Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Video Games as Tools - Machinima

I talk about video games as an art form ALL THE TIME. Practically every other post on this blog is about how video games need to be accepted as an art form, because they are art. But one thing I don't talk about nearly as often is how they can be used to create art.

Video Games can be great and powerful tools in the right hands. How so? Well, several ways. An example? Machinima.

What is Machinima you ask? Simple. Machinima is using the art assets in a video game, and manipulating them in a way to create a video. The most typical type of Machinima is music video parodies. These can vary to really really good. To... Less good. It just depends really. That said, while there are some out there that are straight up parodies of songs (which in many cases can be better than the original song.)...

*Caution crude content... But what do you expect, it's a Ke$ha parody. She has to freaking censor her own name, and that's not even a swear word.*

There are plenty that just take existing songs and create a music video for them. These are probably my favorite music video machinima.

I mean look at that. That's art right there. That was made using World of Warcraft animations, and essentially Photoshop. If you're familiar with the Warcraft Lore the story to the video even makes sense, as it shows a character rescuing Thrall (a major character) from an orcish internment camp.

Another great example is "Gilnean Like Me" a music video for the song "Wolf Like Me".

*Caution some mild language. But man this video is epic.*

This one is just gorgeous. Using the song, and the visuals from WoW, it tells the story of a man who becomes a Werewolf, as his homeland is attacked by an undead faction known as the Forsaken.

This is absolutely art. Absolutely.

But there are plenty of Machinima doing things other than music videos. Although music videos are probably the vast majority.

There are entire dramatic series done in Machinima form. For example, WoWcrendor's faux "How To" series.

Or the "Freeman's Mind" series, which while hysterically funny, is both too bloody and contains too much language for me to post here. Basically it's a guy narrating Half-Life, if the main character, instead of never speaking, wouldn't shut up about how much his job sucks. Also he kills guys. But don't worry it was "self defense with an automatic weapon".

There's plenty of dubs, too.

Basically anything you can imagine can be done via machinima. Including this. And I'm not even sure what this is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Predictions for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, Patch 4.0.3 and Beyond

*Note: I have been intentionally staying distant from information about Cataclysm as I want to experience it for myself. As such, there may be multiple factual errors about the contents of the Cataclysm expansion. I apologize.*

Well the time is almost upon us. Just 8 weeks remain until World of Warcraft: Cataclysm launches. 4.0.3 is likely to hit the PTR any day now. So what do I suspect it, and the expansion, will contain? Well here are my predictions for the future of World of Warcraft, during the Cataclysm expansion. Remember, anything in this post is a SPECULATION, and as such should be taken with a grain of salt.


4.0.3 November 23rd 2010

New races/classes are pretty much a given. New zones will be in this patch, but for the most, classes will stay as they are currently on live. Goblins/Worgen will not be available until you purchase the expansion, Archeology will not be available until you purchase the expansion, and Old Weather Flying will not be available until you purchase the expansion. Hyjal, Uldum, Twilight Highlands, Deepholm, and that one underwater place I can't spell will not be available until the expansion.

Guild leveling will almost definitely be included with this patch. And My prediction for the release date of this patch is . That will put it exactly 2 weeks before the launch of Cataclysm, just long enough for them to fine tune...

4.0.4 December 7th 2010

This will be a small bug fix patch that fixes any problems that popped up on the beta from the time the discs went gold, to the launch date, as well as including small updates that have since been put into beta builds. We got a launch day patch with Wrath that did exactly this, so I don't see why we would get one for Cataclysm as well. Cataclysm itself we already know will contain three raids, each with a "hard mode" version, Bastion of Twilight, Throne of the Four Winds, and Blackwing Descent. This is intended to keep us occupied, naturally, until...

4.1 Late February-Mid March 2011

Firelands is pretty much a given as being in this patch, since not unlike Ulduar, it was meant to ship with Cataclysm, but was pushed back "to a later patch" to get the game out sooner. Ulduar came out on April 14 2009, about 5 months after Wrath of the Lich King launched. I think Blizzard realized putting that big a gap between Wrath and 3.1 was a mistake, and thus, Firelands will come out sooner. If I had to guess it will also contain a new daily hub, not unlike the Argent Tournament, which will be expounded upon in a later patch, perhaps one in the Caverns of Time. Why the Caverns of Time? Well...

4.2 Late Summer 2011

A War of the Ancients Caverns of Time raid has already been announced, so naturally it's my guess for what 4.2s major raid will be. The previously mentioned daily hub will be expounded upon with this patch. We'll also get a new Caverns of Time 5-man instance if this patch, maybe even two. What could they be? I'm not sure.

4.3 December 2011-February 2012

Grim Batol raid. At this point the next expansion for WoW, be it "The Emerald Dream" or something to do with Azshara will have been announced, presumably at next year's Blizzcon. Thus 4.3 will be the last major patch for Cataclysm, just like 3.3 was the last major patch for Wrath. We will, naturally, take down Deathwing in this patch.

Raid Content

Here's where things get rather interesting. What do I think each raid will actually CONTAIN?

Bastion of Twilight It's already pretty well known that the final boss of this place will be Cho'gall, and the Final-final (Hard mode only!) will be *spoiler* Deathwing's consort, Lady Sinestra. */endspoiler*

Throne of the Four Winds
We already know this is a two boss instance, and the last boss is the Elemental Lord of wind, Al'Akir.

Blackwing Descent

Aha, well this is where things get interesting since all that's known is the first boss for here. Who do I think the final boss will be? Well, does anyone remember the Zombie Onyxia/Nefarian models that showed up waaaaaaaaay back in the Alpha?

That's right. Zombie Onyxia/Nefarion two at once encounter. I mean c'mon, this is really obvious. Deathwing comes back and suddenly two of his kiddo's we've killed get zombie forms? Easy. Other than that I really don't think any major lore figures are going to appear. We already know a Golem is the first boss of the instance, and it's a five boss encounter. I suppose it's possible Onyxia and Nefarian are seperate bosses and there's a different final boss, but I'd be surprised. Some sort of Dragon Necromancer working for Deathwing is almost a given. If I had to guess I'd say his encounter will involve summoning undead dragon adds of various types, similar to the Freya fight, but that's just guesswork.


Again, we already know the final boss for this encounter. Ragnaros again. All I can say is the phrase "Molten Core was merely a setback" should definitely be worked into the instance in some form. If I had to guess for other specific bosses though, I'd guess at least one Core Hound, probably with a new model, and... Shoot, he's allied with Deathwing, maybe a Dragon boss? Lot's of elementals, obviously.

War of the Ancients
This one's gonna be interesting.

Ok, so, this is based on the War of the Ancients, which is a major thing in lore that ends with the whole world exploding. My guess is that the Infinite Dragonflight have gone back in time to try to stop that from happening. Thus we're going to have to make sure that the Well of Eternity still goes boom. Chromie, being the fan favorite that he/she is, will play a major role.

Now, if I had to guess, I'd say that boss wise we're going to see Mannoroth get an appearance, although it's either going to be a "survive for X minutes" encounter, or a "get him down to 1% health and he'll leave" encounter, since he can't die, obviously.

Multiple encounters will be random demons we've never heard of, and members of the infinite dragonflight we've never heard of. At some point I suspect we'll see members of the "good guys" attack us, since we're trying to make it blow up. The final boss, if I had to guess, will be a timed encounter where we have to kill waves of infinite dragonflight, and then an Infinite Dragon (Perhaps Nozdormu?) and get out of the cavern before the Well of Eternity does explode and kill us all.

Also, I suspect we're going to, at some point, fight a pre-corruption Illidan off alongside Malfurion Stormrage. Possibly as the "Heroic only bonus boss" ala Algalon or Lady Sinestra.

It's also possible that Deathwing (from our era) will make some sort of appearance here, since it's theorized that he may have some ties to the Infinite Dragonflight.

Grim Batol

Hoo boy. Grim Batol is what it's all been leading up to. So what do I think Grim Batol is going to have in it? Well... Deathwing is OBVIOUS. Other than that, I'm not really sure though. I suppose we COULD see another old god here, one of the ones that corrupted him, as a bonus boss, but I doubt they'll do that. I have a feeling they're only going to use old gods as "real" raid encounters, with entire raids leading up to them, and they won't have a "bonus boss" that's harder than Deathwing for this, since he's the big bad for the expansion.

I suppose we might get a Goblin boss using a giant mech, since Deathwing's always been quite fond of using Goblins for slave labor. I could also forsee Deathwing's New Consort may be a boss, considering we'll have killed Sinestra by then. Also, a full grown Twilight Drake wouldn't surprise me, even though we supposedly destroyed all the eggs in Obsidian Sanctum, as it wouldn't be that far fetched for at least one to have survived.

Other than that, I don't really know. It's very hard to say what will appear and what won't. I suppose if the Dragon Necromancer who raised Ony/Nef isn't killed in Blackwing Descent, he could instead be a boss here.

Other Raid Content

The equivalent of VoA is almost a given here. Baradin Hold has one boss currently. I say with a large amount of confidence that it will get at least 4 by the end of the expansion.

It also would not shock me to see more Chamber of Aspects open up as one to two boss encounters as Cataclysm progresses. In fact, considering Blizzard appear to be adopting a multiple raid per tier system, and this expansion is so closely tied to DRAGONS, it would shock me NOT to see at least one Chamber of Aspects open up. Which one? Bronze Sanctum is a possibility for sure, releasing at the same time as War of the Ancients. Azure Sanctum could also happen, involving a new Blue Dragon trying to rise up as the new aspect, and side with Deathwing, perhaps to fulfill Malygos's wishes of killing all magic users. Emerald Sanctum is most likely going to stay closed until they do an expansion dealing with the Emerald Dream, though.

It also wouldn't shock me to see another old raid revamped for the 7th anniversary, ala Onyxia 10/25. Perhaps Gruul?

5-Man Content
I suspect that like Wrath, Cataclysm will have several 5-mans released during it's course. As I said above, I suspect at least one in Caverns of Time. I also wouldn't be shocked by a 5-man taking place late in the expansion (perhaps the equivalent to HoR) on the island of Kezan. There could even be multiple ones, one taking place in the Undermine, now controlled by Deathwing, and completely destroyed by Mt. Kajaro, and one taking place inside Mt. Kajaro.


This whole expansion is going to be VERY lore heavy, I suspect even moreso than Wrath was. Keep in mind, this section is only going to be about lore changes coming with patches, and I DO NOT KNOW VERY MUCH ABOUT QUESTS IN THE BETA. As such this is probably going to be the section containing the most broad predictions.

War of the Warchiefs

Well one major faction leader already bit the dust at the end of Wrath (or more specifically, turned into a weird human/undead hybrid thing that is the new Lich King since he's unable to die, but not quite alive either) and Cairne was killed by Garrosh not long after the Cataclysm. But since Thrall is off picking flowers or some such nonsense, and Garrosh has declared himself new Warchief, I predict that one of these two Orcs will not live through the expansion. At some point during the final raid of Cataclysm, either Garrosh will die, and Thrall will return as Warchief, or Thrall will die, and Garrosh will be Warchief for another expansion. I really don't see them both living through this whole thing.

Personally I'm hoping Garrosh dies as the lore was much more interesting when the Horde were noble, and the Alliance were evil scum, instead of both side being warmongers.

Other Major Lore Characters Die

Who? I dunno, but hey this is a tough war, and chances of everyones survival are... Low.

Sylvanas? Maybe. Magni Bronzebeard? It's possible. Brann Bronzebeard? Eh, I doubt it. Like I said, I'm not sure who, but a whole bunch of people are going to die. Seriously. It's the Harry Potter 7 of WoW expansions.

War of the Ancients is a Lore Nut's Dream

We're going to see lots of major lore events, whether as encounters, or just Easter Eggs, in this instance. Queen Azshara, pre nagafication will make an appearance for sure, although whether we'll be fighting with or against her is up in the air.

But for new lore in here... Well that depends. If the infinite dragonflight IS involved in this, and I sure hope it is, because I don't want another raid without them in it, then we may finally get confirmation that Nozdormu is the leader of the infinite dragonflight, trying to prevent his own demise. If not... Blah. This is a pointless raid, story wise, and it's just there because it's cool.

The Elements are Displeased

We'll be fighting two Elemental Lords this expansion, Ragnaros, and Al'Akir. No big deal right? Well if we kill them in the elemental plane (which just so happens to be where we will be killing them) then they may or may not die forever. No one's really sure. We've never done it before.

So what happens if a Fire Elemental that big is extinguished forever? I don't think it's going to be pretty, whatever it is. I have a feeling the spirits of fire and air may not be very pleased with us and Shamans everywhere (lore wise, not gameplay wise) will have dire consequences in the next expansion.

Heavy setup for the next expansion

A lot of what happens in this expansion, will be setup for things in the next expansion, whether that be The Emerald Dream, The South Seas, or going on the offensive to some Burning Legion worlds.

Meta Game

Player Growth

I expect to see the number of players of WoW to continue to grow with Cataclysm since the leveling is much more accessible, and the legal trouble with WoW China seems to be dying down. They just hit 12 million a few weeks ago. I predict 13-14 million players by the end of Cataclysm.

Expansion 4 Announced At Blizzcon 2011

Yeah. There's a trend that's been going on, and it's pretty hard to miss. I would be SHOCKED if the next expansion is officially revealed before that. I'd be pretty darn surprised if it's any longer than that either.

TOR and WoW Coexist

This isn't related to Cataclysm specifically, but I predict that TOR will be the most successful "WoW Killer!" yet. It won't actually hurt WoW's growth, mind you, but I have a feeling TOR will manage to grab a comfortable 1-2 million users.

Cata Comes To a Close Late 2012

2 years seems to be the life cycle of expansions. I expect Expansion 4 will launch Q4 2010. That'll have been a full year of Grim Batol, just like we had a full year of ICC, and (almost) a full year of Sunwell.

Well, that's pretty much all of my predictions for World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. Let's see how much of this turns out to be true, and how much of it turns out to be completely and utterly false.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Random Thoughts That Don't Deserve A Whole Blog Post

Oh man, Glee has been really REALLY good this season. I am confident when I say that they have improved upon every way I wanted them to improve upon from season one. They're focusing more on the kids, and less on the adults. Which was my biggest complaint from season one. The covers have all been really good... Well maybe not the Britney Spears episode, but otherwise awesome. They've been doing lots of covers, and the humor has been spot on. Honestly this is proof to me that the Glee showmakers have learned what did and didn't work from the first season and improved upon it. Which is good. If they keep it up, it could become one of the best shows on TV.

* * *

The DC Animated movies they've been making lately based on graphic novels are soooo good. Also, Adam Baldwin was incredible as Superman in Superman: Doomsday, I had no idea it was him until I saw his name in the credits. He just dissolved into the role. Quite a feat considering...

* * *

TV Tropes will ruin my life.

That said I think it is a great site and anyone who's serious about writing could learn a thing or two just by browsing the site for a few days. The only problem is that the site would cause you to browse the site for a few days... Without sleeping.

* * *

AH! Fallout: New Vegas! I need this! Ah! Gotham Central: Book Two! I need this! Ah! Cataclysm Collector's Edition! I need this! Ah! More money! I need this!

* * *

Ho. Ly. Crap. That is in my opinion the best cinematic Blizzard has done. It's... Really really good. Just... Really really good.

* * *

I wish this blog got more hits. Leh sigh.

* * *

I never finished playing Assassin's Creed 2... Even though it was really good. I should really pick that up again. It was a LOT better than the first game. Although that's not to say it didn't have a few... Issues. Still, a great game. I never finished Borderlands either, and that was really good too.

* * *

The book I'm writing, which I spoke of previously has been coming along quite nicely. I've written the entire rough draft (About 28,000 words.) And now I've rewritten the first three chapters. Ideally, I'd like to have the whole second draft completed by the end of November. Realistically, I'll probably have the whole second draft completed by New Years.

* * *

I've been playing quite a bit of WoW lately, getting back into raiding. Working on getting the Glory of the Ulduar Raider (10 Player) achievement, and the mount. Still have Hodir, Freya, Mimiron, Vezax, and Yogg hard modes to do. I'll probably end up doing a whole post about 4.0.1 soonish.

* * *

I can't decide if I should get Civ V or not. On the one hand, I loved Civ III, but I haven't played one since then. Eh, I'll probably get it when the price drops a bit.

* * *

I really need to watch Fringe. I've heard only good things about it, and the first 6 or so episodes were awesome, but I haven't seen any since then.

* * *

No Ordinary Family is one of the best new shows this season. It's exactly what I wanted it to be. The Incredibles, the TV series, in everything but name. It's got a similar charm and sense of humor, mind you The Incredibles is still far superior, but it's pretty darn fun. I quite like it.

* * *

Good grief. When did Bill Murray get so... Old? Seriously! He's 60 now?! And he doesn't look very good for 60 either.

I mean seriously. He looks ABSURDLY old in that picture. Wasn't he in Zombieland just a year ago? I swear he didn't look this old in that, and he played a zombie.

...Ok to be specific he played Bill Murray PRETENDING to be a zombie, but STILL!

* * *

Am I the only one who glad they're just dropping the concept of The Doctor having finite regenerations? I'd rather they pretend they never said he could only have 13 than waste a whole season with him moping around, only to die, and then get more through the power of zaptronic-wibbly-wobbly-deus-ex-plot-coupons.

* * *

Really? Really? I wrote a whole bunch more to this post and Blogger deleted it. Ugh. Ah well, I'll just wrap this up now because I could continue rambling for awhile.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Problem With Superman

It's not exactly unknown that I like Batman. Batman is awesome. Batman comics, movies, cartoons, whatever can be everything from campy fun, to serious looks into the flaws of humanity.

But what about other superheroes? Well of course, I like those too! Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Spider-Man, The X-Men, Wonder Woman, and so on and so forth, I like those too. They're pretty cool.

But there is one Superhero that everyone loves. Superman. The Superhero to end all Superheroes.

Of course I too, like Superman. He's Superman. Arguably, without him, there wouldn't even be a Superhero Genre. But there is one fatal flaw with Superman. He's too perfect.

Invincible, super strong, able to fly, able to melt things JUST BY LOOKING AT THEM.... Let's not kid ourselves here, Superman is basically a god.

Selin Fireheart wishes he were Superman.

The problem with Superman is that in order to have any sort of drama, you either need to have plots which

1. Exploit one of his two weaknesses, kryptonite or magic.
2. Deal with absurdly high stakes.

If you exploit his weaknesses EVERY SINGLE STORY, it gets repetitive. And redundant. And repetitive. And redundant. I mean seriously, I'm pretty sure enough kryptonite fell to earth to rebuild the planet krypton 3 times.

And dealing with absurdly high stakes can only work so often. You can't battle for the stake of the entire universe every other day, or it gets a bit... Ridiculous.

I mean, when you have Batman comics, you have a city, the city of Gotham, which is completely controlled by evil. No matter how much Batman does, he's still just one man. That's one of the greatest things about Batman. Is that he's just one man. The streets of Gotham are still incredibly dangerous, even with the equivalent of Ninja Chuck Norris running around in a bat suit every night.

But Metropolis is a safe place. A boring place.

And then there's his villains. There's Lex Luthor, who's awesome, and interesting. There's Brainiac who's cool. There's Darkseid who, if Superman is a god, is the devil. And then there's... Toyman?

I can't possibly take Toyman seriously. Sorry.

And no, Doomsday does not count. Doomsday is just a deus ex machina with arms and legs. The only thing Doomsday was created for, and has ever REALLY done, is kill Superman. Doomsday isn't a villain, he's a plot device.

Mr. Mxyzptlk?
Eh, the only thing that gave him any creditablity is the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" one shot comic, which, by the way, if you haven't read, you should.

Lex Luthor is a cool villain because he's basically an ordinary man fighting (and sometimes winning) against Superman, but that can only go so far, Brainiac can be cool depending on the story he's in... I guess Darkseid is the only villain that can be any real threat to Superman... He's pretty cool I guess. The only graphic novel I've read with him in it is "Superman: The Dark Side" which doesn't really count since it's an Elseworld about evil superman.

The problem with Superman becomes even more apparant in the first Superman movie right about when there are two missles and... Well...

So what really baffles me is that ANYONE thinks the "Superman Vs. Batman" movie that's been floating around hollywood for AGES is a good idea. I just... Why? Why would you do that?

Let me allow a video explain why this is the worst idea ever. *Caution strong language*

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Movie Review - The Batman Vs. Dracula

"I thank you for keeping my legend alive in my absence, but now there's only room for one BAT MAN in Gotham."

Pop quiz: Who remembers the 2004-2008 series "The Batman"? I do. And I liked it.

The Batman is an often forgotten Batman cartoon series. Sure, it wasn't as good as Batman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, or arguably (I haven't seen many episodes of this one) The New Batman Adventures, but it was different, instead of focusing on Batman after he's an established hero, focusing on his first few years of being "The Batman". The show, focusing on a younger audience than TAS or Beyond were, had a very different tone to it. A brighter tone. And while I personally prefer the darker tone of Batman, such as the films, or TAS/TNBA/BB captured, The Batman was still really good, in my opinion, and I'd rate it up there as one of the best cartoons of the past ten years. The first two seasons focused solely on him as several villains began to surface. The third season broke the traditional Batman lore by introducing Batgirl before Robin was introduced. In the fourth season, Robin was introduced. I only caught a few episodes of the fifth and final season, but it was still pretty good featuring the forming of The Justice League. The cartoon featured a different art style from DC Animated Universe series, and overall a different tone. The cartoon was still quite popular though, popular enough to warrant a feature length Direct to DVD film set between the second and third seasons, "The Batman Vs. Dracula".

The Batman Vs. Dracula had a much darker, creepier tone than the TV series did, much more similar to TAS's tone.

The film opens with Penguin and Joker escaping from Arkham Asylum. Forced to only follow one, Batman pursues Joker to the top of a building overlooking the river. The Joker tries to escape by jumping into the river, but the joy buzzer (Of doom) he had in his hand malfunctions and apparently kills him.

Upset by this Batman returns to the batcave, and tells Alfred of Joker's untimely demise. When asked where Penguin is, he replies he doesn't know, but he's going to find him.

Cut to Penguin in a Gotham graveyard. He finds a tomb which he thinks contains a treasure and opens it to find a chained up coffin. Being an utter moron, he cuts the GIANT RED CHAINS OF DEATH, and opens the coffin. And cuts himself. And bleeds on Dracula's skeleton, bringing him back to (un)life.

And that's where things get awesome. Why do things get awesome? Well, let me put it this way...


Seriously. Just the title alone is so awesome I think I go partly blind every time I read it. I heard someone once said the title of this movie once, and spontaneously turned into Chuck Norris. And exploded. And it was awesome.

This isn't the first time Batman's run in with vampires either, heck he's even run in with Dracula before. But this is the first official movie where he's met Dracula. (Note that I say official.)

So, does the film live up to this title of pure nerd joy? Well... Yes and no. Let me start by saying it's a very different movie. For one thing, the Vampire's in the movie are actually more similar to fast zombies than traditional Vampires. That's not to say they aren't scary though, in fact, they really are scary. Whenever it cuts to the Vampire's point of view, there's this cool vein effect on the other characters, where the Vampire can see the heart and blood of the person they look at. Plus, and this is a bit of a spoiler... Vampire Joker.

Vampire Joker is creepy and crazy. And I love him for it. Plus there's a downright heartwarming scene (in a strange way) where Batman... Well, I won't spoil it.

Speaking of Batman, he's pretty awesome in this movie. He's, again, not as good as Batman in TAS, but he's still a pretty good version of the character.

But, with that said, there are a few continuity holes. For example, in one scene it's very important to note that Vampires don't have reflections... Until a scene later in the movie where you see a Vampire's reflection. That's not the only plot hole sadly, but it is the most blatant in my opinion.

But darn it, the movie promised Batman Vs. Dracula. So how is Dracula in this movie?

Freaking. Awesome. He's just about the perfect Dracula, he's suave, smooth, smart, and evil. Plus he has some of the best lines in the whole movie like the aforementioned
"I thank you for keeping my legend alive in my absence, but now there's only room for one BAT MAN in Gotham."

"(Responding to a solar energy storing device Bruce is showing off at a party) About time the sun was used for something positive."

He's strong, he's fast, and more importantly, he's an awesome villain. Everything Dracula should be.

So Batman and Dracula are both awesome, but it promised Batman VERSUS Dracula. Does it deliver? In a word, yes. Yes it does. The fight scenes between the two of them are very fun, and they give you a sense of just how out of his league Batman is. Dracula is, for all intents and purposes, superpowered. A foe more befitting a hero with superpowers, like Superman or the Green Lantern. And so Batman has to rely on his brain, and his ability to outwit Dracula. And boy is it fun.

And so there you have it. The Batman Versus Dracula. It's not a perfect movie... But c'mon, it's BATMAN. VERSUS. DRACULA. It may not be the best movie in the world, but it is FREAKING AWESOME. It's just a LOT of FUN! It's not quite as good as say, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, or Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and it's certainly not in the same league with The Dark Knight, but any Batman fan who sees this movie will not regret it. You will get to see Batman fight Dracula. And it will be awesome. Really, really awesome.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Movie Review - Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

*Spoilers for an 18 year old movie that has exactly the same plot as the first film follow*

So why am I reviewing a movie released in 1992? Well, because I just saw it for the first time on Netflix. And because it's my blog and I say so.

Everyone loves the original Home Alone. Home Alone is a great movie. It has a charming little boy for a main character, it's well written, and it's really entertaining. If for some reason you haven't seen it, it's pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. A 9 year old boy named Kevin gets left Home Alone when his family accidentally forgets him and leave on Christmas vacation. Wackiness ensues! When two robbers try to break into his house, it's up to Kevin to fend them off! It's a great movie, and it was very very popular, so popular in fact, that it spawned a whole bunch of similar movies that basically did what Home Alone did, but not as well.

So naturally since the movie was a smash hit was a success, they made a second one. Oh joy. But wait, this is not only made by the same people, it has the ENTIRE original cast in it! And Tim Curry! Surely this will be at least kind of amusing, right? Wrong.

Ugh. I hate this movie.

The biggest problem though is that it's the SAME DANG MOVIE. It is not a sequel. It is THE SAME MOVIE. They use every gag from the first movie that was even mildly amusing again. And again. And again. Did you laugh at that time when he said "Sir, I'm 9 years old, am I going to shop alone? I don't think so." in the first movie? I sure hope so because he's going to use that AGAIN! Twice! Did you laugh when he used the audio from the movie to scare off the robbers? Well guess what? HE DOES THAT AGAIN! Did you find it amusing when he used cardboard cutouts to make it look like there was someone behind a curtain? Well guess what? This time it's an INFLATABLE CLOWN! Way to really shake things up!

But the most maddening example of this has to be the Pigeon Lady. Remember the neighbor all the kids in the first movie were afraid of? Well this is the same character. It introduces her the same way, it treats the character the same, she exists for the exact same reason that the crazy guy existed in the first film.

In fact there was one scene I watched where... Well, let me just tell you my thought pattern while I was watching it.

"Oh look it's the pigeon lady. Yeah yeah, he's scared, he's running awa- Oh? What's this? He's stopping? He turned around? He's talking to her?! I know where this is going! He's going to say he realize he's not afraid of her and she's just a person like him like in the first movie, and then she's going to turn out to be a psycho after all! That'll be hilarious! This movie could still be pretty good...

Ok he's done talking, she'll roar at him or something crazy any second now...

...Aaaaany second now....



Oh no....


And then my head exploded.

You might think getting the entire original cast together would at least save the movie from being horrible though, right? Oh but not so! Kevin still seems to be at least mildly charming for most the film (until the end. I'll get to that, don't worry.) but the rest of the cast just come off as either criminally negligent, or just plain creepy. I mean, in the first movie, Harry and Marv (the Wet Bandits) were bad guys yeah, make no mistake, but if I recall, they never ACTUALLY THREATENED HIS LIFE did they? Sure, they said things like "When I get my hands on that little kid I'm gonna [insert unspeakable thing here]" if they did say they were gonna kill him, it wasn't more than once or twice. But in this, they just say "I'm gonna murder that kid when I find him!" about fifty times. Yeesh. There went all the charm from the first.

Plus, this movie is just fundamentally flawed. The whole point of the first movie was that Kevin realized he loved, and missed his family after all, even though they were jerks, they were still his family. Meanwhile his family realized they had been jerks to him, and in the case of his parents, weren't paying enough attention to him. Ok, in real life it would result in far more severe consequences, but in a movie it works.

And then comes this piece of crap. And every character has completely forgotten the events of the first film. In the beginning, his parents LITERALLY LEAVE HIM BEHIND IN AN AIRPORT WHILE HE'S SCREAMING "Wait up!"

I'm sorry, but that crosses a line from really absentminded, to criminally negligent, and child endangerment. If that had really happened, don't you think the next year the mother would be very careful to keep Kevin nearby? Like, HOLDING HER HAND UNTIL THEY GOT ON THE PLANE? But no, because of that, he ends up getting on the wrong plane, and getting lost in new york. He's probably safer there. I mean seriously. CPS needs to intervene here.

Oh yeah, and Tim Curry is in it, playing a sort-of-badish-guy. But not really. He's pretty ok I guess.

But quite possibly the cherry on top of this crap sundae is the very end. With the traps. You remember the charming traps from the first one? These traps are not like those traps. Those traps were the kind of thing a 9 year old boy would make. These traps? These traps are the kind of traps an Iraq War Veteran would make.

Those traps in the first film (with the exception of the lawnmower trap, which I always found sketchy) were just meant to cause pain, and y'know, trap the bad guys.

These traps though are traps to FREAKING KILL THEM. Let me tell you the very first thing Kevin does? He gets to the top of a 5 story building, and THROWS BRICKS AT THEM FROM THE TOP. AND HITS MARV. LIKE 5 TIME. IN THE FACE.

.... Ugh, I really hate this movie.

I'm sorry, but Marv is dead. No one could survive that. No one. Ever. At all. No. Just, no.

But that's not even the most lethal. After that, he rigs up something involving a staple gun shooting Marv, a bag full of wrenches hitting Harry on the head, a 3 story fall for both of them, a large pipe to then fall on them from three stories up, presumably paralyzing them both from the waist down for life, lighting the rope they are climbing down on fire (it had been soaked in kerosene) causing them to fall five stories, electrocuted Marv (and he keeps turning the voltage higher and higher...) and my personal favorite, setting Harry's HEAD ON FIRE (that's not the best part) and tricking him into sticking his head into a toilet FILLED WITH KEROSENE.

...Sure. Why not.

The sheer lethalness of these traps give the whole film a really dark and creepy undertone, like Kevin is some psycho who's mind finally snapped. I guess he'd been spending too much time with Pigeon Lady.

And of course, after all of this, he lives, the family comes and spends Christmas Day with Kevin in the Plaza hotel (which they got to stay in free of charge as the hotel's apology for A. letting Kevin check in by himself, and B. losing him.) and the film closes with the Dad screaming (keep in mind he only had the opportunity to do so because they abandoned him in an airport.) "KEVIN?! YOU SPENT $968 ON ROOM SERVICE?" At which point Kevin gasps, and runs off into central park. Now, the film ends here, so I can't be sure that following this scene Kevin is immediately mugged at knife point and killed brutally, but considering Home Alone 3 stars a different kid, I feel I have no choice but to assume that he was.

And thus is the dark end to a dark film. Seriously though, this movie is bad. Not just kind of bad, really really bad. It's terrible. It's terrible and I hate it. It is very possibly one of the worst films I have ever seen. ARGH. I need to stop talking about this movie before my head explodes. Again.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Thoughts On "The Mannconomy"

Sigh... So, frequent readers of the blog PROBABLY KNOW I'm a big fan of Team Fortress 2. It's basically my favorite FPS on the market right now. I'm not a huge FPS fan, but Team Fortress 2 is a lot of fun.

People will also know I really really REALLY like Valve, the company who created Team Fortress 2. (And Portal.) Part of the reason I love Valve so much is because they don't cheat you. I mean, some companies would have released Team Fortress 2 for $60 when it released, and that would have been fine! But no, not Valve. They released "The Orange Box" which for $6o contained not only TF2, but Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episode One, Half-Life 2 Episode 2, and a little game no one had any expectations for called Portal.

They're the people who make Steam! Steam is a great service that has made gaming a LOT cheaper!

So really I do love Valve. They're a great company. They make great games, and make sure you get your moneys worth.

So, imagine my surprise upon seeing yesterday that there was a new update to TF2 that added microtransactions!

*In Three Dog voice* Public service announcement time CHIIIIIIIILDREN! What are microtransactions? Microtransactions are a way that gaming companies make you pay them again for new content in a game you've already purchased. For a "small" fee, you get... Well that varies. Usually it's either a new weapon, a new cosmetic item, a new emote, something small like that. One example I've covered on my blog before was TRH or That Retarded Horse, a mount in World of Warcraft that could be purchased for the "small fee" of $25.

I hate microtransactions. I reeeeeally hate microtransactions. You see, there's only two real kinds, in my opinion. Cosmetic, and non cosmetic.

If you get a non cosmetic item (I.E. a new weapon, playable character, something like that) for real life money, then you now have an advantage over other players, just because you paid money. Therefore you are taking away from the enjoyment of other players unless they pay money also. And that's just not cool.

If you get a non cosmetic item (I.E. a mount, a hat, a pet in world of warcraft) then you just paid real life money for some shiny pixels that don't even change the game, which is pointless and annoying.. I. Do. Not. Like. Microtransactions.

That said, I.... Don't completely hate the microtransaction store in TF2. (The "Mannconomy" as the call it.) I mean, I certainly don't like it, but they've provided 3 years of free content to the game now, I can understand wanting to make a little more money off of it, to CONTINUE to provide awesome content in the game. Everything you can buy in the Mannconomy store (With the exception of a key that unlocks a chest that gives a random item) can also be gotten just by playing the game eventually, either by random chance, or by combining other weapons together through the crafting system.

Also, there is one REALLY REALLY COOL aspect to it. Some of the items were actually created by players of the game, and the players who created them not only got the items into the game, but get a portion of the sales! That's pretty darn cool.

So, if they had just left it at that, I really wouldn't have minded. I mean... I wouldn't have HATED the system. Is still don't HATE the system. My biggest problem with it is the prices. To get any of the new hats, you have to pay $17.49.


For a hat.

Let's list what else I could buy for $18.

A copy of the ENTIRE TF2 game which is on sale now for $10.

The new Mass Effect 2 DLC, "Lair of the Shadow Broker" also for $10.

A hardback copy of "The Killing Joke" Deluxe edition. (List price $17.99)

A full copy of Half-Life 2.

One of the 723 games in the steam category "Under $10".

A new CD.

A new DVD.

A month's subscription to an MMO. (Most cost $15 a month.)

18 candy bars. (Usually cost a dollar at the most.)

An N64 game on the Wii's virtual console.

Any number of other things.

C'mon. That's ridiculous.

But ok, the store is a bit pricey. I can accept that, it's not like the hats provide any TANGIBLE benefits. OH WAIT, HELLO THERE SET BONUSES.

The biggest problem I have with this update is the inclusion of "set bonuses". That in and of itself doesn't bother me, so much as the fact that hats are included in the "sets". Before this, hats did NOTHING. They were purely cosmetic. I do not like the fact that they now change gameplay AT ALL. Not one bit. Not to mention the fact that it take a LONG TIME or some really really insane luck to get the hats to drop, which therefore means that they essentially are selling an advantage.

But, overall, I don't completely hate this update. The idea of set bonuses are really cool, although I would like for them to not include hats in the bonus, and the items themselves are pretty cool, like the sniper rifle that applies Jarate to anyone it hits, but can't get headshots. Or the Milk Bottles that you can throw at enemies, which will heal anyone who hits the person who was hit by the milk bottles.

But what makes me uneasy is the fact that Valve has done this at all. While I still love the company, and I can understand the reasoning for them to want to make a little money off a game they've supplied over 120 free updates to, it does feel like a slippery slope to me, and here's hoping Valve is able to avoid the slippery slope, and continue providing great games, great customer service, and just all around being a great company.