Movie Round-Up: May 28th, 2010

Sex and the City 2:

Didn’t watch the show.  (Okay, I saw some episodes, randomly chosen by happenstance, didn’t care enough to try to see more.)  Haven’t seen the first movie.  (I think I saw the end once on TV, and possibly caught a few scattered minutes, but not enough to understand the plot, or make me want to see more.)  Won’t be seeing this one either.  (I watch enough crap that it is highly possible that I will, at some point, see part of this movie, but it won’t be because I sought it out.)

Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time:

The previews look very full of action, but still I’m just not excited, not chomping at the bit, to see this film.  I never played the game it is based on (though I did play the original, long ago), however that might be a good thing since I wouldn’t be able to say the game was better.  I’m not going to make special plans to go see this on the big screen, but I will probably watch it when it is available on DVD.

Two Wallpapers

So, last weekend I didn’t post any doodles.  The reason for that is I went to go see a movie at the theater (and actually pay!) and then spent most of the day running around shopping.  In the previous week, my wife’s cell phone broke, and while we were discussing what we should do about it my cell phone broke.  My wife could conceivably live without her cell phone, but I rely on mine so that I’m reachable for work stuff.  We ended up at the local Best Buy, and they happened to be running a special on Palm Pre phones: $149.  Well, we already happen to be Sprint customers and both of use are out of our contracts so we get the full sign up discount.  We just couldn’t pass it up.

Love the phones.  They are fantastic, especially for me.  I’ve got it connected to my Google mail and calendar accounts as well as my work Exchange server, I can see both calendars at the same time but not sync them, so my work never knows about my personal appointments and I don’t have to clutter my personal calendar with work junk.  Sure, the Pre is a little lite on applications thus far, but eventually that will change.  Besides, while the iPhone has a million apps, most of them are crap anyways.  Yeah, that’s a real application.  But the Pre’s got the web, which gets to most things, and its got a Twitter app and a couple of movie time apps and other basics.

Anyway, this week I spent a little time messing around and making myself some wallpapers for the phone.  I mean, I’m not 17, so pictures of hot chicks, which is what 99% of wallpapers for phones are, aren’t what I’m looking for, and besides, I like making my own stuff.  Some of my experiments were complete crap, so I won’t post those, but I will post two that I am happy with.  The first is a cut version of a previous doodle, the castle and the moon:

The Castle and Moon wallpaper version
The Castle and Moon wallpaper version

After doing that one, I spent a while messing around with Gimp and various brushes.  So, while not a traditional freehand doodle, here is the best of the bunch, and the only one I felt worth sharing.

City with Symbols
City with Symbols

Clearly, I like black and white since I’ve been in more of a “sketchy” mood lately.  The whole thing was done with a city brush, a couple of mystic symbol brushes and some blood spatter and gunshots brushes.  Here it looks sort of bland, but I dig the way it looks on the phone where it takes over the screen with the icon bar overlay at the  bottom.

Anyhow, I’m sure to make some more wallpapers, and I’ll continue to share them.

Dragon*Con 2008: Day Four

The last day of Con is always the worst.  First, because it comes after the last night of Con, which is usually filled with too much drinking and staying up way too late.  Then there is the packing in order to check out before getting dinged for another day stay.  And as bad as you feel, any panelists feel worse, because not only do they have the same issues you do, but they also have to be on panels.  The last day of Con is always the slowest.

After getting the car packed and heading back in, I made another trip through the dealer and exhibitor rooms.  After a few days of saying there was nothing worth seeing you might wonder why I would go back… well, being the last day, many sellers weigh the expense of hauling back product versus cutting the price.  So, its no surprise on Monday at Dragon*Con to see 20%… 50%… or higher signs.  See, if you buy early, you pay more, but you will get your item.  If you wait, you might pay less, or you might be too late.  I found a stall selling RPG materials, all items $2, so I picked up random curiosities, like the Starship Troopers pen and paper game.  I wouldn’t pay the normal price, but for $2?  Hells yeah!

Then it was off to the panels… Free MMOs was up first.  There are lots, most of them look like crap (to me, anything anime is crap, I hate that style, all asian MMOs, free or not free, are boring soulless garbage), but some don’t.

And the pen and paper game Aftermath! has been licensed for an MMO.  I heart the apocalypse, so I hope they succeed.

With those last panels out of the way, it was time to head home and sleep…

Meet Dave

8 out of 13 nots.
for being better than I expected it to be

Eddie Murphy was once a foul mouthed comedian.  He used to make rated R movies.  But a few years back he stumbled into a gold mine of family oriented Disney films.  Meet Dave is another one.

Honestly, I went into this movie expecting it to be a pile of crap, or at least another bland family film that I knew would make money but wouldn’t interest me at all.  Instead, I was pleasantly surprised.  Meet Dave was funny, genuinely funny.  Sort of a mix between Galaxy Quest and Starman, it is about aliens who travel to Earth in a giant space ship that looks like a human.  This is because they are about an inch tall, so the human shaped ship also doubles as an android allowing them to move through the population unnoticed.  They have come because they are planning to suck the oceans dry and take all the salt in order to save their own world.  Of course, on the way to destroying our planet, they learn that maybe we aren’t so bad and might just be worth saving.

Anyway, I enjoyed it… I don’t think I would ever pay $10 to see it in the theater, but I would absolutely throw it in the rental queue on Netflix.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

8 out of 13 nots.
for not sucking, but being far from awesome

This movie could have been so much better.  The fact that this one was originally going to be titled “Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars” should set your expectations properly for this film.  It wasn’t horrible, but it is, in my opinion, the worst Indy film, and I actually wouldn’t be upset if I never saw it again.

It wasn’t crap, but it was, for me, a huge disappointment.  The action was well done, there was some great comedy in it, but overall the film was lackluster, and I lay all the blame at George Lucas’ feet.

And that’s about all I’m going to say… I don’t want to post any spoilers at least until their box office record breaking weekend is finished.

Building the World

So, I have finally begun my first furtive steps in building my Zombie MMO.  It will be web based, because that’s easier for me since I’m a webpage and database guy, not a graphics engine and client/server guy.  I could get some guys, but I couldn’t pay them, and I’d rather keep my game to myself for now.

Anyway… The first piece I’m working on is how to build the world, the structure upon which everything else is going to stand.  And I think I actually have the bulk of it worked out, if not all the details, many of which won’t become solid until other decisions have been made.

In the meantime, I’m taking a look around the internet at other web games to see what I like and what I don’t like.  To that end, do you have suggestions?  What are some web games worth looking at?  Which ones are well done and which ones are complete crap?  I actually want to see both varieties because understanding why something is complete crap can often be more beneficial than trying to figure out why something works well.

Garage Sale

One of the advantages of living in an actual house in an actual neighborhood is the neighborhood garage sales. Everyone carts all their old crap they don’t want anymore out on to their yards and tries to pawn them off on anyone willing to take them away… I mean, people try to divest themselves of things they no longer use and pass them on to people who will make good use of them, for a small fee.

The wife and I decided to take this opportunity to thin out our bookcases and to cut down out CD collection, and even empty a closet or two… and to try to beg people to buy my old computer junk. We dragged out two card tables worth of books, paperbacks and hardcovers, and easily over 400 CDs, a handful of DVDs that, frankly, no one should own, which is probably why I owned them. We also had a table of stuffed animals to which we held no special attachment and some board games we never play. There were some old blankets and sheet sets, all the light fixtures we’ve replaced in our house, my Body By Jake Ab-Rocker (no, it doesn’t really work, I did it every day for a year and I never got even remotely close to a 6-pack), and some odds and ends. And lastly there was my table of crap… 3 old 17″ monitors, 3 printers, 2 scanners, a DVD player, a box of assorted PCI expansion cards (a couple of network cards, a couple of video cards, a sounds card, an SCSI controller, a parallel port card), and a roll of 50 feet of coaxial cable.

No one buys my computer crap.

In the end, we managed to sell some books, CDs, a couple of DVDs, the odd board game and stuffed animal, and the DVD Player, netting us a grand total of $177. Now its time to box the junk back up and wait for the next neighborhood garage sale.

Iron Man

12 out of 13 nots
for fantastic heavy metal, both suit and soundtrack

This is how you do a comic book super hero movie.  The guys who made the Fantastic Four should be forced to watch this and maybe they’ll understand why their movie was crap.  Normally when a character from comics is brought to the screen, the first thing they want to do is tell you the origin of the character.  However, most writers/directors don’t seem to quite understand that you don’t have to start at the beginning and tell a linear story.  The audience, quite contrary to popular belief, is not stupid.  They may gravitate to more visceral experiences of things blowing up than the more cerebral dramas, but just because they enjoy simply uncomplicated pleasures it does not make them mentally deficient.  The Fantastic Four and Hulk movies dragged because rather than jump into a very interesting story and fill you in on the origin as they went, they decided to start at the beginning, which has little action and is a snooze-fest.  Daredevil, while suffering from other problems (mostly, in my opinion, a miscasting of Bullseye and Kingpin), at least the pace of the film works well.  With Iron Man they did decide to tell you the origin, but at least they were smart enough to weave the story of the film in with the origin such that they are not explicitly telling you the origin of Iron Man but instead telling you a story about Tony Stark during which Iron Man comes into being.  It is a subtle yet very important distinction.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into details of the film because it was awesome and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  However, I do want to touch on the soundtrack, mainly because it too was awesome.  The use of rock music in the film was superb, and the song choices were excellent.  I was surprised pleasantly throughout the film as songs popped up and properly set the mood for the scenes, and even more surprised that they actually held off using Black Sabbath’s Iron Man until the end credits, because, frankly, using it anywhere else in the film would be like hitting you over the head with a hammer.

Fans of Iron Man should be pleased with the film as they did sprinkle enough “nerd knowledge” throughout to make the comic book geek in me smile without drowning me in comic references.

Fun, fast and fantastic, Iron Man gets a well deserved 12 out of 13 here… I’d have given in 13, but I do try to hold off perfect scores for stuff that is truly life alteringly spectacular.

The Handcart We Are Rapidly Pushing to Hell…

… is filled with social site web apps.

Look! One of my friends has installed SuperFunAwesomeWall! To read the cool stuff they have written I need to install it! But wait! Another friend has installed AwesomeFunSuperWall, which is not the same application… and, uh, a third friend installed FunSuperAwesomeWall… and another FunAwesomeSuperWall… okay, what the hell… And I’ve been bitten by a vampire, and a werewolf, and a zombie, and a dog, and I’m in bat country.  I’ve been asked to join an entourage, a pimp squad, and a sports team, no less than three movie applications, and some trivia.  I’ve been Poked, SuperPoked, MegaPoked, SexyPoked, and CanadianPoked, could someone please stop with all the damn poking?  I’ve had myself compared to other people in every possible way, and I now know which superhero (Marvel and DC), L Word character, Simpson, Lost castaway, Friend, drunk, color, type of Irish Republican, chocolate, Spice Girl, assassin, and dead Russian author I am.  Among a great many other things, and while all those things might be true, one thing I can say with absolute certainty that I am is someone who has almost entirely stopped logging in to Facebook.

About the only time I go there anymore is when I get an email that someone new has requested to link up, or on the odd occasion that I remember I have an account and decide I want to check and see if any more people I forgot I used to know have appeared.  The sad thing about most of those apps, besides the fact that they are horribly repetitive, is that most of them are crap.  Seriously, and annoying to boot.

Perhaps its just me… maybe I just don’t get it… but there really doesn’t seem to be much “social” is all these social networking sites.  In fact, the social aspects of direct messaging and message boards seem to be the hardest parts of the sites to find or use as they are drowned out by ads and apps.  One day, I was logged into Facebook using my Heroespowers to try to gain another level when I asked myself, “Why?  Why the fuck am I doing this?”  So I tried to dig through the app to find the community, the social part that should exist beyond spamming all my friends with useless power messages and invitations to install the app and join the spam, and I couldn’t find any.  I searched all my Walls (I had 3 installed in addition to the default one) and the only messages I found were the equivalent of chain letters.  I removed a good 90% of the apps I had installed (I’m a sucker for trivia) and sent out a couple of messages to some friends.  After a few days I realized that using Facebook for anything social beyond finding people to begin with was pointless.  Once we found each other and exchanged contact info, dropping “back” to email or AIM was so much easier than using Facebook.  And more reliable too.

“Why have Facebook email me every time I get a new message when I can just have people email me directly?” I found myself wondering.  I suppose if I were famous, I could use sites like Facebook to have a “public” face that people could talk to while hiding my “true” email address.  But I’m not, and everyone I currently talk to I feel safe giving my real email address to.

Of course, I realize that my gripes with these sites are largely about the efforts they have chosen to make in regards to traffic and ad revenue.  These aren’t pay sites, after all.  But then again, I’d say that overall their efforts are failing.  When was the last time you clicked an ad on Facebook or MySpace or some other social network site?  Just this instant I logged in to Facebook and the ads presented to me as I navigated ignoring all the random spam messages were for, some weight loss thing, a local college bar, a website to find out who’s searching for me on the Internet, and upromise.  The one thing all five of those have in common is that they are things I wouldn’t click on.  Only one had any interest to me ( but I already know about the site, have it book marked, and use it every now and then.  However, had it been some game advertisements, TV shows, movies, or something of that nature, I might have clicked on it.  The one thing all of these social networking sites suck at is directing the proper ads to the proper people.  They need a control panel where I can choose to get video game ads but not weight loss ads, to get TV shows but not college loans.

And just so it doesn’t seem like I’m picking on Facebook, I have a MySpace account as well that I use a little more often (its not too horrible at browsing and finding new musical insterests).  Recently that launched their application platform, and its largely full of the same crap as Facebook, with, in my opinion, the only exception being the MetaChat application launched by the people of MetaPlace.  It is fairly nifty, except… its also fairly useless.  Sure, I can now put a chat room on my profile page, but how often do I hang out on my own profile page?  How often do people visit my profile page?  Do I even really want to chat with the random people who cross my profile?  Everyone I want to chat with, I tend to give them my email address, or my AIM account and we chat elsewhere.

Tomorrow… more on social networking and Internet communities…

Product Placement

I was watching Flash Gordon the other night. No, not the movie (which is awesome), but the new Sci-Fi Channel TV show (which made dozens of needless changes to the Flash Gordon mythos but has potential if they can avoid more silly crap like the “IMEX”). In one scene, Flash goes to Google some information… no, wait, he doesn’t Google it, he “”s it, or something like that.

Seriously, does Google (or Yahoo or MSN or whoever) really charge a ton to be able to use their site in a TV show? This kind of little junk is usually what ruins TV shows for me. How can I ever suspend disbelief when they completely detach from reality like that? I thought companies paid money to get product placement… why are no TV producers taking advantage of having their actors actually drink Coke on screen instead of “Cola”?

Wake up guys. People are not watching commercials anymore. Except maybe during the Superbowl. If you want people to see your products, you need to get people in these fantasy worlds to be using your products.

On the flip side, last week when the esurance animated superspy chick showed up on Who Wants to be a Superhero? I threw up in my mouth a little bit. It was like someone hit the show with an esurance bomb and it got esurance goo on everything. There is a line… please don’t cross it.