Firefly Ep. 3: Our Mrs. Reynolds

I just finished watching Episode 3 of the show I love to tear open, Firefly. In this episode, the beloved crew of Serenity take on a castaway named Saffron who ends up proclaiming herself as Mal’s wife because of some baroque ritual on her planet that he participated in, ignorant of its deeper meaning. If this sounds familiar, congratulations! You have a passing familiarity with a lot of really bad one-off episodes of a lot of mediocre sitcoms!

In all honesty, this episode was a fair deal better than the first two. It’s still barely passable and nowhere near the critical acclaim it has been handed, but we’re working toward almost being…respectable! That’d be a milestone that ol’ Jossie-boy has yet to earn from me. I’ve hated everything to ever come out of this bonehead’s noggin.

A lot of what redeems this episode is guest star Christina Hendricks, who plays Saffron. You might know her as the sassy broad from Mad Men. Her acting is phenomenal, she is a hell of a lot more believable than 90% of the cast, and she’s just downright awesome toward the end. I won’t spoil what she does to earn this, but trust me: it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.

I’m usually not one to pick on poor pacing, but for fuck’s sake: we are three episodes in and there is still not an overarching plot narrative to be found, or even a hint of one. Now, I admit, I love a lot of anime where the themes of the main narrative take several episodes to be revealed, but those are half-hour shows with a great deal of action and fun to keep everything interesting. Here, the only interesting things are Christina Hendricks’ boobs, and I’m sorry: they aren’t enough to carry an entire episode (though not for lack of ampleness).

Wherever a true plot narrative might be uncovered, we’re left with naught but confusion and poor writing. I think I am getting closer to the identity of the “Companion” chick (should have figured Whedon would make an interstellar whore character!), but I’ll be damned if I can remember her name, or why she’s on the ship, or even what her deal is. Besides that, there’s really nowhere for this season to go. There’s nothing that happens that lasts from episode to episode. There’s no reason to pay close attention to each episode. Everything is status quo from the beginning. For a supposed drama, going nowhere and expecting your audience to stay motivated to follow along is a sizable bill of goods.

Whedon’s author filibusters have been some of the most egregious in the entirety of modern Western fiction, and they are no better here. Mal is Whedon’s Gary Stu, and it shows through the very atheist/feminist views this supposedly battle-hardened captain spews on a regular basis. And I’m not saying there’s anything at all wrong with being a feminist or questioning the existence of a Supreme Being, but it sounds very tacky and out of place for characters in a science fiction show to preach controversial social commentary. Call me old-fashioned.

Anyway, back to my specific nags with this episode. I called the plot twist about ten minutes in, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when it turned out that I was vindicated twenty minutes later. After a while of watching Whedon, you start to get a feel for how his creative mind works. Jossie-boy is a fan of the trite, the familiar, the ever-so-subtle hijack of themes from other, better forms of media. As soon as you realize that, you can pretty much call him out anytime.

Another actor from this show that is starting to become very good is Alan Tudyk, who plays the pilot. Again, this show is nowhere near compelling enough for me to start remembering names, so don’t ask. He’s still a little hammy, but he looks like Humphrey Bogart compared to the over-the-top, commercial-grade cheese of Jewel Staite and the Baldwinmeister.

So, that’s about all I’ve got. This series is starting to kill brain cells, so I think the next episode needs to wait a week. Stay tuned: something tells me we’re nearing some good old-fashioned badness to sink our teeth into.

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iPad Review

April 8, 2010 4 comments

In order to be awesome, I have decided to write out this blog post using the fine piece of technology I am reviewing. This is made possible through the very effective and efficient WordPress app.

As a rather strident Apple skeptic, the only reason I even entertained the idea of getting an iPad was because the University of Arizona bookstore decided to be generous and allow interested customers to come in and charge the device to their bursar’s account. As a lover of technology and a curious party to this device, I decided to go ahead and try it out. At $499.99, the machine is far from an impulse buy, but what the hey, I thought? I was leaving the University later this week anyways. Might as well get myself a going away present as well as something I might be able to use for my upcoming tenure at University of Phoenix.

If you want the short and sweet of it, here it is: The iPad is going to change the way a lot of people look at computing, possibly forever. And that may or may not be a bad thing. This device does just about everything. It is more than an oversized iPhone, and I cannot recommend it enough to just about anyone who wants to do more with their computing and has the discretionary income to do so. You may not be able to figure out a use for it before it is already in your hands, but trust me: you will eventually. And then you will wonder how you ever did without it. While I must stop short of calling it a fully-functional computer, it is so close to one that many PC users will not be able to tell the difference.

Unboxing an iPad is an experience in itself. You tear the shrink-wrap off the cream-colored box, open it up, and there it is in all its glory. One pull-tab later, the device is in your hands and (almost) ready for use. The sly devils at Apple have made iTunes, a service I am very mixed about, a mandatory part of having an iPad, and you cannot even get to the home page without going through the iTunes rabbit hole when you boot it up for the first time. The iTunes asks if you would be so kind as to let it sync all your music, movies, and pictures to the iPad, but at a mere 16GB and already being the owner of another device devoted to multimedia, I took a pass on that.

iPad then whisks you away to the home page, which looks exactly as advertised on the box and a lot like that of the iPhone. You’ve got your image of choice in the background, and a bunch of little square icons in the forefront for all kinds of exciting tools. Notes, Calendar, Safari, Contacts, and so on make up your factory-loaded apps, but the real strength of this beauty lies in the tantalizing offerings in Apple’s own App Store. The programs in the App Store allow you to customize the iPad to do anything you want, from being a gaming system to a work tool to a New York Times digest. Or all of the above. While I have yet to download any paid apps, I am very satisfied with several of the free offerings. These personal apps show up on a second page you can access by sliding your home page left with the touch screen.

And before you ask, yes: The iPad has one of the most sleek, functional, responsive, and polished touch screens you will find. Everything just feels right and it makes for a truly pleasurable experience. I have not touched my laptop since I got this, and it’s not because it does anything that my old machine couldn’t. It’s because using iPad is exciting and fun, and it could not be either of those things without a solid interface. Typing can be on the sluggish side, but it’s forgivable.

The screen on this thing is HD, high-resolution, and beautiful to behold. The Netflix Instant app allows me to stream movies in HD, which is fantastic. The colors look good, the pixels are crisp, the zooming utility is very sharp, and it is clear that Apple went out of their way to perfect this aesthetic. It’s also not a pain to stare at the screen for hours at a time the way doing so with a laptop or desktop monitor is.

Now, on to my criticisms. This device is lacking one of the most important tools for multimedia in today’s Internet, and that is Adobe Flash. Without it, a great deal of the things that I personally do on the Internet (watch That Guy With the Glasses, Spoony Experiment, play Armor Games etc.) have to be done on my laptop. It has been said that this is because Apple distrusts Flash’s rather considerable CPU intensity, but to completely remove it from the device seems a little harsh. Also, you’ll need to download the Facebook app to use it, because loading the site in Safari creates trouble for Facebook chat and generally slows down the entire device.

Another problem is the lack of multitasking capability. You can have apps keep multiple things going, but you can only look at one at a time. The iPod app allows you to play music while performing other tasks, but that’s the limit of this thing’s ability to really keep up with strenuous use.

Are these marks against it enough to outweigh the benefits? No. The iPad is fantastic at serving as a bridge between computer and smartphone. I firmly believe that Apple will carve out another market niche that imitators will only be able to vaguely mimic. And I believe that anyone who peruses the Internet and consumes multimedia like I do owe it to themselves to try out an iPad.

Firefly Ep. 2: “Bushwhacked”

Well, here it is, the first of my “Live Blogs” of Firefly. Feel free to follow along. I’ll list the timestamp that I see each of my observations if you’re playing at home.

0:13 – You know, the Alliance doesn’t seem so bad. It isn’t any worse than the kind of shit the United States has done throughout its 300 year history.

0:26 – “People struggle to get by with only the most basic technologies.” Yes, because a bullshit political statement is totally worth reverting from space-age ubertech back to the 1700s, amirite?

0:39 – “Find a crew. Find a job. Keep flying.” Taunt everybody you meet. Spew one-liners like Reb Brown.

1:02 – Nothing calms down a tense crew like a tough game of idiot ball!

1:41 – River looking around like this silly recreational activity (can’t really call it a game) is the most interesting thing she’s ever seen. It makes me laugh.

2:33 – Yeah, that scene? Entirely pointless.

5:09 – Zzzzzzz…Am I supposed to give a shit about what’s happening here?

5:56 – Yeah! Stealing things is awesome! We’re the good guys! Go team!

6:23 – “Where do you think you’re headed?” Any direction away from your crummy acting, Baldwin.

7:16 – You know, this guy’s whole “tough guy” routine would be a lot more credible if it weren’t for the fact that the medic just buckles like a belt in the presence of this ham.

7:31 – STOP. Stop, stop, stop stop stop…What the fuck’s with the metallic shoulderpads on their spacesuits?

8:18 – I see they were shameless enough to pillage Joss Whedon’s backyard for junk to litter this abandoned cargo ship. A bicycle and a beach ball?

8:42 – I’ve seen this scene before, and it ends with “I am assuming control.”

9:00 – In the future, all on-board ship’s computers will be 1980s-era Macs!

9:24 – “It’s a personal log. Someone was in the middle of an entry.” I guess they couldn’t afford the Captain’s Log from Star Trek, so they’ve got DOS Box loaded onto these tiny Macs for writing their diaries.

9:46 – You know, Jayne has a point. Why are the meager, supposedly barely-subsistent crew carrying around this waste of space that just walks around, clutching her head and screaming at nothing in particular? I’d have sent this nutcase through the airlock last episode.

10:06 – “In seven days, you will see the ring!” See, I can say vaguely scary shit, too.

10:22 – It’s the 26th-century, but we’re still using six-shooters? Really?

10:58 – I get the feeling something bad is about to happen to our Mangina Medic.

11:16 – OK, what the hell was the point of those stupid spacesuits if they were just going to take them off inside this ship? And when the hell did Kaylee get down there? EXPLAIN, WHEDON! EXPLAIN!

11:35 – Oh, wow, Jayne pulled a prank on Mangina! What a bunch of kooky characters! Aren’t these guys adora-I just felt my faith in humanity die again. *sigh*

11:50 – Kaylee and Mangina are going to be a team? Really, Mal? You don’t want to assign anybody, you know, halfway competent to escort these morons?

12:33 – “Keep the engine running, we shouldn’t be long.” Is Mal genre blind, or what?

12:48 – ALL HANDS ON DECK! WE’VE GOT CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF NUTCASE FORECASTED TONIGHT!

13:01 – This…won’t end well…

13:50 – Meathead’s got a soft spot for C-Rations. He’s like Solid Snake minus the charisma, and the credibility, and the badass.

14:09 – You know, this is really Mass Effect 2 all over again. Only Mass Effect 2 was enjoyable.

14:20 – Mal breaks out his “Dr. Insano’s” custom welding goggles.

16:07 – You guys…um…you gonna respond to Nutjob who just sorta invited herself aboard the derelict ship? No? Didn’t think so.

16:28 – Did I really just see Jayne get his ass slammed by some skinny-looking twerp? LOL!

17:38 – Mmmm, that trail of ketchup just might lead to the french fry kingdom.

18:22 – Yeah, Mangina gets points for that.

19:10 – OK, maybe Mal is a bit more genre savvy than I give him credit for.

20:24 – “Reavers?” Ugh, it makes me sick to think that my favorite western RPG of all time was inspired by this tripe.

20:39 – I wish I knew what the budget was for this show. The confines of Serenity look like Joss Whedon’s man-cave.

21:52 – Glad to see our fearless meathead cowers in fear as soon as something bigger than him comes along. This character is unlikeable in the worst way.

22:25 – OK, stop just a second. This is part of what I was talking about when I said that Nathan Fillion was rather miscast for this role. I hate to say it, but he just isn’t enough of a “leader” to be plausible when we’re talking about the captain of this particular group of social retards. He buckles about as often as Mangina.

22:55 – “Just when I think I’ve got you figured out.” Yeah, that’s not because he’s an enigma, it’s because he’s a poorly written character.

24:13 – Those Reaver bastards got BILLY IDOL! GRR…

25:15 – Yeah, way to get that blatant lesbian fanservice pumping, Joss! You da man!

No, actually, you suck.

26:35 – Shut up, Adam Baldwin.

28:06 – See that, Mal? That’s what leadership looks like.

28:58 – This guy’s about as annoying as Tidus. You’re about to join Meathead on my shit list, Mangina!

29:36 – I daresay the only thing more stupid than the crew of this ship walking around with revolvers is the Alliance carrying M-16s. Has weapons technology really just completely stopped evolving for the last 500 years?

29:59 – Yup. That there’s my collection of car batteries.

32:16 – That’s cute and all, but I still have no idea what a Companion is, what your role on the crew is, or why you’re even here.

35:25 – The bitch is grinning. That can NOT be good.

41:09 – They’re doing all they can to make these Alliance guys look evil, but they’re not. They’re just lawful neutral.

43:08 – Um, why does the Reaver guy have pepperonis stapled into his face?
And that’s the end. Wow, that was pretty shitty. I’m still not sure what the hell’s going on in this series, and after two episodes, that doesn’t bode well for it. Next one will be coming once I’m back in Payson.

Firefly: The Full-Time Gamer Blogs!

OK, so I sat through the first episode of Joss Whedon’s critically acclaimed sci-fi western shenanigan named Firefly.

Let’s just say that there are a few very good reasons why this silly show never caught on the way that Whedon’s previous creation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, did. The casting decisions are terrible. Adam Baldwin’s a hack. The characters (supposedly the selling point of this shipwreck) are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts that make Legend of the Seeker‘s cardboard cutouts look like the cast of a fucking Shakespearean tragedy in comparison. The acting is either way too over-the-top or not nearly emphatic enough to hold scenes together. The special effects are not only intrusive, but below-average for something made in the last decade. Adam Baldwin’s a hack. The silly “sci-fi spaghetti western” motif gets really played-out at about the thirty-five minute mark of the first episode. The convenience of several illogical plot holes is just unbelievable. Adam Baldwin’s a hack.

There’s some stuff to be positive about. The outdoor sets are pretty except when they’re blighted with CG that looks like something out of a Linkara video. Nathan Fillion is the main protagonist and leader of this supposedly effective crew of sarcastic, bullying bigots onboard the Serenity. He’s a good actor, and he turns in a fine performance here, but he’s one of many victims of piss-poor casting. His unconventional looks and mannerisms make him look a little too meek and unassuming for me to believe that he can unite these people who seem all too happy to verbally vivisect each other for no reason. The dialogue is witty at times, but it relies on more one-liners than a Schwarzenegger impersonator convention and the scenes with Baldwin in them are almost painful to watch.

I’ll never be able to escape the fandom of this nonsense. I’ve actually had people dare to come up to me and tell me that this is the best thing Fox has ever canceled. With a straight face, no less.

SO, I figure that I will do my best to snarkily destroy this over-dramatic and underwhelming waste of celluloid in a pseudo-Live Blog! I’ll try to do one episode every few days or so. I’ll be doing them in the order they are presented on Netflix Instant to save myself the headache of trying to figure out the order that that overrated B-movie writer Joss Whedon believes it should have been broadcast. It starts this weekend, so stay tuned.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the Final Fantasy XIII review…it’s coming. Soon. I promise.

An Unlikely Group of Heroes, That’s For Sure

I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XIII for the past couple of days, now. I’m on the second disk already, so I’m a good part of the way through the game and I think I’ve finally got enough done that I can really start to talk about my first impressions.

I am simply blown away by the graphics. This game has looked great since the first trailers were unveiled three years ago, and, sure enough, it meets the hype and possibly even exceeds it. This is a stunning piece of software in the visuals. The music is also very aural and a few tracks are arguably some of the best music I’ve heard in a video game. The boss battle theme sticks out in my mind as being climactic without getting on your nerves.

The story is well-presented, and the characters are strong selling points. A lot of reviewers have ragged on Vanille for her rather strange voice, but I found it charming, even if her voice acting is a bit iffy in parts. Lightning is a very captivating protagonist whose story you will grow to empathize with, even if she’s a bit of a grumpy goose. Hope is a little whiny, but he’s also interesting in his own right. Fang is still an enigma, but she seems alright. I’m really trying to give you a feel for these characters without spoiling crucial plot details, so suffice to say they’re all memorable and worthy of being in the same conversation with the great protagonists that have come before them in the FF series.

The combat is deliciously fast-paced and, as many of you know, I’m a sucker for fast fights like those in FF X-2 where the organized chaos of it all is as much an opponent as the monsters. It makes for interesting fights. I’ll have more for you when I do my official review, but so far I’ve been incredibly impressed. This game was four years in the making, and it shows.

Categories: Reviews, Video games Tags: ,

Anticipation!

October 31, 2006 was 41 months ago. Think about that. The number one rock song in the country was “When You Were Young” by The Killers. I was a single 17-year-old kid addicted to watching Naruto and working for $5.15 an hour at a Sonic Drive-In on the far east side of town. It was also the last time a Final Fantasy game had seen the light of day. Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2 came out that day to generally positive reviews. It took them over three years to release the next chapter in the venerable franchise, which comes out March 9. I’ll be holed up in my dorm room playing it until I’ve beat it. Then, I’ll review it right here for you. Because I like you a lot.

Quick Update

I realize I haven’t been as diligent in updating as I should be, and I sincerely apologize. College is crunching me on one side, work on the other, and the biggest day of my life is less than three weeks away! It’s easy to see why I haven’t had a whole lot of chances to get this thing updated.

I gave Borderlands a 7/10. It’s a good game, but single-player it just seems so bland. It doesn’t help that the entire planet of Pandora is ugly to look at and there’s not a whole lot of interesting stuff going on in it. Just fetch quests and the occasional boss.

Anyway, Final Fantasy XIII is less than a week away. You have no idea how much I’ve been looking forward to sinking my teeth into the world of Cocoon. So far, reviews have been reasonably positive, but they were also pretty positive for Final Fantasy XII. I did not like FFXII much at all, so it remains to be seen if FFXIII is better.