December 31, 2006

Dead Man's Chest

I saw Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest last night. I've had the dvd at home for about a week from Netflix and I finally got around to watching it.

I enjoyed the first movie (as most people did) and was surprised by how entertaining it was given its source material (as most people were). So, while I wouldn't say I had high hopes for the sequel (didn't think it was necessary), I was looking forward to some more Captain Jack Sparrow and top-of-the-line special effects (I felt the original movie's effects were the most impressive to date).

Wow, a lot of parentheses in that last paragraph.

Overall, the movie was entertaining, although not as good as the original. The story was hard to follow, the first 45 minutes were completely unnecessary and did nothing to move the plot forward and overall it was probably about ½ an hour too long. Actually just remove those first 45 minutes and it would have flowed much better and been a better flick.

But we must remember that these Pirates films are about having fun, and when the film gets going, it is just that: fun.

The cinematography, sets, costumes, audio, effects and acting are all top notch. Everything looks fantastic. Johnny Depp again reprises his role as Captain Jack Sparrow to perfection. Maybe some of the magic is gone, since it is not as new or fresh, but you can't blame Johnny for that.

I'm not going to bother with plot details, but I will say this. The folks at ILM have done it again. They've topped their previous effort and again delivered a special effects tour de force! The main antagonist, the pirate Davy Jones, a half man/half octopus creature is simply the most impressive visual effect ever put on film. Ever. He was created completely out of CG, overlaid over the actor playing him, and it is so convincing it looked like the actor was wearing a prosthetic mask. Only you know it couldn't be a prosthetic because if it was, it was the most convincing, organic looking prosthetic in history. The texture of his skin, his tentacles, the way the lighting would reflect off of him (in either night, rain or sunshine) was absolutely perfect. I can watch the scenes in which Davy Jones are in over and over and not get tired. They did a simply amazing job.

If you haven't seen the film, rent it just for Johnny Depp and Davy Jones. They are both worth the extra long run time, the so-so beginning, and at times convoluted story.

December 26, 2006

Viva Pinata

Best Buy had Viva Pinata on sale for $29.99 this weekend and I decided to pick it. Partly because I wanted to get the game for the girlfriend and partly because I was real curious to try it out myself.

I've spent a good amount of time with it (more than my GF) and I think the game is actually pretty damn good. It starts you off slow enough, introducing new elements as you gain experience and there are plenty of tutorials to teach you almost everything you need to know without the need to read the manual.

Don't let the game's kiddie exterior fool you though, this game is quite challenging and very deep. At times, there are so many things going on it can feel overwhelming. Fights between pinatas, your garden being attacked by sours (the "evil" inhabitants of Pinata Island who want to wreck your garden), sick pinatas, trying to meet requirements to have certain pinatas stay as residents, or having them fall in love so you can mate them, building them homes, watering your plants, it is a lot to juggle.

With practice though the chaos can subside as you get familiar with which pinatas tend to not get along, you hire help to do some of the more mundane tasks like watering plants, collecting produce (from your garden), and warding off sours, and your garden begins to take the shape of a pinata paradise.

I still haven't scratched the surface of the game, as I still have a lot more gaming to do, but I look forward to tending to my garden in hopes of attracting some of the really rare pinata species (man, never thought I'd be saying that).

Technically the game looks very nice, with lush colors and generally great animation. Each pinata type's personality comes through in how they move and react to their environments and the sounds they make are amusing and appropriate. The voice acting for the characters can be a bit annoying, but nothing you cannot overlook. Luckily, none of the pinatas actually speak like they do on the cartoon show, since that would have not gone over too well.

For anyone who might have been on the ropes about the game, especially because of its kiddie appearance, rest assured that the game is deep, challenging and highly addicting. I fact, so far it has been one of the more enjoyable games I have played this year.

December 20, 2006

Rocky Balboa

Last night I went to a screening of Rocky Balboa. I'm a pretty big fan of the original Rocky movie and as a kid I used to watch all the sequels whenever they were on. None could match the original though. When Rocky V came out however, it made a serious dent in an otherwise solid series. Seemed like a terrible way to end it.

So, when I heard that a 6th movie was coming out I was thinking to myself, "Damn it Sylvester, didn't you tarnish this series enough already? You should have stopped with IV!!!"

Well, it turns out that the movie is a lot better than I was expecting. Granted, I wasn't expecting much.

It moves slow in places (especially the first half) and it greatly relies on nostalgia and the viewer's memories of the earlier movies to work properly though. If those were fond memories, it added to the flick. If they were not (or if a viewer hasn't seen the earlier ones) then I do not think the movie is as effective. Since I am a fan, it worked for me. Sylvester's best character has always been Rocky and that trend continues. He plays him perfectly and you can't help but like him. The movie also definitley feels closer to the original than any of its sequels.

My biggest complaint with the flick is the same complaint I have had with every single Rocky film, and that is that the boxing is always so unrealistic. It bothers me that every single punch thrown, lands solidly. How these boxers become world champions with zero defense is beyond me. But that is Hollywood for you.

Overall I give the movie a 7 out of 10.

December 19, 2006

Lag-free Madden?

This weekend Powerpuff and I fired up Madden 2007 to give it another go.
There was a recent update that according to the forums, fixed the
game's absolutely terrible lag when playing across large distances.
I've written on here about the terrible experiences we had in the past
when trying to play Madden. Since we are on opposite sides of the
country, our games would run in slow motion and were completely

So, on Sunday morning we hook up for a quick match before the real NFL
games started. We both had very little hope that EA actually fixed the
issue, but we were both desperate for some decent on-line football

I'll be damned, the game played great!

The lag-fest from before seems to be completely fixed. The game we
played was fast and completely playable. The difference was pretty
significant. I'm surprised EA decided to finally address this problem,
considering the game has been out for a while and its on-line community
has slowed down considerably.

Either way, it looks like Powerpuff and I are going to be doing a lot
more football gaming in the coming weeks. Let the rivalry begin!!!