Friday, March 30, 2007

My First Video Blog

Here's my first attempt at a Video Blog. I was sitting around one day, a bit bored and I just decided to start filming one. It took me a while to edit, but I'm satisfied with the results.

I hope you guys like it. Keep your eyes peeled for more in the future.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Xbox 360 Annonced - An "Elite" Editorial

As you all probably know by now, the Xbox 360 “Elite” has been officially confirmed by Microsoft. After all the rumors that had been swirling over the past few months dating back to early July with this Engadget rumor, it’s about time Microsoft was forthwith, confirming what everyone already expected to be true. Personally, I am not too happy about this. Between this and my Xbox 360 recently crapping out on me, Microsoft has really been screwing me over as of late.

One thing that annoys me in particular about the Xbox 360 Elite is that it comes with a lot of things that should have been included on the “Premium” version at launch. The HDMI port is almost a must nowadays, as so many televisions support HDMI and it’s currently the de facto high definition input/output standard. If you want the clearest possible picture for your high definition television, HDMI is the only way to go.

What’s more is The Elite 360 sports an upgrade Xbox 360 fans have wanted since day one. More hard drive space. Six times more to be exact. No longer stuck with a measly 16 gigabytes of space, gamers no longer have to worry about deleting unwanted files to make room for new things. I personally have this problem since I have an abundance of videos, expansion packs, demos and Final Fantasy XI files (which take up a whopping 6 gigabytes of space by themselves) on my Xbox 360’s hard drive and I constantly have to decide which stuff I want to get rid of to make room for new things.

But the hard drive is going to sell separately from the Elite console so all my worries should be put to rest right? Wrong. The 120 GB hard drive is set to retail for $180. This is outrageous. Nearly half the price of the premium console for a hard drive? I think this is ridiculous, especially considering I can get a 500 GB hard drive for my computer or a 160 GB hard drive that is compatible with the PS3, for significantly less money. Now I understand that Microsoft is using a proprietary design here, which is very different from a standard hard drive, but still, you’d think they could throw us a bone here.

Another thing that bugs me about the “Elite” is that it’s still lacking features that would’ve no doubt made the package as a whole seem more appealing. What are these features? Well, internal Wi-Fi would be nice. Paying an additional $100 just to be able to utilize my wireless connection (which is the only way I can connect to the internet) is ridiculous. More importantly though, the lack of an internal HD DVD drive is the killer. Without that, it doesn’t seem worth it when you consider that for just $20 more; you can get the PS3, with a 20 GB hard drive and an internal Blu Ray Disc player. I know Microsoft doesn’t want to take a chance on HD DVD just yet because “the format isn’t proven” but it would’ve certainly taken an edge from Sony and made the package as a whole so much more appealing.

Now I know I shouldn’t be too upset because I’m an early adopter, and we early adopters have a tendency to be screwed over in the long run. The problems with this are simple. Not only is Microsoft releasing a new model for the Xbox 360 less than 2 years after the original, but they’re charging you more for it. Now I know Nintendo and Sony have done this in the past (Nintendo with their handhelds, and Sony with the first two Playstations) but in those cases, $130 (and below) handhelds are a lot easier on the wallet to replace than a $400 console and Sony waited 4 years before releasing the Slim PS2 and 5 years before releasing the smaller PSone back in 2000. Not to mention these consoles were cheaper than pervious versions, not more expensive.

In the end it all comes down to what people have been saying all along. Microsoft rushed the Xbox 360. They rushed it out of the gate early so they could grab a sizeable lead over the competition. Now it just seems like this is the console they would’ve released from the beginning had they not been rushing everything. I think the Elite is a big mistake that could just hurting them in the long run because, when compared to the PS3, suddenly it doesn’t seem so expensive any more, especially considering what you get in the package. Oh well. I’m not buying the Elite. There aren’t enough reasons to justify spending even more for the console than I did before.

Monday, March 26, 2007

TMNT (2007) In Review

Last Friday, a friend of mine called me and said he and a couple of other friends were going to see the new TMNT movie. I am a long time fan of the TMNT series, and I've seen all three movies prior to the release of this one. Naturally, I agreed to go, but I was concerned that since the movie garnered a PG rating, it would cater almost exclusively to a younger audience. Because of this, I also had a few reservations about seeing the film, especially since it was too late to go to my theatre (I work at a movie theatre now) and see the film for free. After seeing the film I thought I'd share my thoughts about the film in a review.

It doesn't suck. Seriously. It was actually pretty good.

Immediately, I must say, the switch from live action to CGI was a great decision. The turtles now have the freedom to do many of the actions that were previously confined to the cartoons and comics. The animation is one of the movie's high points. The great looking New York City serves as a great backdrop for the majority of the film. The turtles themselves look better than ever. No longer big and bulky looking, the turtles look more realistic (well as realistic as a mutant turtle can be), boasting a more animalistic appearance and of course, copious amounts of green. Cinematography is also pretty decent, but at times, the camera can be a bit spastic and dizzying as it seems to switch between different angles a bit too quickly, but thankfully not enough to get in the way of the film's slick visual style.

The plotline however is pretty disappointing. The story itself is highly unoriginal and highly predictable. The story begins 3000 years in the past, in which a tribe of warriors discovers a portal that they believe will grant them immortality. The leader of the tribe gains immortality upon opening the portal, at the expense of his fellow comrades who are turned to stone and 13 monsters are released into our world.

Fast forward to the present day, after the events of the third Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, the turtles have grown apart as a family. Leonardo has been in Central America for the past year training, Michelangelo has taken up a job as "Cowabunga Carl" performing at children's birthday parties, Donatello has taken a job as a 24 hour IT consultant and Raphael has become a masked vigilante, going by the name of "Night Watcher".

Max Winters, the immortal leader of the ancient tribe enlists the services of the Foot Clan, under the leadership of Karai, to aid him in finding the 13 monsters and send them back to where they came from. Immediately there is a problem. Where have these monsters been in the past 3000 years and why is it that they have all of a sudden become active in New York? This is just one of a few glaring plot holes that I just couldn't ignore.

As Leonardo returns to New York City, he and Raphael begin to engage in an emotional conflict, as Raphael is not willing to welcome his brother back into the family so easily after his departure. The conflict between them is certainly interesting to watch, and makes for a nice subplot as tensions between them grow, culminating into a fight 23 years in the making. The fight between Leonardo and Raphael is simply amazing. The two brothers giving each other everything they have, at the peak of their abilities. From both cinematic and technical perspectives, the battle is an amazing feat, as each animation plays out smoothly blending well from one scene to the next, and is by far the best among the film's several great looking fight scenes.

In a sharp contrast to the other films in the TMNT franchise, this one focuses less on humor, choosing instead to present a much darker look into the TMNT franchise. That's not to say there isn't a good bit of campy humor and comedic value in the flick, as Michelangelo, the series' longtime comic relief character has his share of genuinely funny moments that thankfully don't come off as too cheesy or aimed directly at children. Personally, I like this new style. The turtles are noticeably much more mature as characters than their previous film incarnations.

Overall, it was a pretty good film. Longtime fans of the franchise will leave plenty satisfied by the film (unless they were expecting a rich storyline) and will get the most out of it, as there are a few fanservice bits thrown in every now and then. The fight scenes are a visual triumph, and this film's sense of style is one that puts all previous TMNT films to shame. If you're looking for a fun filled action movie then look no further.

If I had to give it a score, I'd probably give it a 7.5.

That'll do it for my review of the film (which was a bit longer than I expected :P). It's just too bad the games weren't as good as the film, but then again, movie adaptations rarely are. In short, if you're a fan, you'll certainly enjoy this. If not, you'll probably still get a good amount of entertainment from it. I have to say, this is, by far, the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie in the franchise.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My Xbox 360 Has Died...and I'm Pissed.

Well as of yesterday, my Xbox 360 is officially dead. I turned it on yesterday afternoon with the intention of playing some Rainbow Six: Vegas and the “three red lights of death” flashed within its ring of light. Seeing this means your Xbox 360 has suffered a major hardware malfunction and thus will not work properly. Those red lights flashed on and off, taunting me, as if to say, “Ha, ha! You’re fucked now, sucker!” As you can ascertain from the title and my general tone, I’m pissed.

As soon as I saw the three red lights, well, after my heart sank, I immediately turned the system off and tried a number of home remedies to fix the problem. I unplugged it and set it aside. I disconnected the hard drive. I even took it to a relatively cold area of my home to let it cool off (even though it wasn’t hot). Nothing so far has worked and my frustrations continue to mount…

Since the Xbox 360’s launch in November of 2005, reports of malfunctioning and dying units have been running rampant in the news, websites and internet forums as gamers everywhere experienced the same thing that I did yesterday. For a long time now I have been defending Microsoft and their failure to diagnose and fix the problems plaguing Xbox 360 but now, I’m through with that. Microsoft can defend themselves.

I guess things like this take on a whole new meaning when they hit close to home…

Seriously, why can’t they get their act together and fix these problems? I know I got mine early, and early adopters usually get screwed, but these problems are still occurring today. Not to mention the fact that my Xbox, which was also purchased early on, is still working fine. So what the hell happened between generations Microsoft?

Another thing that irks me about the widespread Xbox 360 problems at launch and beyond is the fact that this isn’t happening to Sony and Nintendo. While Nintendo has been known for their well crafted consoles and quality of workmanship overall, Sony suffered massive problems with their Playstation 2 at launch and well on into the future. Many even expected similar problems to plague the PS3’s launch. Well, here we are, nearly five months after the launch of the Playstation 3 and I have yet to hear reports of faulty units breaking down on consumers. So it appears that after being the worst in terms of quality hardware last generation, Sony has learned from their mistakes and gotten their act together. It appears the only company left to clean up their act is you, Microsoft. So I guess the real question here is, what are you going to do about it?

It was inevitable I suppose, considering how many Xbox 360’s manufactured during that time period are slowly but surely crapping out. I bought the Xbox 360 that cold January morning thinking I would be one of the lucky few that wouldn’t have a problem with the console and that it would provide me with years of gaming bliss and satisfaction. Well I got one year of gaming bliss, does that count? When you consider that the item in question cost me $400, it doesn’t count for much. It also doesn't sit well with me that with all the reports of 360's dying, I secretly knew in the back of my mind that one day, my 360 would suffer the same fate. All this time I thought I was just being paranoid. Turns out my suspicions were correct.

Perhaps I’m making too much of this. My Xbox 360 was manufactured in 2005, meaning it carries a lifetime warranty and I can get it fixed for free. At least I can give credit to Microsoft for that one. I just wish they would take more time to diagnose the problems in either manufacturing or the hardware itself and take care of it, and I wish they were more like Nintendo when it comes to the quality of work they put into making their hardware. Well, the Xbox 360 has been my favorite of the three new consoles for some time now and I hate to see it go. If Microsoft turns out to be a bitch to work with, or if they end up sending me another Xbox 360 unit that doesn’t work then that may change to the Playstation 3 or Wii. One thing’s for sure though…I’ve certainly lost a lot of respect for the company as a whole and will not likely buy another of their products until all the kinks are worked out. The problem is, if I had waited that long this time, I still wouldn’t have one…

Oh well, time to call Microsoft up and have them send the “coffin”…