Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Circle 2007!!

Since some things have changed for the usual Christmas Circle invitees over the past year (Travis and Nicole had Olivia and moved across the state) and other invitees had other plans, an ad hoc Christmas Circle was called this past weekend. Cullen and Jodi hosted it up in the home of Leinenkugel's beer.

Others in attendance were Chad and Phil.

Of course, Cory and I were there, too.

Cory brought his "Last Night on Earth Boardgame" and we all played. Chad and Cory were the Zombies, and Cullen, Phil, Jodi, and I were the Heroes. Stevie the cat didn't play.

It came down to the last hour before dawn, but the heroes found four townsfolk and kept them safe until sunrise, so we won!

The climax of the night was Cullen keeping a promise to an old friend.

Legend, I am

No, not that one, this one.

Okay, Mary and I finally went to see I am Legend on New Years Eve, and now I'm going to give my thoughts on this movie. This is not a review, but a discussion, so there's going to be spoilers galore. If you have any inclination to see this movie stop reading now and click the Penny Arcade link to the right or something. Read some webcomics or whatever, but don't continue reading.

You sure you've seen it? Spoilertz ahead, I'm serious.

The dog dies. There, now are you happy? You kept reading and now I've spoiled the epic tear-inducing part of the movie for you. It would've been like Return of the King Hobbit-sad, but now you know about it so it won't be as good when you see it. Keep reading and I'll wreck the whole thing for you, shit-for-brains.

Alright, so we've got action star Will Smith (awesome), in a survivalist situation (double awesome), in a city filled with vampires that only come out at night a la Castlevania II:Simon's Quest (triple super awesome). Now that's a recipe for the Live Free or Die Hard Award if I've ever heard it. Unfortunately, the producers cut one too many corners and stupefied an otherwise cool flick. The following rant is specifically for the producers of this movie.

The CGI zombires (zombie vampires). Son of a bitch. The movie's enemies are virus-infected vampires that are all Nosferatu-like and crawly, not dinosaurs or cosmic tentacled horrors. There is absolutely no need to use CGI for the zombires. None. CGI for the abandoned city? Sure, absolutely, can't even tell. But can I tell that the Master Zombire, that they show 47 close-ups of screaming, is CGI? Hell yes I can. My semi-blind guinea pig can tell. Its gotta be more of a pain in the ass to attempt to make a CGI human than it is to just hire a dude and put some makeup on him to scream into the camera. It must somehow be cheaper though, and it sure as hell looks like it.

To get Will Smith for your action movie with city-wide zombie-vampire attacks and then use CGI zombires is like serving Fillet Minion on a paper plate with plastic silverware. The first time the screeners watched the initial movie draft and they saw the cartoon zombie scream at Will Smith did they think "Holy shit that Disney-animated bad guy looks great! I'm glad we didn't go with the obvious and much better idea of hiring Iggy Pop and putting a bald cap and Spock ears on him!" There has got to be plenty of shirtless heroin addicts out in LA who are willing to wear bald caps and Spock ears for a few bucks, what the hell were these guys thinking? Way to wreck a possible Oscar contender with taking the cheap route. Those boss fight scenes were worse than the mass Agent Smith attack in Matrix:Reloaded.

Maybe the Shreck guys did the zombires or something, because there was also a lot of Shreck references in the movie that I thought only served to show how shitty the zombires looked. The camera stays on a TV playing Shreck for like 5 minutes of the movie as if to say "See? CGI is great! The zombires are the same high-end technology that produced Shreck! You like Shreck! The monsters aren't even real actors, even though hiring real actors would make perfect sense! If it ain't broke...break it with CGI! Buy a green slurpie!" All the Shreck business only drove home the point that the infected people weren't even people. I'll accept the CGI lions, real lions are difficult to get to act, but CGI technology just isn't good enough to do realistic zombie/vampire people yet. Fortunately, there are over 6.5 billion people on the planet that can stand in as realistic zombie/vampire people in a movie in the meantime (see: 30 Days of Night).

So they dumbed-down the "Legend" storyline. That's fine, artists interpretation and all that. I'm fine with the storyline changed (for those that are unfamiliar, in the book Neville is a "Legend" to the not-completely crazy infected zombires, as he doesn't know there are "good zombires" and hunts them as well as the bad ones and they consider him a sort of daytime boogeyman). The movie also seemed about a half hour too short, but that's okay. Had it been another half hour, they probably would've just filled it in with extreme close-up shots of the CGI Master Zombire face growling at the camera or puzzling out a way to use a doorknob.

So there you have it. I know you all loved the movie, but for me it was a shining example of stupid executive decisions ruining an otherwise perfect setup. Will Smith is still awesome in this movie though, even if we didn't get to hear the trademark "Aww hell naw!"

PS: For a more in-depth analysis, see Paul's review. For nit-picky complaints about the military equipment in the movie instead of the CGI zombies, see Brando's review.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Week in Smallville

So my folks were kind enough to pick me up and bring me home to Smallville for Christmas a few days ahead of Cory. My sister flew into Minneapolis, so they made a three-state tour up to pick her up, down and over to the #1 place to live 2007 (as voted by Money magazine) to get me, then back to Smalley-town. This was awesome of them to do, even though it made a super-long trip for them, but this way, the four of us got to spend a whole week together (pump fists in the air). In the same amount of miles, they could have driven to Little Rock, Arkansas.
It was fortunate that we got to Smallville when we did, because the next morning, a fog rolled in that left frost on all the trees and visibility pretty low.

It was a pretty relaxing week overall. I helped my dad a bit making some wine racks.

And played many board games, including the Christmas Story board game that I received for my birthday. It was very, very complicated.

We also played Scrabble, which I have played twice in my life. I was planning to use my blank tile to put down "manure". Unfortunately, they was nowhere on the board to put it down.

It was great to see everyone, but I think the highlight for me was the Smalley gift exchange. This year, Beth's boyfriend (?) Rob drew my mom's name.

Snowy December

It has been a very snowy December. I heard on the radio that the area requires just seven more inches of snow to break the record snowfall for December. We've got another weather system moving through tomorrow, but they are only forecasting 3-4 inches.

It's nice to be able to stay in (after I drive Cory 4 blocks to work) with a nice mug of cocoa during a winter weather event.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lord of the Bling

Festivus is upon us, and in honor of it I've watched all three Lord of the Rings movies this week. Mostly because a) December reminds me of LotR and b) Mary left early this week to hang out with her parents, and so I've been batch'n it this week. What does a young, attractive, highly intelligent, virile, hunk of a man with Bruce Lee abs do when his wife is out of town for a week? Paint Lord of the Rings miniatures while watching the Lord of the Rings movies, of course!

For Gondor!
I went out and bought myself the Mines of Moria boxed set for Xmas from my friendly local game store and got to painting some Fellowship and some Cave Trolls. For those (two) of you that paint miniatures, I have to mention how nice and properly proportioned these sculpts are, and how big-handed and comparatively ugly-looking the normal 'heroic' scale sculpts (Warhammer) are, even though they're produced by the same company. Here's some needless examples:

Warhammer Dwarves:
Lord of the Rings Dwarves:

WH goblins:

LotR Goblins:

WH Trolls:

Lotr Trolls:

I think I've made my point, whatever it was, pretty clear.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

8 Hours Work, 8 Hours Rest, 8 Hours Mass Effect

Holy crap! Full-time work goes on for a lot of the day. I told them that from my previous job I'm used to only working until 2pm and then going home, but I think they thought I was joking and still expect me to stay the full day. At least I get as many pipette bulbs that I want and a shiny new calculator that can calculate %RSD in the blink of an eye...for SCIENCE!

For anyone that's familiar with my habits, you'll know that I enjoy reading the books. One of my favorite authors is Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan and Solomon Kane. Conversely, one of my favorite stop-motion puppet characters from a holiday film is Yukon Cornelious, creator of bad puns and amazing adventures. There's a mash-up on The Cimmerian of how Robert E. Howard would write a story featuring Yukon. Its just a short synopsis from a clearly epic story, so won't take long to read if you've got the mighty thews to withstand the abominable hunger. Plus its got illustrations. Check it out if you want.

Finally, as I allude to in the title, I've been playing the space opera rpg Mass Effect on my 360 lately (thanks again for the 360 dudes!), which is a total blast. You're a space guy who flies around in a space ship piloted by Seth Green, and you gotta stop the race of space robot warriors known as the "Reapers" (Necrons) from harvesting the flesh and resources from all organic space-faring civilizations in the galaxy (all-American humans, blue psychic alien people, green reptile alien people, and so on). So basically you gotta unite the tribes to drive off the invaders, in a Star Trek-style alien races setting (KotoR-style). You can pick your class from multiple cool class names like "Infiltrator" or "Biotic," (read: "Rogue" or "Wizard") and shoot toxic polonium bullets out of your Blastek-811 Sniper Rifle. You can fly around the galaxy doing the main missions or just randomly go to star systems and blow the hell out of space pirates. If anyone is on the fence about getting a 360 this Xmas (or after Xmas when the prices go down), this game could very well push you over the edge. Commander Solomon "Fi-Tor" Shepard, 40th-level Shock Trooper Specialist with full ranks in 'Assault Rifles,' highly recommends it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Catching Up: Along the Way

To keep me occupied on the drive our here, Cory let me play with the camera. The first pictures are from near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho...


...South Dakota.

Happy 100,000th Mile, Golf!

Somewhere around Lacross, WI, approximately 1,975 miles into our trip from Oregon to Wisconsin, the odometer on the SuperScanTastAmeriCarUSA rolled over 100,000 miles.
Wait for it... it comes...

Happy 100,000th mile, Golf. Thanks for getting us around!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Playing Catch Up: Thanksgiving

So I've got some time on my hands now, and I've taken quite a few pictures recently, so I am going to be putting up some posts for your enjoyment. We'll start at Thanksgiving and work our way up to the present. Incidentally, I had a job interview here yesterday and today they called to offer me a job (which I accepted), so I'll only have this kind of time on my hands until January 7th, when I will officially enter, dun dun dun, the REAL WORLD! Go me; that only took 30 years:)

Cory and I spent Thanksgiving in Oregon with some friends from my work.

Rodger was largely responsible for the meal, preparing a bird, potatoes, vegetarian and meat (including gizzard!) stuffing, carrot casserole, green beans, and a ton more stuff from scratch that I can't even remember. He worked all day on it and we ate in approximately 13 minutes. It was all wonderful. Thanks to Rodger and Pascale for the invite and a very enjoyable evening!

While he cooked, the rest of us played Apples to Apples, which is a terrific party game.

Jill won as usual, even though halfway through the game she had to take a break to feed Izze, aka Lil'l Troublemaka.

While she was gone, we randomly picked from her cards and she still won three green apple cards!

Also in attendance were Jason and Sandra who I wished we could have spent more time with while we were in OR. I especially enjoyed talking to Sandra who is from Australia; the conversations almost always ended with "No worries". I'm sure Cory feels the same way considering the inordinate amount of time they spent talking about MMORPGs or something like that.