Archive for August, 2010
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
My brother and I have been playing Lego Harry Potter together since it was released a couple of months ago. Last night, we finally completed the game, earning 100% of all characters, red bricks, gold bricks, house crests, and students in peril. Overall, the Lego games are a lot of fun and this was no exception.
We have played every Lego game together since the Star Wars Prequels version came out a few years ago. Honestly, that first game might still be my favorite and though I enjoyed the following Original Trilogy version quite a bit as well, there is just something about being able to choose from a plethora of lightsaber-wielding Jedi and Sith (especially Darth Sidious!) that is hard to beat. Nonetheless, I would put Harry Potter as a close second. It was definitely better than Indiana Jones and Batman, which I felt were both lacking in the character department.
Lego Harry Potter includes 24 playable levels, six for each of the first four books. We played through them on story mode pretty quickly and though we didn’t have any trouble beating the levels, we found that we didn’t get many of extras. For each level, you can unlock three characters, rescue a student in peril, attain “True Wizard” by collecting a certain quota of coins, and find the four parts that make up a Hogwarts crest. I think we ended up playing most of the levels three times before we collected everything.
Collecting the coins, student in peril, and crest would also give you a gold brick for each. In order to unlock a bonus level and the final character (Lord Voldemort), you need to collect all 200 gold bricks. In addition to the levels, you can also wander around Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, where there are additional students in peril, gold bricks, and 20 red bricks.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite find everything on our own and had to keep a laptop nearby the last couple times we played so we could look up the final few gold bricks hiding within Hogwarts (which is one hell of a maze) and the last student in peril.
This game really is a blast for kids and adults. If you are into Harry Potter, and even if you aren’t really a gamer, it’s a lot of fun and allows you play with all of the characters you love (and hate) from the series. Highly recommended.
Sunday, August 29th, 2010
So I saw Scott Pilgrim vs The World in the theater a couple weeks ago and I thought it was pretty awesome. So awesome in fact that I decided to check out the comic series and purchased the first volume on Amazon.com. Though my package wasn’t delivered by a cute girl on rollerblades, I was still happy to receive it and was not disappointed with the contents.
The first volume is 168 pages and I think I read it in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. It sets up our protagonist Scott Pilgrim, a lazy, unemployed bassist living somewhere in Canada, and concludes with his fight with the first of Ramona Flower’s seven evil exes, Matthew Patel. By falling for the spunky, rollerblading delivery girl, Scott has signed on to do battle with a league of evil ex-boyfriends, which sets the stage for the rest of the series that recently concluded after six volumes.
So what did I think of the comic?
I thought it was fun. There was a decent amount of humor and I really enjoyed the story. One thing in particular that I thought was really cool was that the author, Bryan Lee O’Malley, even included the chords to the song that Scott’s band (Sex Bob Omb) performs. I might just have to dust off my guitar and give it a whirl.
So how does it compare to the movie?
Honestly, I think the entertainment value is pretty similar, though, obviously, the experiences are a lot different. I was a little surprised at just how similar it was to the movie in fact. The dialog is almost word-for-word, adding and subtracting very little. I thought the filmmakers did a really good job capturing all of the details and creativity. I’ve seen some criticism about the choice of Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim, but I enjoyed the way he played the part when I saw the film and, after reading the first volume, he seemed to play it true to the comic.
Hopefully, I’ll be getting the second volume pretty soon!
Friday, August 27th, 2010
Earlier this summer a friend recommended that I check out Arrested Development. As it turns out Netflix has all three seasons available for streaming so it was an easy decision to add the first season to my queue and give it run. My friend insisted that it was very funny and I vaguely recalled that it was often labeled as “the best show you’re not watching,” but what I discovered was that Arrested Development is outrageously hilarious and perhaps the funniest show since Seinfeld.
Now for me, Seinfeld is the quintessential sitcom. It was hilarious when it originally aired and it is still hilarious years later. In fact, I find myself laughing loudly and frequently during episodes that I’ve seen literally a dozen times. Until I saw Arrested Development, I would say that The Office had been the only sitcom in recent history that I have found consistently funny and that even comes close to Seinfeld stature, though it doesn’t have the same rewatchability.
Arrested Development, for those who haven’t seen it, stars Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, the one sensible individual living amongst a family of idiots. Sure, he has his moments of stupidity, but his fellow siblings and parents outshine him by far. The show has an amazing cast, including Michael Cera as George Michael Bluth, Will Arnett as Gob Bluth (pronounced like Job from the Bible), Portia de Rossi as Lindsay Bluth Funke, and David Cross as Tobias Funke among many other talented actors. The show is also narrated superbly by Ron Howard (which I didn’t realize until like a minute ago).
The first two seasons are pure comedic genius and the third is very funny as well, though I thought it wasn’t quite as funny as the first two. Overall, the show only ended up with 53 episodes before it was untimely canceled. I didn’t take long to watch the whole series and it was pretty disappointing to see it end, but there is some light on the horizon. A feature film is scheduled for release in 2012 and, according to imdb.com, will feature the full cast from the show. I’m definitely looking forward to the movie. I would love to see what the talented writers have come up with in the last few years.
If you haven’t watched the show and you like to laugh at all, check it out. Now. Seriously.
Wednesday, August 25th, 2010
So I saw Scott Pilgrim vs The World during its opening weekend and I was pretty much blown away. I loved the story and really enjoyed the creative way it was told. The video game and pop culture elements were well done and gave the movie a unique quality.
Leaving the theater, I kept thinking about how much I really enjoyed the experience. I didn’t really know what to expect going in so I was completely unprepared for just how funny and just fun the movie ended up being.
Since then, little scenes or lines from the movie have continued to pop into my head at random times and I find myself smiling or even chuckling. So last night, I finally broke down and dropped $6.59 for the first volume of the comic book that inspired the movie, Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life. The book will be in my hands on Thursday and I can’t wait!
I am a little worried though. Like any normal kid growing up, I read comics, but not consistently. I wouldn’t buy them regularly so, when I did, I’m pretty sure I just picked out whatever had the coolest cover art. I have never really been able to quite get into comics; it is one of the lacking aspects of my otherwise impressive geek cred. I mean, I totally respect the work that goes into them and I’ve definitely enjoyed the deluge of recent comic book inspired movies, but I’ve never found a series that has really drawn me in. I’m hoping that I’ve just been reading the wrong stuff, because I really want to like the Scott Pilgrim comic as much as I enjoyed the movie.
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Since I was a teenager, my friends and I have made it a point to play strategy board games whenever we get the chance. It all started with the World War II epic, Axis & Allies, which would take all night, but was a lot of fun. Since then, we’ve spent countless hours playing just about every version of Risk in existence and an awesome Star Wars themed game known as Epic Duels.
A few months ago, I was introduced to Settlers of Catan, which is a strategy board game in which you attempt to build roads, settlements, and cities to earn points. The first player to 10 points wins. In order to build these structures, you must acquire the proper materials including ore, grain, brick, lumber, and wool.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking–this sounds really boring–because that’s what I was thinking when my buddy first introduced me to the game. As it turns out however, the game is really a lot of fun. Games generally take about 45-90 minutes so you can often play a couple in one sitting. We usually play with 3 people, but you can have up to 4 in the regular edition and I believe there is an expansion pack that lets you play up to 6.
If you start getting tired of the original version, there are a slew of expansion sets that you can buy (for about $30) that provide a completely new gaming experience. We have the Cities and Knights expansion and it introduces so many new elements that it is like playing a completely different game. The only caveat is that it seems to take a little longer.
Despite the fact that I really enjoy this game, I kind of suck at it. I usually play with my brother and a mutual friend. My friend tends to win about 2/3 of the time while my brother and I split the other 1/3. Unfortunately, my brother even tends to win most of those, but I finally got my second ever victory Friday night and I was so pleased that I decided that a blog post was required!
Well, I’m out. Godspeed.
Saturday, August 21st, 2010
When I was at Comic-Con in July, I attended the DK Publishing panel where the authors and contributors of Star Wars Year By Year discussed their roles in putting together this chronicle of all things Star Wars. It was actually a pretty interesting panel and brought back some fond memories of my Star Wars-filled childhood, but the best part was that I won a free copy of the book!
Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the book going in and the way they described it made it sound like it was similar to DK’s other Star Wars contributions like the Incredible Cross-sections and so forth. However, the book came in the mail today and as soon as I picked it up, I knew it was going to be more than I expected.
The book weighs like 5 lbs and retails at $50 (both of which were surprises to me), but I was really shocked when I opened it up and began to grasp the amazing level of detail. There are just a ton of fantastic photos and tidbits of information. It really is incredible. It definitely made me chuckle a few times as I thought back on some of the toys I had, games I played, or books I read as I grew up.
I haven’t had a chance to really go through it, but I can’t wait to dig in. The one that I already know for sure is that it’s going to make a great coffee table book. I’ve already decided that it holds an honorary spot where all my guests will be able to page through it.
Thursday, August 19th, 2010
I like making lists. I make lists for all kinds of things: groceries, books that I would like to read, stuff I need to do around the house, stuff I need to do at work. I could go on, but I’ll digress for the sake of sanity. I make lists to keep myself organized, but sometimes when I’m bored, I make lists of things that I like such as my favorite bands, movies, TV shows, etc. It keeps me entertained while I’m mowing the lawn or driving home from work.
Well, with all of these lists just floating around in my head, I think it is time to document them. I’m starting with an easy one: favorite bands.
- The Beatles – The entire first floor of my house is Beatles themed. I don’t quite own all of there studio albums, but I’m pretty close. I’m not sure I could ever pick a favorite album or song, but I do really love Hey Bulldog and Dear Prudence.
- Led Zeppelin – These guys just plain rock. I have all of their studio albums, The Song Remains the Same dvd, and that other dvd they released in like 2003 that doesn’t have a name (the one that is really awesome).
- Rush – These guys are truly amazing musicians. I really love their stuff from the 70s and their first couple albums from the 80s. Not a huge fan of the rest of their stuff until the last few albums, which are decent, but definitely not my favorites. I’ll be seeing them for the 3rd time in September!
- The Who – Tommy and Who’s Next are two of the finest rock albums ever in my opinion. I so wish I could have seen them live in their glory days.
- The Rolling Stones – I don’t think any of their work is among my favorites, but the sheer magnitude of good, solid music makes them a band I never get tired of hearing.
Notable contenders (in no particular order): Yes, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Allman Brothers, Cream, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, and Pink Floyd.
Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
I’ve had Mistborn on my “to read” list for some time now (along with about 50 other novels), but my resolve to read the trilogy has increased significantly lately.
First, while wandering around the Gaslamp district during Comic-Con, my brother and I went into Borders to borrow some Wi-fi and I noticed that Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and Brent Weeks were going to be there doing readings, signings, and the like while I was in town. I was really excited until I realized that I had never read anything by any of those authors.
Second, the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club on Goodreads chose Mistborn as their August Fantasy novel.
Third, I discovered that Amazon.com had the trilogy listed at $16.30 (which is a really good deal for three new paperbacks) and I jumped on them. They came today and I can’t wait to tear into them.
But there is one problem: I promised myself that I wouldn’t start a new series until I finished at least one other series that I’m currently partway through. So I guess Mistborn will have to sit and wait patiently on my bookshelf for me to finish reading Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy (at the very least).
I really want to read some of the newer Fantasy work that’s coming out, but I feel the need to work through some of the classic works first. Right now, I’m somewhere in the mid-90s. I just hope I catch up eventually.
Monday, August 16th, 2010
Last night, my brother and I decided to go see Scott Pilgrim, a movie that I knew almost nothing about, but was drawn to by solid reviews and a huge amount of hype coming out of Comic-Con. If I had to describe the film in one word, it would be AWESOME.
|Enormous Scott Pilgrim ad on the side of the Hilton
I really didn’t have any idea what to expect going in, but the experience left me thoroughly entertained. Not only was there great action, special effects, and humor, the film also had an excellent plot with thoughtful dialog. But perhaps the best part was that it was FUN from beginning to end.
The way the story was told was so creative. There was this ever-present video game vibe throughout the movie that I thought worked really well. For example, every time Scott got into a fight, it felt like a scene out of Mortal Kombat and every opponent that he defeated would burst into an explosion of coins. Then, there was this other scene where they played the Seinfeld theme and interjected sitcom-style laughter. It was really random and was pretty brief, but it was really amusing.
Another thing that I liked was how everyone was just able to kick some serious ass and that was all just well and normal. Getting punched through a brick wall wasn’t really that big a deal. Maybe it hurt a little, but was typical in a bare-knuckles brawl. The writers didn’t try to explain it; that’s just how things were.
On top of all the afore mentioned awesomeness, the film was also a great love story. I know that seems sappy, but I really liked how everything Scott faced was to win the heart of a girl.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. So much so, that I could almost go see it again or perhaps check out the comic book series.
Saturday, August 14th, 2010
I’ve been a member of Goodreads.com for over a year, but I only recently decided to try out their Book Swap feature that allows you to trade books with other users. The concept is pretty basic:
- You list the books in your collection that you are willing to part with.
- You create a Wishlist of books that you want or you can search through the books that other people have listed. Goodreads will also periodically remind you if books you Wishlist are available.
- If someone requests one of your books, Goodreads asks you a series of questions that they use to assemble a proper shipping label. You print the label, put the book in a box or good-sized envelope, and send it out–and you aren’t charged a thing.
- If you request a book, Goodreads bills you the shipping total.
It really ends up being a pretty good deal. I just requested my first book and it came in the mail today. I Choose The Fires of Heaven, the first novel in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. When it came, I was surprised to find a like-new hardcover, the original receipt, and a recent McDonald’s receipt in the envelope. Needless to say, I was most excited about the book, especially because it only cost me $4.00.
At this point, I have only listed two items, a paperback copy of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and the original Dragonlance trilogy by Weiss and Hickman. A Game of Thrones was requested within 24 hours, but a couple months went by before Dragonlance was requested. I shipped them both out without a hassle.
I really think this is a nice service. The best part is, unlike similar services such as bookmooch.com, you don’t have to list or ship any books before you get your first one. However, you do get rewarded with a free book for every 10 you ship out.
The service is so easy to use and, best of all, cheap that it’s really a no-brainer. I’m definitely going to start picking up more books this way, though, for the sake of fairness, I probably won’t request many more books than I send out. If you are a Goodreads user, I definitely recommend that you check it out.