I haven’t checked in with my faithful readers in a while. I apologize for that. It’s been a long couple of months, with job hunting and household chores taking up a lot of my time.
So…I’ll quickly review Final Fantasy XIII, like I promised I would. The game is beautiful. The first thing you will notice is just how fantastic the graphics are. We are nearing an age where video game visuals are near photographic in quality, and FF XIII is yet another huge step in that direction.
The game’s story is fantastic and a lot more character-driven than previous iterations. The characters grow on you, even ones that start off being somewhat annoying like the ever-perky Vanille. The gameplay is the weakest aspect, but the battles are still fun and fast-paced enough that only controlling one character in combat is still enough to keep you on your toes.
Overall, I’d give the game an 8/10. It is below average for a Final Fantasy game, and the game’s changes will continue to polarize the fandom for years to come, but it’s still a great game that I would recommend to any JRPG fan.
Now, as for Firefly…you don’t really want to torture me with more of this crap, do you? Well, I’ll torture myself for your benefit. Because I like you so huggy-muggy much. The next few episodes will be done this week. I think. I’m sorry, it’s just that looking forward to these torture sessions is next to impossible. Whenever I sit down and get ready to watch one, I always find something I’d rather be doing or should be doing. The show is terrible, and it isn’t showing any signs of getting better.
With the fourth episode of Firefly, we are finally hitting something resembling character development. It might just be a red herring, but for once it seems that things are finally happening to shake up the crew of Serenity. Things are actually…you know…happening? It’s about two episodes too late, but I guess we can forgive a bit of tardiness if it has a reason. That remains to be seen.
In “Jaynestown”, Mal’s crew visits a planet that specializes in the manufacture and sale of mud. Because this is a sci-fi show where western themes are shoehorned in, it is replete with your typical wild west cliches: filthy taverns harboring all manners of dirty-looking people, all manners of cruel and unusual punishments for criminals, and so on. It’s like a bad episode of Bonanza meets Star Wars every week. It turns out that Meathead visited this planet with his partner named Stitch four years before the events of the episode, stealing sixty thousand hillbilly dollars from the town magistrate. As he was attempting to get away from the planet with his ill-gotten gains, his ship was having maneuverability problems and they were forced to jettison everything, including Stitch and their plunder. Stitch was caught by the magistrate, arrested, and placed into a box for four years (how he ate, slept, kept himself strong enough to toss Mangina around like a ragdoll, and voided himself of waste matter is never explained). Meanwhile, the money that Meathead tossed off the ship found its way to a town of “mudders”, the indentured servants who work in the mud fields. As a result, the folks consider Meathead a hero, even dedicating a song detailing his legendary escapade. What was a simple robbery to him was an act of profound charity and goodwill to them.
I need to give credit where it’s due. The premise is interesting enough: what happens when someone is morally torn about using an egregious misconception to ease his way toward his objectives? What is the right thing to do? I could see this going somewhere, but it really doesn’t. The potential is spoiled because Meathead is a two-dimensional cardboard cutout whose emotional and mental range goes from stupid and angry to stupid and snarky.
The selling point of this series was supposedly the witty banter and themes of camaraderie amongst the crew of the Serenity. What does this mean to Joss Whedon?
“You’re like a trained ape! Without the training!”
HURR. HURR. HURR. Stop it, Joss, my sides are hurting!
Whedon’s trademark preaching about the evils of religion continue in “Jaynestown”, only this time it’s our resident nutcase River sounding the call for universal atheism, and Book serving as the Alan Colmes strawman to her arguments. An opportunity for Whedon to actually explore the themes of religious faith in the light of its own illogical conclusions is smothered by his need to expound his opinion as the only one worth hearing.
So, this episode also goes on about a supposed budding romance between the ship’s mechanic and Mangina. Of course, Mangina’s about as smooth an operator as…well, as I am, so he manages to bag Kaylee and then sufficiently piss her off enough that their relationship toward the end is left to interpretation (or fulfillment in future episodes). I guess it’s a workable sub-plot, but it seems shoehorned in, since the two characters have hardly had much opportunity to get to know each other on-screen since the series began.
What grinds my gears, though, is that I still have yet to receive a reason to care about the cast. The characters range from infuriating (Meathead, Mangina, Nutcase) to just plain boring (Shuttle-Whore, Mal, Reverend Colmes). There doesn’t seem to be any larger themes behind their travels other than to create chaos and steal from the governments of all these different planets they visit. It’s quickly becoming repetitive as well as disheartening. There’s no impetus to empathize with the crew at all, period. On the surface, they’re cold-blooded outlaws who are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. When you dig deeper…they’re still cold-blooded outlaws who are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way. The only difference is that sometimes they engage in that aforementioned witty banter that’ll have you rolling down the aisles!
An amusing thing that I hadn’t realized before now is that this series single-handedly ended the careers of the entire main cast except Fillion, who now stars on the ABC series Castle. Rightfully so, c0nsidering he’s the best actor on the show by a huge margin. The curse of Seinfeld has got nothing on the curse of Firefly. Gina Torres has had one supporting role on a show that didn’t last one year. Alan Tudyk, whose acting I praised last episode, has had nothing but voice-acting roles and bit parts since 2002. Morena Baccarin has suffered the same fate. Adam Baldwin is on Chuck and still chewing entire sets of scenery, but before that he was more-or-less out of work. Jewel Staite can’t find work outside of the Syfy Channel backwater. Sean Maher’s been hit especially hard, having failed to land even one role lasting longer than one episode anywhere. I knew Summer Glau from Sarah Connor Chronicles before I knew her as Nutcase, and that show got terminated toot-sweet. Old Ron Glass got his first role in three years in Death at a Funeral. Joss Whedon still gets work, but none of his shows since Firefly has lasted longer than two seasons. Despite the claims of “rampant success,” this series hindered the careers of everyone involved in it.
I will continue my adventures in shit-tastic Firefly-land next week. Stay safe, kiddies.
Oh, and Devin McCourty better be a damn good corner.
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.
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.
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.
I went and saw James Cameron’s Avatar yesterday evening with Jennifer. That movie is quite the visual odyssey, and it shows exactly how far movies and special effects have come from just a few years ago. In 2005, Star Wars Episode III was raved about as the pinnacle of CG achievement. Avatar blows that right out of the water. And despite the similarities to other movies like Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas, it stands on its own as a marvelous and beautiful piece of cinema. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. If you don’t go and see it in theatres, you’re missing out. This was a movie meant to be enjoyed in the darkness of a theatre with 3D glasses and a tub of popcorn (or in my case, a box of M&Ms).
I’ll try to squeeze in time between football and homework to get the Discovery review done. Don’t be too razzed if it doesn’t happen, though.
“I was standing on a wall, feeling ten feet tall…”
As you can probably plainly see, I’ve made a few changes around here. The blog has a new look and feel to it, a new name and a new purpose.
After much deliberation and thought over the course of the last several months…I’ve decided to request a discharge from the Delayed Entry Program of the United States Navy. I was hinting at the possibility when I discussed the DEP meeting yesterday. I really didn’t want to go. I walked into my only class today, American National Government, and walked out with my mind made up: I want to finish college before I begin to build a career. I realized that if I joined the Navy the chances that I’ll be able to come back to college with the same amount of financial aid would be slim. Even the GI Bill might not be enough to offset the loss in financial aid and the boost in tuition costs that would occur after six years.
I’ll be sending the DEP discharge request to the recruiting station tomorrow. Before anyone retorts: yes, I understand that I should have been absolutely sure I wanted to be a Sailor before I signed on the dotted line. At the time, I thought I was. Then my habits and personality caught up with me, and I realized that not even the promise of a military career could help me shake them. I’m still a geek at heart, one that loves having lots of free time and has good prospects on the horizon. If I play my cards right, I should graduate with a below-average level of debt. I don’t really need the military and, with so many other people sorely wanting to get in that have no other great options, the military doesn’t really need me. It’s a fair exchange, I think.
I won’t say I’m not embarrassed or regretful that I’m not going to see this through. That would be a lie. I’m definitely not looking forward to meeting with the (probably rightfully angry) recruiters, but what can I say? I’m doing what I think is right for me and my fiancee. I’m not entirely sure I would have survived the top secret clearance check because my father fled the country five years ago. Having family members outside of the United States can put the brakes on a TS clearance approval.
The first person I told the news to (besides Jennifer, of course) was my friend Aaron. He wasn’t dismayed at all. He thought I was making the right choice. In his own words: “You are a smart, smart man.” It’s the best reaction I could have hoped for. I’m not entirely sure he’s right.
So, I now turn my attention to the next order of business: what do I do with this blog, now that the “Sailor” part has been removed? I guess we’ll find out as we go. I intend to move forward with my dominion over this little corner of the internet. I hope you’ll continue to follow me as I weave through life. I’ve got the biggest day of my life coming in less than two months. I can hardly believe it. If you’d have told me in March of 2008 that I’d be married two years later, I’d have thought you were nuts. That’s something to look forward to around here. I’m still reviewing games, as well! The Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery review is my project for this weekend, I promise!
On with the show. Oh, and if you have any better names for the new incarnation of the blog…by all means, please share them. I think we can do better than “Full-Time Gamer,” don’t you?