May 31, 2009

E3: Games I'm Excited About

E3 is a gamer's haven because it constantly is not without any news of some kind of great thing, be it a console, a game, or just an earnings report. With just about 16 hours (as of this writing) before the new, reborn E3 starts, I just felt like listing down the games I'm excited about that will appear in this year's E3.

In no particular order:
1) The Beatles: Rock Band
To my surprise, I'm kind of excited to learn about what the game has to offer- basically the setlist. What fan favorites and unreleased recordings are there to be heard in this psychedelic spin-off?

2) Brutal Legend
Fine, it's been revealed a long time ago, but despite that, it's still gonna be rockin' in the show. I was pretty damn skeptical at first, what with the "using your axe as a weapon" premise and all, but after reading positive previews from various sources, I'm pretty excited for this game. Even cooler is that it uses album art from various metal bands to create looks for boss characters, backgrounds, etc..

3) God of War III
My lack of a PS3 doesn't really have to factor into the equation for me to be excited about this game- the series is that good. Now Kratos has to fight the freaking Titans, so obviously a lot of epic stuff is gonna be shown in E3.

4) Bayonetta
A vixen is gonna hunt people down and kill them with her... hair? From the creators of Devil May Cry, this action game looks just as frantic and just as crazy as its demonic counterpart- which is a good thing.

5) Final Fantasy XIII
Now that this game is getting to the 360, it's also likely that it's gonna get ported over to the PC- which is probably the primary cause of excitement for me because I don't own neither a 360 nor a PS3. And hey, this is Final Fantasy, and it's been in development hell for far too long now. Maybe a release date will suffice?

6) New Mario or Zelda game
The Nintendo fanbase has been calling out- and it's time Nintendo got the door. This E3 most likely has at least one of these games up their sleeves- if not, they also have Star Fox, or Kid Icarus to show, among others. Last year's E3 was such a disappointment for Nintendo that they'll surely do something to make everyone less bitter about it.

May 30, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: Matt Lauer Can Suck It Edition

Getting lost in another time dimension with Will Ferrell is probably gonna either have to be funny or just annoying. I don't think anyone can really have both.

Land of the Lost
Based on the TV series of the same name, Land of the Lost stars Will Ferrell as ridiculed scientist Rick Marshall, and he believes that time warps do exist. Of course, proving they do is gonna be hard, but that all changes when he and his crew gets sucked into one. Quite obviously, all sorts of stuff happen, and they'll have to fight for survival albeit "humorously".

It's a bit hard to determine as to whether this movie will bomb or not, because it has the equal opportunity to do both. Being unoriginal doesn't really help the movie, because it seems to just follow Journey to the Center of the Earth's template of "go and explore a scientific discovery and get back to Earth but only after you deal with dinosaurs and the like" (and you can just as easily see Brendan Fraser in the lead role).

Perhaps your money will be spent better elsewhere unless you watch with family, and by family I mean with your 10-year-old (or ADD-ridden) siblings.

My Life In Ruins
Written by and starring the writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding Nia Vardalos, this comedy has her in the shoes of a character named Georgia. Georgia has lost her zest for life because she thinks it has no direction and thus decides to become a tour guide.

Eh, looks like all those other romantic comedies. Nothing much special except Greece.
Well, there's always a chance of it becoming an unprecedented hit, I guess. We'll just have to wait and see.

The Hangover
Getting a hangover in Greece would probably be a lot better than having one in Vegas, but for these guys it isn't the case.

Doug's about to get married, so it's par for the course that he get a bachelor party the day before. Unfortunately, they drink one bottle of beer too many and end up with a disaster they have to sort out before returning to the wedding. For instance, a 6-month old baby, Doug getting married to someone else, and the police hunting them down for a Holocaust ring, among other instances.

Whose baby is it, and how will they get back in time for the wedding?

Early reviews of this movie have been quite positive, so there might be something about it that the director did right.

May 23, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: To Hell and Back Up Edition

Usually, I get hella excited every time Pixar releases a new movie, but this time, I'm a bit... "weirded out" by the venerable studio's new quirky creation...

Basically, it involves a grandpa named Carl who wants to go on a journey. Initially it was supposed to be with his wife, but since she died, he's gonna go alone... or so he thought.

Russell, a by-the-book boy scout he knows scout stuff but can't do them, accidentally goes with Carl to a ton of places and they meet a cast of quirky characters along the way.

How the hell did Carl get his house to fly? He's a balloon salesman! -facepalm-

I've been skeptical about a Pixar project before though, so I don't think Pixar will do wrong.
Notably, it's the first Pixar film to be made in 3D- as in they made the "with glasses" version first and made the "without goggles" version last. The 3 Toy Story's are actually gonna be getting the same treatment. And yes, that's three Toy Story's.

But if you thought a balloon salesman using balloons to lift his house is overkill, check out this old lady in...

Drag Me To Hell
Sam Raimi's taking a break from Spiderman and going back to his expertise- horror. Of course, the man's produced some horror films during his time with the superhero, but this is his return to directing them.

The story to this movie alludes to America's current economic situation by involving an old mystical woman who isn't granted an extension to her mortgage by banker Christine Brown. The old woman goes on overdrive and curses her until she gets, well, dragged to hell for all eternity.

Quite frankly, it seems rather creepy in the trailer, although there is quite an assortment of horror cliches hanging around. You know, bugs going in her mouth, dead people sleeping beside her, hands groping her while she's going to hell...

But if the claims of critics ring true for all those other critics, then it could possibly be worth a watch.

You know what? I'm gonna keep tabs on this.

The Brothers Bloom
I think the last time I saw Adrien Brody was in the Oscars, and he looked like he just woke up in a tropical island. I just assumed that he had the look for his role in this movie, but apparently not.

Moving on though, this movie involves 2 brothers who are also con artists. The woman they seek to con is Rachel Weisz's character who is somehow a recluse who collects hobbies, which is a hobby in itself.

Brody's character actually wants out of the business but his brother, Mark Ruffalo's character drags him back for "one last job". What madness will occur next?

I have a feeling that this will also involve Brody falling in love with Weisz's character and then he'll tell the whole truth and then they'll have a falling out and then bla bla bla bla, though. For all it's worth, it looks fun anyway.

May 21, 2009

Reality Shows Ruin Lives

DISCLAIMER: The reality shows featured here are not necessarily bad. Some of them I don't even watch. At the end of the day, sarcasm remains.

The biggest trend that is still 'in' in TV land is the genre of reality. As you'd know, these kinds of shows typically feature either nobodys or celebrities being hounded by cameras 24/7, and they may even go through processes of elimination or exist as a social experiment. Whatever the case, there is something in common with the lot of them, and it's the fact that it ruins lives for nearly every party involved- even the winner's (or celebrity subject's).

Some examples (in a handy numbered format):
1. American Idol- One of the biggest examples of lives being ruined is this show. Kelly Clarkson just put out 'My Life Would Suck Without You' which is a tragedy in itself, Ruben Studdard And Taylor Hicks are failures, Fantasia got stuck in Broadway and David Cook didn't get to be with his brother when the man died (my condolences) because he had to catch the red eye to the Philippines.

2. Jon and Kate Plus 8- Another high-profile divorce is in the works supposedly, and that might be because Jon and Kate the reality show made Jon and Kate the ordinary humans into Jon and Kate the greedy reality corporation. Now I suspect that Jon and Kate would still be so much in love if their sextuplets weren't so high-profile. Instead, they're on the verge of emotional ruin-- think of the kids!

3. Newlyweds- Possibly a spiritual predecessor to Jon and Kate minus the kids, this might be the direction where Jon and Kate might go. I didn't get to watch this show, but I didn't see Tony Romo anywhere in the commercials back in the day. Wonder what Nick Lachey is doing now?

4. Dancing With The Stars- The unexpected ABC hit doesn't exactly give those stars any more of a star power push after the fact than when they started the season- at least in my eyes. The point of this competition is rather lost on me, and so is the point of it's Filipino counterpart, 'Shall We Dance' (or whatever the hell they renamed it). Additionally, Cheryl Burke is just gonna be stuck in this show forever, trust me. By this point, I'd actually expect her to be in some other project now.

5. The Hills- This show brought Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag to fame; they are the biggest attention seekers in recent memory, arguably. Need proof to the claim? They are/were in a honeymoon. In Mexico. With face masks. 'Nuff said. (Basically, this renders the lives of entertainment show viewers ruined because there are bigger fish to fry)

6. The Bachelor- While it may be a bit of a long shot, the bachelors who eliminate girls might encounter one of them in a quest for revenge. Hey, it could happen.

Quite frankly, these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are probably more reality show disasters that possess a comparably bigger magnitude than the ones featured, but who knows?

May 20, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Peggle

Ahh, Peggle. It has wasted nights upon nights upon nights of my life. Now, the really popular Pop-Cap casual game has been ported to the iPhone to relatively good results.

So when you first press the Peggle icon, you'll see, as usual, the Pop-Cap logo, then the loading screen.
When you press "Touch to Play", you'll once again see a familiar friend asking you what your name is. After typing in your name, you'll see the main menu. Not exactly manly now...
Basically, "Adventure" mode is the primary quest of the game. You'll go through more than, I don't know, 40, 45 stages before you finish the game.

Typically, you'll see a so-called "Peggle master" who will aid you into finishing the game. They'll give you tips about their magic power before you start playing.
Now, here's a typical level. The objective, basically, is to be able to hit all the orange pegs using your balls. You'll have 10 balls at your disposal, but the "bucket" found at the bottommost part will grant you a "Free Ball" when you get to time your shot right.
Controls are pretty solid. You can just point your finger to where you want to shoot the ball, or you can use the "roller" prominently featured on the right side to make more precise shots. The "Fire" button will let you shoot that ball.

And for even more precision, you can double-tap the screen to activate the so-called "Zoom Cam".
When you get to shoot the last orange peg, the camera will zoom in and the game will go slow-mo to make you excited. It works, you know? When you do hit the last orange peg (because sometimes the ball won't hit it due to physics and such), "Ode to Joy" will go playing in the background to proclaim your victory. We will now engage the "Extreme Fever" mode.
Basically, "Extreme Fever" summons various holes onto the bottom part, these holes give you various bonus points which range from 10,000 to 100,000. Depends on which hole the ball will shoot into...
When the ball finally gets into the bonus hole, the "Fever Score" is computed and added to your total score.
But what if you run out of balls before even getting to the last orange peg, you ask? Well, you'll have to restart the whole level again of course!
So you may be wondering about that "Magic power" that the "Peggle masters" have. Well, if you hit the green ball, you'll be able to know what power they hold. It may be some magic power that lets you double the number of balls playing, or maybe it could be a power that lets your next ball become a fireball so that it can burn through the pegs. Purple pegs are the ones that offer higher points than blue ones, although its position changes every turn.

There's life after the adventure mode though. You can go into the "Challenges" mode so you can take on the various (hard) objectives you have to observe whilst hitting all the orange pegs (although you'll have to finish Adventure mode to unlock that)...
...and there's also the "Duel" mode where two players can battle each other in a level you finished in "Adventure" mode.
If you want to revisit a certain level and try to top your score, the "Quick Play" mode will get you there. You can only play the levels you've finished in "Adventure" mode though.
But what if you get a call or your battery is getting drained by Peggle? Well, you can just press the "Home" button and Peggle will auto-save your game, which is a really nice touch.
Not all is pleasant in this port, however, because for one thing, it runs like it's on an emulator or something. There are times when you press the "Fire" button and there'll be a few seconds of lag before it does fire, and there are times when "Extreme Fever" happens and the frames start to skip. Oh, and when you reach a certain "Peggle master" called Master Hu, get ready to wait 10 seconds before the owl's magic power comes into effect! And how about the background music, guys? It just disappeared altogether!

I don't want Peggle Parallels version, I want Peggle iPhone! Pop-Cap obviously needs to address some performance issues, but despite technical quirks, it's still the same addicting ball-shooting game every casual (and hardcore) gamer should have. It has unprecedented depth, but it's so simple that any mindless shot is okay.

Rating: 7.5/10

May 18, 2009

Podcasts on iTunes: To the Podmobile!

We've found the perfect podcast, we've managed them to our liking, and now we put it on our iPod.

One of the biggest draws of iTunes is the really good podcast management options provided for your iPod. You can handpick all the stuff you want in your iPod so that the next time you plug it in your computer, all the new stuff will go inside it automatically- effectively wiping out all the ones you've finished listening to/watching.

1) The first step to setting up podcasts on your iPod is to plug it onto the USB port of your computer.

2) iTunes will automatically open and the thing you'll have to do is click the name of your iPod under the "Devices" submenu.

All the information of your iPod will be shown on the right side.

3) Press the "Podcasts" tab found on top.

4) Set Podcast sync settings
All your podcasts will be shown when you click "Podcasts". By default, it's set to "All Podcasts"...
...but if you want to handpick the podcasts you want synced to your iPod, press the radio button "Selected podcasts:".
You can check all the podcasts you want to put into your iPod in this manner.

Still, if you noticed, you can once again set the parameters on how iTunes will manage podcasts on your iPod.

By default, it's actually set to "All", but I prefer "5 most recent new" so that your iPod will be spared storage space. There are actually quite a few options that you could set, and you'll be able to see them by clicking the drop-down box.
You can set the iPod to keep all your Podcasts regardless of whether it was played or unplayed, make it keep the more recent episodes, make it keep the more recently downloaded episodes that have yet to be played, or make it keep the podcasts marked as new.

There's quite a bit of a gray area here, to tell you the truth. I mean, "unplayed" and "new" is rather redundant because if a podcast is marked as a "new" one, it's also gonna make the iPod think that it has yet to be played! The former two ("All" and "most/least recent") are a bit more understandable as "All" lets you keep all downloaded episodes of a podcast in your iPod, and "# most recent" lets your iPod keep the more recent episodes of a podcast regardless of whether it was played or unplayed.

I'd prefer "# most recent" because it will dump at least one episode from your iPod if the podcast has pushed (and iTunes has downloaded) a new episode of it, but it will also keep the episodes that have already been played, just as long as the criterion (number of recent episodes) is met.

Now that the settings have been adjusted to fit your preference, you can click that "Apply" button on the lower-right corner.
If you wish to undo the changes you've made, click "Cancel".

Of course, you'll have to check if your iPod has enough space to fit your iPod, so you can adjust the criteria accordingly.

But let's say you've just finished downloading a podcast episode but your iPod has been connected the whole time. Obviously, iTunes won't automatically sync it when the podcast finishes downloading so you'll have to make the iPod sync!

Again, just go to the information page of your iPod under the Devices category and click the "Sync" button found on the lower right corner.
iTunes will bombard you with all sorts of loading bars...
Just wait until the prompt below appears.
The podcast has been moved after that!

Now that you've transferred your podcasts to go with you, you can move along, sailor. Just remember this though, not all iPod's eat video podcasts, and not all video podcasts go inside iPod's. If ever you encounter a stubborn video podcast that won't cooperate with your iPod, just right click the podcast's episode and click "Convert for iPod".

Five Things Apple Screwed Up

I switched to Mac 3 years ago, and it has done a world of good to me. No more crappy Windows viruses (although there are Mac trojans, which are different and come from torrents), not as much crashing and burning, and awesome software out-of-the box to boot.

But I'm not here to shower praises on the Mac nor Apple again, I'm here to make some small, subtle, personal issues about the company that did it all (or to the other people who use the "it came from Linux" argument, much of it).

1) The Trash has no "Restore"
One of the best things about the Windows Recycle Bin which I've long taken for granted was the "Restore Deleted Item" option. What did this option do? It put a deleted item back to where it belonged before it was even deleted.

The Mac doesn't have this option right now, which makes it weird since past versions had the counterpart "Put Away". Instead, it only has "Empty".

2) Quicktime + iTunes
I have issues with both of these apps. Why are they bundled together though? Well, iTunes is dependent on Quicktime as much as an addict is dependent on drugs/alcohol/The Sims.

I think Apple was going for a "seamless" approach like the iLife suite, but the only reason that iTunes is dependent on Quicktime that I can see is that Apple didn't want to build the video playback feature inside of iTunes. As a result, one will be required to download Quicktime then iTunes. Otherwise, the video part of iTunes wouldn't even work at all!

But let's just say that downloading two 60MB apps ain't so bad because of a really fast connection. I'm fine with that, but the annoyances go beyond that.

Why is it that iTunes (and Front Row) can view video in Full Screen but Quicktime can't without paying 30 dollars? Why is it that Quicktime has to have the user pay 30 dollars for such a basic feature? If Quicktime were offered for free with this basic feature enabled, there wouldn't even be any need for trouble.

And why the hell does iTunes have to be such a resource hog? Music playback shouldn't be so CPU-draining.

3) (Old) MacBook chargers
The build quality of the MacBook charger I'm using right now is just crap. It's unnecessarily huge, the prongs fall off (and break into two) easily, and as a result, no one seems to have the courage to plug it in the outlet anymore. It always induces a lot of sparks, it always crackles, and it even falls off by itself at times!
The worst thing about it is that it has to cost sooooooooo much to replace (which is why it hasn't even been replaced... yet), as in P4000+ for a plug!

Might as well use that money for a shuffle!

4) Keyboard Shortcuts
While a lot of the OS is relatively user-friendly, the keyboard shortcuts that are shown within the menus make it rather counter-intuitive.

Imagine having to decipher hieroglyphics without any knowledge of the process... it's like that on a Mac.

The workaround to this is to simply add the symbols to the keys themselves! For a few months, I thought that up arrow symbol was just the Up button when it turned out to be the Shift button!

5) iChat and Mail
OK, I'm cheating because not only can't I think of a fifth issue, it involves the stubborn-ness of many companies. I can tell you that setting up Yahoo! or Windows Live accounts through these apps can be a pain, though.

In Mail, Windows Live is compatible because it offers free POP3, but Yahoo! Mail users have to pay for a Plus account to be able to sync to Mail. Somehow, it's a bit of a screw-up for Apple because they let free Yahoo users access their mail in the iPhone's version of Mail, but not in OS X's!

iChat requires a bit of a laborious process to make it work with Yahoo and MSN accounts. I've tried it a dozen times but it never works for me! I'd like to be able to use much of the cool features it offers if only Apple made iChat support Yahoo and Windows Live in the first place!

And these are my major annoyances with Apple hardware and software, but I can't say that I'm not grateful for being able to actually get a taste of the world outside Windows despite deficiencies.

May 16, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: Where's Ahnuld Edition

If Arnold's buttocks was the reason you wanted to watch the next Terminator, then you must have issues. Not only should you know that it lacks the present Governator, but you simply just have issues.

Termintor Salvation
The first Terminator to not have Arnold, the second to not have James Cameron at the helm and the third to have a big-ass budget, Terminator Salvation will by no means haul a load of dough all the same.

Anyway, it's set in 2018 with Christian Bale f-bombing his way against Skynet in a desolate world ruled by the organization and its Terminators. He's not alone, in fact, Christian Bale as John Connor is the leader of the resistance against the Skynet tyranny. Obviously, with a director like McG involved, it will probably have a load more action than there will be story. Just some proof to that McG claim: he's the director of Charlie's Angels.

Despite that, I'm still gonna want to watch this- and in a theater, although personally, I might not be able to do just that. If the film gets what it wants- which is money- then the new gang will surely be back. With or without at least a cameo from Arnold.

If Terminator was a preview at the future (although it's true that it also involves time travel), then this next movie will let you look at the past as you would in a museum... only more animated.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
I have yet to watch the high-grossing predecessor, but I do know that my sister didn't really like it, and the critics didn't really like it either.

Again, it builds up on the first movie's premise of museum figures coming to life. Not only is that logically idiotic since it's not actually the real historical figures in a cryogenic state and just plastic replicas, but it's also just a cash-in... an attempted repeat performance at getting more money.

How they got so many great actors and actresses is just beyond me. True, Ben Stiller is also a great guy, but he's only at his best when he's the director of the movie. The real surprise here is the inclusion of Amy Adams, Ricky Gervais, and Hank Azaria (although he's only great because of his voicework in the Simpsons)! Just... wow. Obviously, they used the box office returns to make a bigger, and questionably better film.

If history ain't your thing, then a spoof might make your day... or not.

Dance Flick
While dance flicks are truly bad and worthy of parodies, the Wayans Brothers' inclusion simply squashes all hope of a truly great parody. Yes, White Chicks was a guilty pleasure of mine, but after watching the trailer... I didn't really laugh much. This is the kind of humor my brothers would like though.

May 15, 2009

Sims 3 First Expansion Pack Details

While The Sims 3 is getting ready to reproduce about a hundred million copies for retail, details about the first expansion pack have already been purportedly leaked.
There is yet a name for the expansion pack, but one of the alleged major points of the new expansion pack involves a 1st person perspective that can only be unlocked by those who pick the "Master Criminal" and/or "Evil" dreams and personalities respectively.

This enables those kinds of Sims to not only steal candy and other invaluable items in first person view, but to also be able to carjack ala Grand Theft Auto, kill other Sims and wield weapons in the first person view.

Other additions not relative to the first person view include the ability to create gangster mobs, hire hookers through the phone or through Craigslist in your computer, gain access to secret underground lots and hideouts (or create one yourself), and do drugs.

Those who pick the "Insane" personality have a bonus though: they can unlock doomsday machines!
These new additions will not only bring more realism to the simulation series, but also bring in a new slew of hardcore gamers because of the now dangerously jacked-up rating. As if sexual activities implied by the "Try for Baby" option wasn't thin a line enough!
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