an Avengers lineup that is inline with the "New Avengers" comic, which means mining both Wolverine and Spider-Man for the lineup, possibly the Hulk, if they're desperate. It would explain why Marvel is so hell-bent on relaunching a Hulk movie franchise despite biting it hard on Ang Lee's Hulk movie. And I'm really not down with those characters on the Avengers roster. (Okay, as a movie it would be a first of its kind with a shit ton of potential. I'm just sour because in the comics world Marvel has hopelessly overexposed Wolverine and have completely ruined Spider-Man. EiC Joe Quesada and his whole "One More Day" storyline should be banished to the seventh concentric circle of Hell.) I suppose they could shoot for Daredevil (with someone other than Affleck), but to the best of my recollection, old hornhead has never been an Avenger in the comics.

Anyway, it could be done within the framework of the existing Marvel movie franchises, and done very cool, but I'd like to see more a more traditional Avengers lineup even if it would be a tougher sell to a movie going public that has largely never read an Avengers comic book.


Wow. I think this post, if you're keeping score at home, just turned into a giant geekgasm.

Iron Man Review: The Spoiler Free Version

I took Friday afternoon off of work so I could go see Iron Man. The buzz on this flick is pretty much spot on. It's an excellent movie. It'll take time to put it into objective context, but on first impression, it's as good as the first two Spider-Man movies and X-Men 2. If you're on the fence don't expect to be let down.

The movie is incredibly well-casted. Robert Downey Jr. was born to play Tony Stark and he absolutely nails the role. I really look forward to seeing where they take the character in future movies. Jeff "The Dude" Daniels, did a surprisingly good job Stark Enterprises money man, Obidiah Stane. I didn't think the role seemed to be a good fit for a guy whose best (and I mean that sincerely) work was as the laziest man in all of Los Angeles ("Careful, man, there's a beverage here!"), but damn if he didn't sell that part... at least until the film starts to derail in the last half hour or so.

The movie actually reminds me a bit of Batman Begins, which was an unbelievably good -even perfect- flick until you get to the final bit of plotting. In Batman Begins it was the dastardly Water Tower of Doom, which struck me as contrived and not remotely believable, even if the action was frigg'n sweet. In Iron Man a lot of the film is dedicated to Tony Stark building, testing and learning to use his armor. As a viewer you're making the conceit that all of this is really possible, but you're doing so with the film making damn clear that this is not an overnight process. What Tony Stark is doing is hard. So, when the ultimate villain of the piece seems to procure and master his suit at the drop of a pin it strains all credibility. The action in this part of the film is still great, but any suspension of disbelief goes right out the window, along with Gwyneth Paltrow's performance as Tony Stark uber-secretary, Pepper Potts. Paltrow, like the film, is great until the end, where she's in a ton of effects-heavy scenes and she's completely unable to sell it.

All that said, though, the negatives don't come close to dragging down all the fantastic highs. As mentioned, Downey Jr. is Tony Stark from beginning to end. There's not nearly as much Iron Man in the film as I'd of liked to see, but the effects totally sell it. The first time Stark flies the armor out of his lab and really learns to fly it... [shudder] even as a kid I've never wanted to *be* Iron Man more than in those first scenes of flight. I mean Stark isn't Superman. He's just a regular guy and suddenly he's f'n flying around LA (?); it's pure, liquid joy. Likewise, they do an excellent job of making the Iron Man suit believable, which outside of comic books, is a pretty tough sell.

Finally, if you are at all a fan of the core Marvel books, stick around past the end credits. I won't spoil it here, but there's a cameo in there that made me want to giggle like a school girl. If you're not a comic book reader or if you don't like Marvel's stuff, however, the scene probably won't do much for you. Iron Man is just about as good as a superhero comic book adaptation can get.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hammer Time, The Show Rosters, and NCAA 09

A few links on this rainy Derby day. My report on the recent Warhammer Online Conference Call is live at Crispy Gamer. Transcribing this was a bitch. Tony Mitera covered this for GameShark and his report will be up Monday. I can't wait to play this game. I'm going to jump into Age of Conan later this month but Warhammer Online is the game I want to see the most -- well, that and Alone in the Dark.

Michael Barnes did a great Risk Black Ops Q&A for his Thursday Cracked LCD column.

The Aub has released his player edit roster that take Knight's additions and then tweaks several player ratings. I have not used these but I plan on doing so this week and should finally start my Reds franchise.

There's two files on is from February 5th; I have absolutely no idea what it is. If someone wants to enlighten me (I'm guessing its last year's rosters), they can. The other file may be of a bit more importance. Grab them here.

I would link some of the NCAA 09 previews floating about but it's an utter waste of time. Previewing these mass market sports games is meaningless unless the previewers gets to sit down and play the games for a good while. Everything else is New Feature Regurgitation which we can do from reading the press materials.

I will quote what OS did from the 1UP Preview:

"The biggest of these little things is the way QB composure factors into the game. If you're rattled by 80,000 roaring haters while under center, you won't be able to accurately see the routes your receivers will run. The routes will appear like distorted sine waves on the screen."

Which makes sense. I mean that's exactly what happens when the crowd gets to a QB.. The QUARTERBACK forgets the play. There's also some bizarro pop quiz thing about regaining composure. If this sounds sort of gimmicky, well, does, doesn't it?

The thing about NCAA 09 that most intrigues me is the 12 player Online Dynasty Mode. FINALLY -- we can play against buddies in a Dynasty format, recruiting against one another. If that works, NCAA 09 will be a great success. I have given up all hope of the AI playing up to snuff in this series. I have been excited only to be brought back to reality every year since the 2004 version so I am officially in NCAA Football Missouri Mode. SHOW ME.

Still an online Dynasty with Todd and Billy Baroo and Dave...I'm in.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Knight's Roster Set #1

The thread on OS is here.

The link to the rosters is here.

The thread that talks about installing these is here.

The info is...below:

This is the link for the Full Minors set for MLB The Show'08.

It has over 1,000 created players that represent the minor leaguers and top prospects for every organization.

If you've read the know about the limitations of the amount of editable just over a dozen teams have ONE fake player...all LF. You'll know them when you see them. I left one B rated position player on the FA list...this is for you to make a player for your team to replace that fake player(if you team has one) ...his last name is....B!

Couple of things....I didn't get to fully check on the NL West...AL East or please go over it and make changes if you feel the need. Also...these are set for opening should get the Becketts/Pettites/Chavez' up to the MLB in your franchise soon enough...but if you don't like seeing Pettite start on the "DL" move him beforehand.

Forget about the amount of guys to's immense...however I would like to thank them all for TREMENDOUS work and effort...THANK YOU!

If you use these be sure to say thanks in that OS thread. This is a CRAZY amount of work.

Note -- this does not incldue Aub's attribute edits, but it should be good to go if you don't want to use those.

The GTA IV Post

I have absolutely no interest in Grand Theft Auto IV whatsoever.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hump Day + 1 Music Break

Neil Young remains one of my favorite musicians. This is from 1971 on the BBC, and it's absolutely brilliant.

Here's another clip of the Heartless Bastards, doing a live version of "Grey." Pretty cool.