Doctor Who: Pond Life and Season 7

I should be blogging about how awesome Guild Wars 2 is. I should have been excited about my 3-day headstart. However, I have insufficient RAM. SO! Instead of video games, I bring you Doctor Who news.

Season 7 premieres with “Asylum of the Daleks” at 8 p.m. CDT tomorrow on BBC America. Why should you care? Because dinosaurs on a spaceship.

If you haven’t already, make sure you check out Pond Life on YouTube. It’s a five-part prequel to this season that shows what happens in the Ponds’ home between their adventures with the Doctor. The episodes are less than two minutes long, so not having time is no excuse. In fact, I just watched all five of them, and after Part 5, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Rory and Amy. I’ve grown quite attached to the Ponds, and I’ll be sad to see them go, but I guess it was inevitable.

Check back on Sunday for “11 Thoughts on ‘Asylum of the Daleks.’”

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Review: ‘The Avengers’ is everything expected and more

Writer-director Joss Whedon (“Serenity,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) has set the bar for superhero movies. From Iron Man’s quick wit to the Hulk’s smashing, “The Avengers” is simply amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed the “Iron Man” movies, “Thor,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and bringing the three together made for one epic flick.

The movie is as much dialogue-driven as it is action-driven. Yeah, the action is explosive and exciting, but dialogue that is so clever and brilliant that the entire theater laughs is what really made the movie for me.

via Marvel.com

The Plot
It would be naïve to brush off “The Avengers” as just another superhero movie. It isn’t your regular super-powered vigilantes in tights fighting some diabolical maniac. Well, it is about vigilantes fighting a diabolical maniac, but there’s more to it than that.

“The Avengers” takes into account a key element of the movies that preceded it.

The Tesseract appears at the post-credits scene of “Thor.” S.H.I.E.L.D.

Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reveals the Cosmic Cube to Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), who was being manipulated by Loki (Tom Hiddleston). It appears again – but chronologically first – in “Captain America,” where Red Skull plans to use its comic power for world domination.

Now, (in the present of the movie), the Tesseract becomes active in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility and rips open a portal. Enter Loki.

It is then up to the Avengers to settle their differences and save the world.

The Cast
It’s rare that an ensemble cast works well; this is one of those rarities. This perfection stems from the intra-group conflict and chemistry. The heroes spend as much time fighting each other as fighting the baddies.

The movie answers questions of anyone who’s ever wondered who would win in a fight between Iron Man and Thor or Thor and Captain America or Captain America and the Hulk or the Hulk and Thor.

The characters aren’t necessarily redefined for “The Avengers,” but there are differences, most of which work for the better.

Robert Downey Jr. has already been established as playboy genius Tony Stark. However, in “The Avengers,” he was more witty than in “Iron Man.” Some reviewers (cough cough NPR) go as far as saying he’s obnoxious. But his wit isn’t without reason.

Though I was originally opposed to Chris Evans portraying Captain America on the principal that an actor shouldn’t be allowed to portray two heroes in the same universe. It wasn’t until “The Avengers” that I fully accepted him in this role.

Mark Ruffalo is easily the best Hulk in the past decade. He delivered lines regarding physics and gamma radiation with ease, as Bruce Banner should.

I’m normally not a fan of Scarlett Johansson, but as Black Widow she became one of Whedon’s token badass females. She blended perfectly into her character.

Even though Jeremy Renner doesn’t have the biggest role in the movie, his role as Hawkeye opened up potential for a Hawkeye movie. There’s a lot about Hawkeye that remains unknown to the casual movie-goer.

The 3-D

Special edition Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America (not pictured) 3-D glasses will be available at participating theaters. Cool, but not made for glasses-wearers.


Wearing 3-D glasses over prescription glasses has never been easy, and even moreso when they are Avengers-themed 3-D glasses. While the glasses were novel, I spent two previews trying to figure out how to keep both pairs of glasses on my face. I ended up using a hair tie to hold the arms together on one side.

That brief struggle was totally worth it. The 3-D was unobtrusive and undemanding. Also, Hulk look good in 3-D.

Overall…
“The Avengers” is a must-see. Perhaps, even a must-see-twice.

If you’re not sure you want to have your mind blown by 142 minutes of pure awesome, think of it this way: before even being released in the U.S., it’s already grossed more than $281 million. How could anyone resist being a part of knocking James Cameron down a notch on the list of highest grossing films?

Oh, and stay for the post-credits scene.

Rating: 5/5

Review: “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”

Andy Samberg: It has the two key qualities of a classic Nic Cage action film. Number one…
Nicolas Cage: All the dialogue is either whispered or screamed.
Andy Samberg: And, of course, number two…
Nicolas Cage: Everything in the movie is on fire.
– “Weekend Update: Get in the Cage,” Saturday Night Live (s.37 : ep.14)

Courtesy of Sony Pictures

It’s been about a month and a half since I saw “Ghost Rider.” Last night, I saw “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” in not-3-D.

As the movie started, I realized I had made a colossal mistake. And no, it wasn’t seeing a Nic Cage movie. Going in this movie expecting a sequel is just about the dumbest thing anyone could do. With the new directors, producers, writers and actors, it might as well have been an entirely new Ghost Rider movie that just so happened to star the one and only Nicolas Cage.

In some ways, I actually wish it were the first Ghost Rider movie. It wasn’t better or worse than the 2007 movie, but its structure presented itself as the first in a series.

Another mistake I made — but don’t regret — was not seeing it in 3-D. It is obviously intended to be viewed in 3-D, and I imagine I missed an entire dimension of awesome. However, I also avoided 95 minutes of nausea.

Der Plot (the plot)

The movie begins at a monastery in Eastern Europe where Anthony Head is a monk. Some guy on a motorcycle — who isn’t Nic Cage — shows up looking for a kid. There’s some mention of a ritual, which one could only assume involves killing said kid. Then… BAM! gunfight and car chase.

An “inFAMOUS”-cutscene-style animation gives a general background to who Johnny Blaze is and how he became Ghost Rider — you know, for all the people who chose to see “Spirit of Vengeance” without seeing  “Ghost Rider.”

After the brief background story of Blaze’s deal with the devil, we’re back in Eastern Europe where he just so happens to be hiding out. How convenient! Now he can go save the kid, not fall in love with Eva Mendes — who isn’t even in the movie –, and kill all the things with his “Penance Stare.” Oops… spoiler alert.

The primary problem with both of the Ghost Rider movies is that lack of character development. I was pretty invested in the plot, but so much more could have been done with Johnny Blaze’s struggle with being the Ghost Rider and his motivation to protect the kid. It was almost as if Johnny Blaze was supposed to fulfill the father-role for the 13-year-old Devil’s spawn… but he didn’t.

Then again who cares about character development when everything’s on fire? NOBODY.

On the more cinematographic side of things…

The directing was a bit… avant-garde, which wasn’t bad. It was different from any other comic book movie I’d ever seen. (Aside from maybe The Spirit, but I like to pretend I haven’t seen that one.)

The effects were a wonderful reminder of how far CGI has come in the last five years. AND EVERYTHING WAS ON FAKE FIRE.

If I were to honestly rate this movie for its quality, I’d probably give it a 1.5 out of 5. However, I enjoy Nicolas Cage movies for all the wrong reasons and that earns “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” a 3.5 out of 5.

If my review doesn’t convince you to go to the theater right now, here are a few of my favorite Johnny Blaze lines from the movie.

I get it. You’re the devil’s baby mama.

You will tell me or I will eat your stinking soul.

There was a bee. I thought it was going to sting your face.

Guns and wine. Naughty priests.

Also…
http://www.hulu.com/embed/7Q8bciSUyk_V5l4B67XAoA

Finally? Maybe.

This morning, I logged in to Facebook and scrolled through my newsfeed, searching for something of interest, then I saw this:
“…the year of Guild Wars 2!” FINALLY. 2011 was full of speculations and rumors. I remember hearing it would be released mid-year, then rumors of November and December. Now, it’s a whole new year and a new lunar year.

Here’s what ANet Founder and President Mike O’Brien had to say:

We recently finished our first closed beta test, and we’re now ready to hold progressively larger events. In February we’ll invite select press to participate in beta testing, and in March and April we’ll aggressively ramp up the size of our beta test events so that many of you will have a chance to participate. And of course, this all leads to the release of Guild Wars 2 later this year.

So stay tuned to our official Guild Wars 2 websiteour Facebook page, and this blog for more information about how to participate in an upcoming beta event.

It’s been an incredible adventure over the past five years, working with our community and our team of dedicated artists, designers, and programmers to realize this vision. This year, the seeds of that work come to fruition. We can’t wait to play the game with you.
(source: Arena.net)

In December, the final profession was announced and closed beta began.
In February, press beta.
In March and April, larger beta testing.
Could this mean GW2 will be available this summer? I certainly hope so!

Stay tuned to Nerdery — I’ll be updating like a giddy little fanboy as soon as more is released.

Until next time,
Michelle

Man down!

On October 18, a new show about three video game-obsessed manboys premiered on ABC. I rarely literally laugh out loud while watching a TV show — chuckle at a show? Yeah, but really laugh? Hardly.

‘Man Up’ was witty, funny and relatable… to me. Contrary to the critics’ reviews, it was hardly cliche; it isn’t the same geek stereotyping and brainy humor as ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (which I also enjoy). Instead of  socially awkward, idiosyncratic Ph.Ds, the men of ‘Man Up’ are  businessmen AND puerile co-op gamers. What’s cliche about that?

Due the B.S. show-killer that is Nielsen Ratings, the half-hour sitcom was canceled after only eight of the 13 episodes had aired. By the eighth episode, viewership had fallen by 3 million. (Damn you, Nielsen Ratings.) The remaining five episodes were posted to the show’s website and Hulu… at least they’ve given me that little bit of joy.

I’ve watched all 13 episodes on Hulu at least four times and still laugh at every joke. It’s a bittersweet feeling knowing it’s been canceled.

Every time a show I enjoy gets canceled, I rewatch episodes and wonder aloud, “WHY WAS THIS CANCELED? It’s HILARIOUS and/or AWESOME!”

How often has this happened to me?  Well…

  • Firefly- FOX (2002)
  • Jericho- CBS (2006-08)
  • Heroes, which after season two, kind of had it coming- NBC (2006-10)
  • Pushing Daisies- ABC (2007-09)
  • Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles- FOX (2008-09)
  • Dollhouse- FOX (2009-10)
  • Lie to Me- FOX (2009-11)
  • The Cape- NBC (2011)

And now, another one bites the dust.

I thought it was just FOX who wanted to rob me of shows I love; now I see that the Big Three also have it out for me and my happiness.

Until next time,
Michelle

So I bought “Ghost Rider” last night

While I was browsing the wall of DVDs at Slackers, I came across this gem:

For four dollars, who could resist?

I googled “Best Nic Cage movie” and found a very interesting post from Jan. 7, 2011 on Moviefone. The post, aptly titled “Nicolas Cage Movies: His 10 Best and Worst,” listed “Ghost Rider” as his fifth worst movie. With such a ringing endorsement, I couldn’t wait to watch it.

Nicolas Cage never ceases to fascinate me. A lot of people love to hate Nic, but I honestly find his movies amusing. Perhaps “amusing” is the wrong word — hilarious may be more accurate.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with “Ghost Rider,” it was originally a comic published by Marvel. I’ll admit I’ve never even glanced at one of the comics, so quick: read what the Marvel Universe Wiki says so I don’t have to pretend to know what I’m talking about.

John Blaze was born into a world of motorcycle grease and cheering crowds. The son of Barton Blaze and Naomi Kale, Johnny spent his early years in the Quentin Carnival, where his parents starred in a stunt show with Craig “Crash” Simpson. His idyllic home life ended abruptly, however, when Naomi abandoned John, taking his younger siblings – Barbara and Daniel – with her. Naomi’s decision to leave had been difficult, but she felt it was necessary because of the family curse. She feared that her own firstborn would suffer in the same way that she had, so she left him behind and placed her other children in the care of a woman named Francis Ketch.
(Source: Marvel.com)

The movie adaptation starring the one and only Nic Cage came out in 2007. Now, five years later and month before the sequel is released, I watched it for the first time.

Like most comic book adaptations, the backstory wasn’t entirely true to the comics, but that’s easy to get over. So what if the movie says Johnny traded his soul for his father’s well-being instead of his adoptive father’s?

This was another stellar Nic Cage performance. I’m not sure if Johnny Blaze in the comics was as –how should I put this– quirky as Cage’s portrayal, but his taste in music and TV made Blaze more accessible to casual moviegoer/movie-watcher.

My favorite part? The transformation from Johnny Blaze to the Ghost Rider. I can imagine the script or the director saying, “Imagine what it would be like if you were turning into a burning skeleton.” And this is what you get:

Which was almost as epic as…

It bore similarities to “Drive Angry” (or “Drive Angry” bore similarities to “Ghost Rider”), which is what was running through my mind for the majority of movie. Such a comparison may be as atrocious to actual “Ghost Rider” fans as recognizing Harrison Ford from something like “Air Force One” instead of his roles as Hans Solo and Indiana Jones. However, it is undeniable. It’s all about the antihero conquering hellish evil.

Overall, I didn’t think it wasn’t an entirely horrible film; just another movie graced with Nic Cage’s unique style of acting.

Oh, by the way, happy birthday, Mr. Cage.

Until next time,
Michelle

Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Misfits & more

Between classes, The Alestle, Uncharted 3 and Skyrim, who has time to blog?

X-Men: Destiny (released Sept. 27)

Cyclops is a Cylon in a full-body condom. | Image via HeroHQ

I’ve been meaning to write about this game for a while now. I mentioned it in my last post, but it needs elaboration. X-Men is my favorite comic franchise ever. Naturally, I was stoked when I found out I could be an X-Man and I desperately wanted to play it. I was almost willing to buy it and give up waiting for Uncharted 3. I’m so glad I didn’t.Instead, I rented it, beat it and returned it.
I really wanted to like it, but when I put down my controller, I felt the same disappointment that followed after watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
I tried all three characters, all three abilities and did both X-Men and Brotherhood faction “quests” and found the variables didn’t matter (especially if you choose Adrian Luca and are pretty much forced to join the X-Men). The storyline bored me and the end boss was disappointing.
I appreciated the appearance of slightly lesser known (to the general public) mutants, like Caliban, Forge and Northstar. On the other hand, a couple mutants got a makeover for the worse. Nightcrawler looked like a hippie –which might make sense since the game is set in San Francisco — and Cyclops looks like a Cylon in a blue full-body condom. Overall, the graphics were lacking. The characters looked like plastic and the scenery wasn’t very notable.
Grade: D 

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (released Nov. 1)

Image via Naughty Dog


I got Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception as a birthday present and beat it in about a week. It was love at first button mash. I already loved Uncharted 2 and its sequel does not only do the Uncharted series justice, but also raises the bar for any games to follow.
In this game, there is a lot more interaction with the environment. With the new melee system, Drake can use bottles, wrenches and anything else nearby to bash a baddie’s head in. However this also means Drake has a weird thing about touching the things when he is close to them. Just for fun, purposefully maneuvered him so that he would tenderly caress a wall or display case. The first couple times it was hilarious. After a while it’s easy to ignore.
One of my favorite parts involves escaping a sinking ship. As the water began to rise, I tensed up a bit for Drake’s sake. Similarly, a chapter in the desert really captures Drake’s desperation and I could almost empathize with his fatigue. There quite a few semi-annoying pull back shots that flaunt the amazing job Naughty Dog did, but they totally deserve flaunting it.
As impressive as the graphics and the improved gameplay are, the characters and plot are what really made the game.
The game opens with Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan entering a seedy London bar, which quickly evolves into a fistfight, introducing Uncharted 3’s new melee commands. Moments later, Drake and Sully run into British villainess Katherine Marlowe, who is after one thing: Sir Francis Drake’s ring, which Nate wears around his neck. After a flashback that reveals a history between Drake, Sully and Marlowe, I was instantly hooked.
Uncharted 3 made me care about the character relationships — especially Drake/Sully and Drake/Elena. The flashback shows when Drake first met Sully 20 years ago. Back then Sully saved teen Drake from Marlowe’s cronies and had since become a father-figure and wiseass mentor to Drake. Knowing this, I was more invested in their relationship as one might feel about Pippin and Merry in Lord of the Rings. There were a few edge-of-my-seat moments when I exclaimed, “SULLY!” aloud at the game.
When Elena enters the game, there’s an awkward exchange that implies that sometime in the two years between Among Thieves and Drake’s Deception, Drake and Elena were married and later separated. After Among Thieves, I “awww’d” and I was genuinely happy that Drake ended up with Elena instead of Chloe. This implication dampened those feelings.
Between these two key subplots, there is no way you can walk away not wanting to find out more about the characters. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for sappy stories and happy endings.
And for your entertainment, here’s a video of Harrison Ford playing Uncharted 3.

Grade: A+

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (released Nov. 11)

Image via Bethesda

To be honest, this is the first Elder Scrolls game I’ve played and it did not disappoint. I love fantasy RPGs, so it was easy for me to get into Skyrim. I play a Bosmer (wood elf), who hasn’t decided what class to be in, but wields a sword and destruction magic while completing quests for the Thieves’ Guild and the College of Winterhold.
Most people I know are up to level 40+; I’m level 15. Then again, I haven’t been playing as much as most people I know since my husband has been playing Skyrim as well. While he’s slaying dragons, I’m left doing speed clears in Guild Wars.
Grade: A


The Walking Dead

Photo by Bob Mahoney/AMC

On Oct. 16, The Walking Dead returns for its second season, in which Sofia, Carol’s daughter, goes missing. The survivors spend  the seven-episode story arc searching for her and happen upon a family farm where they set up camp. On Nov. 27, the show ended with the most heartrending episode I’ve ever seen on TV.
If you haven’t watched this season of The Walking Dead, do yourself a favor and watch it now. Season 2 is available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. Episode 8 will air at 9/8c on Sunday February 12 on AMC.

Misfits

Image via E4

My favorite ASBO antiheroes returned in the third season of Misfits on Oct. 30. This season introduces the gang’s new powers and Rudy, Nathan’s replacement, who, like any new character in a TV show, was difficult to get used to. He’s certainly no Robert Sheehan, but every episode, he becomes more likable. I’m not yet sure how I feel about everybody’s new powers. Simply put –as to avoid spoilers– after establishing the characters’ struggles with their powers in the the first and second seasons, it’s difficult to cope with their new struggles with their new powers.
If you aren’t familiar with Misfits, I recommend getting on hulu and watching the first two seasons. It’s totally worth your time. Plus, winter break is coming up; don’t pretend you have better things to do than watch entire seasons of a British TV series. Season three will become available on Dec. 19.

Until next time,
Michelle

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