Monday, December 14, 2015

The A.J. McCarron era starts

Wow, the usual Cincinnati Bengals' tragedy came early. Remember Quarterback Carson Palmer getting his knee shredded in the 2006 playoffs, Defensive tackle Tim Krumrie breaking his leg in the 1988 Super Bowl and fullback Stanley Wilson high on cocaine before that game? Now, star quarterback Andy Dalton broke his thumb yesterday on a tackle during an interception. To add insult to injury, the hated Pittsburgh Steelers thumped our men in orange and black, 33-20. Is the Bengals' season over?

Maybe not. Playing backup for Dalton is A.J. McCarron, the former Alabama quarterback and two time national champion. And already, he's cocky. He's already compared himself to the Patriots' Tom Brady.

"I guess Tom Brady was in the same situation when he had the opportunity, so I gotta make the most of it, do my job each week, know we have an unbelievable defense, don't turn the ball over and we have a chance to win. I promised the guys I'll work my tail off and be ready to go."

Yahoo's Ben Rohrbach writes McCarron is better off than Brady when he took over!

Let's face it. He's not Tom Brady. Well, he is a two time national champion quarterback. And before you say, I'm a fan and it's not possible for the Bengals to win the Super Bowl, need I remind you that Ohio State won the 2015 college national championship with a third string quarterback. McCarron has been in the national spotlight and will not wilt under pressure. So, Bengals nation, believe. Here are some scouting reports on McCarron. Let the A.J. to A.J. (Green) era begin.

Check out these videos on McCarron's weaknesses and strengths.

NFL interview and report.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Spectre review

I have often complained that the last three James Bond films were kind of glum. They looked to be pushed to a harsh realism by the Bourne spy movies. Don't get me wrong. Daniel Craig is a great Bond and his 007 films are all good. What was missing is the fun of the Bond franchise particularly the Connery Bond movies. Yeah, it would be a mistake to go to the campy goofiness of the sixties' Bond but could we have some fun here? So with the 24th Bond movie, Spectre, I was pleasantly surprised. From the classic gun barrel prologue to the end of the movie my concern was answered with a resounding "yes."

Could we start all Bond movies with this?

Spectre opens up with an epic tracking shot following James Bond (Daniel Craig) and a date going up to their hotel room during the Mexican festival, "Day of the Dead." It's the type of shot reminiscent of Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil" (1958) and would kill a director like Michael Bay. (Armageddon) But this movie's director, Sam Mendes, is confident in his artistry and the story to keep the audience engaged rather than resorting to the fast cutting of modern cinema. Okay, there is some slick editing later but it's all logical.

Anyway, Bond is there to kill an assassin who's about ready to make a deal to bomb a stadium. As he he is about to snipe the participants, he overhears a reference to a Mr. White. After he kills all the bad guys, he's called back to London to answer for what we learn is an unsanctioned hit. Meanwhile, Bond is informed by M (Ralph Fiennes) that MI6 is about to be disbanded and absorbed by a worldwide intelligence network led by Moriarty... er... "C". (Andrew Scott) I watch a little too much "Sherlock." C argues that the "00" program is no longer relevant and obsolete in the age of digital intelligence gathering.

Bond goes rogue to follow up the Mr. White lead. He enlists Q (Ben Whishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) to help. While in Italy, Bond gets a recipe for chicken marsala from Lucia Sciarra. (Monica Belluci) Okay the chicken marsala recipe didn't happen. She happens to be the widow of the assassin that Bond killed and just happens not to love her dead husband. Nice plot detail since that makes it easier for Bond to um.. persuade her to give him some leads. She talks of a meeting of a mysterious group called "Spectre" that is going to meet in Rome.

Bond infiltrates the meeting and finds out there is a plan to kill Mr. White. But before Bond escapes, he finds out who is the leader of Spectre. It's Franz Oberhauser. (Christoph Waltz) Well, Bond sets out to question White who turns out to be Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) from Casino Royale. He also gets to do some more "persuasion" with White's daughter, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydeux) and gets to have his hair permed by his gay stylist, Mr. Hinx. (Dave Bautista) Okay, the hair permed part and gay stylist stuff is not in the movie. With a name like "Mr. Hinx", take a guess what he does. Yeah, he's Hinx the Henchman. Anyway, Bond must find out what Soectre is up to before the third act or else the movie is going be three hours long.

All the performances are excellent. Cheers to Bond's supporting cast. Ralph Fiennes makes a great M, every bit as good as Judi Dench was. He's old school, professional and a man of action. Naomie Harris as Moneypenny is not a glorified secretary but the loyal assistant of M and MI6. And in a welcome turn, Ben Whishow as Q is given some time in the field and thankfully more of the humor he had in the past. Both Monica Belluci and Lea Seydoux are beautiful and sexy Bond girls. Seydoux in her blue evening gown rocks the movie. And Kudos to the producers for casting fifty year old Belluci. Yep, she's still got it. Hear that Donald Trump? Daniel Craig is still good as Bond. He's still cold but suave. Perhaps next time he'll be given a witticism to utter. As for Christoph Waltz, you knew he would get a part like this. And he knows it. He plays this villain with a glint of mischief in his eye. Did I say villain? Okay, if you can't figure out who Oberhauser is while watching Spectre than you have not seen any Bond movies particularly the ones from the sixties and one I won't name since it would give it away. Oh, all right, I'll tell you. Waltz plays Khan. Just kidding Star Trek fans.

As you can tell it took me a while to summarize the plot. That's because the screenplay is bloated with too many ideas. I do appreciate the theme of the evils of "Big Brother" snooping on us. Its just that the multiple endings of this movie should have been condensed. What happens is that the film leaves out details which causes plot holes. Buildings explode without reason. Bond finds a miraculous escape a collapsing building. But these weaknesses don't wreck the movie.

The screenplay by John Logan (Gladiator, Star Trek: Nemesis), Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth has some wonderful humor and dedicates much to the Bond of the past. There are gorgeous women. Exciting action set pieces. A huge menacing henchman. There's even a freaking villain's lair! Okay, it's not a hollowed out volcano but it is a base of operations and a place to entertain Bond before the villain attempts to kill him. While this seems derivative, it all meshes harmoniously. And get this? Q's great gadgets make a roaring comeback. If you recall the last Bond movie, Skyfall (2012) had almost no gadgets. There's even a line from Q to Bond regarding gadgets, "We don't really go into that anymore." (Video below.) Thank you Q for changing your tune in Spectre or should I give thanks to director Sam Mendes? Regardless, the gadgets in this movie are a blast and they do save Bond on more than one occasion. Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You were saying Q?

Spectre is a fun, entertaining Bond movie. It's unafraid of the past while acknowledging the present. I left the theater with a big smile on my face. The grade is A.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Star Trek returns to TV

In what must be marked as good news, Star Trek returns to TV. CBS has announced that Star Trek will return in 2017 with an initial network broadcast then the rest of the series will be available on CBS All Access.

As a Trekker, I'm very happy. 2016 is the fiftieth anniversary of the show. The science fiction franchise has been around that long. And we've been waiting for a TV series since Enterprise left the air in 2005. I am concerned about the pay per view concept. I would like it to be available to everyone and that includes those who are poor who can only watch TV over the air. The show belongs to everyone because of its optimistic view of humanity. Star Trek is a rich franchise that is entertaining and also smart. Perhaps, CBS could syndicate the show like it did before then have the complete series available on its streaming site free of commercials. Regardless, Star Trek belongs on TV where more complex, in depth, smart stories can be told. That was creator Gene Roddenberry's vision.

Here's the news from the official Star Trek website.

Boldly going again...

Bengals make history

Let's face it Cincinnati Bengals fans. You thought when quarterback Andy Dalton threw that interception in the end zone with a little over nine minutes left in the game that this would be the Bengals first loss. But great teams overcome their mistakes and find ways to win. And the Bengals have all the markings of being a great team. Because the Bengals' defense held. They picked off Steeler quarterback Benji... er Ben Rothelisberger. twice in the quarter to stop drives. That gave the Bengals the opportunity to put together two drives to score ten points. The result was the Bengals won, 16-10.

With the victory, the Bengals climb to 7-0. No Bengals team has won its first seven games. It's a first for the franchise. Let's hope there's more winning to come. Maybe even a Super Bowl victory. Here are the highlights.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why you should not play Destiny. The Taken King review

Look, I'll admit I play a lot of the video game Destiny so my review of the new DLC (downloadable content) "The Taken King" and the game may seem written by a fanboy. But unlike other reviewers, my opinion is not dependent on whether Destiny succeeds or in support of big business. And frankly, I have a love-hate relationship with the game. That being said, I've really kicked the tires of this game and can support my review with details from hours of gameplay. You see I've played every major mode of the game from the campaign to the player versus player (PvP) event Iron Banner to the game's epic co-operative mission raid, "King's Fall." With Halo 5's release and Christmas video game shopping around the corner, the question becomes should anyone play this game?

Destiny: The Taken King is more than just an add on. It's a complete reboot of the game. Instead of armor determining how much damage you will deliver to the enemy and how much you can take from them, it's now an average of your weapons and armor strength. That's a Light Rating. You still have levels but that's only relevant as to what weapons, gear, and missions you can access. If you played in year one and maxed out your armor to number 34 and used powerful weapons, you found out that your new light rating was NOT maxed out. Instead you found out you were basically starting out at a very low light rating. So, you were basically starting all over again. More on this later.

Too Little, Too Late.

Here's what Destiny gets right. Again, it's the gameplay. No changes were done to the games excellent gun mechanics. Firing guns and killing aliens is a blast. Developer Bungie had plenty of experience with the Halo series. And of course publisher Activision has the Call of Duty series to lean on. Jumping and the use of jetpacks gives you the ability to strategically escape and attack from other areas. Mission design is better than the previous two DLCs due to new areas to explore.

The player versus player (PvP) mode is also very good. New games like Rift and especially Mayhem are fun. Mayhem is a blast because one's supers regenerate quickly making all players dangerous not just the elite ones. It's like a pie throwing fight. While the new maps favor long distance fights, they are for the most part understandable except for the confusing Vertigo.

The story to the DLC, "The Taken King" is better. It's more compelling. In the game, Oryx, a Hive ruler, is coming to our solar system to take vengeance on you for killing his son. There's an epic space battle depicted that is a thing of beauty. The Awoken are seen in their fighter ships attacking the fleet of Oryx. It's so good it made me wish they put a space combat flight mission in the game. Anyway, it's up to you to stop Oryx and prevent him from "possessing" or controlling the human race. He's already possessed or "taken" some of your enemy alien races. I'll admit the "Taken" are scary but cheaply drawn. They're basically ink blots molded in the shape of some of the previous alien baddies.

Voice actor Nolan North is now the voice of the Ghost, your AI companion. He's very funny and he gets the material. He did record Peter Dinklage's prior Ghost recordings and he's no better in those year one scenes. But his stuff for "The Taken King" is very good.

And I've got to say Bungie does give the fans a tiny bit of what they wanted. They've increased the vault space to seventy two slots for both categories of weapons and armor. And you can turn in bounties from anywhere. oh... joy.

Here's the way I feel about turning in bounties from anywhere.


But there are so many things wrong with Destiny: The Taken King, that it's hard to include all of the issues. Let's start with the big problem. How you treat your fans is important. And Bungie treats its experienced fans very badly. The big problem is that Destiny: The Taken King resets year one players to a weak position.

Let me explain how Bungie screws year one players. I'll use my created characters as an example. Before year two, my Titan, Hunter and Warlock were level 34, the highest level in the game. They had max weapons at an attack rating of 365. With The Taken King, my weapons were reset to an attack rating of 170. In the new DLC, I've seen high level year two weapons at 310. But it gets worse. Those year one weapons and armor were made obsolete. Bungie did not and will not ascend maximum level year one weapons and armor to the maximum level of year two. In essence, they made me a noob (new game player) all over again. That means I have to grind my way back to the top again.

If you were a player like me, you had a nasty surprise when you went against the enemies in Destiny. Instead of being the bad ass that you created, you found out that your year one guns did very little damage against Destiny's baddies. For example, the patrol mission where you take out a high priority target, is usually easy for me. A few shots from my scout rifle. Target down. But now I was at 34 facing a target at 40. Ten rockets and thirty minutes later, I did it. Painful. Second, your powerful year one weapons that did elemental damage are now useless. And as I predicted, you did not get elemental damage primary weapons off the bat. So you start again as a noob, slugging it out against shielded enemies without matching elemental damage. In fact, Bungie has recently announced that legendary primary weapons will no longer have elemental damage.

There's also a big difficulty spike with the new enemies. The Taken have remarkable offensive and defensive abilities. Some shoot damaging fire mortars. Cabal Taken have the ability to shoot bursts of energy to damage and throw you off platforms which can cause you to fall to your death. Then some Taken fire constant rolling balls of darkness which cause a black screen and damage. Like Fallen captains, multiple Taken can transport and do so frequently. They can throw bubble shields and tether allies to make their shields stronger. Oh , yeah, some of the enemies have elemental shields. But there's one more even stronger ability for the Taken. Some of them can reproduce like bacteria but only at super speed. Annoying. Against these guys, you have your simple kinetic damage primary weapon. Still feel like a year one bad ass?


Destiny: The Taken King doesn't correct some of the major flaws of year one Destiny. And in one instance, the game makes a mistake from last year. First, the two major co-op missions have no matchmaking. You must form a team to play the Nightfall strike and the epic raid, "King's Fall." Okay, you could solo the Nightfall but do you really want to spend a whole day on one mission that you will likely fail?

One of the reasons, this review is late is because I wanted to play and finish the King's Fall raid. And the big reason it took me this long is that I could not muster up six people to play it. That's the problem with no matchmaking. Bungie just doesn't seem to get the fact that a gamer and his friends do not play at the same time. One friend may be at a Browns game for some crazy reason, while another maybe at the ballet when a gamer wants to play the raid. The result is that it will take weeks to play the thing because you can't get enough people to play it. Third party sites that match make are not the solution. They're not in the game. And be prepared for the elitists on those sites who will bail on you if you don't understand all the rules of the raid.

As for the raid, it's like the other raids in the game only bigger and more jumping. Did I say jumping? The leaps in this raid are truly ridiculous. Jump on moving bells. Jump on moving platforms. Jump from ledges while a big post tries to knock you off. Look, I didn't buy this thing to hold back the squad with my difficulty in jumping. This is a FPS. (first person shooter) It ain't Mario. FPS games are not conducive for this type of gaming. Then there are the usual convoluted rules to defeat the multiple bosses. And for all your trouble? You might get the crappy auto rifle Anguish of Drystan with no elemental damage perk.

I've also played the player versus player modes (PvP) of The Crucible. A couple of weeks ago, I played the monthly tournament called The iron Banner. (IB) Now Iron Banner in year one, usually gave a path to obtain the highest level armor so you didn't have to play the raids to level up to the maximum. I recall one time last year, it didn't. And we Destiny vets ignored it that month. Well, Bungie didn't learn from that mistake. Year Two Iron Banner featured 280 Light Level weapons and armor. No point in playing it since you can obtain Light level gear of the same number from a vendor or a random strike.

"THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?" Animal House (1978)

Bungie likes to inflict pain on gamers. Remember Bungie nerfed fan favorite weapons, Gjallarhorn, Thorn, Red Death, and Ice Breaker. There are other negative things that Bungie does to players. Xur no longer sells Exotic Shards to upgrade Exotic equipment. He used to sell five heavy weapon synthesis for one Strange Coin, now it's three. You cannot replay missions on gradual difficulties. It's either easy or very hard.

There's more stuff that Bungie does to make your gaming life in Destiny more miserable. The new currency is now called Legendary marks. Now you can only carry two hundred. And get this? That maximum is account wide, i.e. if you have three characters they must share it. Before, each character could carry two hundred Vanguard and two hundred Crucible marks. So, each character could buy a weapon and all could share. Now, it is difficult to purchase more than one weapon or armor since the price for these things runs about one hundred fifty Legendary marks. And Legendary marks are not that easy to get, at least in good quantities.

And while these are major problems, there are small things that Bungie does to make the gamer's life harder. One trick to generate Orbs is to got to Earth and go underground where you meet three Hive majors coming out of a room. One rocket or super and you nail all three. Generate a bunch Orbs. Now the Hive majors are spread out. Will take a perfect shot to get all three. None of this nerfing helps the gamer.

And it gets worse. There are stuff that borders on fraud, at least it's false advertising. Bungie told this big whopper to Game Infomer. "The conflation of gear and character level led to this place where your identity was determined by things outside of your control. We didn't want to do that." September, 2015, pg. 49. Wrong. Remember that your all important light level is an average of your armor and weapons. If you don't like a piece of armor due to its perks or looks or like using a particular weapon, tough. Get used to that crappy auto rifle until you get one with a higher level. Of course, one can "Infuse" a weapon with another by dismantling it to make it a higher light level. But guess what? It costs you Legendary marks, raw materials and it doesn't always give you the exact number from dismantled weapon. It's like this if you take a light level weapon of 290 and dismantle it so that you can "infuse" another so that it is a higher attack level, you may not always get the dismantled weapon's attack number. Depending on the difference between the two, it can be significantly lower. For example, infusing a 220 light auto rifle with a 295 weapon may cause that auto rifle to be only 275.

Here's another example of deceptive advertising in the game. Xur sells something called a "Legacy heavy Weapon Engram" for a whopping 31 Strange coins. The description reads like this, "An engram with remarkable but familiar markers. A Cryptarch would be pleased to decode it." No where does he tell you what it actually is. It's a freaking year one heavy weapon exotic with year one attack numbers. Yep, it's obsolete.


While I was playing I got the Sisyphus bond for the Warlock. I laughed. Why? Because playing this game I felt like Sisyphus. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was punished by the gods to push a rock up a hill. When he got the rock close to the top of the hill, the gods made sure it would roll down again and he would have to push the rock back up again. How does this apply to Destiny? So far with each DLC, you had to grind to reach the pinnacle. Reached the top with basic Destiny? Well, guess what? You had to grind and play the Crota raid. Hey, there's a new DLC, "House of Wolves." Want to reach the top level? Grind and get etheric light. Guess what happens to you with The Taken King? You get reset like a noob. Grind again gamer. And I bet when a new DLC comes around, you'll have to grind again to reach the new Light levels.

The Destiny gamer is Sisyphus.

is there a reason why Bungie makes a game with pain and reward? Yes. It all has to do with milking every last cent from you. Realize that each new DLC costs you the gamer money. Sixty dollars for the game. Twenty dollars in December. Twenty dollars in May. Forty dollars in September. This ain't art. And it certainly is not Mass Effect 3 or Grand Theft Auto 5 with their free DLC.

The model is a subscription MMO. Don't believe Bungie when they argued that Destiny is not a MMO. (Gamespot article, Nov., 18, 2013) Just remember the game is designed to addict you. (Bungie acknowledges using psychology to hook players. IGN, April 2,2015) Once you become addicted, you find that you must have the next DLC to level up your character. But it's more than that. Bungie has a ten year plan for the game. They've got to stretch it out. Extend it to Destiny 2. So they've got to slow the gamer down. Can't let him get to his goal too fast. So nerf weapons in the name of weapons balancing. None of the nerfing is good for the gamer but is good for Bungie.

Greed is not good for art. And yes, I consider video games to be art. Great art can make money but it is about expression and a respect for the audience. Destiny is all about the money. It's a drug, not art.

Please, "Just say no."

I can't recommend Destiny to the new gamer, or the Destiny veteran. Bungie shows a contempt for the customer by constantly moving the goals of the game. And every motive for anything done in Destiny is for profit. The grade is C Plus.

Another slick live action ad for Destiny, that is not true.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Paul Tassi, Bungie apologist?

First let me say I like reading Forbes writer Paul Tassi's articles about video games. But if you read his stuff, you get this feeling that he writes from a prospective of supporting video game companies rather than looking how those businesses treat the gamer. Of course, he writes for the pro-business Forbes.

This week, he freaked out over an item sold by Xur in the game Destiny. Here's his article. The item is called "The Three of Coins." You get five chances for an Exotic weapon or armor engram with the cost seven strange coins. That's the can be some of the best stuff in the game. Now to get it, you have to defeat an Ultra boss. That's a yellow bar boss with a name and symbol. What upsets Tassi is that people are farming by doing mission "The Scourge of Winter" over and over again. Gamers would kill the boss and themselves and respawn the boss quickly. Oh, the humanity.

But here's Tassi shows his pro-Bungie bias. He frets it could break the game. Really? Tassi doesn't get it. Gamers getting to where they want to at a faster rate doesn't break the game unless the goal is to stretch the game out till Destiny 3 comes out and milk every cent from gamer with DLC. Second, you don't get an Exotic engram everytime you kill an Ultra. How do I know that? After using fifteen of the items, I got only three engrams. So you see it works the way it was designed. And get this, I'm still stuck at a light rating of 244, well below the number needed to try The Taken King's raid. Tassi should also realize that a gamer cannot equip more than one Exotic item at a time. The Three of Coins and quickly farming it does not break the game or turn players into super Guardians overnight.

Tassi is a good writer but his big business bias is showing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Stephen Colbert gorges on Donald Trump and Oreos

Here is the best piece from last night's premiere episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In it, Colbert goes over conservative Republican Donald Trump's swearing off Oreo cookies.

An open letter to Jay Bruce

Dear Jay Bruce,

As I watched you strike out with the bases loaded in the eighth, it's become clear you have not been paying any attention as to how the opposition plays you or pitches to you. Because we see the same results with the same defense all the time. You make an out, usually by striking out. Mind you, I'm not asking for a four hundred batting average. I just want to see contact and clutch hitting. So, let me tell you how they're defending against you.

Um... Jay, have you noticed that the third baseman, shortstop and second baseman all move to the right, i.e. towards first base? That's because you pull a lot of balls even ground balls. Now, I'm not against pull hitters but they're going to get you out because balls that would be hits if the defense played regularly would be fair. To keep them honest, why don't you try going the other way? Heck, a weak ground ball at third base is likely going to be a double, maybe a triple. You do that enough times and guess what happens? They'll play you honestly. Then you will be able to get better pitches to hit and pull.

Second, do you know how they're pitching to you? Let me put it this way. They're not coming in. It's away. Away. AWAY. Most of the time it's a low and away breaking ball. Now, q lot of these pitches are balls. Why swing at them? You won't make good contact. Hit strikes.

I hope this helps.

Sincerly, a life long Reds fan.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert review

I'll have to admit that I wasn't that enthusiastic about Stephen Colbert leaving his Comedy Central show to host CBS' The Late Show. Colbert was absolutely brilliant playing a conservative pundit and showing the world the crazy right-wing views of conservatism. And he did it with hilarious comedy. I expected him to play The Late Show safe and appeal to middle America. Well, after watching the first show, I'll have to say I was partly right.

Colbert started the show with a video of him singing the national anthem with common citizens. I couldn't figure out whether this was comedy or whether he was trying to be patriotic. That could be a problem. I mean one time during the song, he's throwing a strike at a bowling alley or being drowned out by the machinery at an auto plant. Rosanne Barr it was not, but nothing controversial. If he's restrained here as it was, it feels as if Colbert won't push the envelope like he did with his old show on Comedy Central, The Colbert Report.

When he did push the envelope, it was with an obtuse piece about a deal with a pagan symbol, The Red Amulet. The skit had Colbert admit he made a deal with it for success on the show. It forced him to promote a sponsor which was a humus product. I'm guessing this is a metaphor that Colbert would have to sacrifice some of his artistry for commercial purposes. Too strange to be funny.

I do like the choice of New Orleans jazz musician Jon Batiste and his band Stay Human. The music is funky jazz fusion. And while we know pop music will be on the show, let's hope Colbert injects more mainstream jazz. Colbert is a patron of the arts and jazz is America's indigenous art form.

Colbert finally does hit his stride on the topic of conservative Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Donald is a gift from the comedic gods. Colbert discusses Trump's swearing off of Oreo cookies. Colbert eats one and says he will only do one joke about it. But he can't eat just one Oreo nor can he do one joke about Trump. This is Colbert at his best. Saying something about the world and making fun of the craziness in it.

Then there were the guests. Actor George Clooney is fine. The faux movie he was promoting was cute. But somebody thought a politician might be a good idea. I'm sorry Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is boring. And Colbert dominated the conversation. When Colbert got Jeb to question the differences between him and his older presidential brother George W, Jeb said George spent too much money. But Colbert failed to follow up with why that was so. It's called "The Iraq War", Stephen. Next time, have more comedians as guests.

It was a lukewarm beginning for the new Late Show. Colbert should stick to what he does best. Sorry, conservatives. That means making fun of the right because they're hilarious. And not be so concerned with middle America as to dictate choices for the show. The grade is B.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Stephen Colbert rips Jeb Bush for fundraising off his show

New Late Show host, Stephen Colbert, had some fun with conservative Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush. You see, Bush is trying to raise money off his appearance on The Late Show by having a contest where you give him a contribution with a chance to attend the show. Check out Colbert's funny video which is reminiscent of his Colbert Report show with his signature witty sarcasm. Oh, and watch out for some salty humor about New York Jets owner Woody Johnson.

Sarah Palin urges immigrants to speak "American"

My muse, conservative Republican Sarah Palin, urged immigrants to speak "American." I can't make this stuff up. Yeah, she meant English but she doesn't understand that our common language comes from England. Oy. Check Sarah's funny video below courtesy of CNN.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

John Oliver skewers greedy, corrupt televangelists

John Oliver destroys slimy, greedy televangelists who advocate a belief called prosperity gospel. Basically the belief is that getting rich is God's favor.. So these televangelists get people to send them money with the hope that those people will get wealthy. Here's John Oliver's funny piece from HBO's "Last Week Tonight."

Heidi Klum trumps Trump

Conservative Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told the New York Times that model Heidi Klum is "no longer a ten." I wonder what happens to Trump's third wife, Melenia, should she no longer be a "ten" in the Donald's eyes. Watch out Melenia, he likes blondes. See former wives, Ivanka and Marla. He was also interested in Princess Diana! ( Anyway, here's Heidi's response via Instagram and courtesy of TMZ. Oh, yeah Heidi. You are beautiful in my eyes.

Donald Trump repsesents the conservative Republican

According to a recent CNN poll, super rich guy, Donald Trump is leading Jeb Bush by a whopping thirteen points. Trump 24 %. George W.'s brother er.... Jeb at 11%. CNN: Donald Trump sinks GOP's 2016 Dream Team.

Come on conservative Republicans, accept who you are. Trump represents your values. Don't think so? Let's again do a little deduction ala Sherlock Holmes. The GOP has purged moderates and liberals from the party. How's New York governor Pataki doing? And the Party according to Gallup, is overwhelmingly white. It's also supported and dominated by men. Pew Research. No stretch to say that the Republican Party is the party of white men. No stretch to deduce that Donald Trump is the candidate of the conservative white man. So stop whining conservative Republicans. Donald Trump represents you.

Enjoy that Gjallarhorn while you can, Destiny fans

I hope those of you who bought the Gjallarhon from Xur last week are having fun with it. Because it's one cruel joke from developer Bungie. You see they're going to nerf it soon. See Destiny Weapon Tuning 2.0.

By the way Bungie this blows up your specious rational for nerfing or weakening the weapon. You argued that people were being excluded from Raids and Nightfall strikes because they didn't have it. Now, I imagine a lot of people have it. So there is no longer any reason to nerf it. But here's my opinion. Bungie must extend the game to Destiny 2 and also get players to buy the September DLC, The Take King. Nerfing and making year one Legendary weapons obsolete pushes players to purchase the DLC with the promise of more potent guns. Of course, I've got a fist full of Glimmer to bet that you will have to find those good guns, and level them up. Look, the weakening of all first year weapons doesn't help the gamer. It does help Bungie milk every last dollar from the gamer.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. review

It's that eternal quest for Hollywood studios. Find a movie franchise that can rake in the money for shareholders. Sometimes this means raiding beloved old TV shows when the studio suits can't take a risk on anything creatively new. Mission Impossible. Bewitched. What next, The Beverly Hillbillies? Um, never mind on that one. Well, Warner Brothers has just released a feature film, based on the sixties TV show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and given it the same title. What did you expect? "The Search for More Money Affair?"

This new movie takes place during the Cold War, roughly 1962-1963 as we constantly see TV clips of President John F. Kennedy. CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is in East Berlin trying to extract Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) who's nuclear scientist father has gone missing. The fact the guy can build a nuclear bomb is disturbing to the Americans. The Soviets have dispatched KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) to also grab her. Solo succeeds in getting her out. However, the Russians and Americans believe that the father has been kidnapped by Nazi sympathizers Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki) and her husband, Alexander. (Luca Calvani) The Americans and the Russians team Solo and Kuryakin to infiltrate Vinciguerra's company, find Gaby's father and possibly get his plans for the nuclear bomb.

Director Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram's script is okay. I mean it's got some good jokes and nicely sets up the sixties Cold War spy story. But what's the purpose to use the U.N.C.L.E. organization in name of the movie since the film is almost all about how Solo and Kuryakin met and their first mission. Oh, yeah, it's that franchise thing.

There are problems. It's Ritche's direction that deflates parts of this movie. First, let me talk about the music. I was expecting to hear Jerry Goldsmith's iconic spy theme from the TV show. I can barely recall it being in this movie. Then Ritchie uses some strange and novel music. Some of it is sixties pop that doesn't fit and some of it is weird electronic music. The movie would have been better served with orchestral spy type music. Other times, there were scenes that cried out for music. The romantic scenes needed it.

Needed much more of this type of music and theme, Guy.

And that brings us to Ritchie's handling of sex scenes. They're not very sexy. Those scenes feel as if they were shot by a virgin teenage boy. They're unsure, and seem to be cut so the movie easily fits a PG rating. I'm kind of amazed this movie was a PG-13 rating rather than a straight PG.

Ritche also mishandles the action set pieces. As with today's modern filmmaking, he lets the editor fast cut his way to generate excitement. The result? Not very exciting since it can get confusing. Then Ritchie uses split screens during a military assault on the villains base. Very difficult to figure out how the attack went and there weren't enough shots of the heroes leading the assault and firing their guns. Let me put it this way. James Bond movies did it better.

But what saves this movie are two things. First, I love this cast. Henry Cavill is suave as Solo. Arnie Hammer gives his Kuryakin a hot headed passion driven by the injustice done to his family by the Soviets. It's his best work since The Social Network. (2010) Elizabeth Debicki steals the movie. She has grace and reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. All three are beautiful and sexy. They're just great to look at.

Then there's the style of the film. Ritchie's movie has just enough color drain to make the movie feel as if it's from the Sixties. The sets, the mannerisms of the actors all feel genuine from the period. And let's not forget the costumes. Wow. Kudos to Joanna Johnston for her clothing designs. It was as if I was looking at Vogue magazine from 1963. The result of all this excellent work is that one feels that they were transported to another time and place.

Elizabeth Debicki and Henry Cavill strike a pose.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a good movie with problems but is carried by its groovy style. It needs more of the U.N.C.L.E vibe to be more fun but perhaps we can look forward to that in a sequel. The grade is B.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Conservative Republicans must own Donald Trump

You'll see conservative Republicans fret over the rise of Donald Trump as the possible Presidential nominee. (Washington Post article, August 8, 2015) He's made racist, misogynistic and crazy comments. It's obvious his extreme views would most likely doom the GOP's chance at winning the White House.

But conservative Republicans must own Trump. His large leads in the Republican Presidential polls reflects the GOP. I mean they'e purged the moderates. Have you heard any candidate say he's a moderate and do well? And it's not the party that has guys like former, late President Gerald Ford anymore. It's a a very conservative party which has a heavy Tea Party influence.

Let me put it this way. Where is Trump's support in the Republican Party coming from? It's not coming from liberals. It's not coming from moderates. Because both don't exist in the party. It's coming from conservative Republicans. And here's my guess. I don't see a whole bunch of African American women supporting Trump. It's angry white male, conservative Republicans.

Bungie's Big Mistake by making Legendary weapons obsolete

The upcoming DLC for Destiny, The Taken King does not allow you to upgrade existing Legendary weapons and that sucks. It demonstrates developer Bungie's contempt for gamers. (See Game Informer report, August 4, 2015.) Along with the nerfing of favorite weapons like the Gjallarhorn, this last disrespect could be the "nail in the coffin" for Destiny's projected ten year run.

To demonstrate Bungie's contempt for you the gamer, I pose this question in the spirit of the late President Ronald Reagan to the fans of Destiny.


Of course, the answer is "no." Let me explain. Let's say you obtain that hard to get hand cannon Fatebringer from the difficult raid, "Vault of Glass." It is possibly the best hand cannon and one of the best weapons in the game because it has explosive rounds, the perk Firefly and Arc damage. You ascend it in late May to the maximum attack rating of 365 due to that month's DLC, "The House of Wolves." You begin to use it and start to rock your enemies. Your Destiny gaming is easier and more fun. That's assuming you like your gun to do damage and not be a BB gun.

Flash forward to September's release of the DLC "The Taken King." Just four months or even less, your beloved Fatebringer is now obsolete. All that hard work to obtain this magnificent weapon is now wasted. And I mean hard work. You must reach level 20 to use it, must obtain the weapon as a RNG drop, level it up AND obtain the difficult to get Etheric Light to get this gun to the maximum level.

All of these changes to weaken favorite weapons are designed to get you to try the new weapons from the upcoming DLC.

“I definitely feel like some of our players are ready to play with some new toys,” says (Bungie) creative director Luke Smith. “And we’ve built a whole bunch of new toys. There are definitely some weapons that you are going to find better versions of – there’s going to be something that replaces that sniper rifle that you love.” Game Informer article, August 4, 2015.

And how do you get to those new weapons? Buy the DLC for a whopping forty bucks or more depending on what version of the game you get. Look, I get the idea to make a buck but it's way too early to make favorite weapons obsolete. At this time, the game is not even a year old. We're a long way from Destiny Two so why weaken Destiny One weapons roughly every three months? Yeah, it's a way to milk every last buck from the gamer but it does not benefit them. And let me respond to Luke Smith. Those great weapons he talks about in The Taken King will probably not be available right away. I'm guessing from older DLCs, you will have to get those from complicated Raids and difficult tasks such as playing The Prison of Elders on harder levels I also question whether the new primary weapons will have elemental damage right away. If not, the Destiny player is in a weaker position at the start of The Taken King because his powerful gun from the Destiny One is now obsolete. It's going to be more pain and suffering.

Finally let me answer those who support the changes. If you read articles about the obsolescence of Destiny year one weapons, you get this feeling that some of them are for it. Here's David Thier of Forbes writing if is for the best. Okay, my fellow gamers, those that support it are usually the guys who write for the organizations that support big business, the gaming industry or depend on their survival to the success of Destiny. I, my fellow gamers, do none of that. I'm a gamer. So, I've got no financial motive for supporting Bungie's decision to weaken or nerf favorite weapons or criticizing it. Let me make this clear. I do not support Bungie's garbage. And as I have demonstrated, making your favorite Legendary Destiny wepons obsolete stinks.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Fantastic Four review

Sometimes a commercial premise for a story will "doom" a movie. And unfortunately, the latest reboot of the superhero team , Fantastic Four, suffers from such treatment.The big problem with film is that it is inspired by the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book series. (Comics Alliance, "Fox's Fantastic Four reboot: What the FF?" February 20, 2014) That series re-imagined the Fantastic Four as much younger people.

I can imagine how the suits at Fox wanted to reboot the Fantastic Four. "Well we have this Marvel franchise. Got to reach the young kids who go to the movies. Hey, check out the box office for The Hunger Games. Can we make the Four younger? Wait. Check out the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics. Voila, we got box office gold." Well, going for the bucks sometimes dumbs down the story.

You see the big problem with this reboot of the 2005 movie is that it's unbelievable. I'm supposed to believe that a bunch of kids, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), at a science fair have developed a way to transport matter to an another dimension. Reed is recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg Cathey) to work at his lab to work on a transporter being developed by Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell) and his daughter, Sue Storm. (Kate Mara) Look, I know brilliant high school kids. But to believe a bunch of kids can build a matter teleportation device that can warp people to another dimension is ridiculous. Kids don't have the scientific, and life experience to do something like this. Imagine high school kids building the first nuclear bomb. You get the picture. In the older version of the Fantastic Four, Richards has a doctorate and white hair.

Anyway, the government tells Dr. Storm and the kids that they are going to use real astronauts to send them to the other dimension which has a planet they call Zero. Richards, Grimm, Doom and Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) who is Sue's brother believe they won't get credit for their work and decide to go to the planet. Okay, the first thing that does feel real. High school kids doing stupid things. You can guess what happens. The kids transport to the planet and things go bad. Doom gets stranded. Sue Storm tries to get them back. The machine explodes on the trip back altering Richards, Grimm and both Storms. Richards can stretch to extraordinary lengths, Grimm is a rock monster called the Thing has super strength, Sue Storm can turn invisible and create force fields and Johnny can turn into a human torch who can fly.

The government whisks them away to Area 57. Ha. Ha. It's Area 51, guys. But I digress. Richards escapes. But they use Grimm for military operations. The Storms are also being groomed for service. Of course, if you know anything about the Fantastic Four, you know Doom is coming back. And he's not bringing flowers.

Rebooting the Four as kids has created problems with the casting. You must find young actors who can act. Miles Teller is not mature enough to exhibit much emotion. He's like the rock that encases The Thing. And yes, I will say it. Casting an African American to play Johnny Storm who's white in the comic books is wrong. First, he's the sister of Sue Storm, a blonde white woman. You're going to have to explain how they can be siblings. Well, the movie does, but it's wasted energy by the audience trying to see the sibling relationship. Second, imagine if Johnny were originally black. And if they cast a white man to play him. Yes, there would be an uproar by the pc police. To be fair, it must go both ways. Third, Michael Jordan who plays Johnny is just as bad as Teller. He's also a talking rock. The only actors who do well are Kate Mara, Toby Kebbell, and Jamie Bell. Mara as Sue Storm is smart, resourceful and sexy. Bell's "The Thing" which is created by CGI works because he gets the pain he feels after being transformed into something that doesn't look human anymore. Toby Kebbell's Doom is the best Doom ever. He's vicious, evil and downright scary.

Director Josh Trank is not a bad director but he's let down by very bad script. Simon Kinberg
Jeremy Slater and Trank wrote this mess. As stated above, using kids as the Four just strains credibility. Second, Planet Zero which has much of the action is not very interesting which makes a large chunk of the movie uninteresting. Third, it takes more than half the movie to get to the point where the Four use their powers for good. While it's good to show how they got their powers, it shouldn't take more than an hour to get to the "Fantastic Four." Finally, I know there's a trend for superhero movies to be grittier, and more realistic. But that can drain the fun and joy out of them. This Fantastic Four movie is just hapless. There's very little humor that the franchise had. And the only time I laughed was when they got Area 51's name wrong. I got no joy watching Johnny Storm fly, Sue Storm turn invisible, or Reed Richards stretch. There was no heroism until the final act of the movie.

Fox should think twice about a sequel to this movie. Rebooting again would also be a problem as you would be asking audiences to watch another reboot within about three years. They should just recast and do an original Fantastic Four movie set within the original Marvel universe. In that case, you'll need a short exposition to reintroduce the characters. Until then if you want to see a good Fantastic Four movie, go watch "The Incredibles." (2004) The grade is C.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Donald Trump wins debate

Let me start with this caveat. I'm a politically incorrect liberal so you may be suspicious of my opinion of Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. But I'm going to try to be objective as possible. Here's my view of who won the first Republican Presidential Debate on Fox News last night.

Donald Trump won the debate.

First right off the bat, it was clear Fox News was after him. The first question asked the candidates to raise their hands if any would not pledge to support the Republican nominee and forgo an independent run. Trump raised his hand. While this question was of great interest to Republicans and its media wing, Fox News, it's hardly what the country is worried about. It was a question that one would ask of Trump as the Republicans are scared that Trump may run as an independent if he does not get the nomination. There was some boos. After the question, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul accused Trump of hedging his bets and buying politicians. Trumps retorted back. "Well, I've given him (Paul) plenty of money." Touche Trump.

And on it went. They peppered him about campaign contributions. Questioned whether he was a Republican. Went after his sexist remarks. Grilled him on his businesses' bankruptcies.

The result? Trump brushed them all off like a tough, rich New York businessman that he is. If I can describe his demeanor, his answer would be "Whatever. Sue me. I don't care. I'm rich." He didn't care if he pleased every Republican in the audience. He didn't want to. He took the hits and did not fall down.

And since he's leading in the Republican polls, he won the debate. The others had to bring him down and outshine him. Forget about it. He was a giant and they were mice. A whopping twenty four million people watched this political circus. And they didn't tune in to see Jeb Bush or Scott Walker talk about defunding Planned Parenthood.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

By nerfing Destiny's popular weapons, Bungie shows contempt for gamers

The weakening or nerfing of videogame Destiny's favorite weapons by Bungie stinks. It's a middle finger to the fans of the game. I'll discuss some of the nerfs to some of the weapons below. Here's a link to Bungie's future changes. And let me quickly define a couple of terms for you non-gamers. PvP means player versus player. PvE means player versus environment, i.e. fighting against computer controlled enemies.

1. The Thorn

The Thorn is an exotic hand cannon. It's obtained as a special exotic bounty and the process to get it is onerous. The worse part of this seven part bounty is killing fellow Guardians in the Crucible with Void damage for 500 points. Five points per kill but minus two for getting killed. I must have screamed at the television multiple times when I got set back doing the Crucible.

The reward for your hard work is a hand canon with a great perk. It's called the Mark of the Devourer. What happens is when you hit a target, it will suffer damage over time. It's kind of like poisoning it. Think Dark Channel from Mass Effect 3. In the Crucible, it is the dominant weapon because you got cheap kills with it. Hit a guy, run away and he dies from the poison. I got cheap kills with it.

But did it need nerfing? Yes. Too many cheap kills and way too many people using them in the Crucible. Okay, here's where I agree with Bungie but only for PvP, i.e. the Crucible. But you should get a special weapon for your trouble. Instead of weakening it for all phases of the game, Bungie should have made it stronger In PvE. How about making it cut through all elemental shields? Yeah, fat chance. Now, the Thorn will probably sit in everybody's vault.

2. Pulse rifles

If you read Bungie's post, you are going to see a pattern. They are going after weapons that are popular in the Crucible. And when it comes to pulse rifles, we're talking about The Red Death. I use it because it's accurate, got great range, and has nice damage. It's a cross between a scout rifle and auto rifle. That being said, you still need skill to use it.

Bungie's nerf here is to make then less accurate. Base stability is being reduced. They admit it will require more skill to land head shots. Good bye Red Death. Looks like the Oversoul Edict will collect dust.

3. The Gjallarhorn.

The Gjallarhorn is the best rocket launcher in the game. It is because of one thing. The perk called Wolfpack rounds. First, the rocket fired homes in on the target. Then after initial detonation, there is a second round of cluster bombs that track the target and hit it again. Yes, it's a superweapon. However, it is not easy to get. It's obtained as a random drop in Raids, and Nightfall strikes.

Bungie wants to weaken it by reducing the damage of the Wolfpack rounds. I'm going to print their rationale because it demonstrates the ridiculous logic of all the nerfing.

"We definitely intended to have a high damage Heavy Weapon that was ideal for PvE destruction. What we did not intend, and what we unfortunately saw, was pick up Raid and Nightfall groups gating participation based on whether or not players had this weapon. Gjallarhorn was so strong that for many people it had become the only answer to getting through tough encounters, and therefore they were less willing to spend time with other players that didn’t have it. We strive for Destiny to be a place where a single weapon or strategy does not dictate how, or with whom, you spend your time. In the new world Gjallarhorn is still worthy of its legacy as an exotic Heavy Weapon, but we hope it promotes inclusive behavior rather than exclusivity."

Okay, this is just spurious. I've played over a hundred or so Raids and Nightfall strikes. And yes, I've seen people demand Gjllarhorns. However, it was about two times! And all my Destiny friends will say you don't need Gjallarhons to bring down Crota's shields. Now, does it make bringing down bosses easier? Of course. But do we require our Raid or Nightfall squad members to all have the Gjallarhorn? No. That's type of thinking comes from noobs. (rookie players)

4. Ice Breaker.

The Ice Breaker is a fantastic sniper rifle. Easy to use. Quick target acquisition. High impact damage. Solar damage but so powerful it does a pretty good job cutting through Void and Arc shields. But here's the great perk. Does not require ammo drops. Every five seconds or so the magazine adds one bullet for up to six shots. Well, now Bungie wants to make the time for each bullet to eight seconds. And the rationale is absolutely ludicrous. Jon Weisnewski of Bungie who wrote the post should stop working for them and go into comedy. Here's what he says about the nerfing of the Ice Breaker.

"We’ve all done it. Hunker down in the back of the map with your lunch box, picnic table, a sci-fi paperback, and Ice Breaker. Kill all the enemies, wait for more to show up, kill those ones too, put a few shots on the boss, make a sandwich, finish the strike, and then collect your reward-that-isn’t-Hawkmoon and move on. The recharging ammo of Ice Breaker has become a staple for the PvE game. We don’t want to completely destroy that, because a really great thing happens when all of a sudden you need Ice Breaker and you’re still waiting on that next round to show up. In that moment there is an interesting tension at play; you need to think about how you spend your next few seconds while it recharges. We are going to amplify that tension by increasing the recharge duration by a few seconds."

WTF? He's actually saying you're going to have more fun when the game is harder. Yeah, I'm sure we're going to be saying after failing a Prion of Elders game, that was fun waiting for my Ice Breaker to replenish its ammo.

5. Conclusion

There are more nerfs. but it's not all bad. Auto rifles, the Hard Light, and No Land Beyond receive buffs. But the nerfs are plenty bad. Still, it begs the question, "Why weaken so many popular and hard to get weapons?"

Here's my opinion. Destiny is planned to last for ten years. We don't know when Destiny 2 comes out. So, Bungie has to stretch out Destiny 1. What other way to do so but to slow the progress of players trying to get Etheric Light to level up their gear. Make the game harder. Instead of succeeding at Prison of Elders, level 35, you fail. Try again next time. Sorry, you can't get a squad together because there's no matchmaking for that level. It might take days, weeks. Are you having fun yet?

Destiny gamers should answer the following question.


And the answer should be obvious. It is "no." Bungie's plan to weaken guns does not make the gamer's life easier. It makes Destiny harder and more stressful. Look we can't help it if Bungie made an uninteresting game but don't take it out on the gamers. Next time, don't dumb it down. Don't phone it in when it comes to game design. Because of Bungie's disrespect, I will wait for what the critics say about Destiny 2 before buying it. This fall, I can only hope for Master Chief to save us.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Donald Trump is running for President!!!

Super rich guy, Donald Trump, is running for President. Great comic fodder for Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. Here's his super hilarious video from Tuesday.

Bill Maher destroys the politically correct

In Friday's last New Rule, Bill Maher criticizes politically correct liberals who are too sensitive to comedy. Look, I'm a liberal but a politically incorrect Asian American. So, I agree much here with Bill except I'm not a bad driver. Okay, I'm not good at backing up. Anyway, here's Bill's funny piece and be warned there's cussing in it.

Jurassic World 3D review

I got a feeling of deja vu watching Jurassic World. I've seen the first three Jurassic Park movies in the franchise and there is a formula to making these films. Jurassic World has the um... DNA of the earlier movies. It goes something like this. One, precocious children in danger. Check. Two, stupid humans who believe they can control dinosaurs. Check. Three, A really big bad dinosaur. Check. And of course, dinosaurs chomping on people. Check.

The movie starts out with two brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) Mitchell being sent to spend time with their aunt, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who runs Jurassic World. The park is the descendant of Jurassic Park, which was designed to be a theme park where people could see dinosaurs brought to life through cloning. Okay, I have to stop here. In the first film, Jurassic Park (1993), it was clearly a bad idea to finish the park since the dinosaurs ate some of the employees. So why is it still a good idea?

Claire is too busy trying to make the park a success. You see she supports InGen, the corporation that owns the park and their idea to develop a super predator created originally from the DNA of various dinosaurs and animals. The purpose was that since people had gotten use to seeing the dinosaurs, they needed to see something new which is bigger and more spectacular. Is this plot point a metaphor for this sequel? But I digress. The new dinosaur is called Indominus Rex. You didn't think they would call it Barney, did you?

Owen Grady, (Chris Pratt) the park's velociraptor trainer, is brought in to evaluate the Indominus Rex' s security situation. He's also a love interest for Claire because we have to have a romance in here somewhere. Owen's got his own problems with an InGen executive Vic Hoskins, (Vincent D'Onofrio) who wants to militarize the velociraptors. Well during Owen's visit to Indominus Rex's enclosure, it tricks the humans and escapes. It then proceeds to murder all the people in the park, thus ending the movie in five minutes. Okay, that doesn't happen.

The acting performances are very good. Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are believable as two brothers who have family issues back at home. Bryce Dallas Howard makes her Claire, a cold executive evolve into a caring aunt. It's kind of difficult given the limited exposition she's got to work with. And no, I did not get the feeling she needed a man to become more human as some critics have pointed out as sexist. Unfortunately, Chris Pratt comes off as sort of a stereotype. He's a macho GI Joe model. But it's Vincent D' Onofrio who turns in the best performance of the movie. He's driven, result based, greedy villain. And with any good villain, D'Onofrio shows the motivation behind his character. It's part patriotism and capitalism.

It's the screenplay that holds back Jurassic World from being a great film. Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow. There are gaps in character development. This could be due to editing and a desire to keep the movie under two hours. It comes in at 2 hours and ten minutes. But it's still a problem. I mean we get a hint that the boys love their aunt but don't know why. It would only take a few lines to develop this. Second, the movie is basically the first one. It's only bigger. Dinosaurs are developed for the theme park. The big monster escapes and eats people. Been there and done that. The militarization of the dinosaurs might be a better movie and perhaps should be in the next one.

However, Jurassic World is not bad movie. It's a good one. Director Trevorrow handles actions sequences beautifully. In all of his shots, you know what is happening. It's also a well lit film. His direction has no confusion and you will sit there being entertained by the exciting action. While the dinosaurs are still rendered as CGI creatures, the're still good enough to make you believe they exist. It would be impractical to build robots. But perhaps the best special effect is the ability of Bryce Dallas Howard to run in high heels. I mean that's got to hurt the poor woman.

As for seeing this movie in 3D, I've got to note that it's a conversion from 2D. So it's not shot with a 3D camera rig. That means you don't get all the nooks and crannies of a shot in 3D. It will be more like a pop up book. First, the movie does not suffer from light issues, i.e., it's not too dark. However, there's no popping effect and very little depth. Nothing in this movie made me think I was watching it in 3D. It's not special in 3D. Save your money and see this movie in 2D.

Jurassic World is a well made but cliched movie. You've got to suspend your disbelief that a company would open a park with predator dinosaurs but it's a good movie for the summer. The grade is B.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Upgrading stinks with Destiny: House of Wolves

I've been playing Destiny: House of Wolves (HoW), the DLC for Destiny. And one thing stands out. The way to upgrade weapons and armor stinks. Bungie has now made their first person shooter a futile effort in gaming.

First, let me go over how upgrading weapons and armor before last week's DLC. The max level for weapons was an attack rating of 331. The max level for a character, that is her overall armor rating was 32. Now to get to 32, you needed four 32 level pieces of Legendary armor which are helmets, chest piece, gauntlets, and leg armor. Now, you can substitute one Exotic piece of armor but only one. There were two ways of getting 32 Legendary armor. One way was to get them in random drops from the Crota's End raid. Armor from the Crota raid were upgraded with Radiant shards from that raid. The other way was to get armor from playing in The Iron Banner, a team player versus player tournament. Those armor pieces were upgraded with Ascendant Shards. Those shards were obtained from the Daily Heroic mission which guaranteed two Ascendant materials at the highest level, playing in the Vault of Glass raid or as a random drop by completing Public Events around the map. While the Crota armor was more difficult to upgrade due to there being one place to obtain Radiant shards, the Iron Banner armor was much easier. A single player could farm Ascendant materials from the Daily Heroic mission and Public Events.

But with the new House of Wolves DLC, one can upgrade all Legendary weapons and armor to a maximum of 365 and level 34 character, respectively. Now you can upgrade Vault of Glass raid gear which only maxed out at 300 and level 30. (Exotic gear can be upgraded to max levels with one Exotic Shard.) To upgrade gear you must "Ascend" them with one Etheric Light piece. (Byf video below) This all sounds good until you see how it's done.

You see, you have to find Etheric Light. You can get them right now from four places. It can be awarded by doing the very difficult Nightfall strike as a random drop. According Byf's video below it's also random in the elite Trials of Osiris, a weekly team deathmatch. It's also guaranteed with the cooperative Prison of Elders at the highest levels of difficulty, levels 34 and 35. Prison of Elders is arena based combat ala Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. Iron Banner is supposed to award Etheric Light at levels three and five but we don't have all the details on that. Plus it rolls around about once a month.

Unlike farming maps for Ascendant materials which you can do by yourself. you are forced to do it in the three ways described above. None of those methods can be reasonably done alone. Trials of Osiris cannot be done alone since you need a three man team. While the Nightfall and Prison of Elders can be attempted alone, they are so difficult that you would be crazy to try. Prisoners of Elders is difficult at the lowest level of 28. I've completed level 32 Prison of Elders, with two very good players. It was painfully hard. So think how hard it is at levels 34 and 35. To show how difficult it was, Forbes reported that Bungie employees could not complete it at level 34.

But there's one more big problem. THERE IS NO MATCHMAKING FOR TRIALS OF OSIRIS, THE NIGHTFALL STRIKE AND THE PRISON OF ELDERS LEVELS 32, 34, 35. You must have friends to play at the time you want to play. That makes it almost impossible for a sole player to upgrade his gear to maximum levels. Under the old system it was possible. One may hold out hope for Iron Banner but will you get enough Etheric Light to upgrade much of your gear and weapons? What's worse, what happens if it is a random drop? Plus, if you don't like The Crucible, Iron Banner's game mode, you will have to suffer through it. I did. That being said, I doubt it will be a random drop but if it's just one piece of Etheric Light at each level three and five, that will make upgrading a painfully slow grind.

I'm continually frustrated with Bungie's micromanaging the way to upgrade weapons and your character. Bungie continually sets goals and puts obstacles in your path. While this may sound like a way to keep you coming and addicted, eventually it will backfire. Bungie better watch out. Players may end Destiny's run at year one.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Destiny: House of Wolves stinks

If you were hoping for redemption for the mediocre but addictive video game Destiny from the new DLC House of Wolves (HoW) , you can forget it. The HoW is very much like the main game. It's okay but has huge flaws.

A. The Good.

Gameplay and gunplay mechanics are excellent. Firing your guns are a blast. And your jump packs add much to the gameplay except for one jumping puzzle which is very difficult for the Hunter class unless she uses the super Bladedancer.

B. The Bad. And boy, is it bad.

1. The Story. IF you were expecting improvements in storytelling such as exposition and meaning, forget about it. The story is told through voice over as you are doing your mission from the two vendors of the new social area called The Reef. Yes, you heard that right. No cut scenes with exposition or action. There's not even characters talking to you directly ala Half LIfe. Heck, the Queen who sent you on these missions doesn't even make an appearance! That just makes the teaser trailer below a con job because the DLC doesn't live up to the hype.

The House of Wolves DLC has an anemic story compared to its trailer below.

So what's this DLC about? Something about Fallen guy Skolas who wants to be king of the Fallen or something like that. You, of course, have to hunt him down. Why? Don't know. Don't care.

2. The game design. In Mass Effect 3's DLC, you went to different places from the normal game maps. In HoW, you are using the same maps from the main game with the exception of the last part of the last mission. Okay, there are some minor differences. Some rooms are open on earth. But it's the same stuff. Ruins of a lost age. The only difference are the bosses. And they are just a variation of other bosses and enemies. This is lazy and cheap mission design. I mean this game had a budget of 500 million dollars!

3. The new leveling up process to the maximum. Before HoW, you could level up Legendary weapons and armor with Ascendant materials and Radiant materials for Crota raid gear. Cap level 32 armor came from the Crota raid and Iron Banner event. Yeah, it was bad for the Crota stuff since you had to play the Crota's End raid. But for all the Legendary you could farm Ascendant material from the Vault of Glass raid, the Daily Heroic mission at level 30 which was guaranteed, dismantling Legendary gear and doing Public Events. So you had multiple paths to get to the level cap of 32.

Now all Legendary and Exotic gear can be leveled up to the maximum. For armor it's 34 and for weapons it's 365. This sounds good until you find out how to do it. The process is called "Ascend." For Exotic gear, you need one Exotic Shard. Those can be bought from Xur at seven strange coins. Sounds good but remember you can only equip one Exotic per class.

That means you are going to have to wear at least three pieces of Legendary gear with an Exotic, assuming you don't get the armor piece from Variks, the Reef vendor. You can also have four Legendary pieces to max out your rank. Don't know if Variks refreshes his stock if it does. To level up any gear, you now need to do two things. Upgrade the gear to the maximum and obtain one Etheric Light.

So how does one get an Etheric Light? They are randomly dropped in Nightfall strikes now set at 32, the player versus player Trials of Osiris, and the cooperative Prisoners of Elders. For Prisoners of Elders, it's guaranteed at levels 34 and 35. Good luck playing at those difficulty levels, they're extremely hard. The Iron Banner tournament allegedly allows Etheric Light at levels three and five. I say "allegedly" as I have yet to see it. (Mashable article) But how much Etheric Light can you get? I've read it's dropped at level three and five. Does that mean that's the only amount for the Banner? Don't know but if you hate the Crucible, you're out of luck here.

I have played completed three Nightfalls, and three Prisoners of Elders matches two at level 28 and one at level 32, all with different characters. I have not received one Etheric Light. That stinks. Unlike using Ascendant material, you really can't farm for Etheric Light. Plus, you can only get one guaranteed Etheric Light drop per character on the harder levels per week. It's a crap shoot. So, again Destiny wants you to grind but punishes you for it.

4. The multiplayer modes. There are two multiplayer games with HoW. The cooperative Prisoner of Elders is an arena map where you face off against five waves of enemies. The difficulty levels are 28, 32, 34 and 35. It's extremely difficult even at level 28. Enemies swarm and flank you. And there are only three to a fireteam. There are no good areas for cover. Get the picture, it's near impossible at 34 and 35. Then there's this. NO MATCHMAKING AT LEVEL 32 AND BEYOND. So if you want to get in a match at your convenience to get Etheric Light without friends, you are out of luck.

Forget about the Trials of Osiris if you're not one of the best players in the world. I kid not. It's a three versus three deathmatch. There are problems not just with its elitist pedigree. (Check out the club for the Best of the Best, nine victories in a row.) One, there's no matchmaking. You must form a squad. Two, it's punishing. You must win nine matches to get the best stuff. Lose three and you're out. Look, I've suffered through Iron Banner and this thing is that but on steroids. Not interested, so no need to play this for the review since I'm not one of the best in the world and neither are many of you. Plus, I'm sure this type of thing will bring out the cheaters such as the lag switchers and modders. I've played many player versus player matches where I've seen them.

C. Conclusion

Destiny: House of Wolves is not an improvement but more of the same. Terrible storytelling. And now a fate based way of leveling up to the maximum levels. The game maybe addictive but is sadistic. The grade is C Plus. For us addicts, it's a B minus.

Destiny jumps the shark

So a couple of weeks ago, I'm playing the video game Destiny, specifically the Wrath of the Queen's bounties. That's where you hunt down targets across the maps. Well, I read the description of one target, Kaliks-12. Here's the quote:

"Kaliks-12 was high Servitor of Skriviks Ketch. It was captured during the Cybele Uprising with its mistress." (Video below)

Hold on. It's a servitor. In Destiny lore, these things are big ball like robots. (Video below) It is not an organic. So how does this affair thing work? I mean the thing has no penis. How does servitor sex work? It's simply ludicrous to write that the thing is having an affair. Folks, Destiny has jumped the shark.

Bill Maher destroys crazy Republicans

HBO's Bill Maher destroys crazy Republicans and their right wing conservative views. He does this by pointing out that "libertarian" Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) is now catering to the crazy conservative mainstream. Hilarious. Enjoy his New Rule.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Best Film of the Year for 2014

Usually, I try to write something witty or self deprecating about the Basement Blog Film of the Year award. But let's get onto the winner. It's the Oscars without commercials. The winner is: It's a tie! Tying for Best Film of the Year are The Imitation Game and Guardians of the Galaxy.

The Imitation Game is the story of English scientist Alan Turning who worked with the British government to solve the Nazi code during World War II. To the world, very little was know about him or his efforts. But it's because of his work, that the Allies won the war. To break the code, he built a machine which was able to decipher the code. In essence, he built one of the first computers. Unfortunately in his later years, he was prosecuted for his homosexuality which may have led to his suicide. Still, the world owes a debt to him.

The Imitation Game works on many levels. It's an intellectual thriller without all the explosions. It's a fine drama of a quirky genius. The directing by Morten Tyldum is confident and doesn't detract from the movie. The acting is superb. Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Turning is subtle, realistic, and heartbreaking. He portrays a man who's more comfortable with mathematical equations than people. Bravo to all involved. The grade is A Plus.

The second film, Guardians of the Galaxy, has grown on me. It's a movie that can stand multiple viewings and never get tired. It's hilarious, action packed and entertaining. And it has one of the greatest, joyful scenes in the history of cinema. It's when protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) dances and grooves to Redbone's "Come and Get Your Love" during the opening credits. Reminiscent of Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. I almost got up and started dancing with him. Enjoy the Redbone in the video below.

Science Fiction Film of the Year 2014

Director Christopher Nolan deserves all the accolades in the world for his filmmaking. He creates popular entertainment tentpoles that do not cater to the lowest common denominator. They're all smart and yet entertaining. This year's Basement Blog Science Fiction Film of the Year is Interstellar. While flawed, it's still a great movie.