April 23, 2008

The Forbidden Kingdom

Over the weekend I watched The Forbidden Kingdom, the first martial arts film to star both Jet Li and Jackie Chan. This pairing of legends is just part of what makes this a great movie.

For anyone who's seen older martial arts films (say, stuff from the 70s), this will bring back fond memories. The quality is far superior to those older films. It's more in line with modern classics such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (though this film doesn't drag on as that one did), House of Flying Daggers and Hero.

What's a bit different about this film is that, while it does feature plenty of gravity-defying stunts (or, as my father puts it, "People flying around"), it also includes a lot of Chinese mythology. The plot revolves around Monkey King, plus we get to see the Jade (Celestial) Emperor.

Even more impressive, Taoism also has a solid part of this movie, some of the key teachings being used during the young American's training. And not just simply quoted, as these things usually are, but very deftly demonstrated or explained.

Yes, I did mention a young American kid who's the chief hero of the film. It's his journey and transformation that we follow. As is typical, just about everyone in the movie speaks english, though this is well handled.

April 16, 2008

Iron Man Trailer Made Into Movie

Looks like the internet smash Iron Man Trailer is going to be made into a feature length film (wish I could have posted this on April 1st!)

April 05, 2008


I just purchased my first sword, a Adam Hsu Corn Leaf Saber by Paul Chen. The design is inspired by the Katana, but I like the simplicity of this design as well as the feel of the wood handle. The length is nice and it's very nicely balanced.

I've always wanted a sword, specifically a katana, but have never been able to find a design I liked. Then, last weekend while palling around with Jim and Rusty, we went into a medieval shop just to look around. I noticed they had Bill's sword from Kill Bill, and when one of the employees noticed my interest, started showing me around.

Of course they've got all the stuff you'd expect, Bill's and the Bride's sword, every weapon and at least one shield from Lord of the Rings, Hiro's sword from Heroes, even the one Morpheus used in Matrix Reloaded. And while the Morpheus one was tempting, it just never felt right settling for a Hollywood or fantasy blade.

Thanks to Jill and Jenn & Bob, I know of Paul Chen's work, so I asked if he had any. He pointed out one glass case with a bunch of expensive stuff (we're talking roughly $300-$500), then another glass case with the really expensive stuff. Wow.

But there were a couple more Paul Chen's on the rack, along with the Morpheus and Kill Bill stuff. Rusty initially asked to see it, but I had to take a look. The wood is a beautiful counter to the metal blade, more elegant in my opinion than the traditional Katana wraps that you see on every shelf...they just look too fake to me. And the balance...hell, the blade itself just felt right to me, there's just no other way to describe it.

So I took a week to think about it, and have not just returned home with my new sword. Time to go out and save the world!

Half-Life 2: Episode 2

I've played First-Person Shooters since the ancient days of DOOM. I played all the way through DOOM II, then went on to Heretic and Hexen (anyone else remember those?)

Then came Quake, a game so good I played it again a couple of years ago and still have the soundtrack (must be all the NIN sound and music!) I can still remember fondly deathmatching with my friends. I played through Quake II and Quake III, even a little of Quake IV, though sadly they're all nowhere near as good as Quake.

Of course I played Unreal, then Unreal Tournament, UT2003 and UT2004 (which is still loaded on my machine for that quick fix!)

Then there was Medal of Honor, Call of Duty and Call of Duty 2.

I greatly enjoyed Aliens VS Predator (which didn't allow you to save during a level, major drawback!), then AVP2. Even though the humans have all the Colonial Marine firepower, and of course the Predators are just fun as hell to play thanks to their tech, I mastered the Alien early on. The Alien is the ultimate Ninja. Nothing can truly define the word 'fear' other than running across a wall or ceiling, then leaping onto your opponent with a savage cry and viciously ripping them into bits, regardless of their weapon...especially in deathmatch play!

Star Trek Voyager Elite Force was played through - it's a great FPS that includes all sorts of stuff from the Trek universe. Great story.

Jedi Knight sucked, a lot of the levels were just stupid mazes you had to negotiate. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Academy is a blast. The game itself plays great in story mode. In deathmatch it's like playing a dream version of the Star Wars universe, chock full of Jedi and Sith all throwing their Force powers around willy-nilly.

Speaking of story, almost nothing comes close to Halo.

Almost nothing, that is, except for Half-Life and Half-Life 2. Masterful and entertaining. Oh, and let's not forget Portal, which is just plain fun. Sometimes I play it through just to hear GlaDOS talk it's line of shit.

I'm a First-Person-fucking-master!

Until I played Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

You see, in the games that immediately followed DOOM, there was a terrible fixation with puzzle levels. Anyone who's played (or tried) Hexen surely remembers those. It's a full, complete level that, once you clear out all the monsters, you have to solve a difficult puzzle to go on to the next level. Hexen featured this courtyard with entrances to 4 or 6 different levels, all of which comprised one gigantic puzzle that you had to solve before continuing the game. I can still remember the frustration of searching through those sub levels, trying to figure out which puzzle I hadn't completed.

Well, HL2e2 has a combat puzzle unlike anything I've ever seen before. You're at the White Forest missile base, the scientists there are about to launch a rocket into a portal in the sky, to close it. Long story short, a bunch of Striders and Hunters are coming to crash the party. Your job (as Gordon Freeman) is to stop them.

Now, you have a car in this part of the game. You can run over Hunters with the car, so that's a bonus.

But the game wants you to use the Gravity Gun to throw a Magnusson Device (basically, a sticky-bomb) onto each Strider, then shoot the Device to blow up the Strider.

This is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. The Hunters must be killed before you toss the Magnusson Device at the Strider, or they automatically shoot it out of mid-air. And I've seen way too many Devices miss the Strider, or stick only to fall off once I change weapons to shoot it.

What's worse is that you can't carry a Magnusson Device, unless you've got the Gravity Gun selected. In which case, you don't have a weapon you can fire other than tossing the Device. Plus you can't use the Gravity Gun to carry an Device while driving.

(In the interest of fairness, there is a hook on the back of the car that is designed to carry a Manusson Device.)

The only place you can actually get a Device is from one of the 4 or 5 houses that are scattered across the valley (oh, did I mention the playing field is HUGE, you actually need the car to get around!) Now, here's the kicker, the Striders blow up the houses once they get close enough, at which point you can no longer go there to get a Device!

Did I mention that there's something like 12 groups of these creatures that must be defeated before you can continue the game?

I tried this section of the game several times before resorting to online walk-throughs, then online video tutorials. They all make it sound oh so easy, but the reality is that this level absolutely and totally sucks.