Tag Archives: review

Age of Conan (on my Mac Pro)

I was not expecting AoC [ Amazon ] to live up to the hype, but it did.

I was not expecting it to be so gorgeous, and not just because you can see boobies. The youtube clips don’t do this game justice.

I was expecting it to be buggy and to have that “new game” feel, but the content I have seen so far is kicking butt. I have not yet gotten stuck, had a buggy quest, or had the game crash.

I was not expecting AoC to run as smoothly as it did, considering I am playing it on a Mac using Bootcamp, but the only thing limiting it is the steaming load that is Windows XP. I have 8 cores and 16gb of ram running on a 64 bit bus, most of which just sits there unused. I went with a slower processor and dumped the savings into upgrading the machine, but I have never used more than 35% of the CPU. The 8800GT is doing all the work, and all I can say is WOW (no, not WoW, not anything like WoW).

The fighting mechanics are still growing on me. I was one of those rare people that will admit to liking Oblivion, especially compared to the click on target mash buttons lameness that most classes in WoW utilize (sure, in raids they are now forcing you to move around to avoid hot lava, but the only reason this is hard is because many people don’t have the skills to actually watch their cast bar AND the screen). So far I have only played a barbarian, and the casting time for longer combo moves seems a bit off. Many times I think I initiated a combo, but my toon is just standing there getting beat on. Finally, the combo will pop up, and like some tard at the fair playing whack-a-mole, I excitedly mash the buttons in the order shown. Sure, I could have gone with the dance dance revolution comparison, but that would give away my winning idea of using a dance mat for controlling my toon!

Things I am not digging as part of the Early Access include the craptacular server maintenance schedules and lack of voice acting for the quests past the starting area, but maybe those will be fixed with the official launch. Of course, they are european, and expecting even half-assed customer support would be purely naive. Don’t believe me? Go try to find their phone support number…. nope, they don’t have one. Hopefully they can make up for it with adequate online GM support.

Should Blizzard be worried? Yes, they should. Not because everyone will be leaving WoW to play AoC,though some will, just for something new to do. Personally, I am not yet to the point where I am hooked, and I fully expect to go back to WoW some time before the next expansion. AoC may just delay my return for a few months. The real reason Bizzard should be worried though is that a bunch of weird Norwegians showed that WoW did not set the bar too high, and they are no longer the only real option for people wanting to get their MMO on. Two days ago I was still resigned to WoW being the best option for the foreseeable future, but now I can see that providing them competition is not only possible, but likely. This is good for gaming in general, and I look forward to seeing how the competition drives the genre in the future.

Priceless Review

In Priceless, Audrey Tautou says that charm is better than looks. “Looks can be resisted, charm cannot.” Priceless has charm in spades.

I’m not one of those guys who throws around terms like “delightful comedy” (unless I’m being ironic). But that just about sums up this film.

In Amelie, Audrey Tautou showed us she can be uniquely cute better than just about anyone. Here, she shows us sexy. She is practically naked the entire film, by way of dresses with sheer and/or very little fabric, and her glorious refusal to wear a bra. Also, she is sometimes just naked. Bravo!

Also, she can act. Not too far into the film I’m thinking, “I really don’t like her character.” I was concerned for the film, because how am I supposed get into a romantic comedy when I don’t know why the guy is pursuing this girl? But it’s not long before she, too, shows us what charm is. Yes, the screenwriters get credit for this, too, but it still requires the right actress to make us change our minds.

Gad Elmaleh is great as Jean, a bartender who falls for Tautou, a girl way above his pay grade. His father was a mime, and you can see him channeling Chaplin in this film. After watching him in this, I’ve moved The Valet to the top of my Netflix queue.

Now, some caveats. This is a French film. I don’t just mean the dialogue is in French1, I mean the comedy, tone, setting, etc. I’m a big fan of foreign films, especially French; you may not be. At the same time, if you’re expecting Amelie, which is off-the-charts charming and quirky, you’ll be disappointed. But it is quirky, and fun, and… You know. Delightful.

Gad Elmaleh and Audrey Tautou in Priceless

  1. Except for “pick-me-up” and “sunny-side up”, which have apparently been assimilated into the French language. []

Knocked Up (Review)

While Kevin Smith inspired me to pursue filmmaking (albeit lazily and half-heartedly, with slightly less effort than I muster for breathing), I aspire to create movies like Judd Apatow’s. Knocked Up was awesome the whole way through. There are parts where Apatow just machine guns you with jokes, which are hilarious, because he had the balls to make it Rated R. Unsurprisingly, it’s already 163 on the IMDB Top 250. And man, is Katherine Heigl is hot (I call dibs. Sorry.). So if you were thinking of waiting for the DVD, aww, man, so sorry, ’cause you’re totally not doing that. ‘Cause I said so. And you’re welcome.

Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up

300: The IMAX Experience – Review

It is very rare when a movie lives up to the lofty expectations that the trailer has set. The trailer for 300 set my expectations incredibly high, but the film did not disappoint.

Part of me thinks this review is pointless. If you saw the trailer, you want to see it. Heck, I just watched it again and thought, “Wow, this movie looks awesome, I’ve gotta see this!”

But, perhaps a poor critical review is keeping you from watching it. If so, know that the critics are wrong, and the people have spoken. This film is already in the top 200 films of all time on the IMDB. Of the 37,000 voters who’ve rated it, almost 75% gave it a 9 or 10 (actually, close to 60% give it a perfect 10). Also, the only critic who matters is Roger Ebert, and he didn’t review it.

But not only must you see it in the theatre, you must see it in IMAX. I promise you, you will hate yourself if you wait for video. Seriously, I don’t care how good your home theatre is, it can’t do this movie justice. If you wait for DVD, there will be much wailing (from you) and gnashing of teeth (Yes, your teeth. Totally gnashed.).

The film is a visually stunning masterpiece. It begs for IMAX, and IMAX delivers. Make no mistake – this is not a regular movie thrown on an IMAX screen, it is a special print mastered in the IMAX format. We saw it at The Bridge in LA, and except for some seats in the very last row (behind some stupid railing), there didn’t seem to be a bad seat in the house. We even sat towards the back-left, but the screen is so monstrous we seemed to be barely off center.

The fight scenes? Incredible. The sex scenes? Filmed on a cold set, apparently. You might miss that in some small theater, but not with IMAX. See? IMAX is looking out for you.

The sound is also fantastic. A deep bass rumbles as the largest army ever assembled marches on screen. As shields bash skulls. As a god-king whispers. Seriously, the man has no “inside voice”.

The casting was excellent. Gerard Butler was the epitome of the warrior king, and I expect more leading roles from him in the future. I also expect – and this is written without the slightest hint of irony or sarcasm – that you will see a surge in the number of boys named Leonidas. I don’t think think, however, we will be seeing many girls named Gorgo, despite Lena Headey’s portrayal of the beautiful and strong queen. I do think we’ll see a lot more of Kelly Craig (Oracle Girl), assuming Larry Ellison doesn’t run off and marry her. Heck, here’s some more Oracle Girl right now:

Oracle Girl

Continuing 300’s affect on pop culture, I also predict that MSU will have this film playing on campus, and steal the music and dialogue clips to get their teams pumped, for most of eternity. And just about every new local sports team will want to call themselves the Spartans. And the next NFL expansion team will be the LA Spartans, so we can say LA is home to both the Spartans and the Trojans.

For those who’ve already seen it, I’ve compiled a list of titles for further viewing. I haven’t seen these, but have added them to my Netflix queue. Unfortunately, none of these have Kelly Craig.

  • Beowulf & Grendel: Starring Gerard Butler as Beowulf.
  • Last Stand of the 300: History Channel special on the subject. Unfortunately, it only had one airing and now they want you to buy the DVD. I’ll wait.
  • The 300 Spartans: 1962 film depicting the same battle.
  • Imagine Me & You: If you want to see more of Lena Headey, she plays a lesbian temptress in this romantic comedy. So what I’m saying is, you want to see more of Lena Headey.

It’s Obvious, Episode 5: Apocalypto

Several people have praised this movie to me, yet they added the postscript: What is the movie about?? Without giving anything away, let me point you to the Will Durant quote that opens the movie:

“A great Civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

Some movies give it all up in the title; I’m thinking ‘Snakes on a Plane’ and ‘Free Willie’ for starters. You know there are snakes on an aircraft and you know Willie will go free. Oops. I hope I didn’t spoil that classic movie for you by giving you the ending. And yet there was enough doubt about the outcome to engender a “Free Willie 2” and “Free Willie: the Revenge” : )

So let’s go back to the name of the movie: Apocalypto. This brings up all sorts of end-of-the-world images and references the book of the Apocalypse in the Bible (also known as the Book of Revelations) which recounts all sorts of bloody battles and the final match between Good and Evil in the history of humanity. So you know something cataclysmic will take place, and also that established cultures will meet and clash. That’s all I’m saying before I head into the spoilers that follow……

Continue reading It’s Obvious, Episode 5: Apocalypto

Sandisk Sansa e200 Series MP3 Player Review

For Christmas this year, I treated myself to a longtime object of my technolust: the Sandisk Sansa e280 flash memory MP3 player. Part of the e200 series, the e280 is the 8GB version. I paid $185 at Amazon (no blogger bribes here!). All e200 players have many features to thrash those precious iPod Nanos:

  • Plays MP3, WMA, and secure WMA (see below)
  • 1.8″ color LCD screen
  • Image viewer
  • Video player
  • Voice recorder
  • Data storage
  • FM tuner, with record capability
  • microSD expansion slot
  • User replaceable, rechargeable Lithium Ion battery with 20 hours of play time (average)

That’s what everybody gets. The real kicker is if you have Windows XP [1] and a subscription service like Rhapsody-To-Go, Napster, or Yahoo! Music. This is a Plays For Sure player, so you can take subscription content with you. As long as I am a subscriber, I can transfer any track in my library, even though I didn’t buy it. Since I just got a great deal on Rhapsody-To-Go [2] I expect to subscribe indefinitely. That gives me any of Rhapsody’s 3 million+ tracks anywhere I want. It is the awesome.

That’s quite a feature list, in a very compact package. Here are the highs and lows.


  • Screen is sharp, photos and videos look good.
  • Sound quality is quite good, both for WMA (160K) and FM stereo
  • Using Rhapsody’s jukebox software, transferring music is quite easy. You either drag and drop files, or synchronize with your Rhapsody Library. If you needed to, you could pick and choose from your Library instead of copying the whole thing. Personally, mine is a giant “best of” collection, so it’s very convenient for me to connect it to my PC have it automatically sync up. Right now I’ve got around 600 tracks that I’ve chosen over the last year, and it takes up about 2.7GB.
  • The design is very nice. It’s shiny! And black. It’s not quite as compact or beautiful as the iPod, but… duh. As far as I can tell, Apple has kidnapped the best designers on the planet (minus Agent Hulagun), so nobody else can have such elegant-looking products. It’s the modern day equivalent of Ivan the Terrible poking out the eyes of Postnik Yakovlev after he built St. Basil’s Cathedral.
  • New batteries are only $20 from Sandisk, compared to $60 for iPods.


  • Like just about every other MP3 player I’ve read reviews on, the earbuds kinda suck. Sound quality is decent, they’re just these big round discs that don’t feel like they were designed to go in your ears. They’re too big for your ear canal (I think they’re more bellybutton sized), and I haven’t figure out a way to place them so they don’t feel like they’re about to fall out. I’m looking for a replacement, and have my eye on the Sennheiser PMX60 headphones. I’m pretty sure the larger drivers will drain the batteries faster, but at least they’ll be comfortable without messing up my incredible hair.
  • The voice recorder seems to record a high-pitched whine along with your voice. It’s annoying, so don’t expect to make any podcasts from it. And you have to speak into the mic, so I don’t think you can use it to record lectures. Of course, the mic hole is about 2mm in diameter, so it’s a wonder it works at all. At least you can pause and continue the recording.
  • When using the thumbwheel, your thumb rests on the left side of the wheel, which is not optimal. You scroll down, you’re turning counterclockwise, and the screen scrolls up. This is really an artifact of using a very compact device, and I don’t see a solution – that’s just where your thumb naturally rests. To make this more ergonomic you’d need to make it bigger, which nobody wants. I’m sure most compact MP3 players have this issue.
  • When connecting to my PC for transfer, the Rhapsody software needs to scan the device for tracks. This takes several minutes, and I only have about 600 tracks (“only” meaning it’s only 1/3 full). In “mass storage” mode, you can’t transfer subscription content, only drag and drop files. So it doesn’t scan your tracks when you connect, but when you disconnect it essentially reboots and does this “Refresh Database” thing that also takes a couple minutes. You can’t win.
  • The only way to recharge the battery is by hooking the device up to a USB port via the included cable. Not an issue – unless you want to travel with it. Luckily, there are many 3rd party Sansa accessories that solve this, and they’re even blessed by Sandisk. This includes USB charging ports for your car’s cigarette lighter, as well as wall chargers.
  • The LCD stays on when the device is connected to a PC. Since you connect to charge the battery, it seems dumb to be draining it by lighting up the screen.
  • Photos and videos can’t be placed on the microSD card.

I’m nitpicking a bit with the lows, but I’d rather be thorough in case one of them is a deal-breaker for you. Overall, I think the highs far outweigh them, and I’m quite happy with my purchase!

[1] And presumably Vista, but don’t hold me to that. I think it just needs Windows Media Player 10 or better.

[2] I’m afraid it’s gone now, but during the holidays they offered the to-go service for $8 month. I’d been paying $10/month for the Unlimited service, which doesn’t allow you to transfer to MP3 players, and the upgrade price was $15/month! I created another account, hoping to merge the two, but the best customer support could do was cancel the old one. I downloaded the entire library from my original account and then imported it from the new one, so I was able to save just about everything. After spending a year carefully selecting 600 tracks (out of several thousand), you don’t want to have to find them again!

It’s Obvious, Episode 4: The Fountain

This movie will most likely become a classic, in the league of 2001:A Space Odyssey. Not as effective as that cinematic milestone, but just as ambitious. It is also just as confusing: this is a good thing. Aronofsky has given us another tour-de-force, just as intense as “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” but centered around a love story.

I am going to discuss a few obvious religious symbols in the movie, and will leave it at that. You should go see it and decide what it all means to you.

Spoilers follow……….

Continue reading It’s Obvious, Episode 4: The Fountain

Stay Out of Prison

I made a wrong left turn on the way to Stranger Than Fiction, and wound up in Let’s Go to Prison (trust me, I wasn’t navigating). You might be tempted to see this because the trailer looked funny, or Bob Odenkirk (Mr. Show) directs and acts in it, or Will Arnett (Arrested Development) stars. All are good reasons, but the movie is just nominally funny, and that only in parts. It seriously drags, and by drags, I’m saying don’t even bother with the DVD. Skip it altogether, there are tons of better comedies out there.

In fact, go watch an all-time classic comedy, like Dr. Strangelove. Or The Heartbreak Kid. In the latter, you can see see Charles Grodin act with a brilliant sense of timing and deliver great lines by Neil Simon, and a 22 year old, half-naked Cybill Shepherd looking astonishingly cute. No, seriously, look!

Cybill Shepherd

The Fashionably Late Book Review

Some writers can claim, with justifiable pride, to have the best reviews, oftentimes before the books even hit your local bookseller. However, since I no longer work for your local bookseller (and even then, I would only have been local if “local” for you meant one of the uglier corners of Union County), and since I no longer have free books thrown at me like Tom Jones gets panties (ie. I pay for this stuff), I may be a bit behind the times. But I digress… Two favorites from recent reading:

Voices of Time: A Life in Stories by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Mark Fried. Metropolitan Books, 2006.

Reading Eduardo Galeano is like the literary equivalent of Pablo Neruda via Wire’s “Pink Flag:” Short, sharp vignettes, each with a lovely economy, abound over many of the Uruguayan author’s best works, from the Memory of Fire trilogy through his 1998 bestseller Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World. There’s a certain anger here, but it’s anger as well-directed as it is deeply felt; and it’s suffused with a warmth for those who’ve gotten the short end of the stick, without stooping to condescension.

But there’s also a certain danger in reviewing Galeano, especially if you enjoy his works. There’s the temptation to just quote your favorite bits, and let them stand in for the whole, sort of like a film trailer. Having said that, I’ll open with one line that could easily stand in for the collection: “Reporters don’t cover dreams.”

It’s true enough of the nightly news, but not of the author’s work; dreams have been Galeano’s beat for years, in tandem with–and sometimes jostling against–the waking world that he chronicles. And for every famous name encountered in the stories, from Caetano Veloso to Diego Maradona or Sebastiao Salgado, it’s the quotidian details of the lives of everyone else–blue algae, ants, pensioners, bartenders, and strangers met along the way–that give the book its real heft.

And whereas the Memory of Fire trilogy encompassed the history of the Americas, Voices in Time starts with the beginnings of life itself, progresses through (but, fittingly, does not end with) death, and takes the scenic route to a number of points in between.

There’s probably much more that could be said about this book, but nothing that would add to the work itself. Suffice to say that the collection is like life itself: sprawling, messy, sometimes sad, often funny, and ultimately, entirely too short.

Pursuit, by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza.

This is the fifth, and perhaps final (but perhaps not), installment of bestselling Brazilian author Garcia-Roza’s Espinosa series. I’ll forego the customary pull-quote hyperbole (“An enchanting, riveting read that will hold you completely in its thrall from start to finish!”) since there’s plenty of that to be found on the dust-jacket.

But don’t begrudge the author his accolades; he’s earned them. At a time when detective fiction/mystery seems to consist of either A: Softcore porn and a handful of dead bodies, or B: recipies for baked goods, a cat, a few chaste kisses, and a handful of dead bodies–and yes, I’m aware that there are exceptions, but please, go to the Mystery section of your local bookstore and see if the selection doesn’t bear me out–this is a rare bird: creative, thoughtful, literary, and sometimes given to flights of fancy.

And that, I suppose, could apply equally to the series’ protagonist, Espinosa. This isn’t a hardboiled detective in the tradtion of Chandler, Cain, or Hammett; he’s something else altogether. Rather than try to do the writer, and his character, justice, I’ll let Espinosa give a thumbnail description of himself:

“I’m not a warrior, I’m a cop; I’m not a hero, I’m a public employee; and I’m no philosopher, despite my name.” If you can picture a less-neurotic Woody Allen channeling Sam Spade, you’d still be out in left field, but at least in the ballpark.

In a recent interview, Garcia-Roza stated that he was through with the Espinosa series–for now–and that a new series, with one of the current series’ characters as its protagonist, would begin to appear soon. My money would be on Welber, the most fully-developed character in the series apart from its protagonist; that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if that–like so much else in this series–is another red herring.