Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ghostbusters II


Ghostbusters II takes place five years after the original and unfortunately, the population does not accept them anymore.  The city of New York has placed the events of the first film as a sort of elaborate fraud and the gang has split.  It takes half an hour before they finally get back together again which can be a bit of a drag.  We have to sit through the whole process of the Ghostbusters regaining their reputation, experience injustice time and time again until finally they have free reign.  All of this takes too long and isn't too fun to watch.  Ghostbusters II also loses too much of the humor that made the original so entertaining.  There are some great scenes here, from the river of slime to the intriguing notion of it reacting to human emotions, but it is never satisfactory explored.  The climax becomes improbable and feels cheesy.  You'll sit there thinking is this really happening, that it is the best the writers could come up with?  Overall, a disappointing sequel that loses the charm of what made the original so good.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: The Dead of Night


Review:  #534
Title:  The Dead of Night
Series:  Cahills vs. Vespers - 3rd book
Author:  Peter Lerangis
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Carrying on the race against time in order to meet the hostage demands of Vesper One:  Amy, Dan, Jake and Atticus have to steal an ancient artifact.  It has the usual flaws of the series in that the protagonists, against impossible odds and the fact that no one else before them had found the artifact which wasn’t hidden that well.  What keeps you going in this book is that the stakes has been raised, with a hostage targeted for death if Amy and her team fail.  Doubt is put into the reader’s mind about Ian’s loyalty.  There are multiple subplots happening concurrently which can get messy.  While the ending was solid, the first two-thirds of the plot stalls and isn’t that interesting, feeling disjointed with the ending.
Rating:  6/10

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ghostbusters


A supernatural comedy film that manages to keep relevant and be as funny and enjoyable as the day it was released 30 years ago.  It follows a team of three parapsychologists who opens up a ghost-catching business that ends up booming and naturally eventually saves the city of New York from a massive supernatural disaster.  Right from the beginning scene, the humor kicks in and keeps you entertained.  Bill Murray's character is the star of the show but the rest of the team, including the fourth Ghostbuster, put on a strong performance too.  The plot could use a little bit more finetuning in the aspect of fleshing out the villain because it ends up as a one-dimensional antagonist who just wanted to destroy the world but that's their job.  Obviously, the special effects have dated since its release but due to the minimal use of them, it isn't too obvious and adds to the film's charms.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: The Curse of the King


Review:  #533
Title:  The Curse of the King
Series:  Seven Wonders - 4th book
Author:  Peter Lerangis
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The Curse of the King’s plot is more cohesive and interesting than the previous book.  In it, the search of the fourth loculus continues but the stakes are higher and the revelations are bigger.  It starts off being the same old same old that we have been reading but by the time the halfway point passes and the party encounters the Massa does it start to suck you in.  We finally learn which organization between the Karai Institute and the Massa are evil ones.  Marco also plays a bigger role after regulated to a supporting character.  The fourth guardian of the fourth loculus, and how it was obtained was a bit disappointing overall, since it wasn’t dwelt on too much.  The “backwardish” of Cass (speaking words spelt backwards) is starting to become very annoying with the author attempting humor but failing miserably.  The climax is a bit melodramatic; however, the plot and writing has improved.
Rating:  6.5/10

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Transformers Poses 18

Haven't done this in a while, but just another post with some poses of Transformers toys that I did in my spare time.

























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Friday, November 20, 2015

Apollo 13


Apollo 13 is based upon the aborted Apollo 13 mission, being a dramatized version.  It focuses upon Jim Lovell, alongside his crew Ken and Fred upon their mission to the moon, when an explosion occurs and now it is a race against time and resources to get them back home.  If you're looking for action packed explosion scenes, then this movie is not for you.  Apollo 13 focuses upon the tension of finding solutions to the numerous problems that Mission Control encounters under an intense time pressure.  They have to find novel ways to keep going, using their limited resources on board the ship which was never designed to be in a situation like this, to pull through and get back home safely.  It is an accurate depiction of the procedures and machine structure but can sometimes be confusing as to which piece does what and some of the jargon spoken.  The film has good storytelling that keeps it going for the two hours.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: The Tomb of Shadows


Review:  #532
Title:  The Tomb of Shadows
Series:  Seven Wonders - 3rd book
Author:  Peter Lerangis
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The Tomb of Shadows takes place in various locations over many story arcs and as a result, it feels some disjointed as each event is distinct from the rest of the story.  The story of the Selects and their abilities manages to just hold onto your attention, what’s missing from the story is clever use of their powers.  Throughout the whole book, the main characters have these enhanced abilities but the author never showcases them to good effect.  Action pieces feel stale and depressed, the plot as a whole lacks an engaging atmosphere.  Doubts are placed into the each organization, which is probably the most interesting piece, are the Karai Institute the good guys or are the Massa?  Conflicting information in each side presents an interesting case (which somewhat falls apart at the end).  The climax was disappointing as the antagonist never feels like a threat, you know the characters are going to survive and the way they do are so downright normal that it’s not interesting anymore.
Rating:  6/10

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pokemon X (3DS)


Pokemon X is the first foray in the series on the Nintendo 3DS and marks the beginning of the sixth generation of Pokemon.  The biggest touted feature here is the fact that the whole game is now rendered in 3D.  Despite this supposedly revolutionary feature, the game's environments are still rendered in the familiar overhead style and aesthetic.  Pokemon X introduces 70 new Pokemon species for you to catch and a new type:  Fairy.  There's also the Mega Evolution which can be one step above the maximum third level evolution (e.g. Charizard can now mega evolve into Mega Charizard X).  Of course, it wouldn't be Pokemon without the game being released in a pair, in this case, Pokemon Y is the other version.  The only difference between the two versions are specific Pokemon species.  There are some Pokemon you can only catch in X and vice versa.  All the gameplay mechanics remain the same, and the story is largely the same.  This makes it easier to justify only purchasing one version.


Despite the many additions (which the review will get into soon), for players of older Pokemon games, X is very approachable and the control scheme is instantly familiar.  The game is menu based but it doesn't rely on them too heavily.  Naturally, the key feature here are capturing Pokemon.  You encounter wild Pokemon in the routes between cities, reduce their health and then throw Pokeballs to make it yours.  Once it is yours, you can use it in battle.  There are 600+ Pokemon species, although the ones you can actually catch in X without trading with players from other games are obviously lower than this number.  Still, the sheer number of Pokemon you will see is very impressive, you can easily see 300+ Pokemon over the course of this 30 hour adventure.


One the way to each city, you will battle against wild Pokemon.  The battle mechanics hasn't changed much, it is still turn based and each turn you can decide on which move you want to use against the opponent, however, you can also use an item, switch to another Pokemon (you carry up to six at a time) or run away.  You will also encounter other Trainers, whose Pokemon are more powerful and will often give you more XP.  Pokemon will level up using an experience system, learning new moves and improving their stats as they level up.  Each Pokemon can only have a maximum of four moves at one time.  If you want to leave a new one, you will have to forget an existing move.  A new feature here are the hoard encounters, where multiple wild Pokemon appear at once.  It can be devastating as you will get five Pokemon each attacking once per turn which can drain your HP very quickly, even though the opponent is usually at a lower level than normal.


As per previous games, wild Pokemon are found via random encounters, and I found that the rate is quite high, to the point where you can walk two steps and you'll be in a battle.  The caveat is that dungeons or areas where you encounter wild Pokemon are short and brief, so the rate needs to be this high in order to encounter all the Pokemon in each area.  Catching Pokemon requires you to use a Pokeball, there are so many different types of Pokeballs in the game and sometimes, the wild Pokemon's catch rate seems to be a bit too low, making you chuck more than a few balls.  The other major battle mechanic are Pokemon types, it is a sophisticated system of paper, scissors, rock.  Certain types are better against other such as Water over Rock, and Psychic over Fighting.


It is up to you to fight strategically and pick the right Pokemon with the right moves to make battles easier.  Pokemon can also carry an item with effects that automatically trigger.  How the mega evolutions work is that once per battle, and with specific Pokemons, you can mega evolve which considerably boosts their stats and potentially gain new moves or change types.  It adds another strategic layer to the game.  Upon booting up the game, you're greeted with something that's never been done before, and that is customizable appearances.  You pick how you look, to a certain degree, and then able to spend in-game currency to purchase clothes to customize your look even further.  The routes are generally linear although they offer limited branching paths to find items.  There are specific spots around called Photo Spots, in which your character poses in front of a landmark to take a photo.  It's a limited function and nowhere near replaces being able to take screenshots, but it is better than nothing.


The Pokemon Day Care remains int he game where you can leave two Pokemon which levels up in your absence.  Furthermore, leaving two compatible Pokemon would mean an egg and potentially a baby evolution.  The story is typical and nothing terribly exciting.  However, it is still one that works very well and gives you a goal and reason on why you are travelling across the region becoming a Pokemon master.  You start off in the small town of Vaniville, where you travel to a nearby bigger town and receive your Starter Pokemon.  You then traverse the Kalos Region in order to challenge each of the eight Gym Leaders, earn their badges and defeat the Elite Four to win the Pokemon League.


The other subplot involves you investigating the new mega evolutions and what it means, while at the same time, preventing the villainous group Team Flare from executing their evil plans.  Team Flare's subplot is actually quite disappointing and weak, just because it felt brief and their motives were not fleshed out enough for the player to care about.  It is your typical motive of wanting to end the world to make it a better place (similar to Team Aqua and Team Magma).  The main story ends when you win all eight gym badges, defeated the Elite Four as well as the Champion to become the Pokemon League Champion.  However!  There are still some post-game content including a lengthy sidequest, a battle arena reminiscing of the Battle Frontier from Pokemon Emerald and some legendary Pokemon to catch.


Pokemon X packs in a few touchscreen minigames such as a pattern matching game, a tapping game where you tap the touchscreen to get your Pokemon to bounce a ball back up, and a tile swiping game.  There is also a Super Training mode where you can use it to train your Pokemon to get extra stats when they level up.  It is a lot more content that you would expect.  This is not to mention the online connectivity where you can battle other players and trade Pokemon.  The graphics are solid although the low resolution of the 3DS's screen lets is down somewhat as some of the Pokemon's outlines are jagged.  Pokemon are rendered in 3D, they look cel-shaded and evocative of the sprite based designs of the previous games.  In battle, they are constantly moving and the attention to detail with these animations is impressive.


Perhaps the most impressing environment is the huge area of Lumiose City.  It is big to the point of being confusing and easy to get lost when you first visit the city.  The design is based upon France, so buildings look fancy and grand.  Sadly, there is also a game-breaking bug where if you save in Lumiose City, you lose your save, therefore it is very important to connect to the internet and download the updates before you start playing.  During certain cutscenes, the camera will also pan to give you a different more epic camera angle.  Overall, Pokemon X represents a fantastic upgrade to the series.  The graphics are vastly improved and the battle effects are more amazing and unique than ever.  They kept the core gameplay very similar which means it is easy to pick up, however, this also means that the formula may start to get stale for some.  If you've stopped playing Pokemon some time ago, Pokemon X is just the game that will suck you in again.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Hercules (2014)


Hercules doesn't take the easy route and make the film about his famous exploits such as the hydra and the Nemean lion.  Instead, it takes on a more realistic approach, explaining that the myths was a guise for Hercules, a mercenary from Athens.  He uses his legends and reputations to strike fear into his enemies.  Hercules takes on a position to save Thrace from a rebel army, training the King's army of farmers to beat the rebels back.  There is still some exaggeration here from Hercules incredible strength and power but it works really well.  The pacing is good, the film clocks in at around 94 minutes which is short enough to keep the action going but also long enough to flesh out the story.  The film ended up being a lot more enjoyable than expected, it managed to mix in a little bit of humor at the right times.  The special effects left some to be desired but as the mythical beasts only appear in visions or fantasies, it doesn't matter as much.  A fun epic movie that has solid scenes to keep your attentions.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: Agent 21: Codebreaker


Review:  #531
Title:  Agent 21:  Codebreaker
Series:  Agent 21 - 3rd book
Author:  Chris Ryan
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Codebreaker did not have the same impact as Reloaded did, however, this is still a fantastic book, nothing less than what you’d expect from Chris Ryan.  Zak is back and this time the story is set in London, where there is a merciless bomber targeting the innocents, committing mass murder.  Woven into the story is the theme of codes, hiding messages in plain sight.  This spices up the story and makes it more interesting, especially as the story is slowly revealed piece by piece, until the mastermind comes into light.  While the plot is solid, it isn’t as clever as some of the author’s other works.  It can also feel messy with the introduction of a character in the beginning, then kinda forgotten by the characters only to be brought back out again because the story required his skills.  A fun read but it leaves a lingering taste in that it could have been so much more.
Rating:  6/10

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Toy Review: D-Arts WarGreymon (2015 Re-release)


Review:  #281
Name:  WarGreymon
Brand:  D-Arts (Digimon)
Year of Release:  2015 (original 2010)
Variations:  the original was released in 2010, then a Designer Version and then a re-release in 2015

PACKAGING AND CONTENTS:


WarGreymon comes in a red and white box with "WarGreymon" in bold letters.  This is the D-Arts version of the character, specifically, the 2015 re-release.


The back has some fantastic stock photos of the figure.  You only get WarGreymon and a mini-Terra Force accessory though.

FIGURE:


Naturally, WarGreymon looks freaking amazing when you take him out of the box.  The proportions looks good and he has a premium feel.


The back is equally detailed and faithful to the cartoon, with the sun symbol emblazoned on his wing halves.


The head sculpt is fantastic and the eyes have a lot of detail that it's pretty crazy.  The head is on a balljoint and can look around, although it is still limited in range due to the shape of the head.


There are a lot of nice sculpted details.  His torso is double jointed (waist and upper torso) which may seem good but actually gets annoying when it shifts against your intentions as you pose the figure.


Of course, the highlight here are the gauntlets with their chromed claws.


What makes the chrome work here is the metallic gold paint used for the rest of the armor, it just all works very well together.


The gauntlets (which are proportionally huge) slot into his wrists so can feel loose as it does not click into place.


From certain angles though, it does feel like the gauntlets are situated too low and should be covering up most of his forearm instead of only half of it.


A quick size comparison, he is about the height of a figma (that is, 15.5cm) but he has more bulk to him.


Of course, the figure is built for posing and in terms of articulation, WarGreymon does not disappoint.


What does disappoint is how the figure feels in your hands.  The material used is a softer plastic and coupled with the many joints which likes to shift when you're moving something else, makes him occasionally annoying and frustrating to play with.


Bandai did not spare any expense on paint applications, with some pretty metallic silver and gold used for the armor.


His waist/thigh guards can lift to aid in posing, getting out of the way of the legs.


In terms of pure joints, he has:  elbows, wrists, shoulders, double-jointed torso, neck, hips, knees and ankles.  Oh, and his wings are also adjustable.


His feet is large which makes keep him upright easy.  His shoulder armor can also lift up.


The included accessory is a mini-Terra Force, his signature attack.


This means that you can only pose WarGreymon as he is creating the Terra Force, not when he is about to throw it, which is slightly disappointing.


The other thing is that his gauntlets can be removed.  This involves popping out the fists (on balljoints, which means they will eventually get loose if you pop them up and reattach them too much), it's actually quite difficult to put them back in as gripping the wrong part of the gauntlet will mean you'll break it.


Anyway, the result is that you can have a WarGreymon with bare fists, although why you would want that, I do not know.


That's about it for the features of the features.  While it may seem limited, there's nothing else that's relevant to the character that could have been done.


What makes this re-release different from the original are obviously the chromed claws, but there are also subtle differences in the shades of paint used around the figure.


By making the torso double jointed, it causes it to be slightly off-proportion compared to the cartoon model while providing no additional benefit.


With all that being said, it is impressive at how well the details translate into a 3D figure, and how great the figure looks.


The only worry here is that over time, the chrome will start to wear off and flake and the paint dull and scratched.


Still, WarGreymon looks fantastic and has great posing potential.

OVERALL:


D-Arts WarGreymon is the best representation of the character in physical form.  The re-release makes him that much more affordable.  The metallic paint used and chromed claws makes this figure amazing.  While the feel of the figure is lacking due to the joints making him feel loose and floppy, he is well worth purchasing.

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