Attested Development

Arrested DevelopmentWith the fourth season released thus completing the long-awaited return of a fan favorite, we are now faced with all the things we are both happy and unhappy with about the latest installments of Arrested Development. I’m not going to try to convince anyone that the newest episodes are as good or better than the old episodes. These episodes offer their own charm and their own problems.

The same crafted humor and layered set-ups that made the original series classic are still there. Old jokes and gags are used just as well as they were previously. Along with the old, new gaffs as well as new tie-ins to old ones are riddled throughout. Almost the entire ensemble of characters makes at least a cameo return. Some memorable characters have larger roles than others and some go almost unnoticed except to a keen eye.

The problems start to become apparent with not only the plot itself but the style it is delivered in. At the end of the fifteen episodes you are left with an absence of resolution. It seems that things aren’t finished and so much was left incomplete. Bare in mind that a movie is planned so you might have accept that a lot of what is in this new season is just used to catch you up with the characters and story as well as set things up for the movie. The bigger issue I had was how choppy the shows were presented. Each episode jumped back and forth in time showing events both present and past. Each episode, although based on one character, is intertwined with the story lines of other characters. This can lead to confusion as you have to piece the entirety of the story across all the episodes. I would have preferred to seen the plot played out more linearly myself. I can only conclude that Ron Howard really likes hearing his own voice since he did so much narration in these new shows it was borderline annoying. If the plot is so complicated that he has to constantly add his own dialogue, perhaps he should have done better to either simplify it or play it out better in the scenes.

With all that said, I am still happy with what was delivered and plan to watch the new content all over again. Perhaps I’ll catch more of the subtleties in these episodes just as I did in the originals as I watched them several times over. I know it’s early and with a movie already planned, I suppose it is too much to ask that the series be resurrected? I’ll take whatever they’ll give me.

Past Effect

Mass EffectWhy post about a game that was released in 2007? Because it’s a great game. Plus, I just finished playing it….again….twice. The reason? I wanted to play the PlayStation 3 version. Mass Effect was originally released as an Xbox 360 exclusive. The Mass Effect universe did not appear on the PlayStation 3 until after the initial release of Mass Effect 2. Then Mass Effect 3 was released on both platforms simultaneously. Finally, the original Mass Effect was released to PlayStation gamers.

This was strictly a port and re-release. This was not an HD remake like other games have had. You will still encounter glitches but that is inherent in any game. One of the funnier ones that seems to happen a lot is when you or a teammate get caught in an environmental object and start convulsing and jittering as if you just smoked crack while in the midst of a sugar rush. The combat system is okay but there are obvious improvements in the sequels. Upgrading your weapons and armor is a bit confusing. If you figure it out early you are fine so make sure you pay attention to what items are in your inventory and how you use them. Proper use can make battles and enemies much easier to get past. A particular frustration to me was the Mako. This is the vehicle you have to drive when you land on planets and in several main story line missions. I can only compare this experience to trying to bowl on ice while wearing your socks. You can eventually learn to do it well enough to get bye but at certain times it will go irrecoverably wrong.

Put aside the technical problems and you will find yourself in one of the best RPG shooter games available. You’ll play as Commander Shepard whom you can build as male or female. That is the first of many choices you’ll get to make during this game. Throughout the game you’ll be given the opportunity to make choices during conversations that potentially alter the conversation itself and aspects of the game’s story line. The game moves the plot well by offering a good balance of story development and combat missions. The characters are not only well written but well voiced.

If you are interested in this game on the PlayStation 3 your options are limited. To get only the original Mass Effect, you’ll have to purchase it in digital form from the PlayStation Store for about $15. The only way to get the game on disc for the PlayStation is to buy the Mass Effect trilogy. The trilogy will include all three of the Mass Effect games and some of the DLC. The trilogy will only cost you $44.71 on Amazon as of the time of this post. But once you start playing this game it’s a good chance you’ll want to continue on with the story. Xbox 360 players can get the trilogy from Amazon for $45.35 or get only the original for about $15 on Xbox Marketplace.

Grandma’s Joy

Grandma's BoyHollywood can’t seem to make a decent movie based on a video game but a movie about people who make video games is another story. Grandma’s Boy was released in 2006 and quickly disappeared from the theaters. Although the box office numbers don’t look good, the movie has gone on to becoming somewhat of a cult classic.

Alex, Allen Covert, is a video game programmer that ends up moving in with his grandmother because his roommate was spending their rent money on Filipino hookers. The entire movie is constructed of zany happenings and antics such as this. The movie follows Alex as he tries to not let people know he lives with his grandmother and maintain his job. There is a love interest in the movie for Alex but don’t worry about this movie being a romance film, it is pure comedy.

The movie holds up to this day because of its timeless humor. It would have been easy to make this movie dated but that is avoided since it is focused on the people and not on video games or technology. While you watch this movie remember that it was released a year before the Xbox 360 was introduced. Therefore any of the games shown or referenced are going to be old. Since this only happens on a limited basis it is not an issue you should concern yourself with. Besides, you’re going to watch this to get some laughs not as a documentary on the video game industry.

There really aren’t any moments in the movie that you won’t be laughing at. The cast is full of actors that you will recognize. Realize that this movie was made by Adam Sandler’s production company, so you’ll see a lot of people who were in movies with him. Nick Swardson’s character alone should keep you chuckling.

The only caution that I will give with this movie is to not watch a censored version. To put it on cable or broadcast television some of the funniest parts have to be edited out. Do yourself a favor and find a full version of it. Amazon.com has the DVD for $6.09 as of this posting.

Fast & Furious Sux: The Game

ff6Do you like cars? Do you like fast cars? Do you like cars racing? Do you like loose plots of people racing cars and fighting crime? Then you are a Fast & Furious fan. While you wait for the sixth movie to arrive, take some time to download this game but set your expectations appropriately.

Let’s take a look at the good and the bad things about the game.

Good things – it’s free, great graphics, and good controls. The base game is free but it uses micro-transactions(more on that later). I played this game on an iPad 3 and was very impressed by the quality of the graphics. Every car looks exactly like its real world counterpart and as you add upgrades the detail is shown every time you race. You don’t steer your car in this game. The game is based on drag racing so your controls are for shifting, drifting, and nitrous.

Now on to the bad – unclear ranking system, micro-transactions, and waiting for purchases. Each car is rated based on the its abilities/characteristics(grip, power, weight, gearbox, and suspension) but it doesn’t seem to correlate correctly. For example, in one race my car has a rating of 300 and the opponent has a rating of 278. Based on that I should be able to win but some how this opponent blows past me on the last half of the race every time. As far as the micro-transactions, some are not so micro. There is a $99.99 transaction in this game and I’m not sure that gets you everything in this game. To get upgrades and cars you have to spend the points and gold you earn racing. If you want to fast track you can buy fake gold for the game with real money from your life. To further exacerbate this, when you buy upgrades for your car you will have to wait fifteen minutes for it to be delivered or you can use gold to get it immediately. This is a blatant and terrible way to draw people into spending money on this game.

The game is both fun and frustrating at the same time. The races are short but well laid out and the controls are easy to follow. Trying to progress through the game is limited by your car’s ability. You won’t be able to progress in the main story line until your car is good enough to win certain races. This goes back to doing other races or straight out paying to earn upgrades. If you are willing to drop cash into an iOS game, you can spend as little as $2.99 or as much as $99.99. I’d be really curious to know how may people paid $99.99 in a free game but I’m sure we’ll never know. The game is good if you want to jump in and out of a quick race every now and then. Check it out and if you don’t like it just delete it. I won’t cost you anything unless you want it to.

Lust In Translation

lostinTake one of the great character actors of his time, pair him with an up and coming starlet, put them in a foreign land, and you get a great movie. A rare combination of things that shouldn’t fit but happened to come together and create an unexpected gem. It’s not for everyone though, it is a somewhat a of a romance story but not too much. The story is more about two people at different points in their life both feeling lost.

The movie is set in Japan with Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a washed up movie actor, there to do an ad campaign for a whiskey. Scarlett Johansson, as Charlotte,  is in the country with her husband who is a photographer. They happen to be staying in the same hotel and end up meeting by chance. Skipping most of the details of the plot, they end up spending time together and essentially falling for each other. Obviously their romance is somewhat forbidden since they are both married but it never gets deep into that since the timeline of the movie is less that a week long.

Several elements come into making the movie well worth watching. This is one of those movies that doesn’t seem to be a Bill Murray role but he pulls it off and makes it worth seeing. Think of his roles in The Razor’s Edge or Mad Dog and Glory as opposed to his comedic roles of Kingpin and Caddyshack. He shows his ability to carry a character rather than being the laugh line – although he does sprinkle in the humor and charm that he is known for. The pairing with a very young Scarlett Johansson made her role and counterpart to Bill Murray’s very believable. She does well to portray both the innocence and listlessness of youth with dashes of youthful arrogance and superiority. Some people may argue or take issue with the fact that Tokyo is the back drop of the story. I think that the setting was a big part of making the story work by allowing the characters to be outside of a their normal controlled environment. Consider if New York had been the city and the characters having to deal with being recognized by acquaintances(or fans in Bob Harris’s case). In Tokyo they could be much less guarded and the story could move along much easier.

Netflix viewers can watch this via streaming right now or wait for the disk. Amazon will stream it or sell it to you. As for run time, it lists at 101 minutes(less than 2 hours if you need help with the math). Take the time and watch it. Maybe you’ll fall for it too. The fact that the opening scene was a screen full of Miss Johansson’s ass while she laid on a bed might have influenced my interest in this movie.

A Revisited Development

dudewantshisrug

arresteddIf you don’t know what is happening on May 26th then maybe this post isn’t for you. Of course, I write of the Netflix exclusive release of Arrested Development’s fourth season. It’s been ten years since the series began and seven since it came to its broadcast end. Ever since, there has been a swell of anxious demand, unfounded rumors, and disbelief. Time after time there were announcements that the series was finally making a comeback. So much so that I didn’t believe Netflix had actually pulled it off when they announced it. Only when the cast and crew starting making reports and posting pictures of the filming did I finally believe.

I found that the most reasonable way to prepare for this was to watch the existing three seasons from beginning to end. I laughed again at all the classic lines, such as – “There’s always money in the…

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Transformers Prime Rib

dudewantshisrug

20130515-034337.jpgI am long time Transformers fan. Back in the long ago, I had as many of the toys I could manage to get my family to buy. I waited for and watched every episode of the original cartoon series. I even had some of the comic books. I even remember seeing the animated movie at the theater when it was released.

The fact that this series of cartoons existed was not news to me but I never got to see any of it until recently when Netflix dropped the first two seasons on me. Of all the good things I heard about this particular series, I can agree with all of them. The series has its own story arc. So expect to see some familiar faces and new characters. Also, expect to see some twist and variations on established characters and even some story lines.

The story line of the series seems both well developed…

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