Gertalt of Rivia Freestyles at San Diego Comic-Con

At this year’s San-Diego Comic-Con, CD Projekt Red, the makers of the popular Witcher video game series, presented a demo of their latest title, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. According to Polygon, the equipment they used for the demo was damaged during travel. This resulted in missing voice-overs during the demonstration. Fortunately, Doug Couckle, voice of the main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia was on the panel to “freestyle” some lines for the audience. The video is below.

This past summer I finished the first two games in the series and can now safely say that I’m emotionally invested in these characters that Andrzej Sapkowski created in his original novels and short stories. With that being said, The Witcher 3 is my most anticipated game of next year, so much that I even built a new gaming PC just so I can play it.

If you’re in the same boat as me and just can’t wait until February 25th for the “Wild Hunt’s” release, check out the books by the author himself. The game borrows heavily from the Sapkowski’s dark, mature stories and fans of the series can even get a better idea of the world and its characters that aren’t featured in the games. I recommend the  first collection of short stories, The Last Wish to any die-hard Witcher fan, or fantasy-genre addict. It’s damned good reading and it’s more Witcher, what’s not to love?

Batman Looks Badass in the New Film

This new picture just surfaced. It’s a picture of Ben Affleck under the cowl. One thing that is very clear is the actor’s jaw certainly reminds me of the classic Batman jaw, something that Christian Bale’s costume didn’t emphasize. I just hope he can move his head this time unlike in Batman Begins. Hopefully they learned their lesson and bring those design choices to the new costume. It’s the little details that count! Can’t wait for the release of Batman v. Superman in 2016!

I graduated and so, uh, I’m building my first gaming PC

As a recent college grad, it wasn’t looking for a job (I already have two!) or traveling that was at the top of my priorities list. At the top of that list was building my very first computer, all by myself, and a gaming PC at that! I’m not completely out-of-the-loop when it comes to computer hardware, I’d like to believe I know what I’m doing, at least, mostly. But why would I do this? Why would I build a gaming PC instead of taking a bit of time to travel the world or explore career opportunities before the government remembers I owe them thousands of dollars?

Once upon a time I did have plans to travel after graduation but those eventually fell through, but even before that I’ve always lusted over the idea of building my own machine. And as far as the career thing goes, that’s a constant search that never really ends. I can say that I’m content with the positions I hold now, though I’m always looking for more. So with a somewhat open and typical job schedule, I’m doing it. I’m building a gaming computer, even if I’m not really sure what I’ll be playing on it.

Ever since the Xbox One and Playstation 4 released last holiday, I’ve been debating whether to pick one up. But after months of saving and debating I came to a realization that I would get more joy out of a custom-built computer. Not only are there already a ton of Steam games I have to get to, the PC comes with the ability to upgrade and is potentially more powerful as well. But as I said before, the build, that is the process of actually putting the pieces together, is in my opinion what I have been looking forward to most. There’s just something about constructing a machine, turning it on and having it function correctly, that is incredibly enticing and alluring to me.

Plus, since I work at an electronics store part-time, I used my employee discount for a number of main components.

Parts are listed below with estimated price in case you were wondering!

CPU – AMD FX-6300 Vishera 6-Core (3.5 /4.1GHz) $119

I went with AMD primarily to keep costs down. I also chose the 6300 specifically because of it’s rated for 95 watt tdp and didn’t want to deal with the 8-core 125 watt processors. The idea was to build a console-like gaming PC, and try to keep it as energy and power efficient as possible. For the money, the FX 6300 seemed to be the best fit in terms of price-to-performance ratio for what/how I’ll be playing.

 

GPU – EVGA NVIDIA GTX 760 w/ ACX 2GB – $249-299

 

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I was going to pair the 6300 with an R9 270x GPU but I said screw it, and decided on a GTX 760 by EVGA because it seems to perform a little better than the R9. Plus, I got it with a killer discount.

 

MOBO – GIGABYTE AM3+ GA-78LMNT USB3 – $58.99

I didn’t want to skimp on a motherboard but it was difficult finding a micro-ATX board with USB 3.0 ports that wasn’t too expensive. I don’t know too much about mobos but I’m hoping this one will serve me just fine. Fingers crossed for no fried hardware down the line!

 

RAM – Kingston Hyper X 2x4GB – $79.99

 

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8 jiggers. Ram is ram is ram. I’m not going to be overclocking this machine at all and I don’t plan on playing/editing any 4k games or videos or anything like that. They’re blue, they look cool, got a great deal on them. Paid $5 and some change for a brand new pair.

 

PSU – EVGA 600B – $59.99

It was on sale, and again, discounted price! The fact that it’s not modular upsets me only a tiny tiny bit, but it does the job.

 

HDD – Western Digital Mainstream 1TB – $64.99

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No SSD for me, I can’t justify paying hundreds extra for shaving a few seconds off a load screen. Western Digital has always been solid though.

 

COOLING – Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo – $29.99

I wasn’t sure if I was going to get an after-market cooler but I know AMD processors tend to run a bit hot when compared to their Intel counterparts. Having six cores is also a bit hefty on the heat, so I decided to grab this guy off Amazon. It was this or a Corsair Hydro Series all-in-one liquid cooler but in the end I didn’t’ want to deal with potential fluid leaks or the higher price tag. Plus, I’m not overclocking.

 

CASE – Bitfenix Prodigy M – $99.99

I could have gone with a cheaper case and had even more room to build but these cases look too cool for me not to purchase one. The original Prodigy case looked a little strange so when I realized they updated it with a better arrangement, I grabbed a used one that looks brand new.

 

OS – Windows 8.1 Pro – $69.99 with a student discount

It’s Windows! I’ve gotten used to the modern UI and I think it runs a lot faster than 7 ever did. It works.

Like a Dream: Child of Light Review

I never played Final Fantasy VII, I can’t seem to finish Tales of Vesperia (one of the few great JRPGs on Xbox 360), and I generally shy away from the genre. But why was I obsessed with finding every treasure chest and fighting every monster in Child of Light, a Japanese-inspired role-playing game?

Ubisoft’s Child of Light takes many aspects of traditional JRPGs such as leveling up, turn-based battle systems and gear progression and simplifies them so that the average player can easily jump in without feeling like they have to put in 20, 30, 40 plus hours just to get to the good stuff. For those of you who are okay with such a time-consuming game, more power to you, however, I like my games to be tight, compact and well-balanced in its systems, which Child of Light delivers. Couple these tweaks with the UbiArt Framework – the engine made famous by recent Rayman games –  a fun cast of characters and a story that is surprising, you get a game that is made entirely of fun content wrapped in a 12-hour package. At least, for the most part.

At the very start of the game players are introduced to Aurora, a little girl with flowing red hair who is the daughter of a duke. But we quickly learn that the character is ill and she falls asleep before waking up in the vibrant water-colored world of Lemuria where she meets a glowing blue ball of fire, or maybe it’s a firefly. Either way, the narrative points towards this theme of death and the afterlife. It reminded me a little bit of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, a film that also centered on a little girl, her imagination and the afterlife.

In a world where most video game protagonists are macho bro-dudes with guns trudging through explosive terrain, Aurora and the world she inhabits feels completely fresh. Even if her quest to save her dying father and rid the world of darkness doesn’t bring anything new to the table, the music coupled with the art can only be described as dreamy.

The presentation immediately brings the game to another new level; this isn’t your typical “indie game,” a term that has been tossed around in the past as a cheap, less-spectacular downloadable. Child of Light may not hold the blockbuster flare that is found in its Ubisoft siblings like Assassin’s Creed or Splinter Cell  but it doesn’t need to. In its lack of scripted and cinematic spectacle, it makes up for in charm and creativity. The game’s narrative is told like a childhood fairy tale and every character, every dialogue box is exquisitely written and unique thanks to its rhyming iambic pentameter structure. I’ve never seen anything like it in a video game.

Ubisoft was smart to use this dialogue structure to characterize each party member you meet during the Aurora’s journey. Rubella, the female jester who’s only wants to reunite with her brother, often loses her rhythm in the last line of her dialogue and is often corrected by other characters like the elemental sprite, Igniculus. Robert the mouse is dead set on winning over his crush while also reminding players he is a character that values money and business through his diction.

Dialogue was a great way for the developers to make each character feel unique but their distinctiveness is further solidified when taken into combat. Child of Light’s combat is a nice blend of classic turn-based RPG battles and real-time strategy.

 

Each character and enemy moves along a bar at the bottom of the screen during a fight and when one of them reaches the last quarter of the bar (in red), they get to act. This is where it gets interesting. Depending on what you choose to do, your character will execute the action either quickly or slowly. A standard sword attack with Aurora takes no time at all, while a powerful Lightning Strike from Finn the mage, may take a few seconds to land. During this cast time players are susceptible to interruptions from enemy attacks which cancels the action completely, sending the character back to the start of the timer bar. This of course, works both ways, so players are able to interrupt enemies and if done correctly, can get through an entire fight without ever being hit. The combat is one of the best parts of the game. It’s deceptively simple, potentially frustrating and insanely satisfying.

The combat system also does away with some of the hassles in other classic turn-based RPGs. You can only use two characters at once but players can switch out characters infinitely. If you don’t have potions to heal, you can use Igniculus to heal at anytime as long as he has something in his meter. Every debuff you cast will land, even on bosses. Leveling up is also simplified and if you spent enough time, could unlock every skill in the skill tree. As far as equipment goes, the game uses upgradable gems called Oculi, which players can craft. Get three of the same color gems, craft them and create something stronger, easy as that.

Some may say that this game is too easy, and I agree, it’s a very easy game but I don’t see that as necessarily a bad thing, though some may disagree. After a few hours, things started to feel repetitive. Enter dungeon area, fight monsters, complete puzzle, fight boss, repeat. But this is a very small nitpick. After a time, I started to break up my constant battles with exploration and side quests.

Outside of combat, the game’s gorgeous art style encourages exploration. I was lost many hours of sleep flying around, looking for scattered collectibles, completing side quests, solving puzzles and unlocking hidden skill points.

Child of Light feels like a dream and that was probably intentional on Ubisoft’s part. The central character Aurora wakes up in the beginning of the game, unfamiliar to her surroundings but quickly finds a friend and embarks on a journey to save her father. At first it may have felt a little different but it didn’t take long before I was completely invested in these characters even if the overall plot was nothing new. And its mechanics, well a lot of games play like this one, but at the same time they don’t. It’s half side-scroller, half-JRPG. Thanks to its unique, hand-drawn visuals and a couple of surprises in the middle of the game, this UbiArt title isn’t like any dream, but a familiar dream. I’ve been there before, it feels warm and comfortable. And when I finally finished the game, it was like waking up. With that being said, I can’t wait to go back to sleep again, back to the world of Lemuria, back to the light.

 

My Top 10 Xbox 360 Games

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You know what’s cool? Video games. Vid. Ya. GAMS. The Xbox One and the Playstation 4 are here ushering in a new generation of consoles. With that being said, their predecessors will most likely be phased out over the next couple of years. I don’t have a shiny new box from Microsoft or Sony but I still have one of their old boxes and damn did it serve me well. Think of this as a celebration of the previous generation of games. These are my top 10 games on the Xbox 360.

 

 

Bastion

Bastion took the stigma of downloadable games and kicked its ass all over my face.

In the skies of the Bastion is where I first began to truly consider downloadable games as more than just cheap, short adventures. With hand-drawn graphics, fun but challenging mechanics and a very unique setting and story, Bastion easily became one of the best games on Xbox Live. Right when you’re dropped into the game and playing as The Kid, the narrator begins telling the tale of The Kid and The Bastion. The unique thing is that the narrator’s lines are dynamic and actually reflects what the player does. If you go nuts and break a bunch of boxes in the middle of a level, the narrator will say something like “And The Kid was letting off some steam on some those boxes.” The game also had RPG-like elements where you could upgrade The Kid’s weapons and armor and by the end of the game, players were also given crucial story choices after introducing memorable characters. Bastion took the stigma of downloadable games and kicked its ass all over my face. With its beautiful art and sound, along with its simple but challenging gameplay, Bastion became one of the greatest games I’ve ever played.

 

 

Portal 2

By the end of Portal 2 I was left in awe, my mind had exploded.

The Orange Box was the first time I played, I mean, really played Valve games. After I had spent countless nights running through Half-Life 2 and its episodes, I played Portal. From the moment the portal gun was introduced I was helplessly hooked until the very end. Then there’s Portal 2. All Valve did was take the basic mechanics of the original and toss in a few extra physics puzzles and a meatier story with a witty robot named Wheatley. And that’s all they had to do. By the end of Portal 2 I was left in awe, my mind had exploded. The ending, seriously, is one of the greatest endings in video game history. After I finished the game I had trouble playing others because nothing else in terms of writing and gameplay came remotely close to Valve’s masterpiece. From the moment it hit shelves, Portal 2 became an instant classic.

 

 

Dead Space

“Oh my god, what the fuck!”

Is what I said to my brother who was in the room when I started playing the original Dead Space. I’m not big on survival horror games mostly because they have shitty gameplay mechanics and the story sucks. Bring in Dead Space, where the story wasn’t too bad and the gameplay was fucking awesome. If you’ve ever played Resident Evil 4 then playing Dead Space feels very similar and that’s a great thing. In Dead Space you follow the story of Isaac Clarke, a mechanic whose job gets turned into the worst/scariest episode of Dirty Jobs ever when he and his crew discover alien-zombie things all over a government space ship the size of Texas. The story gets a little religious and cuckoo but those damned pop scares are littered about the dark corridors and you as the player can do nothing about them except shoot the freaky monsters, tearing their limbs apart because shooting them in the head is not an instant kill. I tried not to play the game in dark with head phones on because I’m a wuss but I kept playing anyways because the mechanics of shooting the arms off a necromorph and then stomping on their face with my big ass space boot was too good to pass up.

 

 

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

By the end of the three hour tale, I was deeply moved and a little sad

It kind of looks like Fable but it’s not an RPG from Lionhead Studios. This is Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It’s a short, three hour downloadable game where the player controls two brothers, one on each thumb stick. The premise is simple: the two brothers must go on a journey to save their sick father. The journey takes the two brothers through mountains and forests full of blood-thirsty wolves and hills where spiders and giants live. The puzzles are clever and since you’ll be controlling both brothers independently with each analog stick, your brain may feel like you’re patting your head and rubbing your tummy all at once. And even though there’s no spoken dialogue, the emotions of these characters are all shown with their body movements and facial expressions. By the end of the three hour tale, I was deeply moved and a little sad. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a lot about accepting what has happened in our lives, and trying our best to appreciate what we have now because you never know, you might get killed by a tribe of mountain men.

 

 

Bioshock

Never before had players been dropped into such a uniquely disturbing and beautiful dystopian world…

Rapture. The original Bioshock ushered in a new style of gameplay for first person shooters. Gun in one hand, magic in the other, with easy access to additional weapons and abilities with a flick of the left or right triggers. The original Bioshock also gave us something in terms of story telling through clever use of audio and environmental cues. The city of Rapture is by far the most impressive feat developers Irrational Games accomplished in it’s 2007 hit. Never before had players been dropped into such a uniquely disturbing and beautiful dystopian world where big giant suits of metal and iron drilled crazed civilians into walls. And to layer underneath that gruesomeness, the game even commented on societal issues such as socio-economic standing and political intrigue. Bioshock is not only a smart and deeply detailed, at times grotesque game, but it’s one of the greatest games of all time.

 

 

Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition

I played a lot of Dragon Age: Origins. Like, a lot.

By the end of the original campaign I had recorded over 33 hours and after I finished all of the DLC campaigns, the total number of hours was well over 50. Bioware’s first installment in their fantasy epic hooked me with the dark fantasy setting, impressive character customization (I was a very short elf) and the company’s signature dialogue system. Choices you made mattered and influenced your party members opinion of your character. It’s easy to dismiss Dragon Age as the fantasy version of Bioware’s Mass Effect series but it’s much more than that. As somebody that played through both franchises, I found myself more at home in the magical land of Ferelden than the lens flaring SSV Normandy.

 

 

Tales of Vesperia

None of that turn-based crap.

The Xbox 360 doesn’t have a rich library of JRPGs. I could never get through Final Fantasy XIII and the handful of other JRPGs, as far as I know, are trash. It wasn’t until I started playing Tales of Vesperia that my hope for a quality JRPG on 360 was fulfilled. Here we have the very basics of the genre at its highest quality. You can fight monsters, you can cook, you can watch your characters talk in Japanese anime-style cut scenes and everything is cel-shaded for a real animated look. The combat is also live. None of that turn-based crap. When I press A, the character does things. On top of it all, the characters are charming, there’s a ton of voice-acting and dialogue which you can bring up at almost any time by pressing the Back button. The story is also pretty interesting with clever twists most people wouldn’t expect. What else can I say? The combat, story and characters are all solid, making it one of the best JRPGs on the platform.

 

 

Alan Wake

…Alan Wake’s best moments come from the players constant need of light.

I guess you can say Alan Wake is a survival horror game about a writer who is battling an evil spirit that took his wife away. What? That plot sounds absolutely insane but that’s more or less what the game is about. But fear not, the dark and wavy forests of Alan Wake are lined with impressive gun play and some of the best lighting effects you’ve ever seen. The story is also at the center of this adventure thanks to developers Remedy and director/writer Sam Lake. The game is separated into episodes, similar to a T.V. show and each episode even gives a recap of what happened previously. It all ties into a very writerly style of presentation. Outside of the presentation, Alan Wake’s best moments come from the players constant need of light. With that being said, the game is a very dark place and this gives the player a real sense of dread and tension that never really goes away. For a survival horror game, that’s one of the best things which makes Alan Wake one of the best in its genre.

 

 

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Halo 4

…if a game such as Halo, where you mostly shoot shit, makes you actually feel emotional, then that’s probably a good thing.

After a few years of drifting through deep space,  John 117 made his triumphant return and damn was it really really nice to look at it. I don’t know how the team at 343 Industries pulled it off but the fourth installment to Microsoft’s most popular video game franchise pushed the aging Xbox 360 to its very limits with gorgeous scenery and an even more impressive audio design. Halo 4 was one of the few games I actually played to the end in one sitting. The shooting mechanics were perfected and the missions were designed with diverse gameplay. Players got to ride in tanks, take to the skies for aerial combat, as well as the usual run and gun. Couple this with the highly cinematic campaign and top notch voice acting, boring moments in Halo 4 were nearly non existent. For about 75 percent of the game I felt that the game was a nice improvement over its predecessor but then it happened. The ending of the game had me feeling all sorts of, well, feels. And if a game such as Halo, where you mostly shoot shit, makes you actually feel emotional, then that’s probably a good thing. Thanks to its awarding winning A/V, its top-notch writing along with its unprecedented online community, Halo 4 is the best Halo game yet and is one of the Xbox 360’s greatest titles.

 

 

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Batman: Arkham City

I don’t know what to say, this game is badass.

Here we go. I played Arkham Asylum and beat the hell out of that game. Asylum was the first superhero game where I actually felt like I was the superhero. I am Batman. In Arkham City, you play as the Dark Knight but it’s completely open world this time around. You can zip across rooftops with your grappling hook, or glyde around with your cape. You can drop down and beat the living crap out of bad guys or go find Riddler trophies that are scattered all over the game. You had all of the Bat’s gadgets including an impressive amount of upgrades. This time around though, you could also play as Ms. Selina Kyle, Catwoman herself which gave the game a nice pace. As with its predecessor, Arkham City built an incredible story full of crazy twists and turns. The acting of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy was also brilliant as ever. And then, gah, I, I just can’t. I don’t know what to say, this game is badass. Just one of the greatest games ever. I put close to 50 hours into the game, I got just about every Riddler Trophy (before I lost my save) and tracked down every side quest. I love Batman, I love this game.

Away From Keyboard: The Pirate Bay Documentary

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Browsing the webs as I tend to do most of the time, I came across the Pirate Bay documentary that had been released a while ago, which up until now didn’t bother to see it. Bored at home and nothing to do, I decided i might as well see it finally. Scouring through the Pirate Bay (yes I have been to the site), I found a nice quality version and downloaded it to my computer, as the creators had intended. This film hooked me, from the opening scene, with the guys packing up their hardware and moving, before being put on trial.

First off though, let me give a brief history of the site. The Pirate Bay is a peer-to-peer file sharing site started by three men: Gottfried Svartholm Warg (a scary looking lad with a badass beard); Fredrik Neij (a programmer who loves the booze as much as coding); and the spokesperson for the site, Peter Sunde (either he never sleeps or dabbles in the drugs). These three men started the site back in 2003, and solely operated what would become the largest file sharing site on the planet. Because of what their site is and who uploads (putting content on the site) the various things, they are being targeted by the biggest industries in the world from the music industry to the movie industry. Companies after companies what their heads on spikes, and three seemed baffled by this.

Watching this film, it shows us who these men are: not evil people purposefully trying to bring down corporations; just 3 nerds who wanted a site for people to share stuff with each other, and who like programming. I use nerd in a good sense of the word. For example, the beginning of the film is the beginning of the trial, and the three me are being questioned. Peter is asked, “when was the firs time you met IRL” with IRL meaning in real life. He responds with, “we don’t use the expression IRL. We say AFK. But that’s another issue.” AFK for those unaware means Away From Keyboard. Another example is a little bit later, the three are standing outside of some building in the morning, and they are joking around how the prosecutor mixed up the terms bits and bytes. Its little nerdy things like that which i feel show their character and who they are.

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What i love about this documentary is that for once, the viewer is shown the other side of the equation. In the mass media, we seem to only get the movie industry side of the argument over the issue of the pirate bay and piracy; but here we see the side of three men fighting to stay out of jail for a crime they feel they did not commit (and i don’t believe they did either).

It sickened me yet somehow made me totally not shocked how the courts of Sweden seems to work the same as ones in America: a system ruled by the idea that you’re automatically guilty until proved innocent. It’s because of that attitude, that i wasn’t shocked by the verdict in the trial, just disappointed.

Another striking thing is not just a film about three men on trial but of a trial about the freedom of the internet. It was professor (and self professed old man) Roger Wallis, who gave the best quote in regards over the issue of Copyrights. He said, “I support copyright, but only if it encourages creativity- or economic enticement or an incentive to create. Not the way copyright is now, as a huge control mechanism – for people who sit on large swathes of rights.” Those words speak for themselves, and it is true that copyrights and trademarks and the patent system is absolutely out of whack and needs fixing.

The whole film delves through the long process, the agonizing process of trial, up until the final verdict, landing the men in jail.  The courts had sentenced the key programmer Frederik to 10 months, and the key spokesman Peter who received 8 month, with a fine of $6.6 million. The third man Gottfried had fleed the country and was in Madagascar, when authorities had caught him and sent him back to Sweden, where he was charged with various other hacking crimes.

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Were the three men right or wrong? Should they be punished for other people posting on their site? Well that’s really up to your beliefs. I personally don’t think they should be the ones punished. I see torrent sites such as the pirate bay like rental sites. You go on there, search for a movie or music you want to try out to see if you like it. If you do, great, go out and buy that film or CD. Is it all like this? No, of course not. But in a time when the economy is still in the toilet, people have harder times finding jobs, and when they do manage to find them, spend it all on living expenses, they a lot of the times might not have those extra funds to watch a film. So when you expect people to spend 20 dollars, 30 dollars on a movie they might have not seen, and might not like, well they are less likely to. Sure there are rental services like Redbox or Netflix, but they don’t always have what someone is looking for.  This is just me though. Let me know what you think of the film, and/or of your opinion on the subject in the comments below.

All in all, this film was really well done I thought. The sound quality was superb, the video superb, the writing and direction of the film were really good. The way this film was shot like a crime thriller suspenseful movie, keeping me engaged throughout the whole film. If you are interested in this topic of file sharing and it’s place in the world, or want to study up more on it, I would wholeheartedly recommend this film.

If you want to watch it, you can find it on, well I guess it’d be obvious, The Pirate Bay. While this blog doesn’t condone anyone stealing movies or music, this is one film that was meant to be watched in the living room or on your computer or portable device, downloaded from such a file sharing site. Yet for those who don’t want to go to such a site, or don’t know how to download from a file-sharing site, you can find the movie below, courtesy of youtube.

Man of Steel: The Superman we’ve been hoping for?

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WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE MOVIE. FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM, DO NOT READ THIS!! IF YOU DO, YOU WILL PROBABLY BE KILLED BY ZOD. JUST SAYING. SO YEAH. FOR THOSE WHO HAVE SEEN, WELL YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ BUT I ENCOURAGE IT!!!!

Before going to my local theater to purchase the ticket that would get me into one of the most anticipated movies for me this year, I sat in my room curious how this movie will be, hoping it’s everything I wanted it to be. Well, luckily for me, it was everything I wanted and more!

Now I am not the biggest superman nerd out there, but I know enough to understand what makes Superman, well Superman. For those going into the film hoping it will be like the Donner films of the late 70’s early 80’s, you will be sorely disappointed. This film differs from all the other movies, becoming it’s own standalone Superman movie. A movie that in my eyes is one of the best, if not the best, iteration of Supe movies.

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Henry Cavill’s performance as Clark Kent/Superman was absolutely fantastic, a performance rivaling the great Christopher Reeve. What made Cavill so terrific in this was his ability to show what makes Clark human; what makes him struggle. This movie was more about Clark/Kal-El discovering who he truly is; fighting with himself  on who he wants to be; more  so than of Zod invading Earth to breathe new life for Krypton. Learning who he truly is from his biological father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and remembering all the lesson taught to him by his biological father Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), he struggles with his soul and not until the brutal end, that I don’t think anyone sees coming, when he finally understands who he is and who he wants to be.

It was not just Cavill though who shined bright in this movie; this movie supported a killer cast, all of whom did absolutely fabulous jobs in their respective roles. From Michael Shannon as General Zod, a misunderstood being created with the sole purpose of fighting for the well being of Krypton; to Laurence Fishburne as the stubborn editor of the daily planet Perry White; to Amy Adams as the ever so nosy Lois Lane. Coming into this, I wondered, as many did, how she would fare in the role Margot Kidder is famous and beloved for; I feel she did quite stupendous in making Lane look like a woman that isn’t weak, yet also not hard as a stone when it comes to her feelings for the man she was destined to be with, while also maintaining her stubbornness to the nth degree.

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The real outstanding performance I feel goes to David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan for their fantastic screenplay. Taking this mythology into a new direction was indeed a brave choice to make, and one which I think was necessary for this story. They could have gone with cheese, like previous adaptations had, or action with no substance (looking at you Superman Returns); but instead they give us a story that is more about the man than the hero. This isn’t a story about Superman; this is a story about Clark Kent, about Kal-El. The fact that they don’t really use the Superman name (except for a couple off handed use of the name) speaks to what this film is about, and i feel the title of the film speaks to what the story focuses on.

One cannot also forget the wonderful performance director Zack Snyder played in the film. Taking this in a more real, personal direction, use of a one camera shot film; maintaining the effects he’s known to make well, yet distancing himself from what fans of Snyder have come to know and love about his style; and he pulls it off with flying colors, making this truly his best film in my eyes.

The big thing about this film, the moment that will probably stick out more than any other in the film, is the end. I don’t think anyone expected Superman to do the one thing that everyone knows he refuses to do: kill. When he kills Zod to save four humans from burning – potentially billions of people in the scheme of things – he committed an act no one thought possible. This is where the defining moment of the film lies. It’s after this scene where Cavill shines ever so bright, falling to his knees, breaking down into tears and screaming; this is the moment where he chooses Earth and human, over Krypton and the Kryptonians. I was left stunned and speechless seeing this play out, and I think Goyer and Nolan made a tough, yet correct decision in going this route, a stepping stone to play off of possibly in future films. Snyder showed off his brilliance in the way he had this scene play out, along with proving he’s not a one trick pony (tim burton anyone?) when it comes to direction.

I know, I know, I haven’t mentioned the soundtrack. The non John Williams soundtrack. Well all i can say is that it’s brilliant, and a great new sound for The Caped Crusader. Don’t believe me? Well here’s a full sample of the tracks. For more, i recommend picking it up for yourself and diving into the world of Superman.

All in all, this is a brilliant origin film and beginning DC Universe film that will hopefully pave way for future sequels, maybe a possible Batman/Superman film. If Warner Brothers can keep this writing top notch, can get great directors like Zack Snyder on other projects, then DC live action films will have quite the bright future, and will maybe be some good competition to Disney and Marvel. I definitely recommend everyone to watch this film, and experience a new kind of Superman, one that can proudly be placed along side the First two Christopher Reeve films.

DC on WB: Live action vs. Animated films PART 1

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With Man of Steel coming out, and rumblings about what the Justice League movie (if there will be one) would be about, I felt compelled to look at how Warner Bros. have handled their DC Comics property, in both their live action, as well as animated features.

LIVE ACTION BUTT-KICKING

Since the early 50’s, DC Comics properties have been made into films for the big screen. And since 1969, when WB purchased the comic company, one could say their use of this property for the most part has been, well lacking.

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It is 1978, and Warner Brothers hires Richard Donner to create an epic experience with Superman. He brings us perhaps one of the best superhero films made (definitely the best superman film, Man of Steel pending), and introduces to us the great Christopher Reeves, who which many argue as the definitive Superman/Clark Kent. This film helped in introducing the mass audience to a superhero they vaguely knew, or knew not at all. It kick started a new genre of film that today, floods the movie industry with at least two a year.

Batman. 1989. A young  director named Tim Burton has a vision on how to bring this dark vigilante to screen. He gives us the movie classic Batman. Michael Keaton takes the lead as the caped crusader/playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne. It gave us the wonderful performance of Jack Nicholson as the infamous clown prince of crime himself: The Joker. The film was a huge milestone, taking a step, that Superman paved the way for, forward for the comic book film industry. Even inspired one of the best animated TV series ever made in this writer’s opinion (but more on that later). Tim burton returned for a sequel in Batman Returns, with Keaton reprising his role and introducing Danny DeVito as the sewer scum The Penguin.

Despite the success of these two, Warner didn’t like the dark tone of these and for the next two sequels, the films were as cheesy as one could be. Warner Bros. managed to lose hollywood interest in superheroes until a certain spidey came into picture. All I care to say about these two films is: nipple suits, Batman credit card, terrible robin, and ice puns gone wild.

DC films got ice cold (as Mr. Freeze would say) in production after Batman & Robin and Batman Forever; it wasn’t until 2004 that there was another DC movie by them: Catwoman. A film made as an excuse (I think so) to see Halle Berry dressed in a leather outfit for an hour and 40 minutes. That’s really all I wish to say about that film. You don’t need to take my word on it though, watch it for yourself and see. SEE THE TERRIBLE.

Luckily the following year would give us a reboot to the Batman franchise that can be argued as the best iteration of the Bat yet. Batman Begins came to us in 2005 with Christopher Nolan as the man in charge this time. He had cast Christian Bale (see bottom for awesome bale rant), who gave us quite possibly the finest performance as the caped crusader (out of the way Adam West). It was a sleeper hit when it came out as no one knew what to expect. It was a revival, a new lease on life for a figure people joked about because of the last films.

Nolan followed this with quite possibly the best live action Batman film, The Dark Knight. When he cast Heath Ledger (A Knight’s Tale) as the iconic villain The Joker, the internet was in a uproar, me curious as to how he’d do as well. But sitting in the seat watching it for the first time in theaters, I can definitely say I had goosebumps and a huge smile on my face from his excellent portrayal (pencil scene anyone? Classic).

The year after The Dark Knight was released, the most anticipated DC film (for me anyways) was being released; this film was Watchmen, starring Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, etc. When I left the theater on opening night, I was blown away. Director Zack Snyder (300, Dawn of the Dead) had managed to pull off something that for the longest time was thought impossible: make a brilliant adaptation of a brilliant graphic novel in movie form, and do it justice.

In 2011 a Green Lantern film was released, starring Ryan Reynolds (Van Wilder) and Blake Lively. Honestly, the only thing I want to mention about this film is Reynolds was good in it. Other than that, was an ultimate failure (to me anyways) and really made me realize that WB doesn’t seem to having much love for their property (at least not him it seems).

Last, but certainly not least, was easily one of the most anticipated films last year, The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan’s end to his trilogy of Batman films, and one that seems to be hit or miss with fans. I for one think it’s a brilliant piece of film, and place it higher than The Dark Knight; and yes, I really liked how they did the ending. Oh and I really liked the voice they chose for Bane; Tom Hardy did an excellent job in his role. DESHI BASARA!

All in all, Over the past 40+ years that Warner Bros. have owned DC, they’ve made hit films, and ones that should have just stayed shelved; but one thing that I’ve noticed is their lack of properties being utilized. Where marvel is branching out and using more than just Iron Man, and the Hulk, WB seems to be keeping it safe and using just Superman and Batman. Granted they failed with Green Lantern, but that in my opinion was due to lack of care, and terrible writers.

Hopefully with the new Man of Steel movie coming out they will start branching out and bringing The Flash, or Wonder Woman, or a fantasy of mine, the Teen Titans to the big screen. But right now, it seems WB just doesn’t know what to do with their property, and I think DC needs to step up like Marvel did and take the wheel, so that the world can be introduced to characters that most non comic book fans know about.

…And as promised earlier in the post.

I’ll Miss The Office – SPOILERS BELOW

I started watching The Office around the fourth season and I fell in love with Michael Scott, Dwight, Jim and Pam along with the rest of the employees at Dunder Mifflin. Tonight I watched the series finale. It was full of ridiculous moments and lots of warm emotions. They also brought back a few cast members like Ryan and Kelly, but honestly, the greatest cameo was Steve Carrell reprising his role as Michael Scott. As series finales go, this is how it’s done.

The story has been building up to this moment since the beginning. The episode takes place a year after the episode before, the fictional documentary has aired and the characters gather for a local panel. It was satisfying to see story lines wrap up like Erin and her parents, an emotional scene as well as Andy’s path to success after his failed a capella auction went viral. Stanley finally retired, Kelly and Ryan ran off together after abandoning a baby at Dwight’s wedding with Angela. It was an absolute joy to see the characters get their proper wraps in the finale especially Jim and Pam who decided to move to Philadelphia.

The wedding took up the majority of hour-long episode with Jim leading the boys on a bachelors party that consisted of pranks that involved a kidnapping, a stripper and a look at Kevin’s post-paper life as a bartender, which was properly funny and sentimental at the same time. The show continued to surprise and entertain without overplaying it. The last prank Jim revealed was Michael Scott as the best man at the wedding, at which point I yelled at the screen in pure joy. His entrance into the episode was a very appropriate “That’s what she said.” I laughed out loud!

I read rumors that Carrell wasn’t returning for the finale because he didn’t want to draw attention from the other characters and their stories. What the show runners made the right move; they gave Michael just enough screen time without having the character completely take over the episode. He was my favorite part of the episode not because of what he did – he honestly said two lines – but it felt right. Leaving him out completely would have been an odd choice, especially since Michael was so a huge part of the The Office story. Many shows end abruptly due to studio issues but bringing back past characters made the story more believable, more sincere.

I’ll miss The Office and all of its characters and antics but it was a proper send off. I don’t think another season would have been a smart idea considering the show’s steady decline for the past couple of years. The finale was satisfying and emotional and hilarious. We sometimes forget that the show isn’t about anything special and that’s what makes it so special. As Pam Beesly said at the end of the episode, “I think an ordinary paper company like Dunder-Mifflin was a great subject for a documentary. There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?”

Iron Man 3 Review: Man or Machine

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This is it. Tony Stark’s solo trilogy has come to an end. How was it? After I walked out of the theater, I felt satisfaction (the ending fight) and glee (the post-credits scene). Iron Man 3 was everything I expected, big, explosive set pieces, quick humor and entertaining as hell. There were a few major surprises though, more on that later. The movie isn’t just about a man in an iron suit blowing things up; it has heart and emotion, it’s even a little darker but don’t worry, it’s not The Dark Knight dark. It’s definitely better than Iron Man 2 (I don’t count it as part of the trilogy), but is it as compelling and fresh as the original? Is this the best Iron Man yet? Read on to find out!

The film begins by introducing characters, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and Dr. Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) at a New Year’s Eve party where Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.)  is also in attendance. Killian asks Stark for help on his project called A.I.M., short for Advanced Idea Mechanics but Stark refuses. In present day, Tony is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder from the New York battle in The Avengers. This is a new side of the billionaire we haven’t seen before, and it gets worse for Tony and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) when a terrorist named, the Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), attacks.

tonyMarvel did an incredible job assembling an all-star cast that also includes Don Cheadle as James Rhodes and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan but without a doubt, RDJ is still the best part of the film. Iron Man 3 retains the signature humor from previous Stark flicks, but my favorite moment was the bickering between Tony and a little boy named Harley played by Ty Simpkins. But it’s not the humor that makes this version of Tony interesting. Like his broken suits, Tony struggles to keep himself together. You’ve probably seen the trailer by now; Tony can’t sleep because of what happened in New York, is constantly pressed by the media, while trying to keep the people he loves safe. Oh, and he also gets his house blown up.

Iron Man 3 is very much a character study. Here we have a broken superhero who creates, essentially, armor to protect himself. But when he’s stripped of that armor, what’s left? Tony doesn’t spend as much time in the suit when compared to his other outings, which is a good thing. This means he has to rely more on his wits and there were a few scenes reminiscent of Bruce Wayne-like detective work with the help of J.A.R.V.I.S.

The film also deals with the character having to start over. It’s apparent in its presentation since the movie presents us with a snowy, Christmas setting as well as the aforementioned New Year’s Eve party as if to remind us of a new beginning. One of the songs on the soundtrack is even called “New Beginnings” with Christmas-like bells. The undertones and subtext of the film are also present in what Tony does. The superhero has spent the majority of his time tinkering with prototype armors that barely function, a mirror of Tony’s state-of-being. Throughout the film’s two hours and 20 minutes, Tony freaks out which, at first is hilarious, but you start to feel sorry for him as he unravels. RDJ plays this up wonderfully and thanks to director Shane Black, the film is also narrated by Tony Stark which leads into a very cool scene at the end.

Iron-man-3-stills-virginia-Aside from Robert Downey Jr.’s performance, Paltrow’s performance as Pepper was also fun to watch – a nod to certain Iron Man comics.  She hits Tony with the punches nobody else can land. She keeps him grounded just as much as he keeps her on her toes. Rhodey also gets his biggest role yet as Tony’s “bff;” it was awesome to see the colonel in action as the newly-painted Iron Patriot. If anything, Rhodey may represent everything Tony isn’t. James has it together while Tony, who’s incredibly rich and famous, isn’t nearly as comfortable.

The most surprising aspect of the movie however, was Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin. The writers really had a fun time with the character. I don’t want to spoil anything but as he says in the trailers, “you will never see me coming.” And it’s true, you won’t see it coming. Despite his incredible, fascinating acting, I wished there was more mysticism and magic involved with the super-villain. But in Marvel movie fashion, every super power stems from a bad mix of super-soldier serum, is based in science and reality which isn’t a bad thing. I just expected more otherworldly elements, considering Thor is a god with an electric hammer, and aliens were in The Avengers.

Speaking of the Avengers, they weren’t there. Thor gets a pass because he lives on another planet but what about Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner or Nick Fury and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Missing these characters wouldn’t have bothered me as much if the film explained why they weren’t helping Tony against the Mandarin. But there was no explanation. They weren’t really there and it’s going to be interesting to see how the next solo Marvel movies will address this.

The next Marvel films will be Thor: The Dark World in Novemberwith Captain America: The Winter Soldier next year along with Guardians of the Galaxy, and then Ant-Man and The Avengers 2 in 2015. Iron Man 3 kicked off “phase 2″ of Marvel’s cinematic universe and like the original, it set a very high bar for the rest of the films. Tony Stark’s third solo act is everything a summer blockbuster should be, with it’s incredible visuals, cast, terrorist-driven plot and crazy twist, accompanied by a sweeping score from Brian Tyler. It blends action and humor with a real sense of emotion so that it doesn’t feel like a mindless suit-of-armor. It’s in Tony’s humanity that this movie is alive and we learn that the suit doesn’t make the superhero, but the heart inside the suit makes the hero. It doesn’t fly as high as The Avengers, but it gets pretty damned close. It is the best Iron Man movie ever.