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Moving to tumblr

Rather than move to rooster teeth, I am moving to tumblr. I'll leave this link here for people, and keep this account in order to comment on things.



I completely forgot to do a journal last Thursday.

Also, let me ask this: If there is anyone reading these, do a comment. If not enough people do, I'll just move my blog over to the Rooster Teeth website where I know there are at least a few people.

PAX East 2012

I still hate how livejournal tosses me into the main text box midway through typing the title.

Anyways, last weekend was PAX East 2012, so instead of hopping around reading or whatever else, I was hanging out there. It was fantastic, especially the Rooster Teeth panel and, even moreso, the Jeff Williams Freelancer orchestra, which played music from the various Rooster Teeth works.

The whole event was great, though, and I did notice something. Fantasy and science fiction often go hand in hand with games. I don't know why, but Halo, Assassin's Creed, The Elder Scrolls and Legend of Zelda spring readily to mind. While Assassin's Creed is historical sci-fi, you don't really see too many straight historical games. I saw two being previewed at PAX, War of the Roses and Chivalry. Food for thought.

On the whole I already can't wait for next year's event and for RvBTO.

Something Different: Avengers Prediction

So this week, the week before PAX East, I'm going to try something different. Instead of a review, I'm going to try to predict what I'll think of the upcoming Avengers movie.

So far I've enjoyed all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Some I think are better than others but they're all good, which is itself an achievement considering the previous track record of adaptations in general. The wise choice of not trying to stick with a single pre-existing continuity was made, and instead they took bits and pieces from the myriad alternate histories, pieced them together and altered it to flow better at film length. 

The characters are interesting and have god arcs. Except captain America, he's cool but he doesn't really develop much. He's always the "Nice Guy" from New York. He gets stronger but his personality is basically the same. Iron Man learns responsibility, Thor learns to temper his anger with wisdom, the Hulk stops fleeing from his transformations and learns to use them for good (to a degree). Really cool. 

The villain of Thor and the Avengers, Loki, also has a good arc in his debut movie. I reviewed Thor and said how much I enjoyed his internal conflict between his Jotun blood and his divine adopted family. 

That very thing, the great characters, that made me love the other movies is what may kill the Avengers in the cradle. Even if the movie is three or more hours long not counting the credits and the inevitable sequel stinger, it will be very hard to give each character enough screen time to properly continue their development. The alternative, I can't say for better or worse, is that it becomes "Iron Man 3/Captain America 2/Thor 2 and friends." Then there's Loki. I don't know how or if he develops between movies, and if he does I don't know how, but I hope it's good.

Second is the supporting cast. The trailers make it clear Hawkeye and Black Widow are full Avengers. I think that Hawkeye, as cool as he may or may not be in the comics, is going to need a full introduction in order to work and I don't know, based on above, if the movie has time for that. Further, a chain is only a strong as its weakest link, and in that trailer scene where the team is in a circle, there's Black Widow, a normal, if skilled, human with a dinky little handgun, and Hawkeye, also a normal, if skilled, human with a bow. Any aliens that don't immediately think "kill those two first," or any aliens that actually fall to them if the arrows don't have super-explosive heads, are going to break the believably of the movie. 

Third, Joss Whedon. I don't know how much of the script he was given leave to rewrite, but I've never bought into his style and am concerned, perhaps irrationally, that the movie will be filled with wildly atonal "witty" banter and what is known as Buffy Speak, where every proper noun is replaced with a variation of the word "stuff." Maybe it won't happen and he just rearranged some scenes, but I don't know that.

It may sound like I'm being all doom-and-gloom here. And I am. I hope it'll be a fantastic movie and dash all my concerns against the rocks until they are pulp. As it is now, my expectation is that I'll treat it like There Will Be Blood. A movie I don;t buy on the whole but with a few really awesome scenes I'll watch on YouTube in leiu of the whole movie after seeing it in full the first time. 

My Birthday

Hi guys, it's my birthday. While I have read a lot this week, most of it was Discworld and I think I'll do another large run of discworld in a single post at some later date. 

For today, I think I'm just going to chill out, relax, listen to the Rooster Teeth podcast and eat some burgers. I will leave you all with one thought though:

The internet, for all its flaws, is pretty cool. I can go into a chatroom and have a group discussion with people from multiple countries at the same time. That's pretty damn awesome.

On the Mass Effect 3 Ending

So tomorrow I have Jury Duty. In case I can't get home in good enough time to write on of these I am doing a short statement on Mass Effect 3.

I have not played through it yet, myself, but I will. I am infuriated that people are demanding that the ending be changed. If a book or film had an ending you didn't like, well you'd just have to deal with it. Instead, people are fulfilling the stereotype of gamers as whiny, over-entitled brats by demanding that the ending they don't like be changed into something that they do.

I plan to play Mass Effect 3 as it was written. If I don't like the ending, well that's my problem, just as it is yours. Don't go giving people fuel to the fire of anti-gaming and anti-gamers by acting like a spoiled brat. Just say it's a bad game and don't buy the next one BioWare makes, if that's such a big problem to you. 

Dragon Quest VIII

Okay, let me go ahead and say this, it has been a very slow week. I haven't played any games but Skyrim since November and the version of the Ramayana that I am forcing myself to read is not very good and I feel doesn't do the character or the original tale justice. So I'm going to loop back and dredge up something I like from a while ago, before I even started doing this blog: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.

Dragon Quest VIII is the archetypal JRPG, when you get right down to it. You are "the hero," a nameless and silent protagonist who is traveling with king incognito Trode, who has been transformed into a troll, and his daughter Medea, who has been transformed into a horse. The rest of the kingdom of Trodain has been turned to stone and wrapped in magic vines. As you hunt for the jester who has wrought this curse with a magical scepter stolen from the king, you encounter numerous characters like Yangus the reformed bandit and Angelo the suave, womanizing templar. Not only do you have to save the world from the jester, but you also have to deal with the crooked politics of a corrupt church, evil and inept nobility and a horde of randomly encountered monsters who are all wonderfully stylized and beautifully colored in a stylized and colorful world.

The artwork, done by Akira Toryama of Dragon Ball fame, is fantastic. Half the joy of the semi-free roam of the game (you can move limitlessly within each world cell but not between them) is finding high places and simply looking at this vibrant world that has been made. The world has a tangible sense of hugeness in addition to being awash with color, and the characters are mostly multi-dimensional and entertaining. They, like the world, are very visually distinct, although Dragon Ball viewers may notice some visual similarities between characters. The hero looks a lot like teen Gohan and one antagonistic character looks a lot like Vegeta. 

The acting is varied. Most of the main heroic cast (again, sans the voiceless hero) is very good, and some of the supporting cast is also, but then some of the villains and minor characters sound a little ridiculous. For the most part, it all works. While we're on sound, the battle music is pretty good but the field walking/exploration music is amazing. 

The combat is more-or-less your typical JRPG menu combat system. It is not phenominal, but it is also not bad. The big draw is the "tension" system, where you do not attack and the character gets pumped up, doing more and more extra damage the longer you choose to do so. When the hero gets to maximum tension, he becomes a Super Saiyan, which I thought was hilarious. 

To give you an idea how much I enjoyed this game, I did all but one side-quest and clocked in, when I had to return my friend's copy, at 120 hours of gameplay in a single file. To put that in perspective, the only games I have ever clocked more hours on are various Elder Scrolls titles and possibly Ocarina of Time, and even then never that much in a single save. 

So if you want a sweeping, if mildly predictable, fantasy narrative with serviceable gameplay that is amazingly pretty, go ahead and buy this on the PS2, dust that puppy off and toss it in. I do intend, someday, to buy the other installments available on the DS.

Terry Pratchett's Going Postal (Film)

Let me preface this by saying that, in my sequential reading of Discworld, I have not yet gotten this far in the books, so I was going into this movie blind. 

This is, to the best of my knowledge, the one where Discworld stopped transitioning from medieval style fantasy to Victorian style steampunk fantasy and started just being Victorian style steampunk fantasy. Moist Von Lipwig (that's pronounced lip-vig, played by Richard Coyle) is a two-bit con man, and man is he good at it. He's got the charisma and the quick wit (and fingers) to make quite a good bit of money on the wrong side of the law. However, leaving fake coins behind means that there is a scent for Angua, Ankh-Morpork's resident werewolf cop, to track him to a seedy bar where he is spending his ill-gotten gains. After being arrested and hanged "to within an inch of his life" by the world's greatest hangman (and the worlds most pleasent, as it happens) he is given an alternative by Lord Vetinari (played fantastically by Charles Dance, always a favorite of mine): He can continue with his execution as scheduled or he can revitalize the long-defunct Ankh-Morpork Post Office. 

Wisely, Moist takes the job and his parole officer, Mr. Pump 19 the Golem, to keep him in line. With his somewhat unhinged staff of remaining postmen, Moist finds himself under assault on two fronts. One from "the Clacks," a system of long-distance near-instant communication using coded light signals and their corrupt CEO Reacher Gilt (David Suchet) who is played to be one of the most deliciously hammy villains ever. He is also under assault (usually by crossbow or spiked heel) by Adora Belle Dearheart (Claire Foy), owner of the Golem Trust who steals his heart very quickly and he sets to trying to repay her in kind.

The big thing about this movie is that the source material was written before the current financial problems became "a thing." The movie, I am told, may emphasize those parts a bit more, and I think it works phenominally. The movie is big about making characters face up to the consequences of their actions, particularly Moist, who had allowed himself to believe that because all his crime was non-violent he had never harmed anyone. The trope of the lovable criminal is brutally deconstructed when he is forced to watch what happened to the people he conned, and their families and the people they knew. Some of those scenes are absolutely gut-wrenching. 

And on that note, it means that Moist has a very deep character arc. Some films that star the criminal type try to convince you that "they aren't so bad," but this movie makes itself take the harder, better route of showing how horrible he was being and then making you like him because of how he tries to become better. The writing and acting in the "regret scenes" is amazing. Also, Coyle and Foy have a load of amazing chemistry and their romantic plot is amazingly well-executed.

In fact, all the acting is amazing. While this movie is visibly more high-budget than the previous two, it is still plainly not a multi-billion dollar production and that is fine. That means that they had to get this phenomenal cast and amazing script to carry the movie, much like the first two which had actors like Ian Richardson, Christopher Lee, Michelle Dockery, Sean Astin and David Jason who are all amazing. The sets are a lot larger than in The Color of Magic and Hogfather, the costumes are more detailed, and there are a lot more crowd scenes, but at its core it is the same: a lot of very talented and passionate individuals making a movie they love based on a book that made them laugh. 

The final note is about both this movie and Discworld in general. Pratchett has an amazing eye for the way people are, and that is why he can have a book (or a movie) with a joke and then a really sad scene and then a joke and makes it work. It's because he doesn't draw attention to each part with a huge flag, so people process it like they do the real world's juxtaposition of tragedy and joy. Despite being labelled as "a comedy writer" or "a satirist," neither of which could be called on the face a bad thing, I think the label sells him short. He is a very incisive writer with a keen eye for emotions and how people treat one another and I can't recommend his works, or this movie, enough. Definitely watch this movie because it is the best of the three.



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April 2012



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