February 27, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: Crazy, Meet Crazy.

Starting off with the theme of crazy, last week's The Crazies is surprisingly garnering a lot of critical praise, and I mean enough praise to warrant more than 80% on the Rotten Tomatoes Critical Consensus. Also likely to be crazy are the sales for the new John Lloyd-Bea Alonzo movie Miss You Like Crazy. Now that you've probably witnessed the life and times of the man who leveled-up (...not that I have), it can be a bit of a palate-cleanser to see a new Tim Burton movie.

Alice in Wonderland
One would be crazy to write off an Alice in Wonderland remake when someone like Tim Burton is on the helm. Everyone knows the classic Disney flick, as it is what people think are the definitive visual representations of Lewis Carrol's confounding world, so it would be crazy if Disney were to produce something that can be labeled as just a remake.

If you haven't already watched the trailer, you'll see some things that just don't add up to what one would call a remake. Putting the puzzle pieces together would reveal that the movie is actually a bit of sequel, starring Mia Wasikowska as an older Alice who goes back to Wonderland to overthrow the Red Queen (played by Helena Bonham Carter) once and for all in an epic battle.

Since the first concept art was revealed, the movie has gained much buzz for the fitting imagery that was drawn for the film, giving it an overall dark look. Now that the release draws dangerously close, I'm feeling increasingly indifferent. Maybe I'm dulling my expectations just in case the movie disappoints, but it's probably because it's Tim Burton. And with him comes the usual slew of actors: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, the works... thankfully, Mia Wasikowska is a relative unknown and this may well be her big break, and Anne Hathaway is there instead of Alan Rickman (...not that I think Alan Rickman can play the White Witch).

Aside from this movie though, well, it looks like there are more cops this week, but this time, it's set in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn's Finest
Featuring a bit of a relatively respectable ensemble cast, this New York cop drama involves the lives of four policemen, each with his own agenda. They all look pretty adequately three-dimensional, except maybe for Richard Gere's character, but that said, this is a trailer. It's not supposed to show all of a character's dimensions.

I think it looks pretty decent, somewhat complex, a bit gritty, despite that it also reminds me of a TV-movie. If it turns out to be a pretty good drama, good, if it turns out to be disappointing, well, not much of a loss for me.

February 25, 2010

Metroid: Other M surprises

Last E3, one of the biggest highlights of the Nintendo conference was the epic trailer that got Nintendo fans in a tizzy: Metroid: Other M. The opening sequence revealing the developers was all it needed to gain an absurd amount of hype, and that's because it was Team Ninja on the helm of this adventure, probably with a bit of Nintendo assistance as well.

Today on the Nintendo World Summit, the big N opened up a brief demo of this much-anticipated third-person/first-person shooter hybrid, and quite frankly, a lot of the design choices that were made are quite shocking.

The previews refer to the control scheme as "extremely different". Basically, the controls do not rely on the Nunchuk to work; you'll have to use the Wiimote sidewards ala New Super Mario Bros. Wii. However, the game comes with a few more tricks up its sleeve.

I'm sure Metroid Prime fans will be glad to know that the game does have a bit of a first-person perspective. You can point the Wii remote at the screen and the game will shift from side-scrolling third-person mode, to the first-person shooter mode where you can accurately assign targets for your lethal shots. This game also has the Search mode which can be initiated through pressing the B button.

Also, by tilting the Wiimote upward (like an umbrella), there seems to be a "concentration mode" which replenishes Samus' supply of missiles and a bit of health. That seems quite weird for me, since it might render Samus immobile especially during a fight, but we'll see what happens when the game actually comes out with its final build.

I'm not sure the Wiimote's d-pad is the best way to control a fully-rendered 3D game, but from what I've read, the controls are pretty workable. Frankly, the thing that will truly matter is the exploration. If it offers much exploration and unlockables, as well as some pretty epic boss battles, then I'm all for the game.

It is set for a pretty exciting launch date of June, but until then, there's Super Mario Galaxy 2 to hold me off in the month of May, maybe some Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands if it actually manages to be any good. The art direction seems to make the game look much better than Rival Swords.

And didn't I mention Red Steel 2? How about Sin and Punishment: Star Successor? Damn, that one looks good.

February 24, 2010

Apps Weekly: Ragdoll Blaster + Alice in Wonderland

I like ragdolls, as attested by the hilariousness that Stair Dismount offers as well as the cuteness of LittleBigPlanet. This one is no different.

Ragdoll Blaster
Backflip Studios

Simplicity is the name of the game of the physics-driven ragdoll blasting game Ragdoll Blaster. It doesn't boast fancy graphics, nor accelerometer controls, it's just touch and aim.

Or so you think.

At first, you'll find yourself tapping wherever because of the game's easiness, but the game quickly introduces new elements that make everything harder, and you'll have to rely on your brains to estimate the force and direction that the ragdolls will be launched at. Simply enough, if you hit the target, you get to the next level.

However, you must get prepared to hold another finger on that reset button, because you'll find yourself pressing it a lot through the game's plentiful levels.

And for $1.99, you'll probably find a lot of fun in this conveniently light package. It doesn't offer loading screens, it automatically saves through every level, and if you relaunch the app you'll find the level you were playing in loaded almost instantly.

It's actually a bit of a no-brainer to download this game, but a visually improved sequel is coming out, so you might want to contemplate first.

Rating: 8/10

On the month of March, Tim Burton's much-anticipated Alice in Wonderland adaptation-slash-sequel is going to be released, and while there is a Wii version in the works, the iPhone game version is already out on the App Store, and it looks to have much variety and puzzles included within. Its full name is actually Alice in Wonderland - An Adventure Beyond the Mirror and instead of boasting 3D visuals like Gameloft's Avatar, the game makes for an interesting puzzle-platformer in sidescroller form.

The game also seems to promise much variety in its puzzles; you can rotate your iDevice to see a new perspective in a puzzle...

...or you can change between several characters. The app description says you can change between Alice, the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, or the Mad Hatter. Not only are they there for the sake of being there, each character has their own unique abilities. The White Rabbit freezes time, the Cheshire Cat controls the opacity of an item and make them disappear or reappear accordingly, the March Hare uses Telekinesis and the Mad Hatter transforms objects from other worlds. From the sound of it, the game is actually shaping up very nicely.

But of course, you can't have a movie tie-in without actually giving out some promotional materials in-game. Curiously enough, you can use the iPhone's GPS and go to a specific location, like the Disneyland Resort, to unlock an item. True, the trip won't be worth it because you can readily download these things from the Internet, but it's nice to see a creative way to use the GPS in a game nevertheless.

The reception has been warm, and I can't particularly wait to get my fingers on this game. It retails for 5 bucks on the App Store.

February 23, 2010

The Princess and the Frog Review

The Princess and the Frog
Disney Pictures, Disney Animation Studios
Directed by Ron Clements

Feel-good. Toe-tapping. Something for everyone.

Those are three descriptions you rarely see in a Disney movie (of course, excluding Pixar) anymore, and it's such a refreshing feeling to see Disney going back to that formula once more.

When Disney announced the demise of its 2D animation studio in favor of CGI, there wasn't much mourning; Home on the Range, Brother Bear... those traditional animated movies were not matching up to Disney's better work in the 90s, and that decline of quality was rubbing people the wrong way. In contrast, Shrek was breaking the bank, and Pixar's movies consistently made decent returns as well, so obviously, Disney Animation Studios had to shut down to make room for the extremely brief "CGI era" that Disney ushered in. In that brief tenure, Disney churned out some decent movies, and quite a few stinkers. Of all the good ones, especially the John Lasseter-supervised Bolt, there were a couple of bad ones to match. By then, I was starting to itch for Disney to return to its roots, so when this movie was announced, I have to admit, I was both skeptical and hopeful. And so Disney pulled a Jay-Z, opening up the 2D animation studio once more and hiring back the people that were instrumental to its success in the 90s.

Succinctly, all I have to say is, welcome back.

Featuring Disney's first black princess, The Princess and the Frog is about a humble workaholic Tiana who aspires to work hard to earn enough to open up her own restaurant, something her father wanted to do as well until his sudden death. However, she gets looked down on by her colleagues, as well as, in a not-so-subtle shade of racism, the realtors in charge of the property she wants to buy. Her friend Lotte, a Southern belle who's also the daughter of the town's richest man Big Daddy, wishes to marry Prince Naveen from Maledonia, but things go wrong when all sorts of Voodoo occur when the curious prince and his aide visit the Shadow Man, and this is when the movie pretty much sets up its adventure.

Like any good film, it needs to establish a world, and while I did find myself wanting more of that, the film does a great job in establishing the town's personality, accentuated further by the time period's sensibilities. Jazz music will constantly be heard all over the place, and soon you see more of what New Orleans has to offer. You can feel the atmosphere of every setting that the movie is set in, hell, you could even smell the gumbo or the sea in some places.

The introduction of our main character is also some of the best sequences I've seen in an animated film, as it shows some complexities in the character that more mature audiences will be able to appreciate. However, it would be wrong to expect the entire film to have the same consistent greatness, but in spite of that, Princess and the Frog is still a film that can be enjoyed by many.

There are some genuinely clever lines, quite a bit of the jokes, visual or otherwise, do work, there are moments that subtly tackle on some rather dark subject matter, and the film's morals are both quite whimsical and realistic. "You can wish on a star, but you need hard work to back that up," that's actually quite nice to gain from a modern fairy tale.

Still, there are a few things that block the movie from greatness. The music, while excellent, is not too memorable, some of the supporting characters are two-dimensional, and there are moments in the story that are absolute fluff (and by the end, it becomes all too predictable and uninventive). Maybe I'm nitpicking, but the film also feels rushed by the end. A bit of the resolution in the conflict could've been more inventive, and a bit of the characters could've been more fleshed out, especially Lotte. Also, it could've helped if the movie lingered more on the specific character death it had, the emotion that the moment already had is just skipped Avatar-style and is immediately made into something more symbolically happy. Perhaps it's sugarcoating for the kids, but I'm sure that a bit more of that scene could've granted the movie that much more spirit.

That said, it's a film that's easy to appreciate, maybe a bit nostalgic, maybe a bit shallow, but it's all pure fun and creativity from start to finish, all complimented with timeless handdrawn animation. Maybe a few moments come out cheesy, even predictable, but they're all part of Disney's return to form, and hopefully, it will all lead to a new Golden Age in Disney animation.

Rating: 8.5/10

February 20, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: WATER IS EVIL

Biological weapons of mass destructions aren't anything new, and if there's anything we can learn just by watching movies, water's solvent properties will lead the downfall of the human race.

The Crazies
Loosely based on George A. Romero's underrated horror film, The Crazies is set in a town that experiences a sudden plane crash, and the water supply becomes infected with a mysterious substance. People who drink it don't die, instead, they become crazy psychopaths who just kill for the sake of killing.

I can't really say that anyone can top Romero, but the movie looks okay, at best. The trailer is relatively spoileriffic as far as footage goes, but I have to admit, there were some promisingly "scary" moments. Dammit, it probably would've been more compelling if the trailer were to be cut to the footage that had the song Mad World alone. Scrap the speaking parts, the excess audio, all of that. That would've been some trailer.

Now you'll notice that this movie does have a few cops, and despite the differences in genre, the next movie opening this week is actually composed of cops as well.

The punny title is pretty funny, and Tracy Morgan and Bruce Willis have surprising moments of chemistry. And really, in a buddy-cop movie, that's what really matters.

Still, I can't help but feel skeptical about this new Kevin Smith movie. Will it hold up to his best work?

Based on the trailer alone, the movie will feel pretty frantic, it will have its moments, but it will probably be forgettable. People keep saying that the red-band trailer (uncensored) fares better for the movie, but I have yet to watch that one.

Also, Sean William Scott sucks here. See the "stop repeating me" part. It falls terribly flat.

February 18, 2010

Windows Mobile is dead

Remember when I said Nokia's Mameo could potentially be the next killer smartphone OS? Well, screw that. Windows Phone 7 is here to stay.

In the wake of the iPhone, Windows Mobile suddenly seemed to become some of the most unwieldy user experiences ever put to a phone. But today's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona had Microsoft showing off its radically redefined OS. Like Windows 7 for the PC, Windows Phone 7 makes the Windows name attractive for mobile phones again.

(Of course, that's not to say that "Windows Phone 7" is an attractive name though)

I really love the interface, it seems so playful and alive- maybe moreso than the iPhone. The Start page is centered around what you want, and they are composed of tiles (that can have their colors changed) that give you information at a glance. You can instantly access the functions that matter from that home screen, and you can even pin specific people on it. Meaning that if you want to stalk someone's Facebook status or whatever, you can have instant one-tap access.

Using the same "panoramic" sensibilities of the Zune, the Windows Phone 7's native apps are powered by apps that have multi-layered functions that can be accessed with a simple swipe. While you don't have a sort of "page indicator" like in the iPhone, you do get a small arrow encouraging your finger to swipe to a direction. The redefined Contacts app of the phone, called "People", not only contain the most recent contacts you've dialed, you can also swipe to view all of the contacts, and swipe again to view their latest updates. As of now, the updates are only for Windows Live and Facebook, but I suspect Twitter, maybe even Google Buzz, is in the works.

Even in the Photos section, the Windows Phone 7 focuses very much on the people in your life. It will fetch the latest uploads of your contacts from, yes, Facebook and Windows Live again, and you can comment on those photos right from the get-go. Hell, you can upload your own photos as well with a simple tap.

The killer feature of the Windows Phone 7, however, is probably in the form of Xbox Live. You can see your avatar, your gamerscore, your friends list... you can even play some Windows Phone games or something and your Xbox Live profile will probably be used in these games. This actually makes for less user confusion, I mean, the iPhone has a few Xbox Live style apps in games, but Microsoft's offering is much more centralized and unified. Still, you must also remember that Xbox Live is a paid service.

The Music and Videos app of the phone is likely the entire Zune HD, so to speak. The phone will also be powered by universal Bing search, which can be accessed by a specified Bing button.

The phone will also sync your contacts, mail, etc. wirelessly over Wi-Fi, so there's no need for that USB cord, except for when you want to put music and videos as well, which requires the Zune software. Probably the biggest downside of the new OS is Microsoft's stubbornness to the Mac; basically, Microsoft still doesn't want to expand its market of users by supporting its syncing software with the Mac, and that is simply the biggest shame of all. Still, I'm glad that Microsoft's taking a stricter stance on hardware makers, so they won't be able to rape the user experience. Only limited hardware makers have access to the OS, and skinning is not allowed unlike the Google Android.

Seriously, you have to see a video of this OS to believe it.

The iPhone has forced Microsoft to rethink its mobile strategy, and look what the folks at Redmond have conjured up! Now, it's Apple's turn to impress. Will iPhone 4.0, please stand up?

February 17, 2010

Apps Weekly: Tweetie 2 + Street Fighter IV

It's been quite a while since I've wanted to feature this app, and while I could always set this aside for another week in place of Plants vs. Zombies, which is a much more awesome Pop-Cap port than Peggle, I wanted to finally get to it so it won't have to bother me.

Tweetie 2

Twitter is a huge phenomenon, and like Facebook, developers are constantly churning applications for it left and right. While people can theoretically access the mobile websites for free, nothing beats the speed of a native app. But then you ask, "Why pay for an app that updates the status of a free service?"

When you see the interface and the thought that went into this app though, all those apprehensions will probably vanish.

First, you'll have to set up an account, which is only a matter of typing in the username and password. After that, you'll be able to add even more accounts and switch between them effortlessly.

When you access the username you put in, you'll naturally see the timeline first. Unlike other Twitter apps, though, the timeline scrolls buttery smooth and while it looks as if you can't really do much with the timeline, the app is really more than meets the eye.

In typical iPhone OS 3.0 fashion, scrolling further from the topmost part of the screen reveals a search bar, but when you scroll up further...

It becomes a smart way a refresh. It is in these smart, subtle touches that make using this app so enjoyable.

In addition to its refresh mechanism, Tweetie also gives you a "shortcut" to the core features you'll want to use (basically the things you'll probably do with a specific tweet), and you can access these by swiping a specific tweet from left to right (or the other way round if you prefer). From there, you can easily reply, see the links attached (if any), see the user profile of the person who posted the tweet, star a tweet for later viewing, or see even more features.

When you do press that button at the end, you'll see the options to Retweet (using Twitter's official Retweet feature), Quote Tweet (which reverts to the more traditional Retweet syntax), Post Link to Tweet (which enables you to tweet a link to the tweet you like instead of actually retweeting for a bit of a mystery in your tweet), of course, you can also E-Mail that Tweet, but if it's foreign, you can even Translate it which is very good.

The replies and Direct messages tabs behave as you'd expect, so let's move on to Search view.

Aside from the ability to search the entire public timeline, you can also search for people tweeting nearby. You can also save your Twitter searches to see if they've updated, especially considering the dynamic pace that Twitter goes in. Below is also the list of Trending Topics that you can see everyone buzzing about, and if you don't know just what the heck that hashtag or phrase means, you can see definitions courtesy of whatthetrend.com by pressing the tag icon in a trend.

The last row includes more features like the ability to visit your profile, see your favorite (or starred) tweets, go to the profile of a specific user, and most importantly, view your list of Drafts. Drafts are made if you decide to save a tweet as a draft, or if your iPhone or iPod isn't connected to the internet. However, these drafts aren't automatically sent to Twitter when you do get to connect. You'll have to send them by yourself.

Most of these screens have the Compose button readily placed on the upper-right side of the screen, and the compose screen is just clean and beautiful.

It looks deceptively basic. There's the character counter, and there's the keyboard. What about them? Well, when you press the character counter, you'll see some very good features.

You can take a picture or choose an existing picture to upload to Twitpic (video is an option if you have a 3GS), you can geotag a tweet so the location you're tweeting in can be viewed by people, you can view the list of friends and followers you have if you want to call them out (but you forgot their exact user name), you can also summon some saved hashtags and use them instead of manually typing them again and again, and you can lastly shrink the URLs you put them into bit.ly URLs, among others you can configure. However, to avoid overloading the refresh limit, Tweetie does not display your entire contact list, and the faces and names are only summoned on demand, meaning that if you view a tweet made by a person, that's only the time when a friend is added to the contact list.

So yeah, in addition to that, you can also read tweets in landscape mode.

Also, you can view individual tweets, as well as small thumbnails of the twitpics (or maps) they embed in URLs.

And have you seen the clean layout of the user profile pages?

I know, I know, I borrowed those last two screenshots from the iTunes Store, but one thing remains true: this app is stylishly functional. I use this app every day without fail, because I use Twitter a lot.

And this is the main determinant of a purchase. If you use Twitter at least moderately, you'll like this app. If you use Twitter rarely (or not at all), you definitely won't find much to do with this app, especially since it's paid you'll feel ripped off.

Now, I haven't even dipped into other features like Lists support (one of the first), a jagged line break that indicates a gap in time (to make your timeline less unwieldy), selective device notifications settings (per user), tweet blocking, spam reporting, and even services like Tweet Blocker, Follow Cost, Favstar.fm, and Overlapr. Hell, I don't even know half those Twitter services.

You can also view the tweets that you have retweeted, tweets that were retweeted by other, and your tweets, retweeted. Robust lists support also involves the ability to see the list of a person, the list of others that include a specific person, and lists of others that a person follows.

PHEW, that's a lot of jargon, but long story short, more hardcore (ie, neurotic) as well as power Twitter users will find much functionality with Tweetie 2, and while it doesn't offer the ability to cross post to Facebook and company, it sure does a hell of a great job for managing a Twitter account. Thing is, I would just like it so much better if the app were able to have a mechanism that scrolled to the last unread tweet, something the team is probably working on. And didn't I mention: the app remembers the position you were last in in the app?

Rating: 8.9/10

As for the app preview, well, we have a huge blockbuster title coming next month, and that's Street Fighter IV. Yes, read that 10 times.

In IGN's report, it says that Capcom is not going all-out with a dirty port, and instead they're taking months refining the control scheme, which is extremely essential for the app's success. The game also reportedly uses the real PS3/360 assets, only slightly scaled down, so yes, expect some exquisite character detail.

But here's the killer feature: bluetooth multiplayer. Okay, maybe online multiplayer would be more mind-blowing, but dude, it's Street Fighter. I think it's much better enjoyed with a friend.

It will include the revenge meter, and the special moves in their full animated glory. Frankly, I think this will be amazing.

February 15, 2010

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief Review

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
20th Century Fox
Directed by Chris Columbus

Novel adaptations aren't anything new to movies, but when a studio aims to make a franchise out of it, the undertaking can be quite hard and overwhelming, especially considering the fact that the franchise could potentially compete with Harry Potter, which in Percy Jackson's case, is a strict no-no.

While this Greek mythology laden series has a bit of potential, it's hard not to be underwhelmed by the sheer amount of things that work against its debut. Make no mistake, the film holds a bit of entertainment value, but it's advisable for fans of the book to stay away.

So the film is about a boy who is starting high school, but his self-esteem is in the crapper because he has dyslexia and ADHD. Not only that, he also lives with a "loser" stepdad who frequently abuses his biological mother so yeah, long story short, his life sucks. Apparently though, his real father is actually a god in Mount Olympus and a lot of the people in his life are supernatural beings that were assigned to protect him. When Zeus' master bolt is stolen, he thinks Percy is to blame, prompting all the other monsters, including Hades, to get to him before Zeus does and gain control of the bolt, which will let them gain control of the universe.

Obviously, the premise has all the trappings of an epic adventure, but the epic adventure falls short of its promise, because the film is actually more of a road trip movie than it is a fantasy. I mean, yes, it has fun with a lot of mythological characters like the Lotus-Eaters, Medusa, and the Hydra, but at its core, the bulk of the movie is actually consistent of an unexciting search for Persephone's pearls. And no, "pearls" is not a double entendre.

The acting is wooden (except for Uma Thurman's portrayal of a Gorgon), the jokes tend not to work, and the film doesn't do a good job on the 'suspension of disbelief' department, which is sad because the film is set in modern times and thus, the characters have modern sensibilities. Now, it may be unfair to expect a suspension of disbelief in a fantasy film, but a lot of the time, the film expects you to root for Percy Jackson and company, and it regularly leaves visual cues that take consideration of the effects of their actions in the real world, so yes, you do need to leverage a bit of a suspension of disbelief.

To make things worse, it's hard to relate to the Percy character. Again, this is a fantasy film, I know, and his heritage dictates that he must be a great demigod, but the humanity of his character seems to be lost in the shuffle, not only because of his unnaturally magical boost of ego and leadership skills, but also because of the rapid mastery of his waterbending, I mean, magic and fighting skills. Seriously, the way he learns how to control his magic is unnaturally fast, even for a fantasy film, and despite his domestic situation before the demigod thing, there's nothing in Percy that seems believable. Not to mention: he can drive a car. Isn't his character supposed to be twelve or something? For that matter, aren't his friends twelve as well? How'd they learn to drive a car so fast? How'd they even get in a casino without question? And why does the world revolve around America? Mount Olympus is now in America? ...IN AMERICA!

Actually, the whole film just feels soulless, which dulls the film's fun factor immensely, and the unbelievability it rises up to is just too much even for the genre it clearly resides in. If the Harry Potter series could make a human out of nearly every character in its canon (thanks to its cast of classically trained British actors) despite the magic, why can't this one? The film, at its core, is like staring at a well-oiled machine that goes through its motions 24/7.

Still, the film scores a major point with its fast-paced plot. Unlike other films, including Columbus' own Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the film isn't bogged down by exposition, thus it is much more lean and mean in comparison to those other films. In plain language, the film doesn't overstay its welcome, as it doesn't linger in one place for too long, nor does it chatter excessively about an event or a character. The film gets it over with nice and quick, and fortunately, it doesn't end with a cliffhanger.

Still, letting go of the excess baggage involves a lot of trade-offs: the world isn't fleshed out; it isn't explored thus it isn't immersive, the characters are not fully developed and for the most part two dimensional, every situation doesn't have much weight because the characters leave a place and never talk about it again, and the actors, especially those who play bit parts like Zeus or Poseidon, don't have enough room to stretch out their acting skills, which is a damn shame.

The film goes through the story as if it were a process that is followed step-by-step, and it really shows. Everything feels like a process done by a robot or something, and when you think about it like that, the film becomes undesirable when viewed a second time.

A notable thing about the movie, however, and this is just based off the rants of my sister and brother, both big fans of the Rick Riordan series, is the extreme deviation of the movie from the source material. They note about the inclusion of Ares and his child, they note about the unnecessary process of the search for the pearls, and they note about the misplacement of lines and miscasting of characters. I'm okay with a few misplaced lines and a more ethnically rounded cast of characters (PFFT, right.), but I'm quite concerned about the events and facts that were omitted, because apparently, a lot of characters and events that happened in this movie that are necessary for the sequel to operate are simply not there. Now, this happens all the time with novel adaptations, hell, the Harry Potter series takes a lot of liberties with characters and stories for a lot of the time, but at least it doesn't omit the crucial parts unlike this movie.

Again, it does have entertainment value, so if you're forced to watch it, you won't really mind, but if you're a fan of the book, well, let's just say you'll find more entertainment in reading it again instead of scrutinizing every single thing about this movie. Can it be considered a catastrophic failure? Objectively on its own, it really isn't a failure, but the thing is, it lacks soul and emotion. There's no spirit that emphasizes a character's longing to save X character, there's no weight to a character's wanting to see Y parent who abandoned her long ago. Even the special effects don't look too special because of this. It's just wooden, but nonetheless decently made.

Rating: 6.5/10

February 13, 2010

Gimme some Internet love, Google

In a surprising move, Google has initiated an "experiment" that enables governments and municipalities to participate in a project that'll enable fiber optic networks to be connected to every home and support a community of 50,000 to 500,000 people.

Wait, wait, what am I talking about?

Basically, Google wants to bring bleeding-edge speeds to your Internet connection, and by bleeding-edge I mean 1Gbps of sheer power. That can be utilized through the connection of these so-called "fiber optic cables" to your home, and while this is still a very American project, here's to hoping that Google will actually be able to expand this network worldwide. A fat chance, to say the least, but a tempting proposition.

One can learn more about this "experiment" in the Google Fiber site.

February 12, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: It's Arkham Asylum!

Two legendary directors make comebacks this week, and coincidentally, they're both releasing thrillers. First one's from Martin Scorsese:

Shutter Island
2010's first Leo de Caprio movie has him possessing a bit of an accent, and a deputy badge. He pretty much goes into this asylum "reserved for only the most crazy", because of a patient that escaped, but things don't go as smoothly as planned.

The trailer actually seems a bit excessive, but it does look rather interesting. It kind of makes me scared that Scorsese might use quite a bit of CGI on this, as it has tinges of the paranormal, but hopefully he keeps that to a minimum, and this impression of mine is left to the trailer. I don't think it'll be Scorsese's best, I doubt that it'll be nominated for any Oscar, but we'll see when it actually sees release.

Frankly, it reminds me of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Batman isn't able to escape the asylum- also an island in itself- lest the Joker is defeated.

And it has Sir Ben Kingsley! That's actually kind of awesome.

The Ghost Writer
On the other hand, Roman Polanski, who is actually on a molestation case right now, is also back with a new thriller that's very much powered by the themes that define a movie that has this kind of story.

Wait a sec, PIERCE BROSNAN AGAIN? Third time this month, that bastard.

But anyway, the movie is about a famous British novelist called The Ghost (acted by Ewan McGregor who does a terrible English accent) who is set with the task of finishing the former Prime Minister Adam Lang's memoir. The former novelist of the former minister was unfortunately killed in an accident, so he was not able to finish the memoir... or wasn't he?

The Ghost suddenly finds out about the shady background of the former minister, and he's led to think that the "accident" that led to the old novelist's death was actually premeditated, so of course, there's no doubt about tension and chaos ensuing.

Really, just the name Polanski makes me ready to jump on board this ship, even if it looks like it'll be a bit conventional.

February 10, 2010

Apps Weekly: Riddim Ribbon + Choma

It was a good many months after the "Let's Rock" event that Tapulous finally released its long-awaited new rhythm game...

Riddim Ribbon

It underwent quite a few changes, but the thing the Tap Tap Revenge masterminds had exhibited a few months ago is still intact, but the thing is, there's something about it that's simply frustrating.

Since the title's announcement, it has been made known that the Black Eyed Peas were involved front and center, and it was obvious that Boom Boom Pow was going to be one of the included tracks. While I expected at least Tiesto to be included for free, he is not. The game only includes 3 Black Eyed Peas songs in the package, and the other songs you'll have to purchase with real money.

Riddim Ribbon has a pretty basic interface that instantly focuses on song selection. When you start the app, you can basically start a song right from the get-go, and that's a pretty good step towards inviting users to play, although by the time the song selection becomes plentiful, navigation will become a chore.

But anyway, the gameplay itself. Basically, you control a ball through a course by tilting the device and you need to keep the ball on the road, otherwise the music scratches and eventually stops. There's a radial meter at the bottom left corner of the screen that shows if you're worthy of passing through the next segment of the song, and if that meter doesn't give you the "OK" signal, your ball falls down to space. On the other side is a score multiplier that adds to the speed of the process of filling up the OK meter. Sounds simple, right?

Well, it's not as simple as it should be. Right from the start, you'll notice how frustrating the controls are. Tilting is not as responsive as it should be, and you have to really tilt the device in order to maneuver the black ball. Come on, Tapulous, add a sensitivity meter or something!

I mean, that's pretty much the first thing I looked for in the settings, and lo and behold, there's no setting for sensitivity. The only thing you can do in the settings is restore the songs you've purchased, delete the songs you've downloaded, edit your Tapulous profile, view the credits, view the Tutorial video, and finally, toggle the Narration. Narration? What's that?

Well, it's basically some black dude who comments on your performance. He can get pretty encouraging at first, but the dude gets really annoying overtime, so turning him off is key to appreciating the various remixes present within the game.

Yes, remixes. In every song, you get at least two branching paths, and these paths will make you decide as to which remix you want to listen to. They're mostly pretty good, but sometimes, the song transitions from normal song to remixed version can get noticeably weird, especially when effects are added, and these effects can only be activated if you go up a yellow ramp that elevates you up to another highway, and are completely optional.

Still, when you get a hang of the controls, the game is pretty fun. Hard songs can't be unlocked for some reason, though, and that's an issue Tapulous is working on right now.

Tapulous details these kinds of bugs in the "Live" newsfeed of the game. There's actually no Xbox Live or anything, it's just a newsfeed. Damn, the game would have so much more replay value if it were to possess some kind of online multiplayer, especially the ability to compete with a ghost uploaded by other players worldwide, that would be awesome.

Still, this game is purely experimental for Tapulous as a revenue source, and while it has potential, it still needs crucial gameplay and control improvements before it can be called a true killer rhythm game.

Rating: 7/10

In other news, the iPad is already gaining a following among developers because of the expanded liberties Apple has provided the platform, even persuading the developer of the Facebook app to go back to the App Store in hopes of less tyranny for devs.

But this app, Choma, isn't really anything revolutionary nor impossible to do on an iPhone, it's just an iPad exclusive platformer.

It looks like Rolando, to be honest, gameplay-wise of course. Graphics-wise, it's pretty distinctive (although Rolando's pretty distinctive as well), and some of the backgrounds just look really nice in that artsy way. Will this truly be an AAA game for the iPad? An interesting prospect.

February 8, 2010

Free Game: Every Day The Same Dream

The Internet has a lot of Flash-based games, and while this specific game is not an exception (which is actually good since it's basically compatible with Mac, Linux, Windows, and some mobile phones), this game is the type of interactive story that makes you think deeply about life, to the point of actually adding to the argument of "games being art".

But enough about that bullcrap, let's discuss this free game.

Basically, this visually striking game is about the daily life of a man who leads a life purely based on routine. If the player plays it in a linear fashion, he/she only ends up repeating this cycle for hours on end. However, make a turn in the opposite direction and you might just encounter a few surprises along the way.

The game, while short and sweet, is also very thought-provoking and meaningful, as it tests your view in life. It's up to the player to see if this person will live the same dull life over and over again, or become a new person altogether. Every single step that deviates from the normal day is a step to seeing the ending, and it's just surreal.

Playing only involves the directional pad, and the Spacebar. Pressing on the Spacebar lets the character interact with specific objects in the environment.

After finishing the game (which didn't really take too long for me), I suddenly got to thinking about my own life; reflecting upon choices and decisions and the future. There has never been a game that has done this to me before, and this is only a free Flash game.

If you go to this link (http://www.molleindustria.org/everydaythesamedream/everydaythesamedream.html), you'll be able to play the game right now. It won't appeal to everyone, but damn it, it's strikingly thought-provoking.

February 7, 2010

Trailer makes M. Night Shyamalan awesome

After The Sixth Sense and Signs, M. Night Shyamalan was a name associated with the laughter of critics and moviegoers alike. After The Happening, it looked like absolutely NO ONE was able to take Shyamalan seriously, but lo and behold: The Last Airbender.

Overseeing release in July 2, 2010, Shyamalan's adaptation of the famous Nickelodeon cartoon looks quite stunning. ILM just never fails to provide some insane visuals. Still, the action looks tight and the world looks fully realized, so perhaps adaptations is Shyamalan's forte after all. He does know how to inject some suspense into a scene, so he'll likely use that to his advantage, but as of now, the movie is actually looking quite awesome.

That's quite a stretch for me to say because I was extremely skeptical of the project, especially after the photo that had Jamal, I mean, Dev Patel on it.

And music by James Newton Howard, holy crap. I gotta get a listen of that soundtrack.

February 6, 2010

MacBook Pro to go quad core

If you know the power of a Core i7 processor, then it would be insane to have that same power engineered into a more energy-efficient chip fit for laptops. This January, Intel announced its Arrandale laptop chips and knowing the relationship between the two companies, Apple will probably be one of the first, if not the first one to hold a timed exclusivity to these chips.

And hot damn are they purportedly fast.

MacBookPro 6,1 is an unreleased revision of the MacBook Pro, and has been referenced for some time now. It runs a special build of Snow Leopard and the benchmarks presented compare favorably to Apple's most powerful offering, the Mac Pro.

It is said to be running at 2.66GHz, and the performance is looking swell.

Hopefully this is real, so if you've been itching to buy a MacBook Pro, wait a little longer. It's during these times when Apple revises their hardware.

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